18629
Maryland
Bike the Entire C&O Canal: A Distinctive National Park
Travel through the Paw Paw tunnel, enjoy a lock demonstration, see the Great Falls on the Potomac and explore historic towns as you bike the 185-mile C&O Canal Towpath.
Rating (4.86)
Program No. 18629RJ
Length
6 days
Starts at
1,349
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6 days
5 nights
14 meals
5 B 5 L 4 D
DAY
1
Check-In, Registration, Orientation, C&O Canal History
Sharpsburg, MD
D
Shepherd's Spring Outdoor Ministry Center

Activity note: Check-in available from 3:00 p.m. Participants using the facility's bikes will test and fit bikes and helmets at 4:00 p.m.

Afternoon: Program Registration: 3:00-5:00 p.m. After you have your room assignment, join us at the Road Scholar table in the conference center lobby to register with the program staff and get your welcome packet containing the up-to-date schedule that reflects any changes, daily biking, and to confirm the time and location of the Orientation session. If you arrive late, please ask for your packet when you check in. If you will be using our bikes, we will fit bikes and helmets and test riders at 4:00 p.m. so bikes can be loaded for tomorrow’s ride. For those bringing personal bikes, Shepherd’s Spring staff can inspect and make recommendations, e.g., tire pressure, if requested. Prior to the evening meal, feel free to walk around and explore our campus and hiking trails.

Dinner: In the Shepherd's Spring Dining Room, we’ll have a buffet dinner with salad bar and dessert plus beverage choices of coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase. (Shepherd's Spring is an alcohol-free facility.)

Evening: Orientation: 6:30 p.m. The Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions. We will review the up-to-date program schedule, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer questions. This is a Road Scholar Retreats program. Our programming at Retreat locations includes opportunities for light morning exercise, interaction with members of the local community, a farm-to-table meal, and evening entertainment. We will become familiar with rules of the trail and our ride leaders. We’ll also have an introduction to the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park and distribute detailed daily itineraries with time for questions and answers on the park and the rides. For each biking field trip, we will ride in the sag wagon (typically 15-passenger vans) to the beginning point, then everyone will bike at their own pace with a staff lead at the head of the ride and a staff “caboose” (sweep) at the end. There will be established checkpoints where we will stop until the caboose arrives and we take a head count. At the end of the ride, we will return to the lodge in the sag wagon. We’ll also have an opportunity for stretching each morning. Periods in the schedule designated as “Free time” and “At leisure” offer opportunities to do what you like and make your experience even more meaningful and memorable according to your personal preferences. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. Program activities, schedules, personnel, and indicated distances or times may change due to local circumstances/conditions. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding. Continue getting to know your fellow Road Scholars, settle in, and get a good night’s rest for the day ahead.

DAY
2
Bike Brunswick & Edward's Ferry, Harper's Ferry Natl. Park
Sharpsburg, MD
B,L,D
Shepherd's Spring Outdoor Ministry Center

Activity note: Pre-breakfast stretching. Getting in/out of 15-passenger van(s). Biking about 35 miles throughout the day; 5 available pull-out points. Generally flat, unpaved trail.

Breakfast: In the Shepherd’s Spring Dining Room, the breakfast buffet offers hot choices as well as cereal selections and fresh fruit with beverage choices of milk, juice, coffee, tea, water.

Morning: We will hop aboard the van and travel to Dargan Bend, then bike from Dargan to Harpers Ferry along the scenic C&O Canal Towpath. For a short distance, we’ll be bicycling on a section of the Appalachian Trail that coincides with the C&O Canal Towpath. The trail we will ride has mostly a packed earth surface with a thin layer of gravel. There are a few sections that have little or no gravel and a small portion that is paved; mainly flat with a few hills and some short downhill sections. Depending on the weather, surfaces may have large, thick puddles of mud or be hard and bumpy. We’ll stop for an orientation to Harper’s Ferry, then take a short walk across the river bridge for an independent walking exploration in this historic town. The home of John Brown's fort, Civil War history, Lewis and Clark outfitters, Storer College, and 19th-century manufacturing, it has also seen the problems encountered when two mighty rivers collide. We’ll continue biking another 12 miles or so from Harpers Ferry to the railroad hub of Brunswick for a lunch stop.

Lunch: At the Brunswick Family Campground, we’ll have box lunches picnic style.

Afternoon: We’ll continue cycling past the scenic and historic train station in Point of Rocks. After crossing the restored historic Monocacy Aqueduct — considered one of the greatest engineering achievements of the canal — we’ll finish at Edwards Ferry.

Dinner: Dining Room buffet.

Evening: We’ll gather with one of our expert instructors for an in-depth presentation on various aspects of the C&O Canal including the geography of the canal and Potomac River. For tomorrow, pack a bag to take along for our overnight stay in Orleans.

DAY
3
C&O Canal Museum, Little Orleans by Paw Paw Tunnel
Hancock, MD
B,L
Super 8 Hancock MD

Activity note: Pre-breakfast stretching. Getting in/out of 15-passenger van(s). Cycling about 44 miles throughout the day; 4 available pull-out points. Generally flat, unpaved trail. Pack a bag to take along for our overnight stay in Orleans.

Breakfast: Dining Room buffet.

