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D.C. to the Chisel Branch Hiker/Biker Camp Outside Potomac, MD: FINALLY we are bicycling!

D.C. to the Chisel Branch Hiker/Biker Camp Outside Potomac, MD: FINALLY we are bicycling!

36 miles (58 km) – Total so far: 36 miles (58 km)

What a day! Right this very minute I am sitting in our tent in a remote hiker/biker campground along the C&O Canal Path somewhere outside of Potamac, Maryland.

The geeky-cool thing about this is that even from this very remote location, I am online updating my Crazy Guy journal. It has been a long frustrating quest to find the right setup that will allow me to stay connected to the internet during our camping/biking trips. It’s not that I just like to check my email for those of you who don’t know, I’m a self employed website developer and I need to be able to check email at least once a day to make sure that all of my customers are doing okay. If there would happen to be any website emergencies, I need to be able to respond even if we’re camping in the middle of nowhere.

So I recently got this amazing little thing called an iPhone! I can tether it to my laptop and get online to check emails, and even make website updates if need be. So far I’ve been extremely pleased with this setup.

Alright let’s go back to the beginning of today. Craig, David (our Warm Showers host) and I started rolling around 9:00 am. This is the first time I’ve ever toured on a fully loaded bike with all four panniers (front and back), my rack pack and handlebar bag. It felt a tad squirrely at first but I was soon tooling along D.C.’s phenomenal network of off-road paved bike trails. We were able to get on the Custis Trail one block from David’s house in Arlington, and cycle all the way to Washington D.C. through 5 miles of crazy traffic-filled highways and we never once had to ride on the roads with cars. Maybe someday St. Louis will be like this?

David got us to the Mall area. We took pics and said goodbye and he cycled back home for a nice 15 mile morning ride. THANK YOU FOR EVERYTHING, DAVID! Our first experience as Warm Showers hostees was fantastic. If you’re ever needing a WS host in D.C. contact David Hothem.

We biked around the Mall doing the touristy thing for a bit. Saw the monuments and took some pics. They won’t let you get anywhere near the White House anymore but I guess I don’t blame them.

Then we cycled back down to the end of the C&O Canal and got going. We actually rode on the Capital Crescent Trail for the first few miles which parallels the Canal Path and is PAVED! Pavement is very nice. Very smooth. We won’t be seeing pavement for a while so we wanted to take it while we could get it.

We’ve been worried about the Canal Path surface. It is the old dirt mule trail that runs along the C&O Canal and can turn into a muddy slippery mess. D.C. has had a LOT of rain lately so we didn’t know what we would find.

We were very pleasantly surprised to find a nice, pea gravel and hard packed sand surface for the first 24 miles of the trail today. Very similar to the Katy Trail surface. We had very little trouble at all. We were also happy that it never rained on us today! Most of the day was overcast and cloudy but occasionally the sun would peek through.

One high point of the day was Potomac Falls. There is a half mile long boardwalk from the trail to the Falls. Bikes aren’t allowed so Craig and I took turns walking down to see the spectacular waterfalls. They are glorious. If you’re in the area, go see them. My pictures hardly capture their magnificence.

Another high point was meeting Sarah. We were tooling along the trail and passed a woman biking the other way. As she passed us she yelled out, ‘Are you Blue?!’ So we stopped and talked to Sarah for a while. She found my journal a few days ago and wrote to me a few times to let me know that she’d be on the trail at the same time we were. It was great to see her! How amazing to run into people who know you from your Crazy Guy journal!

Sarah also warned us that the trail begins to degrade into a muddy mess around mile 24. Turns out that she was exactly right. The trail was covered with muddy puddles and thick gooey slippy mud. A few times we slid and fishtailed. Once I thought I was going down but pulled out of the slide at the last minute. We did manage to get to camp unmuddied but it was a tense ride. So our last two miles today before camp weren’t the most fun but it still hasn’t been as bad as we had feared. Not yet anyway. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.

We’re camping in the Chisel Branch hiker/biker camp at mile 30. These free hiker/biker camps are spread along the C&O at approximately 5 mile intervals. Each campground has a picnic table, a fire pit, grill, water pump and porta-potty. The first h/b camp at Horsepen Branch (mile 26) was a muddy mess so we moved along down the trail to the next one. We did fill our water bottles there though and the water was great! The water here is not so great. It has a slight brownish tinge and a sulfur taste. It is drinkable if necessary but not bad at all for cooking.

