When I set out on Sunday morning, my purposes were two. First and foremost, I wanted to get back in shape from my recent ankle injury by doing some cycling along a section of the lovely C&O Canal Towpath. It is 180-odd miles long and runs along the Potomac from Washington, DC, far into the western mountains of Maryland (yup, we have mountains) to Cumberland. The canal is mostly dry and filled with trees now, but the towpath remains and is popular with runners, cyclists and horse traffic.
But my second purpose was to scout out caves. In previous cycling trips along the C&O Canal, I've noticed several cave entrances in the cliffs along the way. Maryland is not a state known for its exceptional caves, unlike the neighboring Virginias or even Pennsylvania (though we do have more caves than Delaware!) Our caves also tend to be quite small, but to quote Master Yoda, "Size Matters Not".
First the cycling: I started at Dam #4 at about Mile 84 on the towpath. Unfortunately, the towpath between miles 86 and 88 was damaged during a flood and is "not passable". Large signs proclaim this which I choose to ignore. I cycled over increasingly narrow, overgrown trail until I came to a point where the cliffs on one side converged with the river on the other side. A few feet of dense, poison-ivy-choked shrubbery stuck tenaciously to the few feet of space between the two. OK! So the way really is closed! I retreated back to Dam #4 and took the five-mile detour up and over the surrounding country roads to McMahon's Mill at Milepost 88. The day was lovely and warm, but not too hot, with a good breeze and bright sun. Perfect for cycling.
Once the route descends back to the river, I was in the section known as the Big Slackwater. The river was calm enough here that the canal diggers hadn't bothered to blast their way through the hard limestone cliffs. Boats were shunted out into the calm river for a few miles and mule-powered motive force walked along a nice path at the edge. There were a few miles of lovely waterfront realestate with cliffs on the other side. I met two rock climbers scaling a nice-looking 50' cliff; have to come back here when my foot is healed and try it out. There were also numerous cliff openings which I checked out. I'll describe these all together at the end.
The canal came back into being and I spent most of my time winding through nice, dense forest interspersed with views of the river on one side and fields on the other. Not many people were about in the relatively isolated stretch of the canal. The day wore on and I realized that two months of convalesence have left me pathetic and weak! By five, I reached Williamsport and turned around just past mile marker 100. More than half-way done with the Canal! With an aching knee and sore rump, I turned for home and got back without incident.
Total milage: about 45 miles.
Some healthy-looking cave crickets roughly actual size. Crickets like this are uncommon in the nearby WV caves and I was surprised to find so many here.
The Home Cave