Posts Tagged ‘Paw Paw Tunnel’

Tunnel Hill Trail (Paw Paw Tunnel)

View of the Paw Paw Tunnel as we start up the Tunnel Hill Trail. Notice that it's boarded up for winter, and interestingly enough, the other end is left open.

Not everybody likes to walk through long, dark tunnels, and those who are claustrophobic actually have another  way of getting around the Paw Paw Bends and continuing to hike on the C&O Canal towpath.  I’m referring to the Tunnel Hill Trail, which is a nice alternative to walking through the Paw Paw Tunnel.

Fall Leaves...Blue Sky


Recently, the NPS added several interpretive signs that add to the experience, and there are now directional markers that make the hike a bit less confusing.  Those who have taken a wrong turn at the criss-crossing paths at the top of the hill know what I mean.




Heading Up the Tunnel Hill Trail


Giant Ribcage!



To get to the the trail, simply walk to the tunnel–as usual–then veer to the right at the Tunnel Hill Trail sign.  It’s two miles in length and begins with a series of relatively steep switchbacks that lead to the top of the hill.  The reward is a gorgeous view of the Potomac River.



Railroad Trestle in the Distance

An Example of One of the Many Interpretive Signs on the Tunnel Hill Trail



Now for a little history–all of which is borrowed from the interpretive signs.  The Paw Paw  Bends made for several miles of travel that covered very little actual distance.  This left three possible options:  continue the canal around the bends; dam the river for slackwater navigation; or build a tunnel. Obviously the engineers chose the latter.



Heading Back Down...

Interesting Tree!




A tunnel of this magnitude required blasting from above and a place to dump the rubble.  Thus, the present trail is basically the former work station for the laborers.  The German and Irish immigrants who were involved removed 200,000 cubic yards of shale spoil over a fourteen year period (1836-1850) that saw them suffer through cholera outbreaks, labor friction, and financial shortages.  The paychecks were often late, and perhaps that’s why a daily ration of whiskey was included with their food and lodging.



Random Glove on the Trail

One Perfect Pine Cone



Speaking of lodging, workers stayed in either tents or small wooden houses in the area of the trail.  Many workers had their families in tow, which led to the construction of the Sulphur Springs (aka Tunnel Hollow) School in 1840.  The school was a single room brick structure, and much to our surprise, several of the bricks can still be found at the old site.



Tom isn't 'liken' the fact that I'm using this picture in this post! The area near the old school house site was dotted with silvery-green patches of Lichen.

Ice Display




In all, I would highly recommend a hike on the Tunnel Hill Trail, particularly in late autumn.  The colors and the vistas are breathtaking, and–yes–the signs make for a nice thumbnail history lesson of the area.




Back on the Towpath at Tunnel Hollow

Yet Another Blog Post About the Paw Paw Tunnel

Inside Looking Out

Before anybody moans or cries out, “Oh, no! Not another blog post about the Paw Paw Tunnel!” let me explain. I readily admit that this is our obligatory homage to the tunnel, so let’s keep this short and sweet.

Survey Marker Inside the Tunnel


In other words, there are dozens of places on the internet that’ll tell you how long the tunnel is and when it was (yawn) built. Instead, here are a couple of oddball pictures that don’t generally turn up in the usual write-up of the most famous and popular destination on the C&O Canal. BTW–bring a flashlight. It’s dark in there!






Believe it or not, when you get about 1/2 through the tunnel, you can't see your hand in front of your face!

Another Ride…

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…

One of the Views from Level 52

A Strong Foundation!

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.

Relaxing in the Sun!

A Little Color on the Trail...


'Water Fall' at the Paw Paw Tunnel


An itty-bitty light at the end of 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.


'Peanut Butter on Toast'

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!

'King of the Road'!