I began what has been my second shortest ride so far (42 miles) with an enormous breakfast at the Town Hill B&B. Their breakfast is legendary, but even I was surprised by it. It was more like three meals in one. When they have a full Inn, they serve this buffet-style and Donna, one of the owners kept apologizing that there was no buffet. Somehow or other I managed to consume it all. And I told her repeatedly not to apologize!
After getting my gear together Dave, Donna’s husband,shuttled me back down to Little Orleans. Along the way he explained to me that they typically have 700 cyclists per year, but that this year business is off 80%. I was sobered to hear that. I was only one of two guests there last night. He is hopeful that things get better next year. He told me that tour groups comprise most of the cyclists and that there have been no tour groups this year. Many of the groups come from the West Coast.
I started my ride today on the Western Maryland Rail Trail (WMRT) rather than the C&O Towpath. The WMRT parallels the towpath for 28 miles and is a paved asphalt surface. It actually is situated immediately above the canal, opposite the towpath. Of course it is much faster, more comfortable and easier to ride and I was set to make great time on it. Its current western terminus is Little Orleans. This is the same Western Maryland RR that the Great Allegheny Passage follows from Connellsville to Cumberland.
Since this was going to be a shorter day, I decided I wouldn’t hesitate to take some photos. One thing that I had been noticing along the way were the old Western Maryland RR telegraph poles, which I had first noticed way back near Ohiopyle. There were few still standing back there, but along this section there are hundreds. I thought they would be cool to photograph and so I stopped at several. Then, I noticed some had the original glass insulators on them. I got a photo of some with as many as 10; then I started looking for some of the insulators that might have fallen on the ground. The poles were leaning over the canal and would not be advisable to climb. I went slowly until I found one on a pole that had fallen over. A souvenir!
A little later I saw a familiar “swoop” of a bird just ahead of me on the trail and knew it was a hawk. I stopped for about ten minutes until I got the best shot of it that I could. It was picking bugs out if the rotting wood on one of the telegraph poles.
I stopped after Hancock for some coffee and a muffin and then in about 8 miles rejoined the towpath around Ft. Frederick State Park. After that I noticed boats docked on the other of the Potomac and realized that I was approaching Damn 5. The River is really more like a lake there.
I cycled on for another hour, and at this point the canal and towpath are quite close to the river the entire time. I finally came in to Williamsport my destiination for the day. It has a very large and well preserved aqueduct and a large port where canal boats used to tie up and even winter over.
Tomorrow I head 40 miles to Harpers Ferry, perhaps the most famous place along the C&O, with a stop in “artsy” Shepherdstown.