Thursday, June 24, 2010

Day 1: Cumberland to Paw Paw

We woke soon after dawn at our friend Lion's house when his enormous dog Rocco jumped into the guest bed we were borrowing. Lion had already left for work but his unemployed roommate Josh was up and accompanied me (Soren) on a stroll of the grounds. Chrissy and Willow slept a little longer and when they woke up Josh got started on breakfast. We had gourmet fried eggs, toast, and sausage for the meat eaters. Chrissy learned about proper black iron skillet care (no soap!).

We left Lion's around 8:45 and arrived in Cumberland an hour later. Then it took us most of another hour to get the bikes and trailers set up with all our of our camping gear rigged up. Soren and Butterfly applied plenty of sunscreen (SPF 80, oh yeah!) Around 10:40 am we got our photo taken at the C&O Canal Towpath trail head and began our journey. (The boy scouts we had asked were hesitant to do the photo at first as they needed scoutmaster approval, but eventually a free-thinking one stepped forward.)

The first 200 yards is smooth patio stones leaving the city's downtown district. It then turns to a smooth crushed gravel. At this point a local outdoors expert cautioned we could expect muddy conditions ahead ("Cover up your gear now, before you hit the mud"), but we continued on for about 15 miles before we got to our first section that was too muddy to avoid the potholes. We rode on dispite the occational mud, appreciating the natural world within our right-of-way: Canadian geese with their babies, pond turtles, black snake, butterflies, cave crickets, beaver, squirrel, and a Baltimore oriole that flirted with Chrissy as she rode down a section of trail.

We stopped for lunch at 12:30 at the first lock (Lock 75 at Mile 175.6) we came to. It is notable for the log cabin construction of its lock house, indicating that this area was the frontier when the C&O originally arrived here. We ate from our big food bag: baba ganish, pita, orzo, carrots, ranch dressing, PB&J, and a turkey sandwich for Chrissy.

Chrissy seemed to have a burst of energy after lunch but unfortunately this lead to her overexerting herself such that she had to break every 2 miles to walk off the leg pain that had set in. We heard thunder in the distance and it stated to drizzle then rain lightly, which felt good so we kept the pace. Eventually the leg-pain breaks became every 1 mile and it included laying down on a blanket.
We stopped into a lock house that was open with a history exhibit (interesting that this area was once Shawnee territory). When we returned to our bikes we met another bicycle traveller who was coming all the way from Florida. He told us the story of how he had his bike stolen but was given a new bike from a bike shop owner in exchange for planting a flowerbed--about a half hour of labor! "The universe provides" I keep telling Chrissy.

As dusk neared we realized we had to camp far short of our 60-mile goal. We set up camp at Purslane Run campground at mile 157. The facilities were sparse: 1 picnic table, brownish water from the hand pump, fire ring, clean port-o-john, but a finely mowed grass that was to be our private camping site. We pushed our cargo trailer into the tent once it was set up and we rode with everyone else into the town of Paw Paw, W.V. about 2 miles away.

We had a small selection of restaurants in town. Chrissy liked the sound of a place called Country Kitchen so we went in to find that their grill was down and only fried food items of the menu were available. Hot dog and fries for Butterfly, fried chicken with slaw and baked potato for Chrissy, and fried shrimp platter with fries for Soren. Willow ate mommy milk. We filled a water bottle from their kitchen and paid with credit card.

On our return to camp we had our first opportunity to use the head and tail lights on Chrissy's bike. The tail light was hidden by the kiddy trailer but I could see its red flashes hitting roadsigns and other reflective surfaces. As soon as we got back to the C&O Towpath, Soren got hit in the eye by a stinging insect getting past his eyeglasses. He had immediate pain and yelled for help. Chrissy dismounted after making sure there was no boogieman had grabbed Soren. She had Soren lay down as she poured some of the clean water into his eye. That helped dull the pain butit still did not feel right.

Throughout the night Chrissy's leg pain intensified and she laid out in the dewy grass to try to cool them off. She ended up sleeping outside for several hours after having real doubts about her ability to even continue on the trail.

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