After 311.59 miles traveled and 33:05 hours pedaled, we woke up on day 8 to face the reality that our journey would be over soon. Horsepen Branch camping area is only 26 miles from the end of the C & O Canal Path. We had spent some time the evening before making the phone calls home to finalized the arrangements with our nephew to bring our car to meet us. He would be leaving our house at about 8:00 am with a six hour drive to Washington, DC. That would leave us time to pack up our things and ride the last 26 miles.
Once again we were blessed with a beautiful day for riding and lots of natural and historic sites to see.
At mile marker 14.4 is the Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center. This tavern marks the beginning of Great Falls Park and the beauty of this area was well worth the 320 miles I rode to get here. Yes, it is that good! Especially on this picture perfect autumn day.
“The Great Falls of the Potomac displays the steepest and most spectacular fall line rapids of any eastern river. This dramatic scene makes Great Falls Park a popular site with local residents and tourists from around the world.”
“Great Falls became a popular destination. A decade of prosperity for both the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal and the Tavern followed the Civil War. Over 600 boats a year carrying coal, lumber, grains, and other raw materials passed the Tavern on their way to the ports of Georgetown and Alexandria.” Trail Book 11th Edition
The Canal from Great Falls Park toward Washington, DC was also breath-taking. For most of my ride on this final day a hymn kept filling my head and my heart with song;
“For the beauty of this earth, For the beauty of the skies, For the love which from our birth over and around us lies: Lord of all, to thee we raise this our joyful hymn of praise.”
Finally, near the 1 mile marker we had our first look at the city of Washington, DC. We were surprised by how close to the city we had to travel before getting out of the glorious tree-lined landscape. We had visions of riding into the edges of the city before getting to the end of the trail, but that wasn’t the case.
From this point the trail was a little difficult to follow and the residents of Washington don’t seem aware of the official end for the trail either. We navigated the best we could from the directions in our Trail Book and stopped to ask a few people along the way. Luckily Dear Husband has a good sense of direction because the directions we acquired from asking people ended up leading us in many wrong directions.
First we had to push our bikes up a ramp to a footbridge to cross the canal and return to the path where it narrows and navigates between a brick wall and the water-filled canal.
From here we entered the Georgetown area of Washington, DC where the Canal and Path run right between the quaint streets and buildings of this quiet suburb type area. The homes and shops take you back in time and are beautifully restored. We had to push our bikes through much of this area because we were sharing our path with pedestrian filled sidewalks and crossing several streets.
After navigating through Georgetown, we were on the look out for the Thomas Boat Center. As we rounded the corner to enter the Boat Center we heard a familiar voice call out to us. The “Wizard” had arrived about 15 minutes before us…pretty good timing.
With a quick greeting, we informed the “Wizard” that to make this trip official we needed to put our hands on the zero mile marker before we could tap our heels to go home. He granted our wish, but finding the marker is not as easy as it would seem. Again, the people walking around this area seemed to have no idea what we were looking for and the few that did seem to have an answer sent us in the wrong direction. While searching we did wander through a very up-scale riverside shopping/restaurant area.
Finally, Dear Husband and his good sense of direction led us to the official zero marker of the C & O Canal Path. Instead of turning right out of the parking area into the fancy riverside area, we needed to turn left and around a very ordinary looking garage housing boats for the rowing teams, go around a tall wooden fence where you might find an outhouse or something unpleasant like that, where you will at last throw up your hands to the heavens and exclaim, “There it is!”
“You’re out of the woods
You’re out of the dark
You’re out of the night
Step into the sun
Step into the light
Keep straight ahead for
The most glorious place – on the face —
Of the earth or the sky
Hold onto your breath
Hold onto your heart
Hold onto your hope —
March up to the gate
And bid it open—”
song from The Wizard of Oz
339.15 miles traveled
36:10 hours of pedaling
2 very blessed and joyful people
stay tuned for “Wondering Around Oz” and “The Journey Home”