Author Topic: C&O trail  (Read 2403 times)

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Offline aggie

C&O trail
« on: July 29, 2021, 07:56:52 pm »
I am currently riding the C&O from Cumberland to DC.  IMO this has to be one of the poorest maintained trails in the country.  I understand NPS is underfunded but it appears they do absolutely no trail maintenance other than a bit of mowing.  The trail is extremely rough, rutted and muddy (even without rain).  It seems like an unmaintained logging road with rocks, roots, ruts and holes.  They have closed part of the trail (signage) near the Paw Paw tunnel for no apparent good reason.  There isn’t any work currently being done on the cliff face that would necessitate a horribly difficult detour.  The GAP trail is a paved (even though it isn’t paved - just crushed limestone) superhighway compared to the C&O.



Offline John Nettles

Re: C&O trail
« Reply #1 on: July 29, 2021, 11:41:34 pm »
Yep, it was like that back in 1982 when I rode it from Harper's Ferry to DC.  I called them once and asked about it and they said it is to it remains "natural".  I pointed out how all the National Forests and tons of other National Parks have pavement, maintenance, etc.  His response was well DC decides such things.  I said, You are in DC! To which it was the stereotypical "it is above my pay grade".

I think they should at least grade it and place crushed granite so it is like a regular rail trail.  Heck, charge a fee if needed like the National Parks.  Also, a few water taps along the way would be nice.

At least you are out touring though!
Tailwinds, John

Offline BikePacker

Re: C&O trail
« Reply #2 on: July 30, 2021, 08:01:03 am »
I am currently riding the C&O from Cumberland to DC.  IMO this .....
While it is sad to hear of the current status, I am appreciative of your update of C&O realities, Aggie.

Online donald.stewart.92

C&O trail
« Reply #3 on: July 30, 2021, 11:05:41 pm »
The Paw Paw tunnel had rock slide damage and NPS has been out fixing it. The detour was a nice change of scenery for me and not difficult.

Storms did a lot of repeated damage to the trail in past years in spots they already fixed. It’s a lot of work to repair the 150+ miles.

NPS even started doing crushed stone paving like the G.A.P.

The C&O is better than my ‘home trail: Delaware Canal State in PA.
« Last Edit: July 30, 2021, 11:10:53 pm by donald.stewart.92 »

Offline John Nettles

Re: C&O trail
« Reply #4 on: July 31, 2021, 07:57:55 am »
The C&O is better than my ‘home trail: Delaware Canal State in PA.
Thanks for the info.  I know that trail is one I want to avoid then  ;D
Tailwinds, John

Offline staehpj1

Re: C&O trail
« Reply #5 on: July 31, 2021, 09:01:28 am »
The following is based on older info, but I doubt it has changed much over the years...  I think maintenance has always been spotty and taken time to happen.  Unless times have changed expect parts to be double track consisting of two deep ruts.  It is a long trail and I don't think the goal is to have a great well maintained surface.  I think it is okay if you know what to expect and go when conditions have been decent weather wise.  It can be truly awful if the weather has been really wet though.  Pick a time when it is and has been fairly dry and don't expect a great surface and it might be a nice ride depending on what you want.

But yeah, if you are expecting the nice crushed limestone of the typical rail trail the whole way you will be very disappointed.   Parts have a good surface, but plenty doesn't especially after bad weather.

Offline TCS

Re: C&O trail
« Reply #6 on: July 31, 2021, 02:05:28 pm »
It's not like any of we individuals can effect this, but...

Having looked into this (for entirely different reasons) I've learned that generally the roadbed/pathway with the lowest environmental impact and lowest long term maintenance cost is an improved surface with engineered drainage.  For light weight traffic like pedestrians and cycles this includes surface improvements like a drained roadbed topped with crushed&packed stone, biopolymer stabilized soil or stabilizing hollow grid pavers.

The problem of unimproved (dirt) roadbed/pathways with unimproved drainage is the low (muddy) spots get deeper (passing through the mud) and wider (going around the mud) with traffic/time.  Short the capital to improve the surface, the alternative is endless maintenance in the same problem areas.   

Rail trails are generally fortunate to have an existing improved, well drained roadbed.  Canal paths...not so much.  We interact with the pavement and often overlook the drainage, but the drainage is easily as important as the surface.  Near me several cities have built concrete paths without paying for drainage preparation.  The result is the paths are under water (in a few places quite a bit of water) after rains.