There were few people on the trail today and our campground is absolutely deserted. AHHHH so nice! So preferable to sharing a campground with a town’s worth of noisy people. I think we’ll sleep well tonight.

The bike trail system in D.C. is exceptional!

The bike trail system in D.C. is exceptional!

Crossing the Key Bridge into Washington D.C.

Crossing the Key Bridge into Washington D.C.

Here we are crossing the bridge at the very beginning of the C&O Canal Path finally!

Here we are crossing the bridge at the very beginning of the C&O Canal Path finally!

We had to walk down a few flights of stairs to get down to the Canal Path. Yay for my amazing super-strong husband, Craig, who is carrying my heavy loaded bike down the steps!

We had to walk down a few flights of stairs to get down to the Canal Path. Yay for my amazing super-strong husband, Craig, who is carrying my heavy loaded bike down the steps!

Doing the touristy thing in D.C.

Doing the touristy thing in D.C.

Our wonderful Warm Showers host, David.

Our wonderful Warm Showers host, David.

Our bikes having a grand old time at the Washington Memorial

Our bikes having a grand old time at the Washington Memorial

Motivation for D.C. residents to use the bike trails. Check out those gas prices!

Motivation for D.C. residents to use the bike trails. Check out those gas prices!

On the Capital Crescent Trail in D.C.

On the Capital Crescent Trail in D.C.

On the C&O

On the C&O

In case anyone was wondering whether or not I'm a gear geek. Here I am with my new helmet cam. I'm experimenting with some videos of the ride which I'll post later.

In case anyone was wondering whether or not I’m a gear geek. Here I am with my new helmet cam. I’m experimenting with some videos of the ride which I’ll post later.

Wildlife on the canal

Wildlife on the canal

On the C&O

On the C&O

I call this one "Lockhouse and Bikes"

I call this one “Lockhouse and Bikes”

Craig is texting his mom to give her a trail condition report. Craig is such a good son. I on the other hand, did not text my mom at all. I am not nearly as good of a daughter. Sorry mom! I'll call soon!

Craig is texting his mom to give her a trail condition report. Craig is such a good son. I on the other hand, did not text my mom at all. I am not nearly as good of a daughter. Sorry mom! I’ll call soon!

This is Sarah, a fellow Crazy-Guy-On-A-Bike journal keeper and reader. She found my journal a few days ago and recognized us on the trail.

This is Sarah, a fellow Crazy-Guy-On-A-Bike journal keeper and reader. She found my journal a few days ago and recognized us on the trail.

This was the most beautiful section of the trail today. The pictures only capture 1/1000th of the magic. You've got to imagine the rest.

This was the most beautiful section of the trail today. The pictures only capture 1/1000th of the magic. You’ve got to imagine the rest.

Craig trying to send another text to his mom. What a good son. But there is no cell signal here.

Craig trying to send another text to his mom. What a good son. But there is no cell signal here.

Covered Bridge

Covered Bridge

 

Potomac Falls

Potomac Falls

Along the C&O

Along the C&O

This is Howard Blank. We ran into him at one of the scenic overlooks and he gave us a detailed verbal history of the area. Thanks, Howard! He also gave me permission to post his full name.

This is Howard Blank. We ran into him at one of the scenic overlooks and he gave us a detailed verbal history of the area. Thanks, Howard! He also gave me permission to post his full name.

Another of the lockhouses that accompany each of the locks on the canal.

Another of the lockhouses that accompany each of the locks on the canal.

This section along the Potomac reminded me so much of the Katy Trail

This section along the Potomac reminded me so much of the Katy Trail

We had worried about downed trees across the trail since this area had been hit by terrible storms this past week. But this is the only one we encountered. This one was no biggie.

We had worried about downed trees across the trail since this area had been hit by terrible storms this past week. But this is the only one we encountered. This one was no biggie.

Our first campsite of the trip.

Our first campsite of the trip.

The Chisel Branch hiker/biker campground

The Chisel Branch hiker/biker campground

Ahhh... pots on the stove and Craig is toasting with his before dinner cocktail. Life doesn't get any better.

Ahhh… pots on the stove and Craig is toasting with his before dinner cocktail. Life doesn’t get any better.

We eat well on these trips. Tonight's dinner is beef stroganhoff & noodles (from a freeze dried pack), hot spearmint tea, and hot chocolate with Baileys Irish Cream for dessert.

We eat well on these trips. Tonight’s dinner is beef stroganhoff & noodles (from a freeze dried pack), hot spearmint tea, and hot chocolate with Baileys Irish Cream for dessert.

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