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enforcement of closing at dusk
 - 
Biff the Janitor from Athens, Ohio on 03/20/2019 11:27 PM
I'm used to riding rail trails that are open 24 hours a day.

So, I'm wondering just how "closed dusk to dawn" works or is enforced on both the GAP and C&O trails.
I understand the operating bodies of each trail differ, so is there a difference in enforcement?
Is it low-key or do some sort of rangers do a post-dusk patrol?

It's all unknown to me, I'm used to being able to ride at night (with lights) and not wonder whether I am running afoul of laws or rules.

 
Eagle1 from Pittsburgh on 03/21/2019 04:42 PM
My thoughts on the "dawn to dusk" rules. I've been told that the rule originated around the time the various parts of the trail were opening. In an effort to not affront the locals that live close to the trail (by having riders, runners, dog walkers)out there at all times of the day), that it was thought best to incorporate the "dawn to dusk" usage rule. I'm sure that this then was replicated for each new section opening.
My practical experience (at least on the GAP) trail is that it is not monitored and that the occasional ride through in the dark is not an issue. Making oneself a nuisance while passing through (noise, etc) is a different matter and may make cause for a phone call to an authority.

 
John from Pittsburgh on 03/21/2019 10:03 PM
Eagle nails exactly how I feel about that rule. I also assume it’s to ward off kids from going back there at night so it’s not party central (not that that ever stopped them before!).

Also, many people have arrived at campsites we’ll after dark with their headlamps on. They may have gotten a flat they couldn’t fix or some other bicycle issue that slowed them down. Certainly no one is abandoning the trail or turning around because of the dawn to dusk rule, they’re going until they arrive at camp or trail town. Happy Riding!

 
JK on 03/22/2019 07:43 AM
While it may not be enforced, I would be EXTREMELY skeptical to ride on the towpath at night. There are several areas where there are hidden roots and close passings right next to water, and on aqueducts. Several of these are challenging enough during daylight hours. I think the reason this rule exists is for your SAFETY, plain and simple. I would do everything possible to avoid it. There is much less room for error on the towpath versus your typical rail trail.

 
Cenzo from Hatfield PA on 03/22/2019 12:15 PM
In 2015 I was sleeping at horsemen branch and at about 2:30 am I was awoken by what must have been an ebike with a very bright headlight doing at least 25 mph towards Georgetown.

 
Biff the Janitor from Athens, Ohio on 03/23/2019 10:27 PM
Thanks to all for the information.
I was mostly curious about the sort of 'being a bit late getting off the trail' thing, riding a trail for the first time at night would be pretty goofy - even for me.


Hancock - Lil Orleans paved section
 - 
Stephen from Jamestown,NC on 03/22/2019 07:24 AM
I was told yesterday that some of the CO trail between Hancock and Lil Orleans has been paved. Anyone have info on this? Thanks.

 
John from Pittsburgh on 03/22/2019 09:41 AM
The Western Maryland Rail Trail runs parrallel to the C&O there for 22.5 miles, both within sight of each other. Look for the access signs for the turnoffs. Check Google Maps and turn on Bicycling to see the two trails. The paved asphalt is a welcome change after the rocks, tree roots, and mud of the C&O!


Cumberland to DC - 2 Days in Mid March
 - 
Matthias McMahon from Washington DC on 03/11/2019 08:40 PM
It might be too late to be on this forum, as I am sitting in the Manhattan Social in Cumberland Maryland, grabbing a large dinner and beer before I begin my 2 day voyage back home. Let’s first bring you all to how and where I am now... I outfitted my All City Gorilla Monsoon with a pair of rear Panniers perched on a PDW rear rack, a sleeping bag and some food in a dry bag mounted to the top. As it is mid-March, and all the water is shut off, I have brought 2 64oz kleen kantee bottles mounted to my salsa down under front rack. All together, I will be hauling 100lbs of shit. The train ride up here from DC was very pleasant. I spent the majority of the 3 hour ride in the “viewing carriage” trying to grab a glimpse of the trail I would be riding on. While it all looked good from the train, I am expecting a “sloppy” ride home.
Smooth sailing so far. Only issues was a lost bike lock and a scratched top tube. Honestly, pretty lame cause the Abus lock cost me a pretty penny. This all occurred on the Amtrak ride. The usual bike carriage with the vertical bike stands was not there and the conductor informed me I would need to lay my bike down. I was very hesitant to do this as I didn’t want to scratch my bike, or potentially loose gear in the frantic frenzy to remove the bike before the train took off. Sadly, both occurred. All is good though.
Upon arriving in Cumberland, I rode to my AirBnB host house, dropped the gear, set up my space, and went in search of a replacement bike lock. Because it was after 8pm, only Cycles and Things was open. The gentleman working the shop was super nice and we chatted for a bit about my bike, my ride, and the lack of lock. He didn’t sell me shit... in fact he informed me that I didn’t need a lock. I would be fine on the trail, and that only the occasional local hill-billy would come disturb me, but they would be of no harm (Insert Deleverance Scene).
So here I am, about to embark on a 190 mile bike ride with 100lbs of shit, no bike lock and the thought of unwelcome guests while sleeping. Any last minute suggestions would be welcomed. If none by my completion, I will add more about my experience if others are interested.
-Matthias

