Sweet Onion Cyclists trip on the W&OD & the C&O Canal Trails '98

On Wednesday, June 3, 1998, Paul Kordzikowski, Mike Wise, Tom Hutcheson and I drove up to Georgetown, Washington DC. We checked into the New Hampshire Suites Best Western. We kept just enough clothing, necessities and our bikes, and packed the rest back into our truck and drove it over to the EconoLodge Pentagon near Falls Church, VA. We left the truck and took a cab back to Georgetown. Thursday morning we packed our limited amount of gear on our bikes and hit the C&O Canal Towpath. Within a mile we came to a detour and rode the Capital Crescent Trail (paved rail-trail) until it veered away from the canal. C&O Canal & towpath near GeorgetownBack on the towpath I was amazed that the towpath was in such excellent condition. The four of us rode together, stopping to see the sights along the way, and spending some time at Great Falls. There was another major detour on the way to Whites Ferry, that took us on a one lane unused road that made me glad I was on a mountain bike! We all had lunch at the store/grill at Whites Ferry. Paul and Tom took the ferry across the Potomac and rode about 5 more miles to their hotel in Leesburg, which gave them a 35-mile ride for the day. Mike and I continued on the towpath, which became a beautiful double track trail through the forest. It was very, very enjoyable. Riding the C&O Canal towpath is like a 184-mile trek in the woods with no cars and little sign of civilization. We crossed the river and enjoyed the evening in Harpers Ferry, giving us a total ride of 64 miles. Friday morning we got up early knowing that we had to find our way on highways from Harpers Ferry WV to Purcellville VA, then ride the W&OD Railroad Regional Park to meet Paul and Tom at Leesburg. It took longer than I had estimated because it was much more hilly than I had imagined. I shouldn't have been so surprised because I know Harpers Ferry is a popular supply stop on the Appalachian Trail. The section of the W&OD from Purcellville to Leesburg is the most beautiful part of the rail-trail. You can feel the ghostly presence of the trains which used to chug along through this verdant forest and farm land. The four of us rode the W&OD about 30 miles from Leesburg to Columbia Pike, and took a right turn to go to the EconoLodge (where we had left our truck) and where we had reservations for two nights. Mike and I ended up with 65 miles for the day and Tom and Paul about 35.

Saturday was a leisure ride with no set plans, but turned out to be an excellent route which I recommend to anyone wanting a 45 mile ride on the various trails in the DC area. We hit the Four Mile Run trail at Columbia Pike and headed east. We got lost as usual (this was my third trip to the area) crossing I-395 but eventually refound the trail and continued to the trail's end at Mt. Vernon Trail. We headed north on the MVT and crossed over the Arlington Memorial Bridge into DC. After some sightseeing we headed out Pennsylvania Avenue past Bill & Hillary's temporary residence, and with careful searching and determination, found the Rock Creek Trail. This was my first time on this excellent trail and the four of us stayed on it as far as the National Zoo. After a short visit, Mike and I left Tom and Paul at the zoo. We headed on up the Rock Creek Trail several miles then took some residential streets westbound to pick up the northern end of the Capital Crescent Rail Trail. This was probably my favorite trail of our trip. Headed south to Georgetown it was almost all down hill and made use of railroad overpasses to keep us out of the traffic.

The only thing wrong with this trip was the 22 hours of driving it took to get up there and back from Vidalia. It is worth it though, and next year the Sweet Onion Cyclists Hit the Trails again, hopefully to ride the complete 184-mile C&O Canal National Historic Park towpath.

This page created July 14, 1998 by Lamar Martin