Archive for the ‘Shops & Restaurants’ Category

<–This Way to Barrons Store

Sand-vertising

If I’m watching TV or listening to the radio, advertisements drive me crazy, but a sand arrow on the towpath is an entirely different story!  This clever “sign” happens to point directly at Barrons Store (mi. 76.73).  The store is open on weekends from 10am to 6pm and offers drinks, snacks, and ice cream.  For those taking the Cumberland to Georgetown ride, it’s a long way between Williamsport and Harpers Ferry (Shepherdstown if you cross the river), and for anybody who needs a bottle of water or a burst of energy, there isn’t much in between–making this location perfect!  I haven’t been in the store for several years, but it’s in a scenic location, and who can resist ice cream?  I know I’m stopping next time I’m in the neighborhood.

Barrons (76.73)

Exploring Great Falls

Great Falls of the Potomac

I can’t imagine the awe that early explorers felt when they first viewed the Great Falls of the Potomac.  However, I know what I expected to see the first time I left Martinsburg, WV and traveled down I-70 and I-270 in heavy traffic to within 10 miles of the DC line.  Not much!  Honestly, the idea of something this beautiful on such a large river–all within a few minutes of the nation’s capital–still blows me away.

On the Maryland side of the river

There’s a saying–You can take a boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boy.  I can relate.  I prefer the western end of the C&O Canal, but the area around mile marker 14 contains some of the most remarkable scenery in the park.  Nevertheless, this combination of beauty and a metropolitan area translates into large crowds.  Serious hikers and bikers should expect delays in the Great Falls area.  I’ve seen groups of people walking side-by-side across the entirety of the towpath, but who can blame them?  This part of the C&O is a great place to spend the day.

The Charles F. Mercer

Generally, boat rides on the Charles F. Mercer are available from Wednesday-through-Sunday, but we were surprised to see the pride of the canal up on blocks.  On a positive note, though, this was the perfect opportunity for a top-to-bottom view of the boat.  With The Georgetown out of commission, the Mercer is a popular tourist attraction.  Hopefully, it’s either being painted or made ship-shape for future canal enthusiasts.

Downstream view of Great Falls Tavern

The Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center is another of the many highlights of this section of the canal.  It was originally built as a hotel in 1831–just three years after ground was broken on the C&O.  Today, this wonderful structure contains canal exhibits and lots of interesting souvenirs.  I couldn’t leave without getting a pack of note cards and a refrigerator magnet.  In all, seeing Great Falls again made for a really nice trip, but I’m guessing that my next C&O Canal excursion will be somewhere in the wilds west of Hancock.  Until then, here’s a parting shot of the tavern from a different angle.

Great Falls Tavern

Hancock Visitor Center

Hancock Visitor Center

The Hancock Visitor Center is located in the old Bowles House, and since the center’s relocation from the ugly block building on the main drag,  it has been hailed as the “new” visitor center.  However, the fact is that there is nothing new about it.  The house was built in the 1780s and is much older than the canal itself.  In fact, in the 1830s the residents of the house sold goods to the boat captain and aided in their passage through nearby Lock 52 and the Tonoloway Creek Aqueduct.

Lush & Green

The view from the footbridge over the lock reveals a rare scene.  Notice that the grass  is lush, green, and mowed, and the canal isn’t filled with trees of all shapes and sizes.  In fact, this is one of the better-manicured stretches of the western end of the park, which is fitting because the visitor center is nothing short of a showcase.

Outhouse near Hancock Visitor Center

When you gotta go, you gotta go!

 

 

 

 

However, beauty is often in the eye of the beholder, and Candee and I both love this picture.  I’m not sure about the age of the outhouse, and I wasn’t about to get close enough to find out.  Perhaps the NPS uses this as a site for Port-a-John Appreciation 101.  I know I won’t be complaining about the facilities at the hiker/biker campsites for a long time!

