Okay, So What Is a Level Walker?

When the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal was in operation, employees known as level walkers plugged leaks in the canal, kept beavers and muskrats in check, and generally reported on the condition of the canal, towpath, and all of the structures along the way. Today, only about thirty miles of the canal are watered, so the modern level walker has a different set of duties.

Today’s level walkers are volunteers who are members of the C&O Canal Association. Memberships are $15 per individual or $25 per family or patron. Association benefits include a quarterly newsletter and numerous opportunities to participate in hikes, picnics, boating, biking, etc. Level walking isn’t a necessary activity for association members, as one can join the bike patrol, volunteer at the many visitors centers along the towpath, or simply enjoy any of the activities listed above.

One peculiarity of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal NHP is that it stretches out over a distance of 184.5 miles. Granted, it’s very narrow, but the odd shape and many miles make the park volunteers a great addition to the rangers and maintenance staff.  For more information, visit the C&O Canal Association’s website at http://www.candocanal.org

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Indigo Tunnel: Extending the WMRT

Check out the new bat gate

No, there isn’t a bright-eyed monster hiding out in the Indigo Tunnel, but these shiny orbs did have us worried for a minute or two.  Fortunately, there is a simple explanation–the lights are from contractors working on the Indigo Tunnel Bat Gate Project.    The Western Maryland Rail Trail is eventually going to be extended to Paw Paw, and the first phase is closing the Indigo Tunnel to human usage.  The tunnel is reported to be Maryland’s largest bat hibernaculum, and it houses an endangered species.  Upon closer inspection, there is a newly-constructed steel grate just inside of the portal, and doors will be positioned in the blank space in order to keep out those pesky human intruders–with the exception of biologists.  Bats are susceptible to a disease known as white-nose syndrome, and contact with people can be lethal.  At one time, the rail trail was going to go through the tunnel, but upon it’s completion, it will have a short detour on the C&O Canal Towpath in order to bypass this man-made bat cave.

 

Tornado Alley…Between Mile Markers 142 & 141

This was one of the first piles of twisted trees that we had to come through. At this point we had to come through it, because going into the canal bed wasn't an option

On Sunday, June 12th we encountered quite a sight between mile markers 142 and 141. For approximately .5 miles, trees of all shapes and sizes were downed both on the towpath and in the canal itself. It took approximately 45 minutes to pass through the mess, and in places we had to hoist the bikes five feet into the air to cross over the fallen limbs. The debris was close enough to civilization that we feared Bill’s Place would be roof-less or worse. Fortunately, the path of destruction was relatively small–well, unless your part of the NPS’s maintenance crew. There was plenty to clean up.


Looking Back...

I love this picture now, but at the time there was nothing fun about it! We don't know how much our bikes weighed fully loaded, but it was hard work getting them up, over, and around the mess!

In Harpers Ferry, a group of riders informed us that a tornado had touched down on June 10th near Little Orleans, Md. I can’t confirm this 100% authority, but having seen the damage that the usual high winds can cause, this was far worse. We’ve since heard that the trees have been cleared from the towpath, and the remains are stacked along the side of the trail.

This was a tough one to get through!

This happened on Day #1 of our Through-Ride….click here to read more about our trip. Oh yeah, there are lots of pictures to look at as well!
Day 1, Day 2, & Day 3.

C&O Bike Shop-Hancock, Maryland

A great place for bike supplies, drinks, and snacks!

The C&O Bike Shop, located at 9 South Pennsylvania Avenue in Hancock, Maryland, is ideally situated between the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal and Western Maryland Rail Trail. The shop offers a wide variety of services, including bike sales and rentals, maintenance, clothing, gear, snacks, and drinks. In spite of its size, Hancock has become a cycling mecca in the area, and numerous riders flock to the rail trail and towpath. Lots of riders, naturally, make for a plethora of flat tires and other mechanical failures, and we have been victims of our fair share of problems. Fortunately, the friendly and knowledgeable staff at the C&O Bike Shop has been there to bail us out on more than one occasion. The latest was a couple of weeks ago, and we thought it would be a good idea to send a thank you to the guys at the shop. Keep up the good work!

Phone: (301) 678-6665

Breaded Clams & Beer (An Ode to Bill’s Place)

Breaded Clams (and Fried Cauliflower) & Beer!

