Archive for the ‘Little Orleans, MD’ Category

Long Pond Trail

All roads lead to the C&O Canal!

A few months ago, Candee and I were on our way to Bonds Landing when we spotted this sign.  Somebody definitely went to a lot of trouble to get people interested in hiking, so we thought the least we could do is oblige him by taking a walk on the Long Pond Trail.  The trail extends from Fifteen Mile Creek Road to the C&O Canal towpath and covers approximately seven miles.  It’s named after a large, flat section of the creek, but today we stuck to the lower section–from Oldtown/Orleans Road to the towpath.

You are here!

It’s approximately a mile-and-a-half from the road to the towpath as the trail winds through Green Ridge State Forest.  It starts off with a gentle slope, but sections near the middle and the end are steep and have fairly treacherous footing.  I would certainly recommend a good pair of shoes and a walking stick.  Likewise, I would suggest keeping a camera handy.  This seems to have been a great year for mast, as acorns and hickory nuts littered much of the trail, and where there’s food, there’s bound to be squirrels and deer more than happy to eat it.

Fit for a goat

In places the trail is very narrow, but it is well marked with red paint on many of the adjacent trees.  Part of the lower end of the path follows a small stream bed, and I’m sure that the trail is a muddy mess after a hard rain.  After that, it winds uphill and back down for a few hundred  yards before ending at Lock 58, which is right at Mile Marker 144.  This isn’t an easy hike–by any means–but it is very secluded and peaceful, and it’s a good way to be at one with nature for an hour or two.  In all, Long Pond is one of several interesting trails in Green Ridge State Forest, and I’m looking forward to walking the other end of it sometime soon.

Follow the red painted trees

 

A few ideas for biking from Cumberland to Hancock

School House Kitchen in Oldtown courtesy of www.pollythetravelfrog.com

As we left Cumberland last week, we had a pretty good idea what we were getting ourselves into: sixty miles of dusty trail as we made our way to Hancock!  In spite of thirty pounds of clothing, food, and biking gear in each pannier, we knew that we would need a little help from our friends to reach our motel in Hancock.  The temperatures were in the mid-nineties, and there are only so many places to stuff multiple bottles of water in a saddlebag, and while prunes, nuts, and crackers are great snacks, it’s nice to have a plate of food or a sandwich at some point.

As food goes, the School House Kitchen in Oldtown (17 miles from Cumberland) offers good home cookin’ all day long and is a great spot for a late breakfast or brunch.  They also have a drink cooler for replenishing one’s water supply.  True, there are water pumps along the way, and I’ll get to that later, but for those who don’t like the taste of sulfur,  a few extra bottles of water is always a plus.

A view of the Paw Paw Bends from Tunnel Hill

Heading out of Oldtown (mm 167), there aren’t any watering holes (other than the pumps) on the Maryland side of the river until one reaches Bill’s Place in Little Orleans (mm 140).  For the unprepared, that can make for a 27 mile dry spell!  The one possible exception is to cross the Potomac River into Paw Paw near mile marker 156 (Maryland Route 51).  There will be a small restaurant and a convenience store about a quarter-mile past the West Virginia side of the bridge.  For those who dare to drink from the pumps, they’re available at the hiker/biker campsites along the way–just be sure to bring a bottle of Mio or a box of Crystal Lite packets! Overnight campsites, pay sites, and picnic areas between Cumberland and Hancock are as follows: Evitts Creek (180.1), North Branch (175.5),  Iron Mountain (175.4),  Spring Gap (173.3),  Pigmans Ferry (169.1).  Oldtown (166.7),  Potomac Forks (164.8),  Town Creek (162.1), Purslane Run (157.4), Paw Paw Tunnel (156.0), Sorrel Ridge (154.1), Stickpile Hill (149.4), Devils Alley (146.8), Fifteen Mile Creek (140.9), Indigo Neck (139.2), Cacapon Junction (133.6), and Leopards Mill (129.9).

Eat, drink, and be merry--there are still 16 miles to go to reach Hancock

Bill’s Place in Little Orleans is a great place to stock up on water, and they also offer a nice variety of food and snacks, including Maryland crab soup, breaded cauliflower, steaks, and sandwiches.  I would also encourage hikers and bikers to ask if they can get rid of empty water bottles and other garbage at any business establishment.  The C&O is a trash-free park, and there aren’t going to be any trash cans along the towpath.  I’ve rolled into my destination with way too many empty water bottles and granola bar wrappers more than once, and the idea is to slowly empty the pannier as the trip progresses–not fill it up with garbage.

