Preparing to ride the C&O as a three day trip is almost as difficult as the journey itself. It takes lots of miles of training to get ready, but we’re lucky that there’s plenty of great scenery and history to explore in the process. With that in mind, we decided to take a 40 mile (round trip) ride between Pearre Station and the Paw Paw Tunnel. The area between mile markers 137 and 156 have been described as being among the most scenic and secluded on the towpath, so let’s get started…
In case you’ve missed the About Us page, we’re members of the C&O Canal Association, and we volunteer on what is known as Level 52, which lies between the Sideling Hill Creek and Fifteen Mile Creek Aqueducts. Here’s where we started. The usual 4.5 mile walk to Little Orleans takes a while, but on a bike it goes quickly. We decided that we felt pretty strong at that point and pressed on toward the tunnel.
For those who haven’t heard, there’s talk of extending the Western Maryland Rail Trail from Pearre Station to Paw Paw, and the proposed route would go through two tunnels and cross the Potomac six times. We didn’t get a look at the tunnels, but it’s easy enough to spot where the trail will be crossing the river. Several high abandoned railroad bridges can be spotted from the towpath, and when everything is finished, the WMRT will–perhaps–be the premier rails-to-trails bike route in the eastern U.S.
All of that is in the future, but for now the C&O has plenty to offer. Fortunately, we caught the old canal bed during the wet period, and the area didn’t lack in either turtle sightings or beaver sign. Perhaps the most spectacular remnant of the recent rains is the waterfall near the Paw Paw Tunnel. It doesn’t get a whole lot better than this stretch of the canal, and we’re certainly looking forward to seeing it again in June!