Kayak and bicycle camping on the Potomac River and Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) Towpath
From September 7 to 8, 2013, Norma and I teamed together with Joyce, Jimmy, and Harlem for a family-friendly weekend of kayak and bicycle camping along the upper part of the Potomac River near Sharpsburg, Maryland.
Garrett County loop
On July 5-7, 2013, Norma and I were in Garrett County, visiting her family. We saw a small black bear on the drive up. The evening of July 6 was going to be a big birthday cookout but I had the morning and early afternoon free so I decided to do some bicycling.
I went to Bikely.com and searched for a route. This is truly an awesome website. I've used it numerous times before to find excellent bike routes. I chose the 57-Oakland-Friendsville-Bowman Hill route.
I was off at 0715. My bike was loaded with a gallon of diluted Gatorade, lots of food, a map, GPS, sunscreen, camera, tools, pump, patch kit, spare tube, cue sheet, and other stuff. None of my cycling gear is lightweight or minimalist and neither is my hybrid Trek 7200. Unlike water sports, I don't ride often or take it seriously enough to justify spending the money for the good equipment.
I started my ride on Pysell Crosscut Road, heading west. I've seen this area some in the past via car but on bicycle, I was getting a whole different view. The early morning sun gave things a nice glow.
At Broadford Lake, I saw a beaver lodge on the north side of Broadford Road.
In the town of Oakland, I made some wrong turns but that was fine as I got to see some nice residential parts of the town.
The directions on the cue sheet that I downloaded from Bikely were very good, though I was disappointed that it appeared only in kilometers. If there is a way to convert it to miles (the cue sheet, not the map), I wasn't smart enough to figure it out. Street names didn't always appear at intersections but my GPS helped with that, though not always.
I made my way north on Herrington Manor Road. The views were excellent. I saw mostly trees, hills, and fields. See photo.
As I approached one turn, I was confronted by the largest black bear I'd ever seen. It was about 60 meters away from me. I came to a screeching halt. I'm guessing his front ankles were about 10 inches in diameter. Normally, I don't worry about black bears but the size of this one made me concerned. Fortunately, they are not aggressive unless there is a cub nearby. After it saw me, it turned and ran away. I continued to ride, ringing my bell as I rode to let it know I was coming through. I didn't see it again.
For most of my ride, there was no bike lane. But that was fine since most of these roads were not very heavily used. The traffic I did encounter was courteous, and gave me plenty of room to ride. In contrast, many of the roads closer to my house in Howard County are very busy, without bike lanes, and have drivers that are dangerous around bicyclists. That is the main reason I don't ride much.
I passed Swallow Falls State Park, Herrington Manor State Park, and Garrett State Forest on my ride north. This section of the ride was very difficult because of all the hills. Some were steep enough so that as I pushed down hard on my pedals, my front tire lifted off the ground slightly.
I took frequent breaks to rehydrate and eat snacks. I was sweating up a storm. The humid weather wasn't helping.
I biked on Friendsville Road (route 42) for a bit. This was the busiest road on my trip but I wasn't on it for long. There was a steep downhill where I coasted down with enough speed so justify a death grip on the handlebars. Later that day, my GPS said my maximum speed on the ride was 47 mph and I am certain it was here.
I rode through Friendsville which is a quaint little town. A lot of whitewater kayakers were out. If I did this trip with someone, I would have stopped for lunch here.
Making my way east, I rode along Bear Creek.
Eventually, I came to Bowman Hill Road. I thought all the big hills were behind me until I saw some words spray painted on the road which read "Bowman Hill Road, PAIN." There was an arrow pointing uphill. I figured this was going to be the difficult part of the ride. I had already rode 39 miles so I was far from fresh. The section on Bowman Hill Road lasted for about 2.5 miles.
Bowman Hill was a constant uphill. It wasn't necessarily any steeper than the hills on Herrington Manor Road but it was a much longer incline. After about the first third of the ride, I saw the word "SUFFERING" painted on the ground. Indeed, I was suffering. It was getting hard to maintain my grip on the handlebars because there was so much sweat was running down my forearms onto my hands. My speed was about the same as a casual walk.
