For any who believe that NOWA membership consists only of those who hunt and fish in the Northwest, please put that thought aside. Many of us engage in other outdoor activities such as the biking excursion described here. It is a trip National Geographic calls “one of America’s greatest adventures.”
I concluded that adventure late this September and, in brief, the ride links together two trails: the Allegheny Gap and the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal. The trails are joined back-to-back and span almost 400 miles, beginning – or ending – in either Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, or in Washington, D.C.
If the ride is made in a relaxed manner you’ll need about 10 days. Campgrounds are available along the way but so are B&Bs, and that’s where we camped, roughing it (sometimes!) with cocktail napkins and Meissen China.
Three friends joined me and we all agreed that the trip was a tour through American history and also through some of America’s most pristine woodlands, often graced by sycamore trees arching overhead. Shortly out of Pittsburg we climbed to the Eastern Continental Divide and then traveled across the Mason Dixon Line. In West Virginia the trail took us into Harpers Ferry, and some may recall that it was here, in 1859, that a Lieutenant Colonel Robert E Lee put down the John Brown rebellion. Riding on we crossed into Maryland and passed the shanties of several lock master’s old homes. Today, if you have advanced reservations you can move in and stay overnight.
Essentially the Canal was initiated by George Washington, hoping to increase trade with Washington D.C. and newly created states such as Pennsylvania, but the Potomac River was laced with many rapids and treacherous falls, and barges could not negotiate them. Consequently, traders needed a canal. Today, those falls are an attraction for bikers and so we also stopped to view that river’s many examples.
While riding I believe that I rebounded from some lingering health issues, but equally as significant, became more of the individual we all wish to be. Here, I felt important and not diminished by the burgeoning U.S. population that is now saturating our personal living space and clogging so many national attractions. During our many stops I’d been able to lose myself by soaking up American history and the wildness the two trails preserved. And, then, when I thought myself saturated, I had been able to ride on – stopping at will to soak it all up again, and again and again.
A much expanded and varied version of this story is intended for a travel magazine and I hope, too, in a magazine intended for seniors… not, of course, that I can relate, but I do feel many older folks might be inspired. In the meantime, if anyone wants details on logistics, please drop a note. Thanks! Bert