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“If you’re not moving, you’re standing  still.”


Steve Trafton

Trek from Washington DC to Pittsburgh

Only 60 more miles to go! After a restful night in Hancock I started out once again. A couple of miles outside Hancock I passed by the White Rock Campground and began hiking a long section of the canal that would wide its way through the hills and low mountains before emerging at Cumberland.


At milepost 133.7 I came to Cacapon Junction Campsite. Named for the junction of the Cacapon River with the Potomac on the West Virginia side. This is one the most scenic campsites on the canal, with a great view of the two rivers and the stone arches of the B and O Railroad bridge across the mouth of the Cacapon. Stonewall Jackson’s men burned the original bridge while shelling the town of Hancock on January 5, 1862. The mouth of the Cacapon River was also the site of Fort Dawson, one of the string of frontier forts that Washington’s soldiers built in the year after Braddock’s defeat.

Shortly after Cacapon Campsite the towpath cuts through Tonoloway Ridge at Lock #54 and 55 (milepost 134). Lock 55 was the terminus of the canal between 1839 and 1850, when the last section to Cumberland was completed.

At milepost 136.2 is Lock #56. Here the canal cut through Sideling Hill, one of the major Appalachian ridges (1500 feet). Sideling Hill and Town Hill are only about 5 miles apart as the crow flies, but the canal winds 26 miles through the Paw Paw Bends before finally passing Town Hill at canal mile 160. At milepost 136.6 I passed by Sideling Hill Creek Aqueduct, a 70 foot single span built between 1837 and 1840 of limestone from a West Virginia quarry. After the aqueduct the towpath follows two long sweeping bends before coming to Little Orleans, Maryland (milepost 140.9).

Since there was no other accommodation for the night further along the towpath for many miles I decided to stop here for the night after 16.8 miles. I walked through the small village and found the Little Orleans Lodge, a quiet little bed and breakfast place owned by Steve and Mary Huebner. Like so many of the other people I would meet on my trek they welcomed me and were both a wealth of local information and questions about my trip. Steve immediately volunteered to ferry me to and from the towpath for the next few days until I reached Cumberland. This really solved a lot of potential problems in trying to get rides back to my car at the end of each day and repositioning the car for the next section. So it was that I settled into my comfortable room at the lodge and prepared for the next days hike to Oldtown about 26 miles up the towpath.

After a big country style breakfast I bid Steve and Mary good day and started down the short trail back to the towpath near the Fifteen Mile Creek Aqueduct. This small single arch aqueduct was completed in the final stage of canal construction in 1850. It was in near perfect condition and was a testament to the quality of the original construction more than 150 year prior. At milepost 143.4 the trail crossed under the Western Maryland Railroad trestle. This trestle is one of several that cross back and forth over the river and provide a more or less straight line through the Paw Paw Bends.

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