After the second third on Bowman Hill, I saw the word "AGONY" written on the road. This described exactly how I felt. I zig-zagged like a sailboat moving against the wind. I hoped this would make things easier though I don't think it did. As I rounded a corner, I saw that I was nowhere near the top. I made it a little further then gave up. It took all my strength to twist my ankle to set my shoes free from my toe clips. That jerking motion caused my legs to cramp up before my feet touched the ground. It took awhile for me to get to the side of the road and sit down. Fortunately, there were no cars anywhere nearby. My calves pulsed with all the blood flowing through them.
After about 7 minutes, I walked up the remainder of the hill, pushing my bike. This was by far the most strenuous ride I had ever done and one of the biggest physical challenges I'd ever attempted. I figure I'll return in a few months and attempt this ride again, seeing if I'll be better prepared for this "PAIN, SUFFERING, AGONY" hill.
After Bowman Hill Road, everything else was relatively easy, though I didn't fully recover from it for the rest of the ride. Even on the flats, I was moving rather slowly.
I saw an animal about 16 inches long from nose to end of tail. It looked like a mink, ferret, or weasel.
I rode through Deep Creek Lake State Park. I had various views of the lake. It was full of power boats. Along the shoreline, there were waterfront homes, piers, and other forms of development. The place was far from natural, serene, or peaceful. Any intention I might have had of kayaking out here was now gone.
Traffic was heavy by the lake. There were lots of big, expensive pickup trucks hauling big power boats. Expensive vacation homes dotted the area. It seems ironic that people would want to leave the big city to get away from it all out here.
It didn't take long before I was just outside of the tourist part of the county. Just being a mile from the lake made a huge difference.
On Sand Flat Road, there wasn't much tree cover. Very sunny.
Just before 1400, I finished my ride, which totaled 60 miles. Had I not taken any wrong turns, it would have been about 58 miles. I completed 5072 feet of total ascent. Compare this to the 2200 feet of elevation gain on the Old Rag hike or the 4250 on our Mount Washington hike.
I washed up, took a short nap, and recovered well enough to enjoy the rest of the day with my in-laws at the cookout.
Click thumbnails to enlarge.
Cedarville State Forest
On June 9, 2013, Norma and I did some bicycling in Cedarville State Forest.
Sometimes bicycling is about getting from point A to point B. Other times it is about exploring. Usually, my trips are a combination of the two but today it was strictly the latter.
On May 18, 2013, Norma, Carmen, Danielle, and I set out to explore a section of Baltimore called Bolton Hill that Carmen is considering moving to.
Why Bolton Hill? Because Carmen is looking for a new place to live and felt that Bolton Hill would be suitable. It is walkable and the house she is looking at would work well for her cats, Zoe and Woody. So we set out that day to explore the neighborhood.
Our first stop was On the Hill cafe where "Team SNaCk" plus Danielle stopped for a bite to eat. If you don't know what Team SNaCk is, then you should read my March 30, 2013 - Charleston blog.
At the cafe, we leaned about the BNote. I gotta get me some of those.
We made our way to Druid Lake. Norma, Carmen, and I were there last on June 10, 2012 for the Tour Dem Parks, Hon ride which we are not doing this year.
A Good Year blimp passed by overhead. See first and second photos.
As we made our way around the lake and through Druid Hill Park, we came to a chainsaw carving tree sculpture by artist Mark Acton. See third photo. Danielle thought he (the carving, not the artist) looked like Gandalf but he reminded me of the Hermit from the Led Zeppelin IV album. Or maybe I still had the Good Year zeppelin on my mind.
We biked a bit on the Jones Falls Trail.
The four of us stopped at the Howard Peters Rawlings Conservatory and Botanic Gardens. See fourth photo. Here we saw a wide variety of tropical and desert plants.
Fifth photo: Passion flower. My second martial arts instructor grew these so whenever I see them, I think of fighting with sticks.
Sixth photo: Look how small these flowers are. That's my hand holding it in position.
Seventh photo: Some of the plants in the cactus room reminded me of the trip that Norma and I did in Baja from December 28, 2012 to January 7, 2013.
