This picture was taken during our walk last Sunday. It shows that you can get all kinds of shades and textures of the color green. The beginning of the walk was not very promising because the water in the canal at Dickerson, the place where we had parked, stank a lot, probably due the green growth in it. Also, the stink in a couple of other locations due to dead animals did not help. But once we got going, it was all OK. Here is a picture of the ferry at Whites Ferry, the place where we turned to return to Dickerson.We got in a little more than 8 miles, and collected a few pawpaws along the way. The search for pawpaws was actually a little disappointing. We don’t know whether it is because it is early in the season, or whether there are going to be less of the fruits this year for some other unknown reason. In any case, the interest in consuming the fruit also seems to have decreased.
This looks like a very broad category to me. I have so many pictures that cover so many different aspects of H2O! I remember the early morning scenes with the mist and fog over the river, reflections of the fall colors over the waters of a lake, the beauty of snow and ice of winter, the sea at sunrise or sunrise from a beach, the storms with the heavy rains and even flooding, and even the pollution of the H2O caused by humanity. And that is not a complete list….
But this time I am going back to my recently completed bike ride from Pittsburgh, PA, to Whites Ferry in Maryland to address the theme. It seems to be a good fit, because the ride, for the most part, took place beside rivers. ( Read on and you might also get a short lesson in geography!) The Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) rail-trail that we followed from Pittsburgh to Cumberland, MD, essentially followed some of the tributaries of the Ohio River (which itself is a tributary of the great Mississippi that empties itself in the Gulf of Mexico). From Cumberland onward, we rode the C&O Canal towpath which runs along the Potomac river. This river runs east, the opposite direction to the rivers we rode beside up to that point, and it empties into the Chesapeake Bay and the mighty Atlantic Ocean. The Potomac and the Ohio and its tributaries flow into two distinct watershed areas on the two different sides of the Eastern Continental Divide and the Appalachian mountains that we rode over.
The Ohio river forms in Pittsburgh at the confluence of Monongahela and the Allegheny rivers and flows in a northwesterly direction out of the city. We began our trip by riding upstream along the Monongahela river (in a southeasterly direction). We crossed the river over a former railroad bridge at one point.
We got to McKeesport, PA, where the Youghiogheny River joins the Monongahela. From then onward it was further upstream and continuing southeasterly along the Yough. The skies were clear on the first day. We crossed under the Banning Railroad bridge. (I found a video of this bridge in use in 2011. I don’t know if it is still in use.)
The river was extremely muddy on the morning of the second day of the ride due to overnight rain. You can see the mud from the abandoned railroad bridge below.
This is view of the town of Confluence from a bridge over the Casselman.
The skies had cleared by the time we got to Rockwood, PA. The Casselman river looked more like a gentle stream at this point.
We crossed the Eastern Continental Divide on the GAP and descended into Cumberland, MD. The rest of the ride up to the final destination of Whites Ferry followed the C&O canal along the Potomac river. This was what the canal looked like in the area near Lock 75.
This is a section near Hancock.
The Paw Paw tunnel burrowed under a mountain to allow the canal a more direct route that avoided the bends in a meandering section of the river.
We saw many aqueducts over the canal along the way. The remains of the Licking Creek Aqueduct are shown below.
The river itself was quite peaceful for the most part.
We also saw a couple of dams that were used to supply water from the river to the canal.
And there there were some other H2O related experiences during the trip that I remember. This picture was taken on a pedestrian bridge over the Casselman river in Confluence early in the morning.
The following picture is of the house at Fallingwater built by Frank Lloyd Wright. The house is built over a waterfall. You can take steps down from your living room directly to the water that flowed under the house.
The red waterfall shown below is the acid mine drainage (AMD) from a former mine along a section of the GAP closer to Pittsburgh. We did (and continue to do) a lot of damage to our environment!
We experienced H2O everywhere during our trip (and hopefully H2O is also seen in all of the pictures I selected for this blog!). And I should not fail to mention that without large quantities of H2O to drink, we would not have survived the long hot days during our bicycle ride!
We made it! I had to take some time away from the blog for the celebrations, to take care of my friends, and to also try to catch up on my sleep, but I am back to report that WE MADE IT!
The last day of the ride was from Shepherdstown, WV, to Whites Ferry on the towpath in Maryland. This was deliberately scheduled to be short ride, and we did in fact finally arrive at our rendezvous point with the support vehicle a little early. It was a relaxed ride.
We left our hotel at at around 9:00 am.
We were back on the trail in short order and proceeded without delay towards Harpers Ferry. By this time we had established good riding patterns on the trail that all of us were comfortable with, a process that seemed to happen somewhat organically. No words needed to be spoken. There was no competition to be up in front (or for that matter behind), and it did not matter who your riding companion was. Conversations could involve all four people, three, two, or even one if you were happier riding in silence at that point, comfortably lost in your thoughts.
We stopped at the remains of Dam 3 just before we reached Harpers Ferry and hopped over exposed rocks in the river bed to chill out in the midst of the flowing water.
We parked our bikes on the towpath across the river from Harpers Ferry and crossed the bridge into town. A significant amount of time had been allocated to this destination because there was a lot to see.
We went up to Jefferson Rock on the hill behind the church. The second picture below shows the Potomac flowing south beyond the point where it meets up with the Shenandoah river.
We went back into town to get something for lunch. The second picture shows the railroad bridges across the Potomac between West Virginia and Maryland. Most of the rail traffic is freight, but there is also a train station in town used by commuter trains and the Amtrak Capital Limited running between Chicago and Washington, DC.
After a lunch that resulted in more calories being consumed than had been expended thus far on the trail, we proceeded back to the towpath and resumed the ride. In spite of some lethargy because of the lunch, we were able to resume a good pace once we got back into the rhythm. It seemed that by this time we had become comfortable with the riding experience. There were less “butt breaks”.
Our next stop was the Catoctin Aqueduct. This aqueduct actually collapsed completely in the 1970s (because of the design of the center arch) and was reconstructed in 2011.
We took a short break at Point of Rocks. We were making good time toward the final destination while riding at an easy pace.
The next somewhat big stop was the Monocacy Aqueduct, the longest aqueduct on the C&O Canal.
While taking the previous picture we heard some loud conversation taking place on the aqueduct. We looked up to see that some urgent matter being taken care of over the phone!
And then it was time to leave for our final destination. As the entered the last couple of miles of the ride the energy level actually shot up and there was some sprinting going on. And then we were done!
We had to hang out at Whites Ferry for a little while because of a foul-up with the support van. We watched the ferry in action, and then spent the time chilling out. Ice cream was consumed in celebration.
We finally got home about an hour later than expected. It was time to unwind. Later in the evening we received some unexpected awards. (Thank you, Mrs. R!)
Then it was back to more conversation and singing Hindi songs before we finally went to bed, later in the evening than we ever did during the ride itself!
This was an awesome experience. I am still getting my head around the fact that we got on bikes in Pittsburgh, PA, and finally got off the bikes in the Washington, DC, area, about 300 miles later, after six days of biking, after experiencing America in a way that one would never have been able to if we had, as is customary, gotten in a car and driven the same distance (perhaps in three or four short hours). There is so much of this land to see and experience outside of the hustle and bustle of the mainstream. Its beauty, its history, its small towns with their changing ways of life and the struggles for survival, its peoples, all of these are worth knowing and understanding better. Moreover, it is a lot of fun! As my friend Shankar would say, this is something everybody should try to do at least once in their lifetime!