Last August my dreams of biking the entire length of the C&D Canal were crushed by the impersonal bureaucracy of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. I was blocked at the entrance to the Welch Point Managed Hunting Area (MHA), just a few hundred feet away from my goal, by lack of a trespassing permit.
Then came hunting season, when even a trespassing permit won’t gain you entry, but I bided my time. The new year came, and I applied for the permit. They wanted a copy of my drivers license and also the plate number off my car. No doubt to add me to the some file the NSA has on me. I took a calculated gamble that they wouldn’t actually try and match the plate against an out of state database, so I just made one up.
I guessed right (Or they are building a case against me right now and just waiting for the right time to unseal the indictment) and they mailed me back my “Permit to Trespass”. Next up: A License to Kill.
Hunting season in Maryland ended on Feb 15th and the next decent weekend day was the 22nd, so I loaded up the bike and headed down to Delaware City. The trail was snow free as were the roads, but the transition areas between the two were icy. After my first attempt to ride over the ice sent me hurtling into a snowbank, I decided to walk over the slippery patches.
Aside from that the ride was uneventful. But I failed to put a photocard in my camera. And like kids say today: “Pics or it didn’t happen!”
So I decided to ride the Canal trail again, but this time with the new paratrooper folding mountain bike that I picked up early this month.
After the brutal winter, West Chester Pike is more pothole than road. But the new bike has a smoother ride than the Hyundai. I’ve ridden to work a couple of times and also done the after work loop up to Devon, but the Canal trail would be the first real test.
Sunday morning, I pulled into the parking lot of the Michael Castle Trail (named after the former governor with a dark secret) just after 7am. There was already one vehicle parked. Early morning recreational enthusiasts? No, four redneck teens in a black Chevy Trailblazer. They had been drinking all night; empties on the dashboard. They asked me for money, claiming they were out of cash and didn’t have enough gas to get home. (Yeah, the future of America looks bright). I gave them $4 on the theory that if they stayed around they might get bored and trash my car.
Starting out to the west, I was fortunate to see the Norfolk & Southern RR Draw Bridge in the lowered position as a train crossed over. (Yes, my fascination with bridges continues as the photos detail)
The road runs out at the entry to the Welch Point MHA, so I got my first off road test of the paratrooper bike. Back in February the trails were iced over so I walked the final 2500 feet or so. I took it easy at first, didn’t want to go flying over the handlebars, break a leg and be stranded in the wilderness. But the bike handled it easily, and in no time I was staring into the Elk River from the Western end of the canal. A very peaceful scene on a cloud Sunday morning. No sounds, but a woodpecker, trying to find breakfast.
On the way back East, I tried a shortcut to Chesapeake City through another MHA. The map wasn’t clear, but I thought there was a chance I could get thru, but I was wrong. The trail ended down by the canal. Going back uphill was quite a slog but I prevailed. No way the old bike (or the old me) could have made the climb.
After crossing over to the South side of the canal, I stopped for snack by the boat launch at the C&D Canal Museum. Two brothers were having a terrible time trying to get their boat in the water. One guy on the boat, another guy in the truck both screaming at each other.
“No, to the left.”
“I can’t hear you!”
“Left! You Idiot! LEFT!”
Brought back some repressed childhood memories of our own boat launches on the Cohansey River.
Then a little girl asked if she could get her hat from the truck. While it was on the ramp. And the driver was not in the truck but around back taking a look at the situation. Her dad was distracted and told her yes. She climbed into the cab. All the time I was just waiting for some disaster to strike, but thankfully nothing happened, but I fear this family will eventually be unable to dodge the bullet.
On Locust Grove Road in between The Summit Bridge and St Georges on the South side of the Canal you’ll find a sign for the Town of White Hall, but no town. The plan is to build a walkable community of 3800 homes, and they’ve got a lot of DuPont foundation money behind them. But right now all they’ve got is a bike path (yay!). The sign has been up since 2011, but they claim that they will break ground this summer. We will see.
Whitehall website: http://whitehallde.com/
The last bit of the road to the East end is unpaved, perfect for the paratrooper bike. When the road stopped, I dismounted and walked out on the rock jetty (maybe 750-1000 ft) to the very end. I truly had gone the full length of the canal, and my dream was fulfilled
2 Counties (New Castle, Cecil)
Bike Miles: 53.4
2014 Bike Miles: 339.5
Learn more about the Great State of Delaware here:
Atlas Shrugged Part 3 in theatres this fall.
Boat blocking my path
Lift bridge in rare lowered position
My childhood nemesis: The Chesapeake City Bridge.
East end of the canal.
Fake lighthouse on the grounds of the C&D Canal Museum
Last remaining evidence that the Whig Party ever existed.
Next at ACA: Venison Day!
Real lighthouse: Reedy Range Rear Light
Reed Point Bridge viewed from the far end of the jetty.
St. Georges Bridge
Trail along the canal
Welch Point MHA Trail
Elk River: West end of the canal