Late in the spring, I mentioned that the proposed extension of the Western Maryland Rail Trail (WMRT) had three possible results: going all the way to Paw Paw, ending at the eastern portal of Stickpile Tunnel, or simply leaving the trail as it is with the terminus remaining at Pearre Station. With that in mind, Candee and I hiked from the eastern portal of Indigo Tunnel to Pearre Station, noting all of the dangerous rock outcroppings and work that needed to be done.
Since June, I haven’t heard a whole lot about extending the WMRT, but we decided to take a walk along the old railroad bed just to have a look. From the Fifteen Mile Creek Campground, it’s a short walk back to the gate that marks the end of this section of the trail. The path sits just above the canal, and people taking the towpath didn’t seem to notice us–probably because there isn’t much reason to check out this section of the old railroad
I was expecting to see a lot of the same obstacles that exist on the other side of the tunnel heading toward Pearre Station. However, this mile or so of trail is in excellent condition. There aren’t any large trees growing in the path, and none of the rock formations seem capable of producing slides. With the exception of ankle-high weeds, this is an easy walk, and there are a couple of manmade structures that are worth seeing. For starters, there is a small culvert that runs under the old railroad, and back in the day, the wet-weather stream appeared to empty itself directly into the canal.
Also, the trail ends at the picturesque western portal of the Indigo Tunnel. The opening is fitted with a bat gate that was completed in August of 2011. In my opinion, the western portal is more scenic than its eastern counterpart, and it can be accessed from the C&O Canal towpath in the vicinity of Mile Marker 140. Heading downstream, the flat spot on the bank above the canal will run into a cliff. From there, cut across the canal and up the bank, and the portal will be on the right.
In conclusion, I would highly recommend a hike on the old Western Maryland Railroad right-of-way. It’s just above the towpath, but when the leaves disappear in winter, it offers a different vista and perspective of the Potomac River valley. If the Western Maryland Rail Trail is extended, a lot of thought and work will be required. Nevertheless, until that happens, it’s okay to walk the trail and daydream about what may be. If they build it, people will come.