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Old 04-14-08, 12:08 AM   #1
Venturous
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D.C. Trail Help

Hello,

I have been asked to lead a bicycle trip for my son's Boy Scout troop. It must be a 50 mile trip to complete requirements for their cycling merit badge. I thought about using the C&O Canal, but some of the boys may not have bikes suitable for dirt. I am considering using the W&OD trail which starts in Purcellville, VA and runs to Shirlington Rd. But, that is only 45 miles. I could double back for 5 miles at either end to pick up the miles.

Another thought I had was to exit the W&OD at about mile 4 and pick up the Custis Trail to the Mount Vernon Trail, possibly riding it all the way to Mount Vernon. For those familar with these trails, would there be any concerns leading a group of 6 to 10 fairly inexperienced riders on these trails?

Second question. Assuming riding all or part of the Mount Vernon Trail would work... any recommendations for a fairly easy to get to pick-up location where our support driver could park and wait for us in a bus or fairly large truck?

I appreciate any suggestions.
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Old 04-14-08, 09:56 AM   #2
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One way would be to go from Purcelville (mp44) to Reston mp18 (and back), but you'd be repeating.

Custis Trail would add a few hills. Might be a nice change of pace if the kids (and chaperons) can handle them. Then MVT to Dangerfiled Island, next the the marina at the north end of Alexandria. Near mp12. Big parking lot where bus can wait.
40+4+7 = 51 miles

For 50 miles staying fairly flat and downhill -
W&OD to Shirlington
Cross the pedestrian bridge over I-395 and take Martha Custis (on street) down to W. Glebe.
Cross at light and go left/west using sidewalk to cross stream (Four Mile Run) to trail on right.
Use the Four Mile Run Trail to get to Mount Vernon Trail (joins around mp13)
Take the MVT to Old Town (mp 10sih). Torpedo Factory is a good stop (food pavilion on water behind it)
Back track up the MVT to Dangerfield Island
44+3+3+2 = 52 miles Avoids the hills, avoids some of the busiest parts of the MVT and Old Town is an interesting place to visit. You could do a loop, ride down the MVT to the Torpedo Factory and back by Market Square, Gadsby Tavern (GW didn't sleep there but he ate his meals there), Carlisle House (where General Braddock launched his campaign against the French in Pittsburgh) or the house that R.E. Lee grew up in.

Just thought of an alternate. From 4MR Trail, cross over to the south side at the route 1 bridge. Take the south bank trail back to the circle at the end of Commonwealth Ave.
Take the Commonwealth Ave bike lanes thru Del Ray to Old Town.
Hit some of the historic places in Old Town. (I can help on Old Town information. I'm working up an Alexandria history ride for one of the local clubs.)
Take MVT back up to Dangerfield Island.

added - other possible pickup points are Gravely Point, north of the Airport (lot tends to fill up early, and you'd still need to add miles - maybe Memorial Bridge to the Lincoln Memorial.) or Bellhaven south of Alexandria (might have trouble fitting a big bus)

Last edited by cc_rider; 04-14-08 at 11:11 AM.
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Old 04-14-08, 05:33 PM   #3
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Regarding the Custis/Mt. Vernon trail:

If you were coming east from Purcelville, Leesburg or someplace else, the hilly part of the Custis Trail would be downhill and no problem. The best part, past Key Bridge down the Mt. Vernon Trail, is the scenery--you would be going along the Potomac, with terrific views of the Washington and Lincoln monuments (part of my commute every day.). But people tend to underestimate the ride to Mt. Vernon. It's a long ride, even from D.C. One thing to be concerned about on all of these routes, especially Mt. Vernon, is they will be crowded on a summer weekend. And at about 8 a.m. on Saturdays anyway, you find jogging groups that jam up many of the trails. But it's a great idea, and I hope it works out!
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Old 04-14-08, 05:43 PM   #4
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rather than a point to point, which entails logistical nightmares for transporting bikes/people, you might want to do an 'out and back'. That means no vehicular needs.

Anoather point is that the C&O, when dry, will accomodate most bikes. Back in the 70's I had a friend who rode the whole thing on a 10-speed- my guess is the tires were probably 28s... I have ridden it on 1.5 inch mountain bike tires with no problems.

