Today’s outing had an odd feel to it–kind of like an episode of In Search Of… I’m sure most people remember the old TV show, narrated by Leonard Nimoy, in which various investigators went looking for ghosts, goblins, Bigfoot, and the Loch Ness Monster. One could say that we had a similar journey today, and like most hunters of odd places and things, we came up empty handed. Heck, we didn’t even see Mr. Nimoy hiking on the towpath!
Anyway, if you’ll bear with me, here’s how our story begins. I had the bright idea of taking a hike on the C&O and finding the Stickpile Tunnel–an abandoned structure on the old Western Maryland Railroad. Armed with flashlights and misinformation, the trek began in Little Orleans.
I had read that the tunnel is located a scant 2.5 miles past the Fifteen Mile Creek Campground, so we walked to the railroad trestle just beyond mile marker 143 with the idea of backtracking our way to the tunnel. About two miles out, we passed another hiker and didn’t think much of it, but I’ll get to that later…
We took a few pictures of the trestle and headed back on a gravel road that marks the old railroad bed and the the future path of the Western Maryland Rail Trail. After about ten minutes, Candee looked down the road and said, “Hey, isn’t that Bill’s Place?”
I looked at her like she was crazy. We started at Bill’s and walked for forty-five minutes only to…what?…find ourselves where we started in precisely twelve minutes. As we were walking to our car, the hiker we passed earlier looked at us like he was in the Twilight Zone! How on earth had we passed somebody while heading in the opposite direction and then beat him back to the starting point?
Okay, as it turns out the C&O Canal towpath follows the many bends of the Potomac River, while the old WMR took a straight shot through the Little Orleans area. That’s an easy explanation, and the hiker also set us straight in regard to the location of the Stickpile Tunnel. He stated that it’s located closer to Bond’s Landing, so we set out on the Oldtown/Orleans road and took a left on Mertens Avenue (about ten miles away) and headed for Kasecamp Road. By now, we had picked up an internet signal on our cell phones and “googled” what we thought was the location of the tunnel. We followed Kasecamp Road in a full circle and struck out completely.
As I write this, I feel somewhat justified in spite of my failures. Christopher Columbus died a broken man who never found a sea route to India, and at least we DID bring back some pictures! (Check out this crazy mushroom!)
We consider ourselves to be C&O aficionados who are capable of finding anything in or around the park, but we found out today that this isn’t exactly the truth. The moral of this story is to get good information and keep a copy of the Boy Scout’s C&O Canal pamphlet handy. Otherwise, this is Rod Sterling, and I’ll see you in the Twilight Zone!
Until next week….