Riding a 180 mile national park

To check out the ride on the GAP click here

Day 1 – From Cumberland, MD to Hancock, MD

The Chesapeake and Ohio canal national historical park has its terminus at Georgetown (about 30 miles  away from the Chesapeake) but the other terminus is Cumberland , MD which is almost 160 miles away from the state of Ohio and 100 miles from the city of Pittsburgh where the Ohio river comes to life . So in my opinion the name  is a tribute to optimism , optimism that the railroad would eventually reach Ohio. Today it is a wonderful national park , a park to ride horses in and ride bicycles …. as long as they have trail tires.

Cumberland , MD is the meeting point of the C&O and the GAP.

We left Cumberland early and this is what it looks like .

Leaving Cumberland

Within no time , we were in deep wilderness . This is what the trail looked like (mostly) on day 1

C&O 4

The canal was dug up and the towpath(or the bike trail) divides the canal from the Potomac river . Today the canal hosts a large number of turtles ,among other fauna

I got to see this lil bugger on the road .

I decided to pick him up and put him aside for safety . Most of us would believe that the hard shell of the turtle would protect him from crazy bicyclists and I would have believed that too until I saw one where the shell was split open . If you ever decide to save a turtle , make sure to wash your hands , they do carry salmonella.

I got to see an old fashioned water pump , had not seen one of these since the mid 80s when I would travel to my mother’s hometown, Chennai . The water is pretty rank , ok to shower or wash but definitely do not drink . Some would say the same for the water in Chennai as well .


About 30 miles in , we got to see  the Paw Paw tunnel . The tunnel is 3/5ths of a mile long. It does not seem like much unless you walk through it ,it is pitch dark so maneuvering the trail while walking with the knowledge that there is quicksand 20 feet below does not inspire confidence even in the bravest of hearts.  For its day and time , it was an engineering marvel .


In spite of the ghost that you hear in the video , we emerged unscathed on the other side

The village of Paw-Paw seemed to be the only place between Cumberland and Hancock for getting food . They have a gas station and an ice cream shop . The gas station sells chicken salad sandwiches and fresh cut watermelon (which tastes divine after a 30 mile bike ride) . About 20 miles from Paw- Paw starts the Western Maryland Rail Trail which is paved and goes all the way into Hancock,MD.  Day 1 ended in Hancock , MD .  We stayed in a small motel and turned in for an early night after dinner


Day 2 – From Hancock,MD to Harpers Ferry,WV

The Western Maryland Rail trail ends in Big Pool which is about 10 miles from Hancock. This is also where one gets to see Fort Frederick , a Civil War fortification .

Barely 10 miles later, we arrived at Dam 5


Shortly after I saw this board and was happy to see it , our conservation efforts, meager as they are ,  do seem to be paying off  .


Shortly I was stopped by a a half hysterical female biker, I wondered if she wanted my phone number  ,  it turned out that there was a baby bird and it needed to be saved. Apparently she could not bring herself to save it!!!

Not too far we saw this unused magnificent structure .

This is a  lock . This is where ships from one water level are raised or lowered to another water level . The Panama canal is probably the best example of how important navigation locks are to us . Without the Panama Canal Locks, ships would have to go around the Cape of Good Horn around the tip of South America .

Soon we were riding alongside the Potomac

Riding with Don on the Potomac

Eventually we reached Dam 5

We finally got to Shepherdstown where we had lunch along with a West Virginia beer . I saw this cool picture and decided to get a pic of it

Should be everybody’s motto!!!


About 10 or so miles later , we ended up in Harper’s Ferry , our destination for Day 2.

But we had to walk across this bridge

Walking across the bridge with Mike

This was the only marine that was killed in John Brown’s raid .

This is the building that John Brown attacked .


Harper’s Ferry is where several national trails meet . We ended meeting some folks from Georgia , well they had walked all the way from Georgia on the Appalachian trail and were headed to Maine , over  500 miles away . They walked about 20-25 miles a day.


This church can be seen for miles and miles.It is built on a hill and looks simply majestic


We passed within a mile of Antietam , reputed to be the bloodiest single day battle in American history. Unfortunately we could not figure out where we needed to get off so we missed it. We passed a lot of historical spots that had been hot beds of activity during the Civil war but today they seem to be sleepy little towns . The day’s ride was extraordinarily beautiful in a trip that was laden with amazing sights

Day 3 – From Harpers Ferry, WV to Washington,DC

About 20 miles from Harpers Ferry , we saw the Monocacy Aquaduct


Turtles sunning on a log in the river

We had seen close to 50 locks but this one seemed to have some water

And on the other bank , we had a curious visitor

And a beautiful sight


We saw the Edison Power plant

and nearby was the location where the Olympic rowing athletes practiced before the Barcelona Olympics , sponsored by the power company.

We finally reached Great Falls


We tried to enter Goat Island but were told by the volunteers that we could not take our bike on the island , I am sure it is an amazing place to visit

Goat Island


That was our last majestic view of the Potomac wilderness before we entered Georgetown

We found some stragglers to welcome us to DC

Got a taste of DC traffic

Inside DC with Dan

And finally the grand finale . Tried to meet the MAN

DC is a gorgeous place and tons and tons of things to do for everybody. We ended up near Chinatown

This brings to an end , a magnificent bike ride.


9 thoughts on “Riding a 180 mile national park

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