Eighth photo: A agave parviflora cactus. Notice how the leaves have a central pattern that looks like the spiky edges.
Ninth photo: A golden lace cactus that Carmen said looked like a brain.
In the conservatory, it started to rain. But by the time we were ready to go, the rain had almost stopped. Perfect timing!
It didn't take long before we were back to our cars.
We biked a total of only about 8 miles.
Not having worked up too much of an appetite, we still made our way back to On the Hill for another snack.
A couple of days later, I asked a Baltimoron co-worker of mine about Bolton Hill. She said it was a pretty good area to live.
Click thumbnails to enlarge.
Mount Vernon Trail
The Mount Vernon Trail is a trail I've known about for maybe 10 years now. I've known where to access it and where it goes but I'd never actually taken the time to explore it. But that is just what I did on April 14, 2013.
Norma, Mark, Allison, Viviana (Mark and Allison's daughter) and I met at Gravelly Point. This is a very popular place where people gather to run, bike, boat, and watch airplanes take off from Ronald Reagan National Airport which is just to the south. On nice days, the parking lot might be full by 0900. But the weather was still cool so we didn't have a problem finding a spot.
We biked south on the trail, making a brief stop at Daingerfield Island. Here, we found a public launch site I don't believe I'd seen before though it was in my notes so apparently I knew about it at one time.
Despite being an urban area, the trail did a good job of taking us through a modest amount of greenery (first photo). For those wanting to get on unpaved trails out in the woods, there is always Theodore Roosevelt Island which is the northermost terminus of the Mount Vernon Trail and the southernmost part of the Potomac Heritage Trail which is comprised of several miles of fine hiking trails.
Our trail took us on a boardwalk over an area that looked like seasonal wetlands. See second photo. I think I saw a beaver lodge but I didn't stop to verify.
Much of the time, we had a view of the Potomac River to our east.
We made our way to Old Town Alexandria. See third photo. I was impressed by how the modern, well maintained townhouses blended in so well with the historic atmosphere with the help of a lot of brick, window roof extensions, and some wrought iron. That is just good city planning. See fourth photo.
We walked through the Torpedo Factory Art Center, which I had never been to. There we looked at the various works art on display by local artists. This really used to be a torpedo factory at one time. See Viviana with one of them in the fifth photo.
At the waterfront area (sixth photo), we stopped to watch the ducklings (seventh photo).
In Old Town, we ate at a little Italian restaurant. Though the day started out cold, things had warmed up a good bit to about 60 degrees so it was actually comfortable to sit outside.
Mark, Allison, and Viviana headed back while Norma and I continued south. It was at times difficult to follow the trail as it made its way through Alexandria but Norma figured it out and got us to Jones Point Park. From here, we biked across the Woodrow Wilson Bridge which apparently connects to the 3.5 mile long Woodrow Wilson Bridge Trail in Prince George's County. We biked across and back on the bridge.
From the bridge, we had a nice view of Alexandria and a community garden plot. Norma wanted to see the garden up close and personal so we walked through and talked to some of the local gardeners to find out what they were growing.
Norma and I headed back. Now that it was warm, sunny, and the middle of the day, it seems like everyone and their dog was out. I am pleased that the trail gets used so much. That tells me it is a good use of taxpayer money. But at times I found it a little claustrophobic. I'm not much of a big city person and the Washington D.C. metropolitan area certainly qualifies as dense. It is in fact rated number 11 in the densest metropolitan areas in the United States according to Wikipedia - List of United States cities by population density.
We finished, having biked 16.5 miles. The parking lot where we started was now packed to the gills. Lots of people parked illegally and one patient fellow waited for us to get our bikes loaded so he could grab our parking space.
I expect next time we bike the trail, we will start at Jones Point Park and continue to the southernmost terminus of the trail. But I don't think I'll wait another 10 years to do that.
Click thumbnails to enlarge.
Charleston, South Carolina and Savannah, Georgia
From March 29 to April 3, 2013, I spent time with friends down south where we got in two good days of bicycling in Charleston, South Carolina and McQueen's Island Historic Trail in Georgia.