Pittsburgh to Washington, DC   BIKE TRIP

See other sections below:
Mileage Stats - Bridges and Tunnels - Rivers and Creeks - Lodgings - Meals - Animals - Sites - Summary - Video Clips
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Liz and I finished the Pittsburgh to Washington, DC bicycle trip sponsored by Wilderness Voyageurs located in Ohiopyle. A total of 330 miles. There were 13 riders in our group. Two staff guys (Aaron and Travis) looked after us, and they drove us to lodgings on the nights that it wasn't close to the trail.

The official ride started on the Yough River Trail in Boston, PA (just up river from McKeesport) on Sunday, Sept. 20, 2009. We arrived at the end of the C&O Canal in Georgetown, Washington, DC on Friday, Sept. 25, 2009.

On the day before the start, I added a stage by biking from (video :20) my House to (video :21) the Boston Trail Access (picture at right). I reached 38 miles per hour going down the Dravosburg hill. Eileen drove my car to pick me up. It was only 7 miles, but it means that I biked from my House to Washington, DC in 7 days.

  George in Boston


The rail trail is built on abandoned railroad beds. The railroads generally followed river valleys to avoid hills. There were many bridges and a few tunnels.

Day 1 - Boston, PA to Ohiopyle, PA

  • The Youghiogheny River was on our left most of the way along the rail trail. Rest stop in Connellsville. We crossed the Yough coming into Ohiopyle. I was very familiar with the first half of this trail, since I had biked along it many times for exercise following my Hip Replacement. In Ohiopyle, we were driven to the Trillium Lodge to stay the night.

    Day 2 - Ohiopyle, PA to Frostburg, MD

  • We started along the Youghiogheny River. In Confluence, we start following the Casselman River. At Meyersdale, we start following Flaugherty Creek.
  • Then we gradually climbed to the highest point of the Great Allegheny Passage at 2,392 feet elevation, the Eastern Continental Divide. Group photo. Then we were noticeably going downhill for 11 miles. Part followed the Historic Railroad tracks. It was a real exhilarating treat.
  • Leaving the trail, a steep descent and a short climb took us to The Castle Inn in Mount Savage, MD for the night.

    Day 3 - Frostburg, MD to Cumberland, MD

  • We continued to the end of the rail trail in Cumberland. It was 12 more miles of terrific downhill. Still following Historic Railroad tracks.

    C&O CANAL, TOWPATH     C&O Canal

    The C&O Canal was built to haul cargo, because the Potomac River was not suitable. We biked along the towpath that had been used by the mules that pulled the barges along the canal.

    Day 3 - Cumberland, MD to Hancock, MD

  • The towpath, I'll say starts, in Cumberland. Group photo. We now have 185 miles of towpath to go. We quickly discovered that it will be a bumpy ride.
  • After Little Orleans, we switched over to the Western Maryland Rail Trail to do the last 9 miles into Hancock. It has a smooth pavement, and felt real good to end our longest day of 73 miles.
  • The sun was setting, as we were transported to the Inn at Berkeley Springs for the night.

    Day 4 - Hancock, MD to Shepherdstown, WV

  • We started out with 10 miles of that smooth Western Maryland Rail Trail. Then it was back to the Towpath, which wasn't as bumpy as the previous day.
  • The towpath is closed at Avis Mill, because of a rock slide. About a 4-mile detour on roads, to get back to the towpath. After the Avis Mill to Dam #4 detour, I took a video (:27) of our group getting up to speed after the support stop. After the group passed by, I tried my hand at recording a longer video (2:17) while biking along the towpath.
  • At Taylor's Landing, we split up. Six riders continued on the towpath to Shepherdstown. The rest of us took a side trip up some roads to Antietam National Battlefield (more photos below). Travis led the way on bike, Aaron drove the Van. Since Antietam is on the top of a hill, it was a nice ride back down, and across a bridge over the Potomac, and into the Bavarian Inn for the night.

