Friday, December 9, 2016

Day 11: The End is Near!

July 15: It didn't rain during the night, and in the morning, I took down my tarp for extra headroom and light while eating breakfast and packing up camp, but mere minutes after taking down the tarp, an ever-so-light sprinkle started to fall. ARGH! It concerned me since all of my gear was still laying out on my groundsheet exposed to the weather. The sprinkles stopped, however, and never resumed again. Just the weather reminding me not to get too cocky, I suppose....

It was another hot and humid day, but Nothing Exciting Happened. I was still pushing the stroller, and the palms of my hands were still very sore, but the stroller was still hanging in there and I had started believing that it really would make it all the way to Pittsburgh. I saw the Potomac River multiple times throughout the day, and the canal towpath didn't throw any surprises at me. It passed the last of the locks on the trail--the end of the C&O Canal was near.

In fact, it was my hope to reach the end of the trail in Cumberland, MD, that night. Get myself a cheap hotel room or hostel in town, but my smartphone stubbornly continued not to work so I was unable to check prices or availability of lodging.

I stopped at the Evitts Creek Camp, the last campsite about 4 miles before Cumberland, trying to decide if I should risk showing up in town without knowing prices or availability of rooms or stay here for the night.

In Cumberland, the C&O Canal comes to an end, but it links up with the Great Allegheny Passage, also known as the GAP, but there were no campsites available on the GAP for quite awhile. This camp just before Cumberland was the last campsite I'd be able to use today.

A bicyclist going in my direction stopped at the campsite to take a break and I chatted with him a bit. He too wanted to stay in Cumberland for the night and his AT&T phone did work, so he did some Internet searches for the both of us looking for lodging and calling places listed in his guidebook, but the cheapest room he could find with space available was $150/night. Well, shoot.... No way I was going to pay $150 for a room. My decision was made. I'd camp here for the night. The bicyclist decided to continue on and camp beyond Cumberland. On a bike, he could travel a lot further than I could and would find somewhere else to stay--either on the trail or in the next town.

Town Creek Aqueduct
The weather forecast called for rain during the night--a forecast I was growing increasingly suspicious of every time I set up my tarp then it didn't rain during the night. Five times I had set up my tarp for the night, and five times the expected rain hadn't happened. But I set up my tarp anyhow. Better to have it up and not need it, than not to have it up and need it! But I was really getting annoyed at setting it up and not needing it.

The last couple of hours before sunset, I watched a rabbit in the camp eating grass. He wouldn't let me get very close to it when I tried to get a picture, but he had no qualms about letting me see him from a distance. I rather enjoyed watching him hopping around on the grass and feeding while cooking dinner and writing in my journal.

The campsite had two major issues with it, however:

First, it was located adjacent to a rail yard, so I had to hear loud trains going by or idling all night long. And second, it was separated from the Potomac River by a thick, tangle of brush and I couldn't find any way down to the water. After five consecutive nights of swimming in the Potomac (the last four skinny-dipping!), my streak--as it were--would end. It was frustrating--I could see the Potomac down the hillside through all that brush, but I just couldn't find a way through to it.

Sunset was spectacular with colorful clouds, only visible because powerlines had been run across the river and the trees through that area had been clear cut. If it wasn't for that break in the trees, I'd have missed most of the color the sunset provided.

Early in the evening, I powered up my laptop--the first time I turned it on since leaving Harper's Ferry. My camera was running out of space for photos, so I copied the photos off of it to my laptop. A couple of bicyclists who went past late in the day seemed to look at me like I was crazy. I imagined one of them saying to the other, "Did you see that? That idiot is carrying a laptop out here!" I didn't care, though. =)

After sunset, temperatures cooled to very pleasant temperatures. The heat of the day had finally left (unlike the last couple of nights when the heat of the day didn't fully dissipate). Thank goodness for small favors! And tomorrow, I knew, I'd finish the C&O Canal! Woo-who! And immediately start up on the Great Allegheny Passage. Keep on moving!

Lockhouse 70

The canal passes through a cut that had to be blasted and dug through a ridge of shale—after the Paw Paw Tunnel, this may have been the most labor-intensive project in the last 50 miles of the canal. The towpath is littered with these sharp pieces of shale.
I almost ran over this snake with the stroller! It was just coming out of the grass onto the trail and my visibility over the pack wasn't especially good, but I saw it and stopped just a couple of feet before running it over! (I actually pulled the stroller back a bit before taking this photo.)
He's a beauty! =)

Pigman's Ferry Campsite
Instead of building another dam to water the canal, the canal company built a steam pump here in the late 1870s which consisted of a brick boiler room and a wooden engine room and could raise 24 cubic feet of water per second from the Potomac to the canal. The buildings are long gone, but the ruins of the old steam pump are still visible!

Lock 75--the last lock of the C&O Canal.

The trail is getting close to Cumberland! The end is near! Civilization is encroaching around the trail!

Sunset from Evitts Creek H/B camp. If it wasn't for the trees being cleared for the powerlines, I wouldn't have really been able to see all the colorful clouds.


Lou Catozzi (PI Joe) said...

I've been enjoying your trek along the C&O Canal. I've always suspected it would be a nice hike or bike trip, just not in July! The stroller seems to have worked out okay. I'm curious how many of the bikers were pulling trailers instead of using saddle bags.

PI Joe

Ryan said...

If I had to guess, I'd say that maybe 10% of the bikers were pulling trailers. The vast majority definitely seemed to prefer the saddle bags. *nodding*