I think the C&O is much better for what you are planning, as it is much more in the wilderness and a lot fewer road crossings ... and your options for starting places are many-- Around Harpers Ferry it is really nice.

You might check with the kids to see what kind of bikes they have--if off-roads seem to be the majority, talk ato your friends about letting some of the Boy Scouts borrow unused (or underused) mountain bikes they might have in their garages.

Whatever you choose, it should be a great adventure
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Old 04-14-08, 07:08 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dcbiker View Post
Regarding the Custis/Mt. Vernon trail:

If you were coming east from Purcelville, Leesburg or someplace else, the hilly part of the Custis Trail would be downhill and no problem....
True. It is more down hill than up, but there are still several rolling hills headed east, and it is hilly compared to the W&OD. For a crowd of unspecified ages who may not be used to biking those distances, a few hills near the end of the ride may not be the best idea. The ride organizer will need to decide.
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Old 04-15-08, 11:06 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by buelito View Post
Anoather point is that the C&O, when dry, will accomodate most bikes. Back in the 70's I had a friend who rode the whole thing on a 10-speed- my guess is the tires were probably 28s... I have ridden it on 1.5 inch mountain bike tires with no problems.

I think the C&O is much better for what you are planning, as it is much more in the wilderness and a lot fewer road crossings ... and your options for starting places are many-- Around Harpers Ferry it is really nice.
Agreed...I've done lengthy rides on the C&O on a flat bar road bike with 26mm tires....I don't see any kids in my area riding bikes that are less suited to the conditions on the towpath than that. Most of them are riding much fatter tires...so unless you've got a lot of up and coming Lance Armstrongs in the troop, I don't think you need to be concerned about the C&O being suitable. I'd think it's your best choice....
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Old 04-16-08, 07:58 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by dcvelo View Post
Agreed...I've done lengthy rides on the C&O on a flat bar road bike with 26mm tires....I don't see any kids in my area riding bikes that are less suited to the conditions on the towpath than that. Most of them are riding much fatter tires...so unless you've got a lot of up and coming Lance Armstrongs in the troop, I don't think you need to be concerned about the C&O being suitable. I'd think it's your best choice....
+1

I remember when i was a scout about 30+ years ago, they were giving out patches for doing the C&O Canal. It was a bunch of segement patchs that surrounded a main patch. The kind of patchs you sew onto that red pea coat, not your uniform or sash (they still have the red pea coat right?). Anyhoo, I did one of the segments on a department store 10 speed and had no trouble with it. I suspect that modern bikes can handle it. Heck, even the bikes they sell at Walmart are better than the 10 speed i had 30 years ago.

It was one of the best memories of childhood. Dont short change the kids by making them dodge joggers, rollerbladers, dog and old ladies out for a walk by going on the W&OD.
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Old 04-16-08, 08:18 AM   #8
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For logistical reasons alone, I'd go with a loop or out & back. The mtbs and hybrids most kids and adults ride are fine for the c&o. You could start at Ft Frederick , Antietam, or Harpers Ferry. The bikewashington.org site has an Antietam loop with minimal on-road riding. PM me for details.

EDIT: Link to Antietam loop route. Loop itself is 21 miles, some highway riding on Rt 65 which has wide shoulders. Instead of starting at the vistors center, start at Antietam H&B and do it in conjunction with a troop campout. Add an out-and-back to Harpers Ferry or Williamsport to get the additional miles. Ice cream stop in Sharpsburg (not to be missed!) Non-riders could do the battlefield historic trail hike for a different award. Somewhat steep climb up from towpath and descent down back down but I've taken scouts on this route.

If the boys have the discipline for on-road rides, a loop using the W&OD from Purcelville may work. On the Maryland side, there's also the WMRT trail. EDIT: Link here. WMRT is 21 miles, return via C&O looks to be about 25 miles. Could start/end a loop in Hancock or Ft Frederick.

Good luck! Y.I.S.

Last edited by ks1g; 04-16-08 at 02:58 PM. Reason: additional information and links
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