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Old 06-26-09, 04:37 PM   #1
HC203
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C&O and mud

I just finished a three day tour from Baltimore to DC then onto the C&O and up to Harper's Ferry, across South Mountain to Cunningham Falls SP then back to Baltimore.
The C&O was incredibly muddy,every twenty feet or so I had to go through or around big muddies. Bike caked with mud etc. I only encountered a few long haulers but none stopped to chat, probably too concentrated on getting miles done. The trail can also be quite monotonous. Didn't see anybody at any of the HB campsites.
The roads around Antietam were very nice and the hills were a nice change form the monotony of the trail. Can't imagine doing the Cumberland to DC length, at least not without an i-pod.
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Old 06-26-09, 08:07 PM   #2
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Way to ruin a touring plan, HC203!!! We're planning to ride the C&O starting next Friday. I have been quite concerned about the surface conditions of the towpath given the recent rains, etc. Every day I look at the weather in the DC area and ... yikes!! It's been pretty wet there recently.

I have an alternate planned to Leesburg (the W&OD trail) but I'm not really sure of a route from Leesburg to Harper's Ferry. So I'm hoping things will work out.
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Old 06-27-09, 08:17 AM   #3
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Just completede a week long tour of the Montour, GAP, and C&O. It rained hard our first day on the C&O (Cumberland to Hancock), never rode thru such tough conditions. We took roads from Hancock to Harpers Ferry, and then rode the C&O from Harpers Ferry to DC. 2 days after the rain the trail was still a muddy, puddled filled mess.

My full report w/pix's here:

http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/?...c_id=5496&v=59
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Old 06-27-09, 09:08 AM   #4
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OK, so I'm seriously into devising a Plan B, using the W&OD to Purcellville then on to Harper's Ferry. Anyone know the best route from Purcellville to Harper's Ferry using roads? We'll be on a fully-loaded tandem. TIA!!
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Old 06-27-09, 09:09 AM   #5
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Got one, from Leesburg: http://www.bikely.com/maps/bike-path...-harpers-ferry
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Old 06-27-09, 09:13 AM   #6
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Route 9 is fairly busy and doesn't have a shoulder. It has lots of turns as well. You might want to stay on the W&OD path to the end at Purcerville. That's really scenic and best part of the trail.
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Old 06-27-09, 09:15 AM   #7
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Roger that, StanSeven. I noted a comment in the Bikely route I linked that said just that: go to Purcellville and take VA 690 north. This avoids much of Rt 9, which I'm happy to do.
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Old 06-29-09, 06:21 AM   #8
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Glad the post is of some help. Andy, the trail wasn't as muddy as VT's pics but more dry with many many mud puddles that you either go through or around.

I noticed your route up the west side of South Mountain. I was on 66 and it was a bit uncomfortable, high speed traffic and no shoulder. Bad routing on my part. Your tour looks fun, enjoy.
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Old 06-29-09, 06:55 AM   #9
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Our first day on the C & O, in the rain:

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Old 06-29-09, 07:30 AM   #10
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Couple comments. First, I agree that the area around the end of the W&OD is the prettiest part of that path. Second, be careful about getting from W&OD to the C&O as has already been mentioned. Third, fortunately this area tends to be on a drying trend and you may get lucky but I have not been to the C&O for over two months. It did not rain at all last week, save for a few sprinkles yesterday, and the forecast is for dry weather this week. Before that, in May and the first part of June it rained and rained and rained in the DC area, until most places were 30% above the norm for the year. For those 6 weeks it was about at the rate of Bangladesh during monsoon season with a pace of 8 to 10 inches per month.
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Old 06-29-09, 09:25 AM   #11
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I was heading north and it seemed to dry up a bit after Harper's Ferry, the area around Harper's Ferry being very dry as it seems to be a bit more elevated and exposed to the sun.
Met a thru hiker coming across the bridge at Harper's Ferry. try to imagine what it's been like for them this wet spring.
Good luck all.
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Old 06-29-09, 03:50 PM   #12
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I agree with vt speed tr as I happened to be riding with him. I don't thing the historians pic did justice to the poor conditions. it was really bad from trail strt to hancock... then about 5 miles before Harpers Ferry it was really good only to turn to all heck from just south of harper's ferry to great falls.