 

 

 

 

 

In all, the Hancock Visitor Center is a great place to stop on the C&O Canal.  It‘s open from Memorial Day until late October and has a wide variety of books and souvenirs for park visitors of all ages.  Likewise, it sits between the towpath and the nearby Western Maryland Rail Trail, which allows bikers to enjoy both the C&O and its sister trail.  I’ve always said that Hancock is a great place to ride a bike, and a trip to the Bowles House only makes it better.

View of the Lock

 

Potomac River Grill, Hancock, Md.

You ‘Gotta’ Try It!

 

 

I’ve always said that the food selection in Hancock is broad enough to keep most hikers and bikers happy, and now you can add another restaurant to the repertoire.  On March 1st, the Potomac River Grill opened near the Rt. 522 bridge over the river (former home of the long defunct Bridge Restaurant), so today we decided to to give it a try.

 

 

On past through rides we’ve stayed at the America’s Best Value Inn, which is across the road from the restaurant, and people touring both the C&O Canal and Western Maryland Rail Trail now have the option of heading to their lodgings before taking a short walk to a really good meal.

As the word grill implies, the options include beef brisket, pulled pork, chicken, ribs, burgers, and a number of side and dessert items.  Platters are $10 and include either a pile of pork or brisket or a half-chicken, plus fries, a side, and a piece of cornbread.  The sandwiches (pork or beef) and burger are $7 each, and ribs range from $11 (half-rack) to $21 (full-rack).

I’m up for a Blake Burger at an outside table next time!

The list of sides includes potato salad, fries, macaroni and cheese, baked beans, lima beans, and applesauce.  Dessert items range from $2 to $4 dollars and include pineapple upside-down cake, key lime pie, brownies, and fruit cobbler.  What we had today (chicken and pork platters) was very good, and I wouldn’t hesitate to come back and explore the rest of the menu.

For now, the hours are 11 am to 9 pm, and I’m sure there are plenty of bikers out there wondering about breakfast.  Our waitress told us that will be coming soon, and there should be plenty of good offerings.  Anyone traveling the C&O who is interested should head past the bike shop on Pennsylvania Avenue to the main drag, take a left, and continue to the video store.  There is a dirt road beyond the video store’s parking lot that leads to the back of the restaurant.  Bon appetite!

 

Point of Rocks

Built in 1876 by the B&O Railroad Company--If you look carefully, you can see a train in the distance.

 

All Aboard! Point of Rocks!

 

 

Point of Rocks is located near mile marker 48 on the C&O Canal.  This area was hotly disputed between the C&O and Baltimore and Ohio Railroad because of its narrow passage, and the completion of the canal to Harper’s Ferry was delayed until 1833 because of these legal issues.

The town is also the site of an ornate railroad station built by the B&O in 1876.  The station is a hot photo op for railroad buffs–in fact, there were two other people taking pictures of the building while we were there.

 

 

 

View of the US Route 15 Bridge from the boat ramp

Another important fixture nearby is the US Route 15 bridge.  It’s the first bridge across the river past the American Legion Bridge near Cabin John, and the only crossing in between is the Jubal Early at White’s Ferry.  It’s no wonder that the traffic is so heavy: that’s a long way between crossings!

Naturally, we went ripping through the area on our two previous through rides.  Last June, I swallowed a large bug while riding and spent my time gagging and drinking large amounts of water while speeding past the Point of Rocks parking lot.  I had no clue that there was a boat ramp and beautiful view of the river nearby.  I love biking.  In fact it’s more of a passion than hiking or sightseeing, but I can’t reiterate enough that I’ve missed plenty of beautiful scenery on my Trek 7200.  Guess what else I missed?

NPS Sign....Point of Rocks

 

 

The town also has a convenience store, pizza shop, and deli.  No doubt, a person biking 60+ miles in a day needs plenty of protein, and there are much better ways to get it than swallowing large insects!  Let’s review: pepperoni pizza or a moth…that’s a no brainer!  Plus, anybody needing a snack has a long way to…guess where…White’s Ferry.