    Day 5 - Shepherdstown, WV to Violettes Lock, MD

  • We left the Bavarian Inn, biked across the Potomac bridge and down to the bike path.
  • Next stop was at Harpers Ferry (more photos below). We parked the bikes, and walked across a railroad bridge into the town where the Civil War started.
  • We continued on towpath to a stop at Whites Ferry.
  • Then on to Violettes Lock, and a van ride to the Inn at Buckeystown to clean up, before heading to Frederick for Dinner.

    Day 6 - Violettes Lock, MD to Washington, DC
    It was raining when we got up. It was raining during the van ride back to Violettes Lock on the towpath. It was sprinkling as the bikes were unloaded. It stopped falling as we headed out on our bikes.

  • Only 22 more miles to go!
  • We stopped at Great Falls on the Potomac. See photos and videos below.
  • Then it was more towpath. After we went under the DC Beltway, it was not as rural. Then it got more congested, and a little confusing, in Georgetown, trying to get across crowded streets at lunch time.
  • After asking directions, and getting past a highway interchange, we were at the Thompson Boathouse, and Mile Marker 0. We were a happy group with well-worn bikes.
  • We celebrated with a group toast of sparkling cider, packed up the bikes, and drove back to Ohiopyle, PA.

     MILEAGE STATS     Mileage

      Weekday Date Daily Miles Time (hr:min) Average Speed Maximum Speed
    Day 0 Sat. Sept. 19 7.4 0:35 12.6 38.3
    Day 1 Sun. Sept. 20 56.9 5:07 11.1 16.8
    Day 2 Mon. Sept. 21 64.4 5:48 11.0 22.2
    Day 3 Tues. Sept. 22 72.8 6:27 11.2 18.2
    Day 4 Wed. Sept. 23 53.7 4:45 11.0 27.2
    Day 5 Thurs. Sept. 24 52.0 4:51 10.7 15.3
    Day 6 Fri. Sept. 25 22.8 2:10 10.4 16.2



     BRIDGES and TUNNELS     Boston Bridge     Paw Paw Tunnel

    Day 1

  • Started under the Boston Bridge and headed up the Youghiogheny River.
  • Bridge over Chestnut Gap. Deepest Gorge in Eastern US.
  • Bridge over the Yough as we entered Qhiopyle.

    Day 2

  • The Pinkerton Tunnel is closed. We followed the trail detour.
  • The Salisbury Viaduct is 1,908 ft. long, and crosses the Casselman River valley.
  • The Keystone Viaduct is 909 ft. long, and crosses Flaugherty Creek.
  • The Big Savage Tunnel is 3,294 ft. long. It had lights and was paved and wide. See video (:33) of the view, as we came out of the tunnel.
  • The Borden Tunnel is 957 ft. long. It was not lighted; it was very dark, but it was wide. You could see the opposite opening, but you couldn't see anything around you. Just keep heading toward the light.

    Day 3

  • The Brush Tunnel is 914 ft. long. It had lights. After yesterday's tunnels, it wasn't very special.
  • A ramp and bridge got us from the Cumberland Canal Place to the start of the Towpath.
  • The Paw Paw Tunnel is 3,118 ft. long. It was not lighted. Group photo. We walked our bikes along the towpath, with a railing on our left, marking the drop-off to the water, and the curving-in wall on the right. Flashlights were needed. The path had dips and puddles. The sunlight was bright when we made it through, and were now on wooden decking along the slanted rock face. Next came a single-file section along the rocks.

    Day 4

  • The bridge across the Potomac at Shepherdstown, WV. Our biking path was on the other side of the river, under the bridge.

    Day 5

  • We walked across this railroad bridge to get from the bike path to the town of Harpers Ferry.
  • This trail bridge was over the Catoctin Creek where there had been an Aqueduct.