Agreed, roads were really nice on the one day we took to them instead.

as for the ipod... twodeadpoets is around here somewhere. I don't think it helped him any to have the ipod going. He still seemed rather annoyed with the trail conditions.
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Old 06-29-09, 05:59 PM   #13
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Talk about a tease, a few miles north of White's Ferry, the trail became more elevated and dry with more substrate and I thought "great, I'm out of it" then just south of White's Ferry, the trail was at its worst for the next almost 10 miles. I ramped up the iPod with a little U2 and let Bono bang my brain while I rode tempo thru that muddy puke. Agree with alhanson, that picture above is not what my pics look like but yea, it was a good time.
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Old 06-29-09, 06:44 PM   #14
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Talk about a tease, a few miles north of White's Ferry, the trail became more elevated and dry with more substrate and I thought "great, I'm out of it" then just south of White's Ferry, the trail was at its worst for the next almost 10 miles.
This was exactly what I was thinking on the whole length of that trail Just when it seemed things were getting better, they would turn much, much worse.
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Old 06-29-09, 07:14 PM   #15
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I. I don't thing the historians pic did justice to the poor conditions. .
You can say that again! The picture actually makes things look very pleasant.
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Old 06-30-09, 02:41 AM   #16
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For everyone else who was wondering (like me), "The C&O" is the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal, with bike path: http://bikewashington.org/canal/
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Old 06-30-09, 03:28 AM   #17
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On your Crazyguy page:

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My poor bike, it deserves better
It deserves fenders.
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Old 06-30-09, 05:00 AM   #18
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On your Crazyguy page:



It deserves fenders.
You're correct, and after seeing the Woody fenders on twodeadpoet's LHT, they are my next purchase. They are functional superior to most fenders (ie. don't pack with mud) and they are beautiful. Twodeadpoet arrived after our first day of 60 miles of mud, relatively clean compared to the rest of us. Did he really ride those miles ;-)
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Old 06-30-09, 05:41 AM   #19
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...They are functional superior to most fenders (ie. don't pack with mud) and they are beautiful...
The comments about mud have me a little worried. We also are planning to ride the GAP - C&O in early Sept on our tandem pulling a BOB trailer. I just mounted 700x35 Schwalbe Marathons in place of the Conti Gatorskin 28s I had on. Problem being it leaves very little gap (maybe 0.25" to 0.375") between the larger Marathons and the SKS fenders. It should be fine for water, but I don't know what will happen with mud.
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Old 06-30-09, 06:24 AM   #20
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Did he really ride those miles ;-)

Glad someone else said it. He had little look of distain... was not that cold and was not that muddy.

Did twodeadpoets SAG it? This could be the second great mystery of the trip.
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Old 06-30-09, 07:06 AM   #21
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Glad someone else said it. He had little look of disdain... was not that cold and was not that muddy.

Did twodeadpoets SAG it? This could be the second great mystery of the trip.

There were two riders who SAGged at Oldtown, and one at Paw Paw. Twodeadpoets wasn't any of them.

People sometimes underestimate the value of fenders. When I rode that stretch of towpath in June 2008, I had mudguards. The towpath was muddy, although not as muddy as during our tour. My riding companion was stunned at how clean I was. I then showed him the underside of the guards.....
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Old 07-01-09, 07:46 AM   #22
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On your Crazyguy page:



It deserves fenders.
I had fenders and yes they were caked with mud, had to occasionally clear them. I rode 110 miles on the first day of the tour. It was about 58 from my house in Bmore to DC. I planned on only going 26 miles up the trail to the first HB but wanted to get past the mud. Glad to hear i wasn't over reacting to the conditions.
As for the biker planning a trip in September, should be dry by then as mid summer tends to get very dry here with occasional thunderstorms.
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Old 07-01-09, 08:08 AM   #23
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Yeah, it's starting to dry up now, at least the end near Cumberland. We haven't had any hard rains lately, just a very occasional thunderstorm. But when the rain goes away the heat starts. Luckily the path is almost entirely shaded.

I rode it once when it was very muddy and fenders saved the day. I ended up very clean compared to my non-fender friends.
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Old 07-01-09, 08:27 AM   #24
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. Luckily the path is almost entirely shaded.
Which is good, because the mosquitos hate to get sunburn They seem to explode when the rain dies down.
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Old 07-01-09, 09:04 AM   #25
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I know there are roads that parallel the towpath. I've seen them in Cumberland and near Antietam, but I don't know what they're like elsewhere.

Can anyone comment on the availability/suitability/hilliness of roads along the towpath in case one needed to bailout because of mud? I can see riding the C&O with a cyclocross bike and getting fed-up with the mud.
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