Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Canal Trip Summary

We're going to do a 3 1/2 day bike trip up the C and O Canal Towpath trail (183 miles) from DC to Cumberland, MD from 24 to 27 July, staying overnights at campsites along the Canal.... The plan is to leave the DC area Thursday after work and do about 20 miles on Thursday, about 60 miles (each) on Fri and Sat, and the remaining 40 miles or so on Sunday. From Cumberland we will catch a ride (pre-arranged outfitter) back to DC, so that we will be home at a reasonable time for work/school the next day.

I have done this trip 4.5 times, and it is a delightful bike trip.... the path is level (except for 10 ft rises at each lock) and is packed dirt/gravel... yes, you are in the woods pretty much the whole time, which is nice, but there are small towns every 30 miles or so where you can eat or restock. The Canal is a National Historical Park, so it is well maintained and there are hiker/biker campsites (clearing with well water pump, porta-potty, picnic table, and fire pit) every 10 miles or so. Additionally, there are many interesting natural/historical sites along the canal that make for a fun break from biking.

For this trip, mostly Co-ops are going to come, but others are invited.

Canal Pictures from Past Trips

Canal: Stuff to Bring

Things each person will need:

Bike (mountain or hybrid, not road bike... also, it can be cheap and crappy - my bike cost $120 at Walmart 6 years ago... note that bikes can also be rented pretty easily around here)

Panniers / storage for your stuff (you can buy/borrow panniers, a trailer, or just put your stuff into bags that you bungee onto your rack - there are many options that will work depending on how fancy you want to get)

Food (snacks and a few meals, and more if you don't want to do restaurants)

Tent (or space in someone else's)

Sleeping bag

Proper clothes (probably 2 sets of clothes, plus rain and cold gear - this is plenty. You can get "high tech" clothes or just wear old tshirts)

Inner Tube - in case you need it - chances are someone will have a flat

Things you probably want to take (or ensure that someone takes for you):
headlight/tailight (in case of night riding)
sunblock/bug repellent (I don't use it, but I take it anyway)
personal hygiene stuff
TP (not everyone needs a whole roll, but you don't want to run out)
spare change
bathing suit

Other things to maybe take:
duct tape
short rope
pad and pen
"blue" plastic tarp
extra cords/straps

I will be taking a whole bunch of bike maintenance stuff, but everyone needs to make sure that they have at least 1 inner tube for their bike.

The costs for the trip depend mostly on how fancy you want to get with the equipment. Bike rental is probably about 30 dollars a day (this is a guess) or you can straight up buy a passable bike at Walmart/Target for $125 (make sure it has mounting holes to mount a rack). Buying a bike rack (needed for most people) will cost you about $30. Transportation back to DC will probably be about $85 a person. Campsites are free, and the remaining costs depend on you - you guys already know how much a meal in a restaurant costs if you want to go that way (I highly suggest restaurants), and the equipment above ranges greatly in cost from nothing (if you borrow it or already have it) to big bucks.

Canal: Getting in Shape

As far as being in shape/getting in shape for this trip: I should start by saying that 60 miles in a day sounds like a lot, but isn't too bad over the course of 14 hours of sunlight. You will need to be in shape, but you don't need to be an athlete (I definitely am not). Anybody in good health who has practiced a bit on a bike should be able to do this trip without issue, but I will say that the more you ride now, the less pain you will be in during the trip. My suggestions for "training" for this trip are:

1. Ride a bike often - the best way to get in shape for bike riding is to ride a bike (big suprise).

2. Remember that the goal here is distance, not speed - If you drop your speed a little when riding, you greatly extend your endurance (on long rides, I try to maintain the cardiovascular equivalent of a brisk walk)... I have actually found that I have had trouble getting myself to go slow enough on long rides.

3. Practice going long distances - At least once, take a weekend day and do a 50 mile (or more if you want) ride. When you do this, remember to take your time, maintain endurance, and bring food. Remember to eat! Make sure you eat before you go and probably at least once during the ride - your body will thank you...

4. Try your equipment set-up - If you can, put all your gear on your bike as you plan on doing it on the trip and go for a ride. This will give you the feeling for how the load will affect your handling, inertia, and speed.

Canal Schedule

So here is the approximate schedule that we did last go round (and it worked pretty well). The milemarkers for various stops are given in (parentheses). There are many restaurants, but people will still need to bring some of their own food (dinner the first night and 2 breakfasts).

Day 1 - Thurs (dinner on trail)
Leave from Key park (or wherever) in afternoon/evening
(15) Great Falls
(21) Camp here

Day 2 - Fri (breakfast+ on trail)
(55) Brunswick (restaurants here)
(60) Harpers Ferry (restaurants Here)
(72) Shepardstown (restaurants Here)
(79) Camp here

Day 3 - Sat
(84.4) Detour to Williamsport
(100) Williamsport (restaurants Here)
(112) Ft. Frederick
(~114) Detour onto WMRT
(124) Hancock (restaurants Here)
(141) Little Orleans (restaurants Here)
(144.5) Camp here

Day 4 - Sun (breakfast+ on trail)
(156) Paw Paw tunnel
(166.7) Oldtown, MD
(184) Cumberland (restaurants Here)