Biking the GapC&O, Sunday, 38mi to Shepherdstown

We start our day jumping back across the river and onto the trail

Note the flood stages marked on the ferry building.  From where I stand it looks like high water would reach into the treetops

On the trail

Near Brunswick, I’m starting to notice the C&O canal fading here and there.  At one point, we had the Potomac River about 20 foot below us, we’re riding on the towpath, with the canal to our right forming a dry 20 foot wide swale, then up another 30 foot embankment to railroad tracks and a roadway before hitting a sharp granite cliff. With another hundred years I think many sections of the C&O will disappeared completely.

The Appalachian Trail (AT) crosses the C&O, so we take out stop at the trail blazes, ditch the bikes and do a bit of hiking

As you can see, the AT isn’t very wide, and could get a bit LONG.  Back to bikes!

A few miles down our trail we came to Harpers Ferry, where we pulled our bikes up a steel set of stairs, across the bridge and into the historic town. 

Harpers Ferry sits at the point where three states – West Virginia, Maryland  and Virginia all touch at the  touch at the confluence of the Shenandoah  and  Potomac Rivers, forming and important trade route.


The Potomac does not look too powerful here, but we’ve been seeing warning signs all along the way about powerful currents.

The AT has been walking along with us the last few miles… here they turn south and head toward Georgia

Lunch by 2pm at the Harpers Ferry Cannonball Deli (gotta love the name)

Tasty – I was getting hungry, and then I needed a nap (sorry to say, the nap was nixed)

The Confederates took this city early in the war causing great consternation, with Washington DC only 50 miles away. 
The Union troops under McCellen pulled back and formed at Sharpsburg  and that draws the battle lines we’re visiting tomorrow.
We arrived in Shepherdstown just after 4pm, and checked into a quaint B&B.

Academic pursuits and lifelong learning never stops, so I’m getting a more formal education about the battle at Antietam in the Civil War

Well, mostly academic…

Shepherdstown is a nice town, and Sunday evening provides us a number of dinner choices… top of which for Bruce is Domestic, and it proved to be a great choice. 

Home of Shepherd University

Highlights:

Stats: 41.9 bike miles, 500ft of the Appalachian Trail.

Beer of the day: Big Timber Dry Sluice Stout @Domestic, Shepherdstown

Biking the GapC&O, Saturday, 37mi to Leesburg

We lived a pampered life last night and this morning… concierge level, fluffy beds, and a nice breakfast. We looked the part, like any two business types, checked into this 12 story Marriott.

Twenty minutes later one of the breakfast servers paused in the hallway when we passed, now transformed into 100% cycling dudes… helmets, bright shirts, and the highly fashionable “Look, Ma, I forgot my pants” biker short look.

Here we go!

The start of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal is hidden on the grounds of the local boating club


Built in the early 1800s, with George Washington playing an early role, this canal and adjacent tow path runs 180+ miles from Washington, DC to Cumberland, MD, passing through 74 wooden locks along the way.  Although the C&O went out of business in 1924, we’ll see a number of locks that are still working, and several of the lockkeeper houses along the way.
The canal and towpath run on a ridge 20-40 feet above the Potomac – I’m not sure how they pulled that off… a lot of laborers I suspect.

The above shot is looking downstream (toward Washington DC), the gate is closed, holding back the stream.

We stopped at Great Falls for lunch, and looked at the challenge the settlers found when foating down the Potomac – you run into the treacherous Mather Falls

George Washington’s role in all this comes here, at Great Falls.  His firm, the Potomac Company, succeeded in creating a canal that bypassed Mather Falls, making the downstream river accessible.  The bypass canal was eventually sold to the newly formed C&O Company, which went on to develop the 180 mile canal.

Late in the afternoon, we crossed the Potomac by ferry, and caught a shuttle into Leesburg VA for our hotel and dinner.

Highlights:

Stats: 41.3 bike miles

National Parks day today… all the parks were free, and a lot of folks visiting.

Best meal: Coho salmon with roasted brussel sprout and romaine salad (… be proud… that’s as close to Mediterranean as I’m likely to achieve this week… burgers and BBQ coming next baby!)

