Day 80: Hancock, MD to Harper’s Ferry, WV (November 17)

Coming into Hancock the day before, I noticed that there was paved bike path heading into Hanock and then out continuing down river. There is about a twenty mile bike path of the old Western Maryland Railroad that parallels the C&O Tow Path with Hancock pretty much in the middle. Since paved roads are faster than the bumpy C&O I decided to give it a go until it ended.

At one point on the trail, there was a sign pointing out the three modes of transportation that were tried in that corridor: canal then railroad, and then the interstate. It said that each eventually led to the demise of the previous one. (CSX still has an active rail line nearby that mostly moves coal.) I had often thought about the history of the route. From the historical signs along the canal, the canal was never much of a success. It was plagued by flooding and it was not fully completed until the railroads were also nearly complete along the same route. It could not compete with the railroads in speed or tonnage. The amount of railroads coming through are still visible with both active and abandoned railroad trestles crossing the rivers. The signs along the path were interesting because of the long and important history of this area of country for both the Revolutionary War and the Civil War as well as the development of industry and the move west.

When the bike path ended, I took to the road to ride the about mile up to Fort Frederick State Park. I was warned that the road had no shoulder, steep hills, short sight lines, and was for advanced riders only. I hoped by this point in my trip I could handle that sort of road for a mile. I think I did OK as I made it to the state park. I suppose the bike path has to say that especially since many people who go for a day ride on the bike path are probably not road riders. I think they are planning to connect the end of the ride to the C&O but not sure. There was a connector about a mile or two before the end of the path, but I missed it and no way I was going back to avoid riding on a road for five minutes.

Fort Frederick State Park was Maryland’s first state park and houses a fort dating back to the French and Indian war built in 1756. After use in three wars (French and Indian, Revolutionary, and Civil War), it had fallen to ruins, but its stone walls were rebuilt by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930′s. There are camping spots in the park, and it connects to the C&O. It was deserted when I rode though. I took a brief look into the fort, but the buildings all looked closed, and I had miles to go to get to Harper’s Ferry.

The path continued along the Potomac. A few spots of trees still had leaves, especially bright yellow, but most fallen off. The opposite bank had some development with both small summer cottages often on stilts and large estates with lush green lawns.

I was in a mode to ride. The last few days have been head down riding. Not completely, but I am slightly more focused on getting to where I want to get than to see things along the way. I think the grey dreary and chilly day also added to my focus. I have to occasionally make my self take a time out for beauty for a few seconds. In Williamsport, I briefly stopped in to the park service visitor center, but there was nothing much new there I had not seen at the main one in Cumberland. But I was given a bit more information about an upcoming detour. Part of the trail washed out along the Potomac so there was a 7 mile detour along the road. (Advised that it was for advanced riders only…)

When I did get to the detour, it was very well marker, and they even had installed porta-potties so you didn’t have to pee on people’s lawns. Quite impressed.

The clouds cleared and the sun was out for the last few hours of the day. A few miles outside of Harper’s Ferry, I came to a campsite. It was a nice spot, quiet, and I briefly considered staying there. Why didn’t I camp out my second to last night? I had one thing of ramen and a couple handfuls of peanut m&m’s left. I had eaten everything else. So basically no dinner and if I ate dinner there’d be no breakfast. Plus it was getting cold and the sun had not even set.

I soldiered on to Harper’s Ferry. I was not pleased at carrying my bike up three flights of stairs to cross the river into Harper’s Ferry, but nothing else to do. Across the river I ran into a film crew shooting on the big hill I had to ride up to get to the Teahorse Hostel where I was going to stay the night. (I found it using the C&O iPhone app…I thought it was worth the dollar or two it cost since it lists all the campsites, a lot of lodging, and restaurants along the route.) I stopped a bit before the hostel to get some pizza. I ate most of a large 16″ and saved two slices for lunch the next day.

Start: Hancock, MD
End: Harper’s Ferry, WV
Today’s mileage: 71.6 miles
Total miles so far: 3374 miles
Average speed: 9.7 mph
Max speed: 29.1 mph
Riding time: (09:00 to 17:30) 8.5 hours
Total riding time: 410 hours
Weather: rain, overcast 40 F

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