 
JK on 03/12/2019 06:07 AM
Given the trail terrain and that much stuff (100 lbs is a lot!), I hope you don’t expect to average more than 8-10 mph. So you need to be riding by sunrise each day to maximize daylight. And if it’s muddy, you’ll be lucky to average more than 6-8 mph. Good luck!!

 
Tom from Pgh on 03/13/2019 12:29 PM
Looking forward to hearing your comments on the condition of the trail, especially at slackwater and the Brunswick culvert washout. I'm trying to build up the nerve to do the trip too. Hoping to hear some words of encouragement.

 
dcswindler4 from Culpeper, VA on 03/14/2019 08:14 AM
Also looking forward to your update. I'll be between jobs 3/22-4/1 and wanted to try the entire C&O. I love a challenge but it would be my first multi-day bike trip, AND my first high mileage bike trip (on a fat bike no less). Looks like rain is in the forecast that week so not sure I should throw myself in head first for this trip and tough it out. Just not sure how soon I'd have the opportunity to try it again. hoping to drive to Cumberland after the CAPS game 3/24 and start the trip early 3/25

 
Matthias McMahon from Washington DC on 03/15/2019 10:24 AM
Ride is complete, and what a journey it was. For those curious, the trail was a challenge this time of year. Keep reading for details.
One thing to consider, spring is cold, but summer has the possibility of extream rain too.
I took off from the Air BnB at 7:30, stopped off at a coffee shop in town, and grabbed 3 shots of espresso with a splash of foam. I was already about an hour behind schedule, and I hadn’t even gone a mile. Once on the trail though, I felt great. Conditions were perfect. Cold, but I had a good amount of layers on. The day before, I ventured to Cycles and Things, and was warned about some sharp rocks that cover the right side of the trail. The gentleman told me that this was just before Oldtown, right as the river disappears and the trail turns left. I found his advice to stay left very helpful. Repairing a flat with tubeless tires was not something I wanted to do.
Other than that, the trail conditions for the first 15 miles or so were great. I was averaging about 10mph, which was my goal. After about 15 miles though, the trail started to show signs of limited use from winter. While dry, there were a ton of little sticks all over. Every mile or so, one would get caught in my wheel, brakes, or worse yet, my fenders. A few times, the sticks would get jammed with such force that they would rip the emergency release off, causing the fenders to rub against the wheel. Either way, these stuck sticks required a quick stop, removal,, and then a push to get the 100 lb steed going again.. For anyone who rides in traffic, you will know that stop signs and traffic lights are a huge momentum killer, and cause a ton of “wasted energy”. These excessive stick stops required me to get the 100lb bike moving again, which drained me to no end.
At about mile 25, a tree branch actually broke my emergency release on my fender. I needed to reattach the fender with a dip tie (or remove the fenders altogether, which I did not want to do).
The Paw Paw tunnel was open (they are planning on closing it soon though for phase 2 repairs), and was a huge moral boost for me. Such an incredible piece of engineering. Once emerging on the other side though, be careful again of sharp rocks that may be stuck in the boardwalk like knife blades. Thankfully my tires were tough enough to not get sliced, but thin road or cross tires might have issues.
3 miles after the tunnel, and 35 miles from Cumberland, a giant tree lay across the trail. This seemed like a good place to stop and have lunch. In order to cross this barrier, I needed to take all my panniers of the bike, lift it over, and then gear back up.
There were about 3 more tree crossings, and plenty more stick issues all the way to Handcock, MD. I was averaging about 6mph for this ride, thanks entirely to the debris all over the trail. I had hoped to camp somewhere near Williamsport, and while I think if the trail were pristine this would be possible, I was 20 miles short, and setting up camp at Licking Creek.
