C&O Days 3 and 4: Williamsport to Cumberland

Two days ago, after getting our bikes ready, Crispin and I left the Red Roof Inn in Williamsport and continued on the C&O towpath upstream toward Cumberland.

The trail is now a two tracked gravel path with potholes and the scenery has become mundane so I will explain briefly about my bike setup.

I have all of my things in two panniers and a duffle bag on the back of my bike, which makes my bike back heavy. Consequently, the treads on the back tire wears out faster than the front tire treads. My bike is a 2019 Trek Checkpoint ALR4. It's specifically built as a gravel bike so it's perfect for trail riding with wider tires than a road bike.

In one pannier, I have a portable bicycle pump, a sleeping bag, a bag containing an inner tube and lubricants, another bag with a cooking pot, a portable stove with a fuel canister, matches, and a lighter. I also brought a couple bags of ramen, along with two forks. And lastly, a plastic box containing some electronic items, such as a power bank, camera charger, extra camera battery, SD card, USB adapter for my laptop, etc.

The other pannier contains a bag of wool shirts, wool socks, underwear. There are three sets of them not counting the outfit I current wear. I also have a long sleeved shirt, swim shorts, an extra pair of bike shorts, and a pair of travel pants. I have a small bag containing some smaller items, such as a Swiss army knife, multitool, phone charger, laptop charger, tooth brush, tooth paste, soap, shampoo, a first aid kit, and other hygienic items. Also in this bag is my 2017 MacBook with a protective sleeve and a travel towel.

The duffle bag contains my tent, a sleeping pad, an inflatable pillow, a camera tripod, a rain jacket, a reflective jacket that can be converts to a vest, and a pair of slippers. I also brought a bag of energy bars, trail mix, and dried fruits.

Other items include my Google Pixel 5a phone, a Canon G7X Mark III camera, wallet, handkerchief, allergy pills, and a patch kit in case of a tire puncture. I also have two LED lights for the front and back of my bike, a bell on the handlebar, a phone holder, and a bike computer.

My bike: "Serendipity"

Now back to the trip.

We rode on the trail until we reached Fort Frederick State Park, where we took a break and walked in the fort. There wasn't much to see except for two houses in the fort and a wild turkey.

Fort Frederick

As we set out again, I saw a small sign for Western Maryland Rail Trail, but I didn't realize it goes parallel to the C&O. We arrived at Hancock around 10:45 AM. There's a restaurant that's right by both trails called Buddy Lou's. It has a lot of old memorabilia that I felt were almost junky. Crispin and I only waited for 15 minutes until the restaurant opened at 11. We had a good lunch and by the time we started our ride, a group of senior cyclists rode in. They told us the Western Maryland Rail Trail is all paved and is better than the C&O. Also, it'll connect with the C&O around lock 56 upstream. We had missed the first half of the paved trail.

The ride on a paved rail trail was a break for our butts. This trail is so well maintained that every little bump from the tree roots is marked with paint. After about 11 miles of this, we got back on the C&O.

On the Western Maryland Rail Trail

A tree had fallen on the path. As I was carrying my bike over it, two cyclists came from the opposite direction. They were speedsters who rode the 150 mile GAP trail in one day and is trying to reach Harpers Ferry by end of the day. They informed us of a detour ahead of the Paw Paw Tunnel. Crispin and I saw two more cyclists from the opposite direction and they both told us the detour will be tough with a lot of mud. The last cyclist had an ebike with very fat tires, which was interesting to see on the C&O.

We didn't stop by Little Orleans because I didn't see any signs and missed the mile marker. By the time we got to the detour we were tired. We had to push our bikes for 45 minutes in the mud up a steep hill on switchbacks then go down it. I almost slipped a few times, but with perseverance both of us made it to the other side of the tunnel. It was later that we learned the Paw Pawl Tunnel has been closed for over a year and the crew is currently fixing it now.

The detour begins

Up the hill we push

At the top

Took us 45 minutes

The good news is that we made it through the roughest detour of the C&O before the coming rain. It was good that we didn't go to Little Orleans or else we would have arrived in Paw Paw late.

Crispin had booked a cabin in Paw Paw for $120. We both thought it was expensive, but they cabin has wifi and is more like a hotel room.

The cabin even has a bike wash

We had dinner at Amanda's Place and talked to a guy who captures snakes and competes with them. He was interesting because he also works a computer control engineer.

We were back at the cabin when four young cyclists rode in. They were heading the other direction. I felt sorry for them because it'll rain all day the next day and the detour will be even more muddy for them.

After a night's of sleep, we were greeted with the rain. It'll last for two days. We only have 30 miles to ride to Cumberland, but we want to avoid the heavier rain.

For breakfast, we ate at the Sweets and Eats Bakery and Crispin thought it might be better for us to ride to Cumberland on the road. The owner of the shop informed us that there are no shoulders and the cars go over 50 miles per hours, many of them are trucks. I didn't feel like dying just yet, so I vetoed the idea of going on the road even though it'll be faster and smoother.

The only place that we stopped on our 30 mile ride to Cumberland was a restaurant in an old school in Old Town. We had our second breakfast at 10 AM. I noticed my camera was wet due to the moisture and it didn't turn on. I put it in my duffle bag so it won't get any wetter. I didn't have a rear fender on my bike and the dirt covered the back of my rain jacket. My shoes and socks were soaked in mud water, too.

This is the result of no rear fender

The trail

The muddiest I've ever gotten on a bike

It seemed like forever to ride into Cumberland. The rain, the mud holes, and fatigue made us stopped every few miles or so to take short breaks.

Our last stop on the trail

Finally at 1 PM, we reached Cumberland! We had a celebratory photo, then a hearty lunch at Crabby Pig, before we checked into the Ramada hotel for the day.

We made it!

Celebratory meal

There was only one thing missing from the trip. After we cleaned ourselves, we walked to the Queen City Creamery for our last meal of the day. And ended the trip with ice cream!

This morning, after writing this last blog post, Crispin and I will get our cars from Hertz, eat a breakfast, then depart on our separates ways.

I will miss Crispin for sure and treasure our experiences in 2018, 2021 GAP, and 2022 C&O. Maybe more bike trips in the future for us?


  1. I'm so glad you give an honest assessment about the lowlights of the trail. Sorry, you had bad weather but we both know about all that from going across country. Folks always talk about how beautiful the trail is but I think it's a relative assessment. I know from cycling the Transam that the East coast is very green but the West coast has the dramatic scenery so good to know your opinon about the C&O. Also thank you for the tip about the Maryland trail.

    1. Yes, we can't control the weather and we had to pay for it at the end. LOL! I hope the Paw Pawl Tunnel would be fixed by the time you bike the GAPCO. You can check out their website for the latest info: https://www.canaltrust.org


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