Hiking and Bicycling Greeneville & Greene County Tennessee
C & O Canal Towpath Bike Ride
Members of the Greeneville Hiking Club bicycled 184.7 miles on the Towpath of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park on June 4 through June 12, 2004. The seven members were Andy Daniels, Jackie Duncan, Edd Hodges, Ned Sanders, Pam Shelton, Beverly and Wilhelmina Williams. Another member of the hiking club, Katrina Rogers, who is hiking the entire Appalachian Trail joined the group at Harpers Ferry, WV for two days.
The C & O Canal runs along the Potomac River from Cumberland, Maryland to Georgetown, D.C. Its 74 liftlocks raise the canal water from near sea level to an elevation of 605 feet at its nothern terminus. Historical markers depicted the unparalleled period of canal construction between 1790’s to the 1800’s.
However, the railroad soon surpassed the mule drawn canal boats, that carried good and supplies from coastal areas inland.
The Towpath, originally built 12 feet wide, was a path for the mules that pulled the boats, providing a nearly level path for modern day hikers or bicyclists. The scenic path was beautiful, quiet and peaceful with many animals such as deer, turtles, birds and snakes seen along the trail.
In the early 1950’s, Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas helped save the Towpath from a proposed demolition. Today the National Historical Park winds its way from the tidewater of the Chesapeake to the Allegheny Plateau, passing through the Piedmont, the Great Falls of the Potomac and then through ridge and valley section of the Appalachian mountains.
On the first day of the ride, the cyclists, bearing headlights, pushed their bikes through the Paw Paw Tunnel, a 3200 foot long passage through solid rock. The night was spent at Buck Valley Ranch in Warfordsville, PA.
On the second leg of the ride, a visit was taken to Fort Frederick, Maryland a stone fort built during the French and Indian War. In the afternoon, a thunderstorm hindered the group who took shelter on one of the lockhouses along the path. The famous civil war battlefield, Antitem, was passed along the trail.
On the next day, historical tours were taken at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, where the group had dinner at Hilltop House, a revolutionary era inn. Harper’s Ferry, situated on high bluffs above the confluence of the Shennandoah and Potomac Rivers, is well known as the site of John Brown’s Raid on the Federal Armory just before the Civil War.
Crossing the Potomac River on the famous White’s Ferry, the group spent the following night at the Norris Inn in historic Leesburg, Virginia.
After bicycling to Great Falls National Park, two days were then spent touring Washington, D.C. with a tour of the Capitol Building and visits to the Holocaust and American Indian Museum of the Smithsonian. One evening was spent visiting the war memorials.
However, the highlight of the trip was when the group reached mile marker zero near the Chesapeake Bay at the end of the bide ride. At the visitor center in Georgetown, the group boarded an authentic canal boat, with guides dressed in period costumes, and took a short boat trip through a lock pulled by a pair of mules just as it was in yesteryear.
A final stop was made on the return trip to Appomatox Courthouse National Historical Park, the site of Lee’s surrender to Grant to end the War Between the States.