Norma on the C&O Towpath between Brunswick and Harpers Ferry



Bicycling Adventures 2012

Last updated September 9, 2012



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Westmoreland area of Virginia
For a trip report that includes bicycling in the Westmoreland County area of Virginia, see my September 2, 2012 blog.

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
On August 18, 2012, Norma and I met her sister's family (Joyce and Jimmy, Harlem, and Laquan) at Zoo America in Hershey, Pennsylvania. We spent a few hours with them then did a little exploring on our own. Some natives told us about Swatara Creek which drains into the Susquehanna River at Middletown and Royalton. There were lots of places to launch a kayak on Swatara Creek Road but if we return, we'll probably put in much further upstream, like at Hummelstown in the spring when the water is higher.

We found a relatively inexpensive Motel 6 (isn't that redudant?) at
     200 Commerce Drive
     I-83 at Limekiln Road, Exit #40-A
     New Cumberland, Pennsylvania 17070
This was a good location as it was right off the highway and near John's Diner
     146 Sheraton Drive
     New Cumberland, Pennsylvania 17070
which was just as inexpensive. They are open 24 hours a day and have a wide food selection.

The next day, we drove to the City Island. There was lots of noise at a nearby stadium. Since it was Sunday morning, Norma thought it was a Christian revival event but it turned out to be a baseball game between the New Kids on the Block and the Backstreet Boys.

We started at Walnut Street Bridge (first photo) which took us into Harrisburg.
[Walnut Street Bridge is the] Oldest surviving bridge over the Susquehanna [River]. Opened by the People's Bridge Co. in 1890. "Old Shakey," one of the last remaining multi-span Phoenix truss bridges, was a toll bridge until 1957. Flood damage, 1972, closed it to automobiles. Three of its 15 spans were destroyed, 1996.
- from sign on City Island

From the bridge, I saw a paddleboat called the Pride of the Susquehanna pass under the Market Street Bridge (second photo) but upon closer examination, it was really just a motorboat with paddles added for aesthetics.

Once on the mainland, we caught the Capital Area Greenbelt Trail.
The Greenbelt is a century-old system of parks and open spaces connected by a twenty mile trail. The system lies in five communities encircling metropoitan Harrisburg.
- from Capital Area Greenbelt Association pamphlet

This led us around much of the city on a not so well maintained trail (third photo). It isn't suitable for riding a road bike fast but it is fine for our leisurely pace and hybrid bikes.

The Susquehanna River at Harrisburg was wide and not particularly interesting. The skyline isn't as impressive as Baltimore's. There are quite a few little island in the river but I didn't see any that looked all that interesting. They were unlike those further downstream near Pequea Creek (see my October 4, 2009 blog). There are about 6 bridges, all within a span of about a mile and a half. Near John Harris Bridge is Dock Street Dam (fourth photo) which one can kayak down on the east side. You'd pay big money and wait in long lines to have that much fun at Hershey Park.

The trail took us past an apartment or townhouse complex with a community garden that bordered the trail. See fifth photo.

A little further and we arrived at the the Five Senses Gardens. We walked around the little trail. See sixth and seventh photos. I saw a big, healthy, angel's trumpet flower (eighth photo).

Continuing on, we biked through various neighborhoods on roads that connected the trails. Sometimes we got off the trail or weren't too certain if we were really on it. Be sure to give yourself plenty of time to find your way if you want to do this ride.

Near Penbook, we rode through Reservoir Park.
This land, the largest park in south-central Pennsylvania; and which crowns the city's summit, contrastingly complements Harrisburg's magnificent riverfront. Originally known as Prospect Hill because of its lofty vantage points, the name was changed to Reservoir Park when the first reservoir to be constructed here opened in 1874.
- from sign in park

At the northern end of town, we passed by Wildwood Lake/Park. See me taking a photo of an egret on the shallow lake in the ninth photo (the egret photo didn't come out good). The lake has lotus flowers but we didn't see many. In contrast, we saw many exactly a week ago (August 12, 2012), while kayaking at Turners Creek in Maryland.

There was an unusual structure at the lake called the "Morning Glory" Spillway (tenth photo) which
was constructed by the City of Harrisburg's Board of Public Works in 1908. This circular overflow channel is named for its resemblance to the grooved funnel shape flower of the morning glory vine. The spillway functions to control the water flow of Paxton Creek as it runs southward from Wildwood Lake through the City of Harrisburg.

The unique spillway design provides for adjustable board heights which are used to raise or lower the water elevation of Wildwood Lake. As the water level rises, storm water flows are directed to the second spillway located at the north end of Wildwood Lake. The second spillway discharges water directly into the Susquehanna River, thus reducing peak flows of Paxton Creek and providing flood protection for the City of Harrisburg.

- from sign at Wildwood Lake

We spent some time at the Benjamin Olewine III Nature Center. There was a viewing area on an upper floor where we could see lots of bird feeders outside. We sat for a long time viewing the wildlife that concentrated near the feeders. There were nuthatches, squirrels, chipmunks, cardinals, woodpeckers, finches (eleventh photo), and blue jays (twelfth photo).

Much of the remainder of our clockwise route was along the Susquehanna, in the River Front Park area.

Norma threw this ride together at the last minute...and did a mighty fine job in doing so.
Click thumbnails to enlarge.

Great Allegheny Passage
On June 13-17, 2012, Norma, Carmen, and I biked the entire Great Allegheny Passage rail trail.

Tour Dem Parks Hon
On June 10, 2012, Norma, Carmen, and I participated in the Tour Dem Parks Hon bike ride. This is something Norma and I signed up for a couple months ago. Carmen signed up a few weeks ago. We were hoping for sunny, dry weather. What we didn't count on was a high temperature of 98 degrees! But we went ahead with it, making sure to drink plenty of liquids, wear sunscreen and cool clothes, take breaks, and just not push ourselves too hard.

