Friday, December 20, 2013

GAPCO - Antietam Creek to Turtle Run

Early risers often capture the best photos. Photo credit: Patty
Thursday, September 26, 36 miles.

It's day seven on the road. I woke to heavy fog, condensing into droplets on the tent. For a moment I thought it was raining, but I began to understand that our proximity to the Potomac meant moisture every morning—it was only a matter of how much.

The photo also shows the tunnel effect: corridors of old trees line the trail.
It's a pleasantly warm morning and gloves are removed soon after we set out. I pick up a gnarly-looking fruit, curious about it's bumpy texture. The flora and fauna are often unfamiliar to New Englanders—one attraction of the C&O Canal—so I stash the "fruit" on my front rack, determined to ask a local its identity.

Andy spied this old building with two stone ovens, off trail through the trees. We presumed it was for ash, coke, or some such industry that took advantage of canal transport.

At Harpers Ferry there isn't easy access across the river to town. We aren't comfortable leaving our bikes locked at the racks out of sight. Instead we lug heavy bikes up several stairs and walk the bridge. Andy does double duty, returning to help Patty with her load.

A lovely sycamore tree.
Harper's Ferry is Civil War central—at least it felt like it to us. You could easily spend an entire day, attending walking tours, reading historical signs, peek inside rebuilt shops, peruse museums. For us it was a chance to relax in sunshine, go on a restaurant foodie fest, and enjoy river views. I gobble a much anticipated hamburger while the vegetarians slurp milkshakes.

A museum attendant identifies the green fruit as an Osage orange. I'd heard of the name and because it's inedible though not poisonous, I cut into it out of curiosity. It's pungent with a hint of orange scent, and leaves a weird sticky residue on my Swiss Army knife, which oddly remains until returning home where I can properly clean the knife with detergent and scrubbing pad.

Fall colors are just beginning near Harpers Ferry. Photo credit: Patty
It's tough to leave the sun and picturesque confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers, but onward we go, retracing the bridge-walk past tourists, hefting the bikes again to river level.

Monocacy Aqueduct. Photo credit: Patty
It's a leisurely pace. Gone is the impetus to travel 50+ miles—we only have 60 total to complete over the next 2 days, ending in Washington, D.C. The only stressful part comes in Brunswick. Being the largest town before camping we search for a food store with directions "left to route such and such, turn right, not far". However, the ride is a mile of continuous uphill on a busy road which seems to be endless, though luckily there is an 8-foot wide lane reserved for cyclists. The perception of the C&O Canal is that it's flat—and it is for those staying in hotels, eating restaurant food, one can stay close to trail for those amenities—but for campers, it can be a hilly detour to locate a grocery store.

Monocacy Aqueduct's seven arches. Photo credit: Patty
We stop to admire Monocacy Aqueduct's seven arches. It's the longest aqueduct en route at over 500 feet. It's also our first encounter with C&O Canal's Bike Patrol. There are many volunteers who ride sections—this guy's intention is to go further from D.C. where there is less likely to be patrols.

Andy admires a humongous tree.
An example of trail near turtle heaven (boggy canal on left). Photo credit: Patty
A artsy painted bike in bike-friendly downtown Brunswick.
Photo credit: Patty

Patty and I pedal a brief few yards off trail at White's Ferry to watch the only remaining active ferry crossing on the Potomac. Interestingly, it's a cable ferry. The cable winds onboard as it comes toward us.

A mile later we camp at Turtle Run. By now Patty and Andy join me for water bottle bathing. A hair wash is on order too. And just in time for company. A lady cyclist pulls in. The woman is a D.C. tour guide who is out for a long weekend; it's her one overnight before rendezvous at a church retreat the following day.

Only picnic table with such message. Giggling, we presume it's not intended for us!
A bottle of wine, nice company, and two rousing games of Yahtzee is a fitting camping finale.

1 comment:

  1. Your picture and cutting-open of the Osage orange, which I had not seen before, led me to a fascinating description of it on wikipedia. Thank you. I crave thought-provoking photos like that. I copy/paste the information here, and understand if you think it totally spammy and delete the comment, but I love the thought of some now-extinct huge animals munching on those things:
    "The fruit is not poisonous and humans can generally eat it without ill effects, but it is considered inedible due to the texture and taste, which has been described as chemical-like. Exposure to frost improves the flavor, which becomes cucumber-like. The seeds of the fruit are edible and it is sometimes torn apart by squirrels to get at the seeds, but few other native animals make use of it as a food source. This is unusual, as most large fleshy fruit serves the function of seed dispersal by means of its consumption by large animals. One recent hypothesis is that the Osage orange fruit was eaten by a giant ground sloth that became extinct shortly after the first human settlement of North America. Other extinct Pleistocene megafauna, such as the mammoth, mastodon and gomphothere, may have fed on the fruit and aided in seed dispersal.[10][11] An equine species that went extinct at the same time also has been suggested as the plant's original dispersal agent because modern horses and other livestock will sometimes eat the fruit.[12] While Osage orange may have once spanned the breadth of eastern North America, by historical times, the tree's range in pre-Columbian times was limited to the Red River basin both due to the loss of seed-dispersing animals and exploitation by Native American tribes for bow-making. The wood was highly prized for this purpose, and natives were known to travel hundreds of miles to acquire it."


Due to increased Spam, I am moderating comments. Thank you for your patience.