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Through Western Maryland on the C&O

Dave

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
First: Camino Francés 2002; most recent: Norte/Primitivo 2019
Hi all,

I'm in Keyser, WV tonight, around 332 miles into the American Discovery Trail now. Yesterday, I completed my stretch on the C&O Canal, a US national historical park. I had a lovely time, benefiting from unseasonably warm and dry weather. While I don't think many people would be interested in the first section that I walked and wrote about in a separate thread, I could see this route appealing to a much wider audience.

The C&O spans 185 miles between Washington DC and Cumberland, Maryland. It's actually possible to continue onward from Cumberland to Pittsburgh on the Great Allegheny Passage, a 150-mile rail trail. This website is a great resource for both routes.

The C&O trail follows the old towpath, passing old, stone locks and lock houses, and often runs directly alongside the Potomac River. The wildlife is great--I saw logs covered with turtles, sunning themselves in the afternoon warmth, herons posing majestically in quiet waters, a river otter trotting along the trail, a fox on the opposite bank. There's all kind of bird life, including groups of wild turkeys running around.

There are riverside campgrounds all along the trail for walkers and bikers--small grassy patches with a picnic bench, a firepit, a water faucet (turned off in the winter, unfortunately), and a porta-potty. I imagine it can get a little crowded at certain points in the year, but I imagine there's also a great conviviality at points. There are also a number of places to grab food or overnight accommodation, though it thins out in places. It goes alongside of Harpers Ferry, which is a wonderful place to visit; that's also where the Appalachian Trail crosses the ADT.

Here are my posts and pics from each day of this section:
Anyway, all's well! I'm excited to be in the hills of West Virginia and gearing up for the two-day ascent to Dolly Sods. While the weather may not be amazing, it should still be better than I have any reason to hope for at this point in the year.

Dave
 
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alhartman

2005-2017 Delightful 346 days in Spain and France.
Past OR future Camino
2017
I did part of the C&O Trail in October 2005 a few months after my first Camino. Unseasonably warm as I recall, but a real national treasure. The local Boy Scout Council had a great guidebook!! Almost no other campers except near Harpers Ferry. And carrying my tent, food, cooking gear cemented my love for the Camino life to travel with just a daypack--did LePuy the following year.
 

SheSeeksTheWay

New Member
Past OR future Camino
(Camino Francés September? 2020)
Wow, this is really timely! Our Camino which was to begin this weekend has been cancelled. In my fog of disappointment and depression about this and all the horrible things going on in this world, I came upon the bright spot of doing an overnight, on the AT trail (I live in DC area in Maryland). But with the weather, and us not seasoned OVERNIGHT backpackers and all that (BEARS!), we thought maybe to hold off on that until we do a bit more research or get advice from seasoned backpackers.

As an alternative, I did think about the C&O Canal Towpath trek. We've hiked the towpath near our home in Great Falls Tavern area and up near Paw Paw in Western Maryland. I've known people that have biked the entire distance as well. And you can't ask for a simpler, easier hike.

Your posting about this is really kismet. Thanks for re-energizing the idea! And thank you for posting the website, this will be a great start!
 

Buz Radican

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
Camino Frances May / Jun 2015
Camino Frances Oct / Nov 2016
Camino Frances May-Jun 2018
CF 2020?
Hiked the C&O twice, starting each time in Cumberland, which ended up causing me to do my first Camino. I was hiking the eastern part of the Appalachian Trail, I had to cone off the trail after crossing Mt. Washington for much needed foot surgery. After 9 weeks of wearing a cast I was hot to get back on the AT.

My cooler headed wife suggested a less stressful hike to check out my repaired foot. Wise woman. So we chose the C&O Canal as a testing ground. I was at Harper’s Ferry about noon, looking for a beer and a burger. I passed up the first restaurant settling on the second one and sitting outside on the deck. It was quite cool and I was alone. After sitting down what did I spy but a small silver scallop shell charm. Which I still have, I had seen The Way and recognized the shell.

The next day on the trail I met a long distance hiker going toward Cumberland. We stopped and exchanged pleasantries during which time she told me she had recently returned from the Camino Frances. Now that’s two. The scallop shell, and now meeting a pilgrim.

The following day I received a text from a former crew member from a ship where I was the captain with news she was planning on walking part of the Camino the following spring. Three strong hints that I could not ignore. When my wife picked me up in DC at the end of the C&O Canal I told her I could not ignore the three Camino signs and was off to the Camino the following May.
 
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Priscilla NC

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
Spring 2016: Camino Frances, Finisterre and Muxia
April 2019: Frances, Salvador, Primitivo
I've enjoyed following your walk. I grew up in Delaware and have lived in the DC area, West Virginia, and western PA. Harpers Ferry is one of my favorite places, I've hiked and biked there and the Great Allegheny Passage. So your descriptions have me wanting to get out and follow in your footsteps.

Thanks so much for sharing your adventure!
 

SheSeeksTheWay

New Member
Past OR future Camino
(Camino Francés September? 2020)
I just caught up with your current adventure day 0 to day 15 posted yesterday. I am looking forward to virtually joining you on this journey.

Peace,
SSTW
 

Dave

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
First: Camino Francés 2002; most recent: Norte/Primitivo 2019
I did part of the C&O Trail in October 2005 a few months after my first Camino. Unseasonably warm as I recall, but a real national treasure. The local Boy Scout Council had a great guidebook!! Almost no other campers except near Harpers Ferry. And carrying my tent, food, cooking gear cemented my love for the Camino life to travel with just a daypack--did LePuy the following year.

I do think it's possible to do the C&O without camping. It might take some creativity at times, along with some use of local transportation connections shuttling you around, but I can imagine it being viable. Some historic lockhouses can be rented, while other towns have hotels or B&Bs. Even from White's Ferry, you can cross the Potomac and get a hotel shuttle into Leesburg. So, options!
 

Dave

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
First: Camino Francés 2002; most recent: Norte/Primitivo 2019
The following day I received a text from a former crew member from a ship where I was the captain with news she was planning on walking part of the Camino the following spring. Three strong hints that I could not ignore. When my wife picked me up in DC at the end of the C&O Canal I told her I could not ignore the three Camino signs and was off to the Camino the following May.

That's a great story, Buz! Thanks for sharing.
 
Past OR future Camino
Camino Frances (2008, 2009), Camino Frances (2011)
Porto to SDC (7/2017) Primitivo (9/2019)
Great stuff, thanks for sharing. I have been thinking about walking out of my home in Arlington, VA and up to Harpers Ferry.
I use the tow path as shakedown walks for my Caminos.
 
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biarritzdon

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
CF11, CF12, CP13, CF14, CA15, S.Anton15, CF&CI15
Ditch Pig16, CF&CP17, CdN18, CM18, CF18, LePuy19
Wonderful idea for an alternative route this year. There is also a trail across Florida.
 

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