     RIVERS and CREEKS     Potomac River

  • Youghiogheny River and Creek - Heading Upstream
          Yough   Yough   Yough   Yough   Yough   Creek
  • Potomac River - Heading Downstream
          Potomac   Potomac   Potomac   Potomac   Kayak   Potomac   Potomac
                    Potomac   Potomac   Potomac   Potomac   Potomac   Potomac

     LODGINGS     The Castle Inn

      Overnight Lodging Location George Liz Bikes
    Night 1 Trillium Lodge Ohiopyle, PA Dogwood Room Chestnut Room Bike Shop in Ohiopyle
    Night 2 The Castle Inn Mt. Savage, MD Cottage, first floor Monday Room Castle Inn Courtyard in rain
    Night 3 The Country Inn at Berkley Springs Berkley Springs, WV Room 109 Room 209 on top of Van
    Night 4 The Bavarian Inn Shepherdstown, WV Room 66 Room 62 Tennis Court in rain
    Night 5 The Inn at Buckeystown Buckeystown, MD Captain's Quarters Teddy's Place on top of Van in rain

     MEALS     Lunch Plate

    Our biking chef, Aaron, prepared all of the lunches along the trails. He also prepared the very elegant Trillium Lodge Dinner and Breakfast, and he helped with the other breakfasts.

      Breakfast Lunch Dinner
    Day 1 Home, Dravosburg, PA;
    Orange, peanut butter bagel
    Whitsett, PA;
    Salad and bean wrap, fruit salad
    Trillium Lodge, Ohiopyle, PA;
    Salad, chicken, broccoli, Rosemary potatoes, cheesecake
    Day 2 Trillium Lodge, Ohiopyle, PA;
    Variation of Eggs Benedict, fruit salad
    Garrett, PA;
    Cheese stuff, salad stuff, fruit
    The Castle Inn, Mt. Savage, MD
    Salad, chicken, potato, green beans, strawberry shortcake
    Day 3 The Castle Inn, Mt. Savage, MD
    Yogurt, granola, fruit, quiche
    Old Town, MD
    Wrap with chicken and salad stuff
    Tari's Restaurant, Berkley Springs, WV
    Salad, crabcakes, noodles
    Day 4 The Country Inn at Berkley Springs, WV
    Biscuits, breakfast rolls, fruit, juice, Big waffle, whipped butter, potatoes, bacon
    Cushwa Basin, Williamsport, MD
    Pita bread triangles, tomatoes, olives, humus, salad stuff, carrots, etc.
    Rathskeller, The Bavarian Inn, Shepherdstown, WV
    Roasted pork, potato pancakes, very good Nut Ball for dessert
    Day 5 The Bavarian Inn, Shepherdstown, WV
    Fruit, bacon, sausage, danish, breakfast rolls, scrambled eggs buffet
    Point of Rocks, MD
    Wrap with chicken and salad stuff
    The Brewery, Frederick, MD
    Big burger, skinny fries
    Day 6 The Inn at Buckeystown, MD
    Yogurt with granola, fancy cut fruit, quiche, scalloped bacon, potatoes
    Georgetown, Washington, DC
    Wrap with chicken and salad stuff
    Dravosburg, PA - Box lunch put together by Jim
    Ham sandwich, cooked potatoes, green beans

     ANIMALS     Big Green Turtle

    Day 1
    A deer was standing on path. As we approached, it went into the trees, then stood and watched us, as we passed by.

    Day 2
    At morning snack stop in Markleton, saw camouflaged toad jumping on leaves. We could only see it when it moved.
    At afternoon snack stop in Deal, saw Amish horse and cart flying up the road.

    Day 3
    On the edge of the towpath, a Big turtle was covered with green slime as it left the water.
    A moment later, one biker ran over a medium-sized brown turtle. Biker and turtle were okay.
    There was a duck standing in the slimy water.
    Saw blue heron wading in water, and shortly after, it took flight.
    Saw a deer on trail. It ran back to a group of 5 more, staring at us. Later one deer bolted across the trail a little in front of us.
    Chipmunk ran across real close in front of us. Liz almost squashed him.
    Lots of squirrels. We were calling them kamikaze squirrels.

    Day 4
    Along the canal edge, we saw a group of turtles. They scattered as we got close.

    Day 5
    Thin snake about 2 feet long was stretched across my path. It was raising its head as I got close. It was hard to miss. I went around the tail end.
    Did you ever see a turtle climb a tree?

    Day 6
    At Great Falls, visitors were getting a ride on a canal barge pulled by one mule.
    Saw a number of Blue Herons along the Canal. It was hard to get a photo.
    Variety of ducks at Mile Marker 0, where the Canal meets the Potomac River behind the Watergate Hotel.

