The Boulder is rideworthy, so I put on the panniers and filled them up with a few necessities. Grampa loaded the old milk crate that's bolted to his Trek 800 and we headed out for an overnight trip on the C&O towpath, our first in at least 5 years.
We headed south from McCoy's Ferry. The first mile was rather noisy because of speed boats on the Potomac, but after Dam 5, we enjoyed a quiet ride. We passed up a few berries, a mistake because there were none later when we really wanted them. Along the way, we admired the cliffs across the old canal bed and the huge sycamore trees that grow on the riverbank. And the smells--river mud with undertones of fish, overlaid with floral scents and piquant notes of nettle--nowhere else can you smell that blend.
After 10 miles, we arrived in Williamsport, MD, where we toured the park visitors' center and detoured 2 blocks for ice cream. Back on the towpath, we continued toward the Cumberland Valley Hiker-Biker Overnighter, scanning the wide sandy bank for useable illegal camping spots in case the hiker-biker was full of boy scouts. Wildlife was abundant. At one spot where a small stream flows into the river, I saw a groundhog, a deer, and a great blue heron all within a few feet of each other.
The hiker-biker was empty. As we explored its small sand beach, a little soft music wafted across the river from a recreational community, but otherwise this shallow stretch of river was completely ours. The tarp went up quickly between two trees. The old space blanket and Thermarest pads spread smoothly over nice soft grass, and a light blanket and sheet were all the bedding we needed on a warm, humid night.
We ate our pasta with tuna and veggies. The music from across the river continued, a nice selection of classic country and rock. We danced around the picnic table to "Your Cheatin' Heart" and "Kodachrome."
Night was falling, and "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" blended with the chirping of the crickets. Next we heard "pop-pop-pop" and colorful fireworks appeared in the sky through the tree branches. We scrambled down the riverbank and sat on a piece of driftwood for a fantastic display.
When the fireworks ended, we went to bed, but the party across the river went into high gear. The music grew steadily louder, sometimes accompanied by even louder karaoke singers with no sense of pitch. Eventually, thank goodness, the last one must have passed out, just before the thunderstorm. Once the winds and lightning subsided, the rain lulled us to sleep, until dawn when some fishermen put their boat in the river, hollering good-naturedly to each other.
The broken sleep made for a late start. We had coffee as we packed our gear, but instead of making oatmeal, we rode to Williamsport for breakfast. The Desert Rose Cafe had piping hot fresh coffee, a choice of breakfast or lunch sandwiches, a pleasant atmosphere, and the friendliest people ever.
After another 5 miles, we were ready for another break from the bikes. We made our way down the riverbank to a shallow stretch of water between the shore and a small island. Although not deep enough for a real swim, the water was cool and refreshing.
Just above the dam, we made one more stop where the towpath is chiseled into the cliff along the river. I was tempted to jump into the deep water, like some teenagers the day before, but I wasn't sure I could climb the cliff back to the towpath, so I settled into a shady nook and watched the boaters having their holiday weekend fun.
Much too soon, we were riding past the McCoy's Ferry campground toward our truck. Another weekend, another trip, one of many, many more, I hope!