Day 2 trail started out much better. I was able to bike all the way to Williamsport without any issues, making great time too. Spirits were high, and I was considering making it a 120mile day, still finishing in 2 days, I kept this mindset for hours. Once at Williamsport, I filled up all my water bottles, and hit the trail again. Still making good time, and enjoying the trail, I figured I would be home around 10pm. Yes, that’s a long day in the saddle, but I was motivated. This all changed about 12 miles past Williamsport near Big Slackwater. A Detour sign warning of “falling rock” seemed like a recommendation to me. I continued along the trail. This is where the mud began. What’s worse, sticks causing a complete stop and start, or mud with a 100lb bike on 650b 47mm tires. Talk about energy waster. About 1 mile after the detour sign, I could see why. Apparently the trail washout is common here, and it is also completely impassible (unless you are willing to swim). Backtracking time. The detour signs led me up a steep hill, through an abandoned farm, and up and down small county roads. After a few miles and not seeing detour signs anymore, I looked at my map and decided to head down Avery Mill lane to the trail again. Once there, I had lunch in front of McMahon Mill (appropriately named, and no known relation).
The next portion of trail is cement “boardwalk” and is pretty easy going, except for all the mud. Still tons of mud. From the detour sign, there were about 15 miles of clear trail followed by thick mud. Again, slowing me down, and making me doubt I would be able to complete the ride without an additional day. These conditions continued (great to horrible) all the way to Snyder’s Landing, causing me to make about 8mph. Once past Snyder’s Landing though, I picked up the pace to around 11mph. As I approached Harpers Ferry around 6pm, I began to realize that completing another 60 miles would be a tall order. I knew there was a big washout about 10 miles ahead. My goal was to cross the Brunswick washout before dark, and then set up camp at the next campsite.
I got to the washout at about 7pm. For anyone thinking this washout is going to be easy to cross, think again. The washout gap is about 50 feet, below and to the right is rushing water and to the left is a congested portion of train track supporting CSX, MARC, and Amtrak. Crossing to the right through the water would be hard (though doable), and crossing to the left across the track would be illegal. I would never break the law, and also would never encourage anyone else to. I was able to cross the gap though, because where there is a will, there is a way.
I set up camp just after the washout, and had completed 70 miles again. With only 50 miles remaining, Day 3 started off great. I was averaging 13 mph. No sticks or mud. This last section of trail was obviously the best cared for. I even saw construction workers after Whites Ferry laying new gravel down. Biking was smooth, fun, and the finish line was near. I took a nice long lunch break at Swains Lock. The trail was getting congested by day hikers, bird watchers, and everyone else out to enjoy the beautiful spring weather.
Back on the bike, the remaining 17 miles were clear. I opted to stay on the Tow Path when provided the option of joining the paved Capital Crescent trail. Once in Georgetown though, I was forced to ditch the trail for some city streets. Finally though, I found the other end.

Recommendations for anyone doing the ride, bring tons of water because most of the water sources are turned off until May. Bring warm cola thing, weather conditions ranged from 22-68 degrees during my 3 day journey. Be patient, and remember what Ralph Waldo Emerson said... “it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey”. What was supposed to be 2 days turned into 3. I am thankful my job was supportive of my ride, and allowed me the extra time needed.

 
Oye Nations from West Newton on 03/15/2019 10:45 AM
House for sale by owner $28k 30 yards from bike path and close to Yough River. One bedroom, trans heat and air, oil furnace, good and solid, dry. Near Collinsburg Volunteer Fire Dept. oyenations at g mail

 
David Anderson on 03/15/2019 12:00 PM
Thanks for this description. I'm planning a Cumberland to D.C. through-ride April 18-21 and trying to figure out how to bypass the washout at Brunswick. One of the companies listed on the NPS website quoted me $160 for 1-2 person shuttle between Brunswick and Point of Rocks!!