Morning: We will travel to the terminus of the C&O Canal in historic downtown Cumberland, Maryland. While the bicycles are being unloaded and readied, we will visit the C&O Canal Visitors Museum in the historic Western Maryland Railroad Station (1913). Park Service staff will be available to answer questions during our self-directed exploration. We’ll then bike towards Oldtown, established by early settler Thomas Cresap.

Lunch: Beside Lock 70 in Oldtown, we’ll have box lunches picnic style.

Afternoon: We’ll continue biking past Oldtown, site of a Shawnee river crossing and an important trade route. Afterwards, we will encounter the Paw Paw Tunnel where we will dismount and walk our bikes through using flashlights. We’ll then continue the ride to Little Orleans and check in to the hotel. There should be time for a quick shower at the hotel prior to leaving for dinner.

Dinner: This meal has been excluded from the program cost and is on your own to enjoy what you like. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.

Evening: At leisure. Relax at the hotel after a long day's ride, or put on your walking shoes to explore Hancock on your own.

DAY
4
Over the 110-Foot Single-Arch 15 Mile Creek Aqueduct
Sharpsburg, MD
B,L,D
Shepherd's Spring Outdoor Ministry Center

Activity note: Pre-breakfast stretching. Getting in/out of 15-passenger van(s). Biking about 57 miles throughout the day; 5 available pull out points. Generally flat, unpaved trail.

Breakfast: In the hotel lobby, have what you like from the breakfast offerings.

Morning: We’ll check out of the hotel and bicycle from Little Orleans, across another single arch aqueduct, past historic cement mill ruins, and through Hancock. We’ll stop for a quick look at Fort Frederick, built in 1756. The stone fort protected frontier settlers during the French and Indian War, served as a prison for captured British soldiers during the American Revolutionary War, and was active during the Civil War. The group may elect to bike for 20 miles along the paved Western Maryland Rail Trail that parallels the C&O Canal Towpath.

Lunch: At McCoy's Ferry, we’ll have box lunches picnic style.

Afternoon: We’ll continue biking past the Four Locks area and Dam #5, into Williamsport and the Cushwa Basin. We’ll see the Conococheague Aqueduct with one wall missing from a mishap with a canal boat, then pass a unique railroad lift bridge as well as a restored lock and lock house. Along the Big Slackwater area, a series of concrete bridges holds the reconstructed towpath that had washed away from many years of flooding. The $17 billion flood-proof restoration was completed in 2012. From here, we’ll hop into vans for the short ride back to Shepherd's Spring. The remainder of the afternoon is free. Antietam National Battlefield is nearby for anyone interested in exploring independently.

Dinner: Dining Room buffet.

Evening: We’ll gather for another expert-led presentation to learn about the relationship between the canal, the railroads, and the people of the area. By this time, our rides will have familiarized you with many of the sites shown.

DAY
5
Bike Edwards Ferry to Georgetown
Sharpsburg, MD
B,L,D
Shepherd's Spring Outdoor Ministry Center

Activity note: Pre-breakfast stretching. Getting in/out of 15-passenger van(s). Biking about 30 miles throughout the day; 3 available pull-out points. Generally flat, unpaved trail.

Breakfast: Dining Room buffet.

Morning: We will take the van to Edwards Ferry and bike from there to Great Falls of the Potomac. We’ll walk out to see the Falls, witnessing their majesty and coming to an understanding of why the Potomac was not navigable. We will stop at the Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center where costumed park rangers or volunteers will tell stories of canal boat captains and their adventures on the C&O.

Lunch: Beside the canal at Great Falls, we’ll have box lunches picnic style.

Afternoon: We’ll continue biking to Georgetown, using the paved Crescent Trail for the last few miles of the journey. Watch for views of the Washington Monument and Kennedy Performing Arts Center as we near the end of today's ride. We’ll then take the van back to campus.

Dinner: Dining Room buffet. Our chef will highlight the ingredients in our dishes this evening and talk about the local farms and other providers Shepherd’s Spring works with to provide locally sourced meals. Share favorite experiences with new Road Scholar friends during our farewell dinner.

Evening: We’ll ride to O'Hurley's General Store in nearby Shepherdstown, West Virginia, to enjoy music of the Appalachian region played by a rotating group of local musicians who have gathered every Thursday night for the past 30 years, playing instruments such as hammered dulcimers, guitars, and banjos. There will be opportunities to ask questions and learn about the instruments and musical history. We’ll also be able to interact with people from the local community. This is a real treat for the ears, eyes, snapping fingers, and tapping feet. Returning to Shepherd’s Spring, prepare for check-out and departure after lunch tomorrow.

DAY
6
Complete C&O Journey, Program Concludes
Sharpsburg, MD
B,L

Activity note: Pre-breakfast stretching. Getting in/out of 15-passenger van(s). Biking about 20 miles; 2 available pull-out points. Generally flat, unpaved trail.

Breakfast: Dining Room buffet.

Morning: We will take the van to Dam #4 and then complete the 185-mile journey by biking the last 20 miles to Dargan. We’ll pass Civil War river crossing sites, caves, and high bluffs mixed with farm fields along the berm side of the canal. Returning to Shepherd’s Spring, we’ll have time for a shower before lunch.

Lunch: Dining Room buffet. This concludes our program.

Afternoon: If you are returning home, safe travels. If you are staying on independently, have a wonderful time. If you are transferring to another Road Scholar program, detailed instructions are included in your Information Packet for that program. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Don’t forget to join our Facebook page and follow us on Instagram. Best wishes for all your journeys!






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