So, back to the C&O.  I've heard the "the NPS doesn't want to change the historical surface' reasoning.  Uh, folks hiking and riding on the path is changing the historical surface.  The choice is how it will be changed.

"My name is Pither.  I am at present on a cycling tour of the North Cornwall area taking in Bude and..."

Offline BikePacker

Re: C&O trail
« Reply #7 on: August 01, 2021, 07:34:03 am »
With ZERO political ANYthing in mind ....
a purely objective question ....
does anyone happen to know if any of the "infra-structure" type bills
presently being 'considered' in Washington DC
have any funding for our national parks
(which, I'd guess, would include the C&O?)?

Offline HikeBikeCook

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Re: C&O trail
« Reply #8 on: August 01, 2021, 07:40:57 am »
The C&O was saved from a political battle launched by a Supreme Court Justice who wanted to preserve it.
https://www.nps.gov/choh/learn/historyculture/douglas-hike-of-1954.htm
The current "infrastructure" bill I am sure is another "pork" bill destined for cities with voters of the party in power.
« Last Edit: August 01, 2021, 11:27:24 am by HikeBikeCook »
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Offline BikeliciousBabe

Re: C&O trail
« Reply #9 on: August 02, 2021, 01:38:28 pm »
I think they should at least grade it and place crushed granite so it is like a regular rail trail.  Heck, charge a fee if needed like the National Parks. 

It's not a rail-trail. It is a National Historic Park devoted to preserving the history of the canal as a once significant piece of transportation infrastructure. And are there not water taps in campgrounds in season?

Offline John Nettles

Re: C&O trail
« Reply #10 on: August 02, 2021, 01:57:16 pm »
I agree it is not an official rail trail as it was never a rail road to begin with.  However, I would think a lot of people would understand what a rail trail is more than a canal path. 

As far as developing the Historical park, look at the Erie canal.  In places they have "improved" that canal path.  My thinking is that if the path were improved, many more people would use the path, thus learning much more about the C&O history, enjoying nature, etc.  I would think that at least one of the objectives of this particular park is to have people enjoy it.  If it were strictly for preservation, no people would be allowed.

As far as taps, many of the campgrounds I passed had hand-pumps which are not always the most sanitary and/or easy to use. By "taps", I meant pressurized water taps/faucets/bibs or whatever you call them in your area.  Again, I am trying to think of things to get more people out to the various National Parks so the massive crowds at the developed parks like Yellowstone might disperse to other, less utilized parks.



Offline jamawani

Re: C&O trail
« Reply #11 on: August 02, 2021, 02:13:10 pm »
Mebbe they should pave it for the whole length -
And put in 40 ft. pull-thrus for RVs -
Not to mention a few brew pubs and cantinas -
And what about free WiFi the entire way?

Offline John Nettles

Re: C&O trail
« Reply #12 on: August 02, 2021, 02:53:09 pm »
That is what is interesting about you John, you occasionally try to make your point by being over the top ridiculous in a somewhat snarky way instead of just trying to provide answers/opinions like your well-thought out route advice.  So using your thinking, we should ban everything except mules and the mule guides and you can only visit if on an actual barge pulled by the mules?  And maybe require visitors to wear period clothing and speak like they did too. Ban any sort of modern technology of course?  That means we can only ride high wheel bikes maybe??

Of course, we can disagree as to what the NPS should do, but why is having the NPS put a layer of crushed granite on the path and a few pressurized water taps in the campgrounds so bad and so extreme?  They do that (unsure about the pressurized water taps) for sections of the exact same trail closer to Washington so why not extend it so more users, say those in wheel chairs, can access the C&O the entire length. If it is good for the areas closer to DC, why not those closer to Cumberland? Seriously, I am asking.

John


Offline HikeBikeCook

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Re: C&O trail
« Reply #13 on: August 02, 2021, 03:07:48 pm »
Having ridden the C&O often and just doing the Erie last week,  I will take the C&O in present condition with the shade trees and history and the remoteness versus the over developed, treeless Erie where you have to dodge the homeless living on the trail by the Rochester airport.
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Offline John Nettles

Re: C&O trail
« Reply #14 on: August 02, 2021, 03:11:47 pm »
I will take the C&O in present condition with the shade trees and history and the remoteness versus the over developed, treeless Erie where you have to dodge the homeless living on the trail by the Rochester airport.
Fair enough, but would you prefer the C&O in it's current condition or with a level crushed granite path?