C&O Canal Towpath Day 5

Yesterday, we watched bald eagles soar. Today, we were attacked by a goose.

The moon was so bright, when I woke up just after midnight, I thought the day was already dawning. Nope.

Later, I woke up (actually in the morning) to the tent sagging and covered in condensation. Both my head and feet were touching the ceiling, and even sitting up in the middle of the tent, I couldn’t avoid touching it and getting wet. I like to lay around for a while after waking up so I was not happy to have to get out and tighten the guy lines. When I tightened the one on my door, the opposing stake on Jeremiah’s door popped out of the ground and that side of the tent fell on him. I went to fix it, but of course that was the one stake in really hard ground that we had used a tree limb to beat into the soil. I couldn’t hold up the tent and hammer the stake in at the same time so Jeremiah had to get out and help.

The tent was retightened, but I was too annoyed to go back to bed. Then Jeremiah noticed that his front tire and my rear tire were both flat, having deflated overnight. I’ve never had a flat before so I was starting to think I was immune. I guess not. I chose to do nothing until the sun came out a little more and dried some things so I sat reading in my camp chair to pass the time.

Jeremiah fixed his flat, then I went to work on mine. While his tire practically falls off the wheel after deflating the tube, mine was a struggle to finally peel away, needing every tire lever we had between the three of us.

After replacing the tube, putting everything back together, using Jeremiah’s air pump because mine decided to break, and oiling my chain, I was finally ready to pack up my things. We didn’t get rolling until almost 10 AM, although we had sort of planned to start earlier since it will be in the 80s today. Luckily, we had a short day planned.

The first excitement of the day was the Paw Paw Tunnel. I knew it was closed, with a 1.5-mile hike-a-bike detour on a hiking trail over the tunnel. We stopped at the picnic table at the entrance to check out the tunnel before the hike, allowing another biker to catch up to us. He had intel that you could walk through the tunnel, there just weren’t any lights due to construction. I thought I had seen online that the tunnel was open, but the trail at the other end was closed, thus the detour.

We decided to walk the bikes through. It’s another over 3,000′ long tunnel. There were no lights and the walkway was very uneven so we slowly went through with our bike headlamps. The tunnel was dripping onto us here and there, and puddles in some places made the path slick, but there was a railing between us and the water. We made it to the other side with no issues.

Once we were on the other side, we saw a sign saying that part of the trail was closed due to potential rockfall. Oops. The sign also said the trail over the tunnel was 2 miles long, not 1.5 like the sign at the beginning of the tunnel had said, and it said bikes weren’t allowed on the trail. Very confusing.

We were planning to stop in Little Orleans for lunch, and when we were a couple of miles from the road, we came across a couple with a flat tire and no air pump. We helped them patch it and pump it up and went to ride away, only to discover Jon’s tire losing air again. He pumped it up and quickly rode to the road to fix it at the Fifteenmile Creek Campground there.

That campground had no amenities, and the one restaurant in town is closed on Tuesdays, so we went a little farther up a very steep hill (I walked it) to a campground with a convenience store. There we got hamburger buns, cold cuts, and chips to make sandwiches.

When I tried to leave the store, a goose was sitting outside the door. Thinking it would be scared away when I came out, I opened the door and tried to walk out. Instead of being scared away the goose tried to come in! I backed into the store and closed the door, asking the woman who worked there what the deal was. She made it sound like a charming, but slightly annoying, resident goose that wouldn’t hurt anyone.

I tried to go out again and the goose pecked at my shins, even when I kicked at it to defend myself. Back into the store again. This time she said she’d call someone to come get rid of it.

Jeremiah managed to make it out the door and the goose ran from him. Annoying. We all made it outside, but now we had to sit at a picnic table nearby to eat. The woman came out and gave the goose a big container of water and corn just outside the door. Well, no wonder it attacks people coming out! The whole time we were there, this goose went after every person and vehicle that came near, but everyone acted like it was just so cute. At one point it came and pecked at Jon’s back, but ran when Jeremiah got up again.

We refilled water and made our way back to the trail. We decided to camp before Hancock so we could go to the bike shop there when it opened in the morning, as well as get breakfast, so we were aiming for White Rock campsite, but we checked the water quality at the couple of campsites before it in case we wanted to load up early.

Hearing from bikers coming the opposite direction, it seems like most of the water pumps are on all the way to DC. The pumps access iodine-treated wells. Not my favorite taste, plus the water seems quite rusty coming out. I filled up my bottle and bladder at one pump that didn’t seem quite as bad, then decided to filter it anyway when we got to camp. That made it way better tasting and clear too.

After setting up the tent, I used my collapsible bucket to take a bandana bath with cold water, which felt so incredible after the hot, sweaty day. Wiping away the sweat, sunscreen, and dead bugs made me feel so refreshed, and dipping my feet in the cold water at the end felt amazing.

We used the bucket to look for air bubbles coming out of the two tubes from our flats this morning too, to patch those up for later use. I tried to sit out reading after dinner, but the bugs were getting worse. I’d already been wearing my headnet since arriving in camp to keep the gnats out of my eyes but mosquitoes started getting into the mix so I went to bed.

The sounds of spring peepers, owls, and nearby cows made for a not very quiet bedtime.

39.9 miles today.


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  1. I’ve loved biking the trail too. The scout troop my boys were in Regularly bikes the trail from Cumberland to DC every other year. Unfortunately they don’t do it as a bike-packing trip. I did the ride with my three sons and two of their neighbor friends and we bike-packed hauling all of our gear and food with us. We had a great time.

    Now at 71 and after having both of my knees replaced I’d like to go back and do it again. My oldest son wants to do it again too. We’re trying to decide when we can get time off work together to do it.

  2. I have Truely enjoyed reading all about your trip. I enjoyed the pictures and know where all the pictures were taken only because I did the trail twice. I was living doing the trail through your words and the pictures . I would love to do the trip again, but I’m 79 and in remission for pancreatic cancer. I want you to know I think it’s wonderful you posted it
    Thank you so much.

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