Biking the GapC&O – Friday, prep for the Washington DC departure

Here we go!  Bruce and I fly to Pittsburgh, rent bikes, drive to DC and get ready for the trip…

Here’s the trip in a nutshell, according to Google (which thinks we should be done in a day…)

Looks easy on the map… just ride from DC, up 4,350ft and over the Eastern Continental Divide, and down into Pittsburgh. What’s that little yellow flag on elevation all about?

Pretty small living accommodations for the week!

Bike rental in Pittsburgh-  great staff, helped Bruce and I get set for the road.

The trailhead we’re returning to is just down the way… I think we’re spending the next week riding back to reunite with this sign, only 332 miles

The Dodge Caravan Bruce rented is perfect for the bikes, and we’re off to DC, 4 hours away.

Here’s the profile of the route, and we’re coming right to left on this diagram:

Unlike sensible people that gently climb up going east, then zoom down the hill, we’re going west so we can climb steeply up that gradient on our two 50 mile days.  No pressure… I’m sure that little hill near Frostburg will take pity on us…what could go wrong?

The weather looks great for our start tomorrow.

Highlights:

The travel was uneventful, the bikes seem fine, and we found our hotel.

Meal of the day: Steak&Shake

Colorado 14ers – Wednesday, flight home

Greg and I had a great trip, including a bonus day, complements of high winds at the Aspen airport which delayed our departure until this morning. Our stay at the Limelight was restful and we’re back at the airport by 7am for a second shot at departing.  Everybody on the plane has checked the weather and knows the winds are around 5kts, so we’ll be out and going.

On the climb out a nice view of the Roaring Fork Valley and some possible future hikes

We love stats, so here’s what we captured for our eight day stay:

27 hours of trail time, 21.6 miles hiked, 10,000 ft elevation gain, 29 miles biking.

Greg converted the climb up Grays and Torreys: that’s 1,291 flights of stairs on the StairMaster, in thin air.  If that’s not enough already, you need to hike 1,291 flights back down (I’m keeping all this in mind for next year!)

So, our Colorado triathlon was 5 ft of swimming, 29 miles bike, and 21 miles on foot (a bit lopsided on the swim, but hey… the hot springs river pool was only so wide and we weren’t venturing out into the freezing main current…).

Total steps: 180,216 (averaging over 22,000 steps/day… hooray for the 10k steps/day crowd).

Thank you:
…  Greg for inviting me and doing all the mountain research and hiking!
…Lizzy and Ted for your wonderful hospitality.
…Janie for making all the travel arrangements, and
…Patti for holding down the fort!

Well, there are some future Colorado mountains to explore…  Princeton, Yale, Elbert…

I had a blast climbing these mountains, and of course, hindsight makes it feel so much easier.  I’m more than ready to tackle another 14er.

However, I am also humbled and inspired by those that have done so much more of this… my brother-in-law Greg has already hiked eight of these mountains and is on his way to ten, twelve or more.  Hats off Greg, I’m a rookie.

And then there are those beyond the mere mortals, those rare birds cut from entirely different stock. Meet Joe Grant and his amazing accomplishment just a few weeks ago, completing all 57 of the 14ers. In 31 days, 8 hours, 33 minutes. That’s 1.8 mountain peaks per day! He did this by leaving his driveway on bicycle, and peddled his way from trailhead to trailhead, no support crew, living on Snickers and Clif bars. Should change his last name to Granite.

There are some peaks I’ll never attempt. If you have the nerve to watch, here’s a terrifying YouTube video crossing the Knife Edge to reach Capitol Peak. I wonder what time of day it was that Joe went across this…

Colorado 14ers – Monday, Maroon Bells and Marble

Today we are up and out by 6:30am for a morning hike in the 181,000 acre Maroon Bells Snowmass Wilderness, part of the White River National Forest.

The trailhead begins near Maroon Lake and our destination today is Crater Lake, a nice 5.75 mile round trip with less than 1000ft of elevation gain.

We had just started when we were brought up short by a park employee warning us about a female moose on the trail ahead.  She diverted us down and around… (we never saw the moose, neither did the other hikers).

Maroon Lake has a nature walk, and this is where most of the park visitors stay. We shot up into the aspen forest.

Past my shoulder is Maroon Lake, our starting spot. Continuing down the trail we arrived at Crater Lake.  Greg commented that the lake is the lowest he’s seen.

In the picture below you see the route into the mountains… through that stand of trees, then left and into the shadow all the way down the valley.  The climb begins on the other side of the prominent rocky ledge.