 
Matthias McMahon from Washington DC on 03/17/2019 01:54 PM
David, don’t pay money, I think you can figure out how to cross. If you have spare time, maybe take a day trip to Harpers Ferry, bike 10 miles down river, and give it a shot.

 
John from Pittsburgh on 03/17/2019 06:22 PM
You can try and traverse the creek yourself but just proceed with caution. If you’e going to DC the crossing will be to the right of the bridge. If the water is high (and you won’t know it’s high until you get there), I would not attempt to cross. You would then have to backtrack back to the shuttle pickup points. The day we were there the water was low. We had to take all of our bags off the bikes, carry the bikes over the creek, then go back across the creek to collect our bags, go back over, then reassemble. Also know that the rocks are really slippery so I went slowly, step by step, rock to rock. It was work to get everything across but we made it. We lucked out because it was relatively dry compared to the rest of the season. Money saved. :-)

People are adamant about not going up to the railroad tracks and crossing there. Apparently the trains come thick and fast and there’s not a lot of spare room up there on the sides near the rails. I’ve been told the nearby roads that constitute a “detour” parallel to the C&O are very dangerous with little sight distance, narrow or no shoulders, hills, and fast car traffic.

 
dcswindler4 from Culpeper, VA on 03/20/2019 07:59 AM
Thanks for the update, looks like i'll have to postpone my attempt since it looks like rain and cold most of the week I'm off and able to try.

 
rgr692 from Northern Virginia on 03/22/2019 05:49 AM
Congratulations Matthias! I enjoyed reading your excellent account of your adventure. I did the C and O from Cumberland to Georgetown a few years back under similar conditions and equipment: raining, mountain bike, 50lbs of gear on a rack and panniers. "Challenging" is putting it mildly. Your description of the trip brought back a lot of memories, both good and bad! It took me two days and I just remembered being cold, wet, and constantly starving...haha. I also remembered that throughout the trip, I kept thinking, "I brought way too much stuff". Your description of having to stop and restart momentum is so painfully true. I must have blocked those "good time" memories. I completely agree with your advice of bringing lots of water. I did my trip in January and finding water was only an option while passing through the towns near the canal. They say time heals all wounds...and bad memories, so fast forward to today and I'm about to embark on the same trip. This time: gravel bike, minimal gear, credit card, and the goal of doing it in one day. The rain yesterday has really tempted me to postphone this attempt. I'm hoping Friday's wind will help dry/drain the trail for a weekend attempt. Thanks again for sharing your adventure and welcome to the club!


Water?
 - 
skinjob on 03/20/2019 11:16 PM
Leaving DC April 18 headed to Pittsburgh. Anyone know when they turn the water pumps on?


 
Rivnuts from Munhall, PA on 03/21/2019 09:43 PM
The National Park Service webpage below indicates the faucets will be available "mid-April". The status of each of the water faucets along the towpath is also shown on this page.

https://www.nps.gov/choh/planyourvisit/conditions.htm


GAP/C&O Documentary "The Great Ride" Link
 - 
JK on 03/16/2019 11:32 AM
Here's a link to a recent PBS documentary about the GAP/C&O
"There Great Ride"
https://www.wqed.org/ride


 
epmark from HARRISBURG on 03/20/2019 06:09 AM
Hurry and watch it free by March 31 (free online). After that, I suspect they'll be marketing the DVD of this excellent production!


Summer of 2019 - Brunswick Washout
 - 
Gary M from Charlotte, NC on 03/18/2019 08:29 AM
Reading the last post made me start to think of this summer. Does anyone local have a update on the Brunswick washout for this summer?

"You can avoid the washout at mm52 before Brunswick by using the WOD past Leesburg to almost Purcellville. Look at google maps. Take Rt 287 and go north to Brunswick"

 
Cenzo from Hatfield PA on 03/18/2019 11:06 PM
Someone mentioned something about a path cut that goes down to the creek and arround the washout. Passable only when the water is low. I saw the video. I'd say, if no rain for 7 days give it a shot. Otherwise take the shuttle.

