As I begin today, my thoughts raced up the trail to sections I have been before. Then I started thinking several days ahead. STOP! Don’t focus so much on the destination and miss the joy in the journey. 

Jumping onto a Thirteen and a half mile paved section of the Western Maryland trail, the morning’s journey started foggy but burned up quick. The paved trail was a nice reprieve from the C&O Towpath which runs parallel but is packed gravel “two track” like. I would spend many miles on the C&O so take the faster rolling path. It was good to get the legs moving. It was incredibly quiet except for the occasional train that came through somewhere in the distance. I couldn’t see it but I can hear the rumble.  The forest was carpeted with green everywhere. It reminded me of walking the West Highland Way trail with my daughter 5 years ago in Scotland.

About mile 30, I’m met Rich and Teresa, who were out walking. They told me they owned a retreat center on the other side of the river called three otters and had spent the day before kayaking down the river, when just like me, they were caught in the rain. So today they were hiking back to pick up their truck and retrieve their gear . It was nice to have a little mental break talk to somebody for a few minutes. Up until that point there was very few people on the trail. Continuing down the trail a group of 12 cyclists began to pass me as we came out of the Paw Paw tunnel. (Not all were present).

The Paw Paw Tunnel is one of the most significant engineering features on the Canal. To save building six miles of canal along the river, the C&O Canal Company decided to construct a tunnel through a steep topographic ridge now called Tunnel Hill. When work began on the tunnel in 1836, the builders estimated the project would be completed within two years. The tunnel ultimately required 14 years to complete due to labor issues and violence, funding shortfalls, work stoppages, and the challenges of digging a 3,118-foot tunnel through the hard, loose shale. The tunnel opened in October 1850 with rockslides continuing to be a challenge throughout the tunnel’s history.

They were from an fully supported Adventure Cycling tour riding across the country. They started Friday from Washington DC. After some discussion my route had some similarities.  I prefer my unscheduled approach. Each day the riders were self paced. They carried a day bag with food. Each night they would setup there individual tents and share in cooking/cleaning duties. They had every day planned, approximately 60 miles. I’m not sure how it works if you have a mechanical or some physical issue. I rode with John from Seattle, Peter from Holland, and several others. I would run into different ones throughout the day.

Later in the day the trail was deteriorating into a “Tough Mudder”. The rains had taken there toll. I’m met Terry and Sebastian his dog on the trail they were taking a hike. Terry had all kinds of questions about what I was doing. We talked for a while and he told me he was a retired bike police officer for the last 10 years of his career. Sounded pretty interesting. It was getting late and I needed to get to Cumberland to a bike shop for some cable adjustments. I thought I was done when I came up on Doug slogging through the mud. Doug was from London traveling the trail before going to a wedding in Pittsburgh. We rode into town and used a hose to wash down the bikes from the trail.

While I was in the local bike shop to have them adjust my cables, they told me that the majority of the big industry had left this area and the bike tourists were really helping the locals. I’ve never seen this many bike tourists in all the times that I’ve done this particular trail, which is now at four.  90% of the people I came across today on the trail, in the town, in the hotel, or even at dinner, were bike touring some direction along the C&O and GAP trails. In a small pub & pizzeria while waiting for a my food, I met John & Phil. We spoke exchanging stories about my journey and their adventure. Today was a good day.