Pulling back to a wider view, the summits come into view… twin 14,000 peaks.

The required photo op

Here are the two Maroon Bell 14ers… South Maroon Peak on the left, and the North peak on the right.

The peaks in this valley are outside my skill range… loose rock, steep slopes and exposure have made them the deadliest mountains in these parts.

We hiked past Crater Lake, checked out the camp sites, then back out of the wilderness and into progessively thicker clumps of casual hikers and non-stop talkers.  Although I expected it, I didn’t spot one selfie stick.

We stopped at Buttermilk to see the site for Lizzy and Ted’s wedding next June – what a nice venue for their mountaintop ceremony!

Back to the hotel to clean up and pack.  I was in the lobby for a bit, marveling at the mix of folks checking in, and received a quick education about the 2016 National Sheep Dog Finals happening this week, bringing the country’s top 150 dogs into the valley to show their skills in fetching, herding and managing sheep.  Some of the judges and a number of the teams are staying here, and Greg and I have watched them working these beautiful dogs in the hotel’s back yard grass. Here’s a YouTube from last year to get a sense of it.

Tonight’s dinner destination takes us 20 miles the other way around Mt Sopris to Marble… and killer BBQ at Slow Groovin’…

Mable is a tiny town, the last before the main road rises through the pass and drops into what becomes the Crested Butte side of the range.  The unique Yule marble in this region is quarried from within the mountain and shipped all over the world (the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC is one example).
The patrons in Slow Groovin’ were a great mix… locals, hunters, fly fishermen, couple of ranchers, and us! The food was fantastic, and the aroma from the huge smoker outside wafted through the room every time the front door swung open.

Today’s Highlights:

Most dangerous creature: Park Employee

Best meal: Slow Groovin beef brisket, beans, slaw and skillet cornbread

Colorado 14ers – Sunday, Carbondale, Basalt and the Roaring Fork River

Bike riding today… Lizzy and Ted outfitted us with bikes and we rode the Rio Grande Trail, a rails-to-trail conversion that runs the length of the valley. Starting in Carbondale we rode south to Basalt, then back up to Willits for a burger at Sure Thing.

On the southbound loop the trail runs alongside the Roaring Fork river.

Basalt is 12 miles away, and holds their Farmers Market on Sunday, so we looked over the local wines, Palisade peaches, breads (and cookies which became a pre-lunch snack.)

Riding back up to Willit for lunch for a burger to refuel for the ride home

Well, Sure Thing was a sure thing – no wonder everyone wanted to stop.  The burgers are great, the fries are fresh and smoking hot and bonus points for a free soft-serve cone afterwards – as if you needed one after all that!

Yours truly adding to the blog (in a rather familiar Carbondale spot – PD)

Carbondale has this fantastic setting with Mt. Sopris defining everyone’s back yard.

Highlights:

Meals: Turkey burger at Sure Thing and popcorn and root beer floats with Lizzy and Ted.

Wildlife: Greg and Lizzy sight a fox along the trail.

Colorado 14ers – Saturday, American Lake

This morning we left Buena Vista, crossed the Continental Divide at 12,095 ft through Independence Pass and dropped down into the Roaring Fork Valley and Aspen.

Along the drive we stopped at Cascades and the Grotto.

Snow and springmelt carved these winding paths through the rock.

A bull moose finding breakfast.

Today’s hike took us to American Lake, part of the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness Area, a 181,000 acre area of Elk Mountains that was preserved in 1980.

The hike gains 2,129ft over 3.1 miles, ascending through an aspen forest and into meadows.  Tee-shirt weather today… full sun and a light breeze with the last scents of summer from a warm pine forest.

Little pockets of aspens are changing and we’re maybe 2 weeks from a full fall color burst.

This trail puts almost all the effort at the beginning with switchbacks bringing all the elevation gain early.  Those little zigzags on the screenshot upper right went right up the slope.  The last 2 miles is a pleasant gentle rise in the tree line and crossing a talus field to arrive at the lake.

We walked around to the far side, spotting cutthroat trout along the way, and sat with this view for our afternoon lunch.

Back down we go…

 

Highlights:

Meal of the day: Lunch on American Lake.  A very close second was an excellent meal at The Goat.

Best thing today:  great company – thanks Lizzy and Ted for hosting us on a terrific tour that covered the whole Roaring Forks Valley.