 
David Anderson on 03/19/2019 01:52 PM
I am looking at alternate bypasses as well. Once in Brunswick, it seems do-able to cross the river into VA on 287, then take back-roads to 15, crossing over the river again back into MD at Point of Rocks. This route is only about 10 minutes longer than the actual distance on the C&O between Brunswick and POR. My only concern is whether there is access to the trail from the RT 15 bridge. I can't recall last time I rode through there. Anybody know?

 
John from Pittsburgh on 03/19/2019 04:38 PM
David, looks like you should be good crossing back over at POR. Just turn right off the bridge onto Clay St. (Hwy 28) then a quick right into Commerce St. then another right onto Canal Rd. You will immediately cross over railroad tracks and then you’re there. There’s even a big C&O Canal parking lot and sign. Good luck!


Washington and old dominion or C &o to Brunswick mid April?
 - 
Mrshobiejoe from Dartmouth, England on 03/15/2019 06:03 PM
Hi all, I’ll be cycling from Arlington/DC on 15 April. Obviously it isn’t clear yet what the conditions will be but I’m leaning to using the Washington and Old dominion to Leesburg and then travelling across country to Brunswick to pick up the C & O. Interested to hear views. This is the beginning of a transamerica for me so I’d like to have a smooth and manageable start.

 
Richard from DC on 03/16/2019 06:19 AM
That sounds like a great adventure. I am not a big fan of the W&OD trail. It's asphalt and fast but boring. Although there are some nice spots on it, the trail goes through the suburbs. It's a strip of green, and power lines, with houses on both sides. The best part of it is from Leesburg to Purcellville. The C&O Canal out of Georgetown, on the other hand, has views of the Potomac on one side and woods and rock cliffs on the other. It's macadam and slower of course, but at least you get to see Great Falls, which is better than any sight on the W&OD. The stretch of the canal from Georgetown to Seneca is the best-maintained too. If you do take the W&OD to Leesburg, you can get onto the C&O at White's Ferry. It's about one mile on Highway 15. The road carries high speed traffic, but it has a wide shoulder for a bike. The ferry is $3 for a bike, and the crossing only takes a few minutes. Leesburg is a quaint old-Virginia town, but if you are crossing the U.S., I doubt you'll want to tarry there at the beginning of the trip.

 
Mrshobiejoe from Dartmouth,England on 03/16/2019 05:30 PM
Thank you Richard. I’ll keep an eye on the weather and trail conditions before making my final decision-seeing the falls would be nice but I don’t want to be bogged down in the infamous mud! If it’s wet! I ran the numbers through the route planner and the ferry would be nice and i have jotted down a further option of going cross country to Harper’s ferry to join the c and o.

Next question- what is the situation with cash v card on the various trail services ie groceries, accommodation and restaurants/cafes? I’m assuming that most places take cards as I can’t see many options to get cash although I assume the larger towns will have an atm. I’ve travelled in the USA before and have cards that work although I mostly use Apple Pay at home these days.

 
Richard from DC on 03/17/2019 06:05 AM
The C&O Canal from Georgetown to Seneca won't be muddy. Maintenance is good on that stretch. The problems are farther up. You are braver than I am about riding on backgrounds without shoulders. I always imagine a drunk in a pickup truck coming over a hill behind me and not seeing me on a bike until he plows into me.
Everyone takes Visa and Mastercard. Some merchants don't like American Express because the fee is higher. Apple Pay will only work at supermarkets and bigger stores. I've never seen anyone use it at a restaurant.

 
Willy from Alexandria VA on 03/17/2019 08:53 PM
Ok
You can avoid the washout at mm52 before Brunswick by using the WOD past Leesburg to almost Purcellville. Look at google maps. Take Rt 287 and go north to Brunswick past the washout on the C&O. Then run the C&O to Cumberland. If the washout isn't fixed by the next time I go to Pittsbrgh in September. That is what Im thinking of doing.
Willy

 
Mrshobiejoe from DARTMOUTH, England on 03/19/2019 12:33 PM
Thanks Willy, I was thinking of staying in Hillsboro (just south of Purcellville) if I do that route and taking the country route parallel to 287. I think I want to avoid washouts etc on day one as I get myself sorted out for the longer trip. Funnily enough I am 50:50 between suburbia and scenic charm- suburbia has its benefits aka bakeries etc!

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