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Pursuit of it All

Everyday Adventure: Biking the C&O Canal

Have you ever had an itch to do something different with your weekend? Something just a little out of the ordinary and a little bit of a stretch?

I’ve been feeling that a lot lately.

I’m finding myself kind of bored in my everyday and actively searching for mini adventures to keep me charged up and creative.

It was in this spirit that I somehow ended up on an unplanned 20 mile C&O Canal bike ride with friends.

It was a totally last minute decision. I mean, the hubby and I have bikes but they’ve been in our garage for years. We’ve used them maybe five times.

And as for being the kind of fit person who rides 20 miles on the regular? HA. I don’t even ride two miles on the regular. Not even on a stationary bike at the gym.

But hey, way to make life a bit unpredictable.

But I’m happy to say things went way better than planned and it became one of those “we need to do that again” adventures we plan to repeat as often as possible.

So just in case you aren’t familiar with the C&O Canal Towpath, it is a 184.5 mile continuous trail through the scenery of the Potomac River Valley. (Between Georgetown in Washington, D.C., and Cumberland, Maryland, to be precise.) Hundreds of original features, including locks, lock houses, aqueducts and other canal structures, are along the trail. History nerds will adore it!

A recap of our little adventure:

We started our little outing around 7:30 that morning at Lander Lock House (Lock 29) which, if you are interested, is at mile marker 50.8. 

The Lander Lockhouse area is a great place to begin a journey like this, by the way. The parking is plentiful, there is a public restroom and a gorgeous view of the Potomac River. 

Now this part of the C & O Canal is pretty standard with a (mostly) level dirt path and lots of shade. When we explored it was a truly gorgeous morning. I mean, we couldn’t have asked for better, quite frankly.

We ran into some slight trouble around mile marker 52. Part of the towpath is washed out around this area so there is a detour around that heads to a low-water crossing area. Apparently if you follow protocol you’re supposed to dismount your bikes before crossing and walk across.

We clearly don’t follow rules very well. 

One of my favorite landmarks was the Catoctin Aqueduct (mile marker 51.5) which used to be known as the “crooked aqueduct” because of the sharp turn required by boats to enter it back in the day. 

Once you enter into the Brunswick area you’ll notice the path gets much easier to travel. And it’s pretty much an easy ride all the way into Harpers Ferry, which is perfect for a long, lazy bike ride.

One of the things that I loved the most about the experience was the number of people we encountered on our way. Bikers, runners, hikers, families… you name it. It was a cool ecosystem of travellers.

Because we got such an early start we hopped off our bikes and spent some time in Harpers Ferry

Our first priority, as you may have guessed, was food. Like, STAT.

And having not made any advance plans, of course, we were left to stumble around Harpers Ferry looking for any restaurant with and “open” sign.

That stumbling lead us to the lovely (and I do mean lovely) Mountain House Cafe and Shoppe.

It turned out to be a homemade breakfast nirvana. Kind of like we walked into a friend’s kitchen and just asked for a customer order of everything.

We got to meet the Inn-Keeper Karan Townsend who, in my opinion, has the coolest office nook in the world. What a view!

After we fueled up  – and by that I mean ate way too much for people who somehow need to get themselves back on a bike for the 11 mile return journey – we meandered around town taking in the sights and history of Harpers Ferry.

Honestly, you could visit multiple times and still not take it all in. What a great place to get lost in!

By the time we headed back home our stomachs were full, our hearts were happy and our brains were filled with tons of nerdy history facts. It made the trip back a total breeze!

Okay, maybe that is an overstatement. As someone who hasn’t ridden a bike in awhile, I was definitely sore in places I would rather not think of. Made the transition from level gravel filled towpath to bumpy grass and rock towpath a bit jarring. (So much ouch!)  

Despite all that, we left our last minute outing vowing to take another journey in the fall. It is a huge must for anyone who has the itch to break up the monotony of the everyday. 


A few tips: In case you are looking to try this type of thing out for yourself, I recommend bringing a backpack with a few essentials. I suggest a refillable water bottle, protein bars or light snacks, bug spray, sunglasses, jacket (if needed) and some extra cash.  An air filler for tires might also come in handy. And be sure to bring some cash. Many places asked for cash which we weren’t prepared for.

Shoutout to Karen and Tom who are always ready to go when an outdoor adventure is put on the table. 🙂

Blogger. Marketer. Deadline juggler. Flibbertigibbet. A fan of all things glitter and girly, Jen’s passions include gabbing with girlfriends, running marathons, sipping (okay, gulping) cocktails and waxing poetic about the tortured soul of Professor Snape. Rarely found without her nose in a book (or her iPhone), she acknowledges that her level of geekery might not be for everyone. Consider yourself warned. Her ultimate goal in life is to be a professional wanderer of the internet or Amy Poehler’s BFF. (Both totally accomplishable, of course.)

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