     TOWNS and SITES     Boat House, Georgetown

    Day 2
    We crossed the Mason-Dixon Line. I had my left foot in Pennsylvania, and my right foot in Maryland.

    Day 3

  • Cumberland, MD - The Great Allegheny Passge ends here, and the C&O Canal starts here. Check out the empty fountain in this photo of the Railway Station. (When we returned 3 days later, to get Ed's car, the fountain was full of water, and spraying from the center.) We spent some time in a bike shop at Canal Place, and then took a group photo before starting on the towpath. This is the very end of the canal, which is wide enough for the barges to turn around.

    Day 4
  • Fort Frederick State Park - We turned from the towpath, and biked to Fort Frederick. The large stone fort (video :34) was built in 1756 for the French and Indian War. It was also used during the Revolutionary War and the Civil War. Photos show the fort entrance with gates, building outside the fort, and an Information Center. We were able to clean the trail dust from the bikes at a watering spot. Then Travis applied oil to our chains.
  • Dam #5 - Photo of falls. Can see a fisherman below the falls. Video (:39) below the falls is loud. Video (:20) above the falls is quiet and calm.
  • Antietam National Battlefield - This is the site of a very bloody Civil War battlefield on Sept. 17, 1862. The Visitor Center on the hilltop, is surrounded by many Monuments to those soldiers who were killed and wounded here. Click on the top of this photo to see a closeup of the flag-draped carving.

    48 Years Ago

    In July 1961, I went on a trip with the Boy Scouts, Troop 383, to visit Gettysburg, Antietam, and Harpers Ferry. Art Evans was our Leader. Mr. George was a history teacher, and guided us on a walk through Civil War history.

  • This 1961 photo is the interior of Fort Frederick. Could that wooden platform in the center, be the same one that Liz and I climbed, to see over the wall?
  • Compare the 1961 hill behind the present Visitor Center. (side-by-side)
  • The Maryland Memorial then and now. (side-by-side)
  • These two monuments are similar, with a flag-draped carving at the top. (side-by-side)
  • Day 5

  • Harpers Ferry - Is situated where the Shenandoah River flows into the Potomac River. (Video 1:02)
    Lots of restored buildings, homes, and shops.
  • Whites Ferry - Privately owned and operated ferry boat across the Potomac. When we arrived, the ferry was just coming in, and cars were waiting to take the trip across. Later, I took a video (1:35) of some cars driving onto the ferry, and getting started across.

    Day 6

  • Great Falls - At Great Falls the calm, smooth Potomac River drops 76 feet in a quarter mile in very rocky terrain. A series of wooden walkways (video :41) and steel bridges (video :32) traverse the rocky area, and you get to Olmsted Island. (Video :42) Back at the canal and towpath, there is a visitor center / museum, and they were providing rides on a barge pulled by a mule.


    Liz and George  

    I feel a great sense of accomplishment having completed this ride. During our 32 years of riding together, Liz and I had discussed a DC ride, as trail sections were completed and tunnels renovated. Then, biking was getting harder as my hips and knees were losing cartilage. After my left hip replacement, I worked at restoring my biking skills. Then I wanted to do the trip before other joints wore out.

    It has been two years since I had my hip replacement. That metal joint worked well. My rehab and training programs proved adequate, because I was able to finish, with the group, without any major soreness, aches, or pains.

    For the whole week, we never got rained on while biking. There were overnight rains and some early day sprinkles, enough to put on rain gear, but it always stopped raining, when we started riding.

    The weather cooperated; the people were nice; the trip was well planned; our guides were great; and the varied sites along the way kept it interesting.

    I hope that these descriptions, photos, and videos, give you a sense of the good trip that we experienced.


    Leaving Home   Arriving at Boston   Exiting Big Savage Tunnel   Fort Frederick   Dam 5   Above Dam 5   Bikers Starting Out
    Catching up to Liz   Harpers Ferry   Whites Ferry   Great Falls Bridge 1   Great Falls Bridge 2   Olmsted Island

    Photos of group shots, George, and some of the animals were taken by Aaron and Travis from Wilderness Voyageurs.
    Other photos were taken by George, Eileen, and Liz.
    Videos were shot by Eileen and George.