C&O Canal

Biking through Nature…184 1/2 Miles!


When Candee told me that she was going on another road trip—she wasn’t kidding! She was planning to ride her bike down the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal (C&O) Towpath, one hundred eighty-four and a half miles of bumpy trail that follows the Potomac River from Cumberland, Md. to Georgetown in the Washington, D.C. area.

Unsure if I was going to be invited to tag along, I pressed her for details. She told me that she planned to complete it in three days and that she would be riding the trail with her friend Tom. They are co-writing a book together—and no, it isn’t about me, but it’s a great story. It’s about two boys from West Virginia who travel the world, which of course is a subject near and dear to my heart.


Oh dear, I got side tracked—back to the bike trip. Candee went on to explain that the original idea for building the canal was to connect the Ohio River to the Tidewater Basin in Georgetown. Upon completion, canal boats pulled by mules would haul cargo from port to port. At the time, the concept was highly innovative.

Construction began in 1828 and finished in 1850, falling extremely short of the Ohio River goal, and instead stopping in Cumberland, Maryland. Construction was delayed over the years because of lack of funding, labor shortages, and difficulty building in rocky terrains.

Meanwhile, the railroad was becoming king, and the completion of the Baltimore & Ohio railroad made the canal project obsolete before it ever reached completion. However, the the canal was used as intended, and hundreds of families worked and lived on the canal until it closed in 1924.

Today the miles and miles of towpaths, locks, and aqueducts, leave behind a legacy of the hardworking people of a bygone era, and are now enjoyed by sport and nature enthusiasts alike.

To make a long story—SHORT—she invited me to go along! Yeah! I hopped at the chance to take such a fantastic trip. I knew it would be bumpy ride, but I couldn’t wait for it to begin!


Day #1 on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal (C&O):

C&O Canal

Cumberland, Maryland…This is where our trip started. If I’m going to be absolutely accurate, we went from finish to start, instead of start to finish. Confused? Don’t be…the 0 mile marker is actually in Georgetown!

C&O Canal

Taking a break in Oldtown.

C&O Canal

A great view of the lock at Old Town

C&O Canal

This is the Paw Paw Tunnel. Can you see the light at the end of the tunnel? It’s a long dark walk…3,118 feet!

C&O Canal

Me and my buddy Tom give the Paw Paw Tunnel a great big thumbs up! We love it here!



































We got off our bikes and pushed them through the tunnel. Once we stepped inside, I immediately noticed the temperature difference…it was very chilly.

The walls were damp and I could hear water dripping from the ceiling into the canal. It was fun but kind of creepy all at the same time. Candee brought along a flashlight but opted not to use it because she didn’t want to hold me, her bike, and a flashlight all at the same time.

Since she had walked through before I trusted her, but if you’re a first timer, I highly recommend bringing along a flashlight.

Wow…when we got to the middle, it was really dark! She kept her eyes fixed on the light at the end, and we made it through…what an adventure. I loved it!

C&O Canal

Bill's Place in Little Orleans....We stopped here for a break and had roast beef sandwiches, lots & lots of cold water, and a great conversation with Bill the proprietor. Who could ask for anything more?

C&O Canal

These are the remains of the Round Top Cement Mill.

C&O Canal

Continue down the path and you will see the impressive, “Devil’s Eyebrow”. It didn’t scare me a bit! Okay, maybe just a little bit. Have you ever seen a frog’s knees knock together? It isn’t a pretty sight!

C&O Canal

A peek into the past!
























Travel Frog Fun Fact!
The Round Top Cement Company produced cement for the construction of the U.S. Capitol building, the Washington Monument, and a good deal of the masonry work along the western end of the canal.
Source: C&O National Historic Park



Day #1 ended in Hancock, Maryland. It was a long muddy ride (62 miles), and we looked forward to getting a warm shower, some food in our bellies, and a good night sleep. What a fun day on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, and I couldn’t wait for Day #2!


Keep on reading about Day #2 on the C&O
Find out what happened on Day #3 on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal

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One Response to “Chesapeake and Ohio Canal (C&O)”

  1. This is my favorite post! I liked reading about all three days of the C&O bike ride. Like Polly, I’m an avid bike rider, and the pictures make me want to head over that way and ride all the way from Cumberland to Georgetown!