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Reply to trail drainage

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Reply to trail drainage
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Jane Smith on 4/3/2024 8:38:52 AM:
We are planning to bike the C&O in a couple of weeks. If there happens to be rain in the week leading up to our trip, how long (roughly) does it take for the trail to dry out? We have a plan B in the event that rain cancels the C&O trip, but we would need to switch gears a couple of days ahead.

Rivnuts from Homestead,PA on 4/3/2024 11:22:12 AM:
In my experiences, the C&O Towpath basically consists of three or, perhaps, four sections with respect to how it reacts to rainfall. The first section is between Cumberland and Little Orleans and the start of the Western Maryland Rail Trail (WMRT). That section is basically the original compacted earth surface which becomes soft and or muddy with standing water puddles following heavy or extended rainfalls. It can take a few days to dry out and the puddles to disappear depending on the subsequent weather and whether certain trail areas are tree covered preventing sunshine to help dry out the trail.

Once you reach just beyond Little Orleans, you can shift to the paved WMRT which is not affected by the rain. If you elect not to shift to the WMRT, the Towpath continues via its original earthen surface but is not as affected by rain as the previous section. From the end of the WMRT to beyond Brunswick, the Towpath has generally been resurfaced with crushed gravel from which rain drains more quickly. Depending on the amount of rainfall, this section could still be ridden even during some rain and dry out in a day or so.

In the last section approaching DC, and especially, inside the beltway, the Towpath has not been resurfaced and reverts to its original earthen surface which does not drain well and leads to soft if not muddy conditions with puddles for a couple of days or more following heavy or extended rainfall. As you approach DC you can leave the Towpath and finish the ride into DC on the paved Capital Crescent Trail to minimize any exposure from Towpath itself.

“Drying out” is a relative condition depending on your tolerance and equipment to withstand the conditions. I would suggest that should there be any doubt, mudguards or fenders can be quite beneficial.

Others may have other experiences and I would invite them to share those and their opinions. Let us know your final decision and how it turns out. Others will be interested in knowing.

Jane Smith on 4/6/2024 8:54:35 PM:
Thanks!! This was exactly what I needed to know!!