Night pic of the bike en route..
Once in a while I ride my bike to the sanctuary. This past weekend was one of those times. Usually I bike the roads – the hilly roads – for the 36 miles each way, which takes me about 3 hours.
This past weekend I decided to go a different route. Longer – at least 46 miles each way – but less hilly and almost entirely on two of the region’s mixed use paths. One of the paths is a rail-to-trail conversion, and the other is a hard-packed dirt canal path, which accounts for the less hills on this route. Only 6 of those miles are on roads, and a short ferry trip was also required. All in all, despite it being a longer trip by about an hour each way, it felt a little like a vacation to be away from traffic and heading through some gorgeous parts of the area.
Around mile marker 35 I exited the trail at S. King Street, which took me through old town Leesburg, and eventually to White’s Ferry Road and to the ferry.
I got to the ferry when it was just docking on the Maryland side of the Potomac. Only one car showed up by the time the ferry returned, so we were the only two on the boat for the trip over. It cost me just $1 each way, and was a nice little break. By then I’d ridden about 40 miles.
Once off the ferry, I found the C&O canal path. It’s mostly very easy riding. Not especially fast, since it is dirt, but the grade is completely flat. As I made my way through the gorgeous dappled light, I ended up riding for a couple miles with a man who was very familiar with the sanctuary, and had been to the Open House a couple weeks ago. Unfortunately as I talked to him I missed the mile marker I was looking for. I overshot by about a mile and a half, and had to backtrack.
C&O Canal Path
Once I found the mile marker, I still didn’t see the elusive gate. I spent more than a few minutes trying to figure it out, finally riding further back, and very slow. I was almost ready to give up when I saw the gate.
the real adventure...
The real adventure began here. I had to wrestle the bike across the (thankfully dry) canal bed, which was filled with vegetation and downed trees. Once I got to the gate, I had to take the panniers off the bike, push the bike under the barbed wire fence, and climb over the gate. At that point I was on sanctuary property, but still far from the barns! I started off across the pasture, a part of the sanctuary I’d never seen before, and quickly realized it was unridable.
I still had a long way to go! The house is way off in the distance, hardly viewable. Click to enlarge.
It was almost unwalkable! Just pushing the bike through there was hard work, but finally I made it to the pseudo road that the truck is driven on, and I was able to hop on my bike for an easy coast toward the pig barn.
After the chores were done, we had a feast of homemade vegan cinnamon buns. Even our dieting volunteer broke his diet for one of these. Sheryl is quite the baker, and lucky for us, she likes to make things to share them, and we often benefit from her baking drive!
Heidi and Lily
Heading back out, I stopped a few times. The cows were lounging so comfortably, I had to stop and get some pictures. And then in the lower pasture, the unridable one, I stopped to admire the zen peacefulness of the lower pond. It was the kind of place that makes me feel capable of meditation.
The Lower Pond
Then it was back through the fence and over the gate, and the exhausting work of hauling the bike to the trail. And finally I was to the trail again.
My legs were fatigued, but not severely. I stopped a few times, to rest (mentally as much as physically), to refuel, to use the very handy rest rooms (I’m very appreciative of the Friends of the W&OD for providing them!), and finally I got home just before 7pm. It took about 5 hours to get home with all my stops and long chats with fellow bike enthusiasts and the fatigue.
The total mileage for the day was about 97 miles, the most I’ve done by about 20 miles. I can say now that though it was not as hilly as the road route, it was at least as exhausting. Next time I do this route, I will likely find it easier, if only because I will do a better job of hydrating and eating, and I won’t have to spend any energy trying to figure out some of the details. Maybe I’ll even get better at hauling my bike across dead trees!
It was an adventure, one I wish I could do more often. Every mile I don’t drive feels like a victory, but spending 6-8 or more hours on the bike is a big time commitment for me. Maybe if it were my only hobby…