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Day 4 – June 13: Hancock, MD to Shepherdstown, WV

The next morning, after a good breakfast in the hotel dining room, we shuttled back down across the river to start our day’s ride where we had left off in Hancock. The weather continued to hold and the trail was drying out during the rest of the week. It was another 50-mile day before our final two shorter days, and there were a couple of sightseeing side-trips along the way as well.

Unloading, ready to ride. My bike in the near view with the bag still tied over the seat.
The farther downriver we went, the better the trail conditions
Entering the town of Hancock
The Western Maryland Rail Trail was a welcome paved diversion from the roughness of the C&O towpath
Fort Frederick is just off the trail for an easy visit
Quite a number of Civil War-related sites along the way
Locks (190+) were regularly spaced and we dropped down a little at each one
Dams were built along the river to regulate water in the canal

Nearby, the Big Slackwater section of the trail had long since been wiped out and it was necessary to take a long and boring detour on local roads to get around it. By my 2016 trip, the area had been fixed up with a causeway along the bluffs, allowing us to ride the entire length of the C&O with no detours.

Our group coming through a crossover at one of the locks
A lock-keeper’s house in “original” condition
Not sure where or what, but a nice photo

When we were fairly close to our destination for the day, we took another sidetrip to the Antietam National Battlefield outside Sharpsburg, MD. We listened to a ranger’s presentation and rode along some of the battlefield roads, then took the main road into Sharpsburg and from there on down to the river crossing. This was the only busy highway riding of the trip, and skipped a few more miles of the trail (which I ended up riding in 2016).

Carol meets up with us again in her color-matched cast
Crossing the Potomac with the Bavarian Inn on the other side
Another nice room in a top-notch property
View from the room. On my next two times staying here I didn’t luck out this much on the room assignment
Dinner in the inn’s Rathskellar Room with some new friends (the same table where our group ate in 2016!)

Day 5 – June 14: Shepherdstown to Leesburg, VA

As usual on these trips early in the season, I was feeling stronger on the fifth day than I had on the first days, but looked forward to completing the final days with some interesting site visits ahead. The main attraction was a visit to Harper’s Ferry, which I had visited by car and enjoyed a lot some years previously. There was also no rush to the day’s activities since the mileage to cover was relatively short.

A leisurely big breakfast on the patio at the Bavarian Inn
Our last big group breakfast of the trip, and all were feeling mellow
Crossing back over to the trail on the Maryland side of the river

Harper’s Ferry is not too far down the trail, and when we got there we parked and locked our bike in a provided bike rack and walked across the pedestrian walkway into town. In the winter of 2020 there was a major train derailment on this bridge, dumping some rail cars into the Potomac and tearing the walkway off the bridge, thus cutting the town off from the C&O trail. As of this writing in June 2020, plans for restoring it are still not determined.

Crossing the pedestrian bridge — shared with the railroad — to Harper’s Ferry
Harper’s Ferry
The Appalachian Trail comes through here and crosses over to the C&O
A building associated with John Brown during his raid on the armory here before the Civil War
A group photo at a rest stop

Unfortunately, it was just before our rest stop that I realized that my original Garmin Edge 705 had fallen off its mount at some time since we left Harper’s Ferry. The early Garmin mounts could sometimes appear to be clipped in solidly when in fact they weren’t, and when I put the unit back on my bike after crossing back to the canal side, I must have not made the connection. I was really bummed about losing it, plus it of course had all my data and map traces for the trip. This kinda put me off for a couple of days and is probably one reason I didn’t remember the trip as fondly as I should have.

Our guides
Crossing one of the aqueducts
This is as far as we went for the day

Our lodgings for the night were at the Colonial Inn in downtown Leesburg, VA. Our bikes were loaded up and we took the whole rig across on the ferry for the drive into Leesburg.

The river gets very wide this far down toward Washington
A cozy old hotel in the historic central part of town
The room wasn’t much larger than the bed, but comfortable for the last night’s stay

Day 6 – June 15: Leesburg to Washington, D.C.

Our last day was indeed a short one, as we planned on getting to the endpoint of the trail and then leaving the D.C. area ASAP to drive back to Ohiopyle. But there was still time for a few stops along the way. And it is always an interesting experience to take the towpath inside the Beltway, where you’re still down in a “ditch” and can see the top of the Washington Monument at one point along the way. Then suddenly you pop up off the trail and find yourself in busy downtown Georgetown!

Three people were leaving the tour at this point, so we said some goodbyes outside the hotel
An old lock in restored condition
The remains of another aqueduct
Getting close now
A canal boat ride along the canal with period reenactors
The Falls of the Potomac are impressive and are one reason why the canal had to be built in the first place
Georgetown ahead!
Finally at Milepost 0
Overall it had been a good trip (at least in memory)
Getting to the Amtrak station for the return to Chicago

With three riders having left from Leesburg and another going home by train, there was a lot of welcome room in the van for the long drive back. It was certainly quiet as most everyone was snoozing! At the time, with the mud, flats, and losing the Garmin, I was just glad it was done with and I wouldn’t ever have to repeat it. But of course I did come back four years later for what proved to be one of my most memorable tours.

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