Biking the C&O Canal Path and Great Allegheny Passage
330 Miles, 12 Days, 2 Kids
We Are Where?
That’s what I keep asking myself… I told you all of our big fall plans – rafting, hiking, biking then family time in Virginia with my family.
Family time in Virginia came first. My aunt’s final days fighting cancer and surviving the devastating treatments came to an end three weeks ago.
It was a privilege to be with my aunt in her final days, and an ironic gift. The gift was a reminder that life is short, and you better do what you want do, say what you need to say and become what you want to be right now!
A few days after her service, Brooke, the kids and I drove to D.C. with our bikes to the start of the C&O Canal Path.
The C&O Bike Path follows the historic canal tow path built in the 1850’s to connect the Chesapeake Bay to the interior trading routes of the Ohio River. Mules would walk beside the canal along the “tow” path. Parts of the canal still operate, for about 15 of the original 180 miles. Although most of the canal no longer operates, the tow path used by the donkeys has been reconditioned and maintained for hikers and bicyclist.
The path is packed gravel and earth, two lanes and follows the Potomac River from D.C. to Cumberland, Maryland. We bike primarily beneath a tunnel of trees, the Potomac on our left, the remains of the canal on our right. In Cumberland, the C&O Canal Path turns into the Great Allegheny Passage, a rails to trails bike trail.
pull the two person Chariot behind me; Brooke pulls a tag along bike connected to her seat post behind her. We each have two saddle bags stuffed with gear. We camp most nights right beside the trail at wonderful trail-side campgrounds that include a port-a-potty, a pump for water, a picnic table and fire ring.
The weather has been perfect, not too hot with only a few days of rain. We spent 3 hours biking in a torrential downpour one day before checking into our first hotel. What the rain didn’t soak, the mud covered. The kids did great under the Chariot’s rain cover. Eventually however, even the Chariot soaked through, getting the kids wet. But unlike many of the other adults on the trail, the kids didn’t mind.
Traveling with kids during a physical journey wears you down both physically and mentally. Physically, the completely flat trail feels like a constant uphill grind with the weight of the kids and gear, and the drag of the two wheeled Chariot through mud. As the body fatigues, the winning from the kids always increases in both volume and intensity. It’s never enough to break you or make you want to scream, but enough to remind you of the easy days before kids.
At camp, the kids are like mosquitoes, chasing you, dive bombing, instead of buzzing, you hear the maddening whirring of whining in your ears. Mostly without reason or cause – and that is the maddening thing about children – they are neither rational nor tempered. Everything goes from way up to way down.
The four of us sleep cramped and mashed sideways in one tent. The parents sleep for about 30 minutes, roll over, cover kids, sleep another 30 minutes and repeat throughout the night. Our legs are soar, our backs are tight, our clothes and our bodies are filthy, our kids are a storm of dirt, mud, snot, tears and smiles. It’s the best family vacation we’ve ever been on!
In a total of 14 days we stayed in two hotels, one night with family, 10 days in a tent and one night in the train station. We biked a total of 330 miles, from DC to Pittsburgh. It was as good a trail as anything we have biked out west.
Although I complained above about the kids whining, they actually did great! They rarely complained, enjoyed everything we did and did an awesome job covering so many miles. Brooke and I couldn’t be prouder, and are excited that Tana and Trey are more than qualified to adventure with us.
If you have any ideas for fun adventures with kids, leave a comment below.
Leave Boring Behind!
Owner, Pangaea River Rafting