If you’re ped’lin’ your bike
Along the C & O
Down at Little Orleans
You need to take it slow
There’s a place called Dollar Bill’s there
Or so I hear

And they’re famous for their breaded clams and beer

Breaded clams and beer
Are two things near and dear
That seafood keeps me thirstin’
And I drink suds until I’m burstin’
Hey barkeep gimme another round

For me and my friend here
We’ll both have them breaded clams and beer

Well, you can get yoreself a sammich
Or the beef stick and some crackers
The country ham and deep fried Spam
Are a couple more lip smackers
It’s all as good as can be
But not as good, I hear
As Ol’ Bill’s famous breaded clams and beer

Them breaded clams and beer
Make me wanna cheer
Them clams are a sight
With a Miller Lite
In a mug that’s nice and clear
Hey barkeep how ’bout another round
For me and my friends here
We’ll all have them breaded clams and beer!

Well, Bill and his posse don’t get around
They spend most of their days in Orleans town
Sittin’ along the Fifteenmile
And grinnin’ from ear to ear
They all like the simple things
Like a cold Budweiser and a plate of wings
But after fishin’ or a-huntin’
You can’t beat breaded clams and beer

OH…them breaded clams and beer
Are a favorite throughout the year
Order a Guinness Stout
The boys’ll throw you out
And you’ll wind up on your rear
Hey! Billy, we’ll have another round
Me and my fishin’ buddies here
Yep, we’ll have them breaded clams and beer

*Dedicated to ol’ Bill and the patrons of Bill’s Place in Little Orleans, Maryland

Bill’s Place- Little Orleans, Maryland

Best Kept Secret in Maryland!

When riding down the C&O Canal, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that it’s a long way from Paw Paw to Hancock. Mile after seemingly endless mile of dusty towpath can sure work up a thirst or hunger pang, but we’re very fortunate to have Bill’s Place situated between the two in Little Orleans, Maryland.

Relaxin' at Bill's Place

Okay, so what is Bill’s Place? It’s a combination saloon, restaurant, bait shop, and canoe rental establishment, and owner Bill Schoenadel is nothing short of a legend in the upper Potomac valley.

What's Cooking?

 

 

Need directions? Go see Bill. Want to know about the local history? Talk to Bill. Want a side of breaded clams with your beer? Once again, Bill is the man for you! Just stepping inside the door to Bill’s Place is an experience.

Bills at Bill's!

 

 

 

 

 

It’s like stepping back in time, and a glance at the ceiling reveals another unique feature: you can sign and date a dollar bill, and Mr. Schoenadel will eventually get around to pasting it on the ceiling. There are literally thousands of them!

Picture Perfect!

So…if you’re ped’lin’ your bike along the C&O, down in Little Orleans you need to take it slow…

Another Ride…

Preparing to ride the C&O as a three day trip is almost as difficult as the journey itself. It takes lots of miles of training to get ready, but we’re lucky that there’s plenty of great scenery and history to explore in the process. With that in mind, we decided to take a 40 mile (round trip) ride between Pearre Station and the Paw Paw Tunnel. The area between mile markers 137 and 156 have been described as being among the most scenic and secluded on the towpath, so let’s get started…

One of the Views from Level 52

A Strong Foundation!


In case you’ve missed the About Us page, we’re members of the C&O Canal Association, and we volunteer on what is known as Level 52, which lies between the Sideling Hill Creek and Fifteen Mile Creek Aqueducts. Here’s where we started. The usual 4.5 mile walk to Little Orleans takes a while, but on a bike it goes quickly. We decided that we felt pretty strong at that point and pressed on toward the tunnel.

Relaxing in the Sun!

A Little Color on the Trail...

'Water Fall' at the Paw Paw Tunnel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For those who haven’t heard, there’s talk of extending the Western Maryland Rail Trail from Pearre Station to Paw Paw, and the proposed route would go through two tunnels and cross the Potomac six times. We didn’t get a look at the tunnels, but it’s easy enough to spot where the trail will be crossing the river. Several high abandoned railroad bridges can be spotted from the towpath, and when everything is finished, the WMRT will–perhaps–be the premier rails-to-trails bike route in the eastern U.S.

'Peanut Butter on Toast'

All of that is in the future, but for now the C&O has plenty to offer. Fortunately, we caught the old canal bed during the wet period, and the area didn’t lack in either turtle sightings or beaver sign. Perhaps the most spectacular remnant of the recent rains is the waterfall near the Paw Paw Tunnel. It doesn’t get a whole lot better than this stretch of the canal, and we’re certainly looking forward to seeing it again in June!

'King of the Road'!