Near mile marker 136 (Pearre Station), many riders will be faced with a dilemma.  A left at Lock House 56 leads to the terminus of the Western Maryland Rail Trail.  Before my first through-ride, I met a pair of riders at Great Falls who regretted the fact that they “cheated” by taking the WMRT into Hancock instead of staying on the towpath.  Personally, I don’t think anybody can cheat on a 184.5 mile bike ride, so the choice is yours.  It’s about eleven miles into Hancock either way.

C&O Bicycle

For those riding the C&O Canal towpath in three days, Hancock is a place that has many options.  If there are any equipment problems, C&O Bicycle offers repair services.  I’ve been lucky so far, but people I’ve ridden with have had four tires replaced to date.  The bike shop also offers lodging in its bunkhouse and drinks and snacks.  However, Hancock isn’t lacking in good places to eat.  In a previous post, I’ve had nothing but good things to say about the Potomac River Grill (near the Rt. 522 bridge) , but Weaver’s and Park-n-Dine are also very good.  Both are located along the main drag, which eventually turns into an entrance ramp for I-70.  Immediately before hitting the interstate, Blue Goose Fruit Market and Bakery has a wide variety of pies to choose from.  After eating, it will be time to relax and prepare for another day on the trail, and Hancock has two motels to choose from.  America’s Best Value Inn and Super-8 Motel are both right off of Route 522, and each is a short distance from the towpath  In all, it should be a fun day on the trail!

I’ll leave you with a few possible essentials:

Deep Woods Off: Parts of the canal are swampy, and the mosquitoes can be pretty bad.

Gold Bond Friction Defense: Jimmy Bond isn’t lying–this stuff works!

184 Miles of Adventure: Hikers Guide to the C&O Canal:  This Boy Scout pamphlet is available at all of the visitors centers along the way and lists camp sites and other points of interest.  It also breaks the C&O Canal down into a series of easy-to-read ten mile maps.

I welcome any comments from those who have ridden the length of the C&O or have done a lot of riding in general.  Any ideas that make the journey easier of more enjoyable are a plus!

The Fifteen Mile Creek Campground’s New Look

Work in progress at Fifteen Mile Creek Campground

The Fifteen Mile Creek Campground is in the process of getting a facelift.  According to signs on the work site at the downstream end of the campground, the Maryland DNR is putting its funds to work in order to create a new-and-improved facility.  We were told at Bill’s Place that the present camping area will be utilized for parking, while the newly cleared land will be used by future campers upon its completion.  The main issue of the restructuring is that the present boat ramp’s location forces boaters to park in the river bed, and pollution from motor vehicles, such as gasoline and oil, is a potential problem.  The campground is a popular destination for fishermen and campers, and it will be interesting to catch a glimpse of the new facility when it has been completed.

Fifteen Mile Creek Aqueduct

View from the boat ramp

The Fifteen Mile Creek Aqueduct is located near mile marker 141.  It’s a single-arch structure with the upstream wall missing, which is typical of most of the smaller aqueducts along the C&O Canal.  However, for thirsty cyclists and hikers, it’s a sure sign that Bill’s Place is a few turns of the pedals away.  The creek flows through the western end of the Fifteen Mile Creek Campground and has a boat ramp near its mouth on the Potomac River.  The aqueduct also marks the end of our volunteer area in the park, so I’m not sure why it took us so long to take a picture.

Meeting a New Friend

We were fortunate enough to meet the mascot for Bill's Place

As we were doing our level walk today, we were greeted by a series of barks, and suddenly a spirited little beagle waded across the canal to say hello.  We’ve seen her in Bill’s Place a time or two and immediately recognized her.  The dog tag didn’t give a name and only stated that she should be returned to Bill’s Place if found, so we gave her the temporary nickname of BP.  After stopping long enough to have her picture taken with Candee, BP tagged along for a mile or so before heading back up the hill toward home.  Due to the brisk December weather, there weren’t any hikers or bikers out today, but me managed to make a new friend anyway.  Thanks for the visit, BP!