Each January 1st, the C&O Canal Association brings in the New Year with a hike in Cumberland, Maryland. The temperature was a surprisingly warm fifty-three degrees, and nineteen people turned out for the walk. After meeting at the mule statue in front of the railroad station, Mary Huebner led the crew downstream on the canal for approximately 1.5 miles.
As the canal goes, Cumberland is a relatively urban setting. However, in spite of the interstate and railroad traffic, the Queen City drew us back for the third year in a row. In the sparsely populated areas of the C&O, one can walk for miles without seeing anything touristy, but Cumberland is…well…different.
After the mule statue and shops, the Cumberland (a replica canal boat) comes into view, and upon rounding the first bend, the trail offers and interesting look back at the Cumberland skyline. The towpath plays host to numerous hikers, bikers, dogs (and of course their owners), runners, and history buffs through out the year, so being there on the first day of the year always starts us off on the right foot!
Cumberland has always been a transportation hub. In the past, it was a major railroad town and marked the western terminus of the C&O Canal (Think canal boats and mules). Today, I-68 runs above the city, and The Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) and C&O towpath are hotbeds for hikers and bikers of all ages. Oh, how the times have changed!
Near mile marker 183, a new wooden bridge crosses over the North Branch of the Potomac River. The West Virginia side is the home of the Carpendale Tunnel. At 1,500 feet in length, the tunnel is just long and dark enough to make things interesting. Unlike many of the other tunnels on the towpath, this one is equipped with light posts approximately every 200 feet. (so it really isn’t scary at all!) We have also read that there are cameras posted in there as well. The path continues on the other side of the tunnel, but we aren’t sure how much further it goes. I suppose that will be an adventure for another day.
All-in-all, the bridge and tunnel is definitely a worthwhile diversion for towpath enthusiasts.
We have really enjoyed our New Year’s Day Hike tradition over the last few years, and barring all of the Mayan doomsday scenarios, we will be back again for 2013 hike. All kidding aside, see ya at the mule statue next January 1st!