There were several different routes for this ride. We did the "Le Grande Tour" which is 33.5 miles long.
This is our most popular ride, designed for the experienced rider who wants to see Baltimore's parks and neighborhoods. This ride will take you through all five major parks (Carroll, Druid, Herring Run, Clifton, and Patterson) while passing through a number of of the other smaller parks that make Baltimore Bal'mer. Rest stops are frequent and fully stocked.
- from Tour Dem Parks Hon website

We started at Carroll Park, which is a great location if coming from the south like we did. Carmen drove separately but we found each other easily. There were a good number of people participating in this ride but it wasn't all that crowded. We checked in, ate some snacks, drank some Gatorade, then were on the road by 0830.

I would love to tell you what all we saw but I really don't remember it all. I carried a big map and GPS but we let Carmen navigate. Norma followed Carmen and I followed Norma. But what I can tell you is that we did indeed ride through several parks on nice shaded trails. The ride organizers provided a sufficient number of rest stops such as one at Winans Meadow in Franklintown. See first photo.

We also passed by a few lakes. I don't have any photos of the lakes but I do have a couple of photos taken a short distance from one of them. See second and third photos. In the the third photo, the Baltimore City skyline is behind us.

The Tour Dem Parks Hon 2012 route took us through various neighborhoods. Some, like Dickeysville, were beautifully landscaped, historic homes with lots of character. I would love to live in a town that looks like this. Other communities were more modern, bigger, and more expensive. Carmen checked out an ad at one of the properties, claiming it was selling for about $750,000. Many of the other homes appeared to be more expensive in that hood. But closer to the heart of the city, we rode through inexpensive single family homes and rowhouses. Several of the rowhouses were uninhabited. Windows were boarded up. On some blocks, it seemed like about 25% were this way.

Usually, we were able to follow other riders, yet it never felt like we were cluttered. The three of us rode at a very casual pace, stopping to take breaks and photos along the way. This was totally unlike the May 4, 2008 ride Norma and I did in New York City. While the New York City ride had much more impressive views, today's ride was more enjoyable.

One of our stops was near the Rawlings Conservatory. See fourth photo. Here, I attempted to take a short nap while the girls looked for a restroom.

Towards the end of the ride, we stopped at Federal Hill Park. See fifth photo. I had spent time at Federal Hill before but I had never been to the park. It was strange seeing Baltimore from up there rather than from my kayak.

We finished our 33.5 mile ride at about 1400. I think we were some of the last to finish since their website says
     riders should be off the road by 2:00pm
But that's o.k. We were out to see the city and by golly, that is what we did.

I tried to talk Norma and Carmen into joining me for some kayaking, repeating the route I did on June 5, 2012. But they decided to take a rain check. Just as well...98 degrees is pretty darn hot and I think we were all ready for a nap.
Click thumbnails to enlarge.

Brunswick to Harpers Ferry
On May 6, 2012, Norma, Joyce and Jimmy, Harlem, and I went on a short but scenic bike ride. We met at Brunswick and ate lunch at a picnic table right next to the boat ramp (first photo). Then we headed west on the Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) Canal Towpath, paralleling the Potomac River.

Spring is now in full bloom. The towpath was so lush, I felt like we were in a tropical rainforest. See second photo.

Lots of folks were out bicycling, including some very large groups and families.

Animals were active too. Though I didn't see any snakes (yes, I was looking for them), I saw numerous turtles and some ducks with their offspring.
  • Third photo: Turtles on a log.
  • Fourth photo: Turtles on a log with duckweed all around.
  • Fifth photo: Duckweed so thick you can cut it with a knife.
  • Sixth photo: I wonder if there is a turtle in the hole in this log.
  • Seventh photo: Duck with eight babies in the shade.
  • Eighth photo: Same duck, same babies.
  • Ninth photo: Different duck, posing in a well lit area.

  • It was 5.7 miles to Harpers Ferry. We locked up our bikes then walked across the bridge over the Potomac (tenth photo). Harlem isn't so sure about the fellow taking her photo. In Harpers Ferry, we ate custard and walked around the town. The place was packed. Lots of kids were out on a field trip. Norma overheard them mention that they were from Tennessee.

    There were a few hikers out too, possibly out on the Appalachian Trail which passes through. In fact, Harpers Ferry is almost the mid-point, being 1013 miles from the southern end in Georgia and 1165 miles from the northern terminus in Maine. By using all the zoom in my camera, I was able to see hikers overlooking the town from Maryland Heights.

    I've spent a considerable amount of time at Harpers Ferry...perhaps too much. Though I consider it one of the most interesting and scenic places in the area (see eleventh photo), I think I got a little too much of it in too short a period of time: May 27, 2006, May 12, 2007, June 24, 2007, October 20, 2007, and November 8, 2009. But it wasn't bad being back after a 2.5 year hiatus and this was the first time I ever biked there from Brunswick so that was kinda nice.

    On one of the stone structures in town, I spotted a common buckeye caterpillar about to undergo its transition to a pupa. See twelfth photo. With all the nearby pedestrian traffic, I think it could have chosen a better location. The last time I saw one of these was on October 2, 2010, also a day I spent with Joyce and Jimmy.

    As the sun sank lower in the sky, it got colder. We had a few really nice warm, sunny days and people were out wanting to get outside. That's good news for the outfitters that take folks out on rafts to enjoy a little whitewater. See thirteenth photo. But I'm guessing they were wanting it to be a few degrees warmer. I think we were better off bicycling that day.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.