Today we started out on the Westernmost part of the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal near where the last three locks that were built to divert water from the Potomac River. The canal was mainly used to transport coal from the Allegheny Mountains to D.C. where the route ended. While it is no longer used for commerce, residents of the area enjoy hiking, biking, and camping along the trail.
Most of the locks on the canal utilized mitre gates which swung open when the locktenders pushed on large wooden balance beams. Some locks, however, utilized drop gates that employed a metal valve to operate the lock. Lock houses, mostly wooden, sat adjacent each lock. We walked from lock 74 to lock 72 where a cache was hidden in a nearby hollow stump. On our way, we passed by a bridge to the old Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. It was somewhat fascinating to see a railroad adjacent to a river, adjacent to a towpath, adjacent to a canal, adjacent to a modern road…lots of ways to get to D.C.! I wish I could have walked the entire 180 miles.
Leaving Cumberland, we drove along 40-Alt which is also known as old National Road. The road, originally an ancient Indian footpath and later used by military, became the nation’s first road in the 1800s when the government widened the path and paved it with broken stone. A few mileage markers and an old brick tollhouse still remain. In addition, several inns and taverns that once catered to the pioneers in their covered wagons can be found in towns along the way. I stopped at The Casselman Hotel and Restaurant for lunch.
The Casselman, built in the 1840s, consists of guest rooms with fireplaces originally used for heating and cooking; a kitchen added in 1903; and a dining room, antique shop and bake shop added in 1973. The menu, with Amish influence is simple, yet great. I enjoyed my grilled cheese on home baked bread and green beans for a whopping price of $3.26 while the aroma of fresh baked pastries filled the restaurant. I know this will be blasphemy to some, but it was better than Highland Park Pharmacy’s…though no chocolate milk shakes were offered!
The souvenir paper placemat noted a stone arch bridge across the Casselman River. Built in 1813, it was the largest single span bridge in America at the time and supported the heavy traffic of the National Trail for 125 years.
Our resting place for the evening was Swallow Falls State Park. The park, albeit very remote with limited cell service at best, is quite beautiful. It is home to the tallest waterfall in Maryland, Muddy Creek Falls which drops 53 feet. The 1.25 mile trail along the boulder lined Youghiogheny River passes by additional, small yet picturesque falls, through the oldest hemlocks in Maryland at 300 years of age, and near large sandstone cliffs. Not only is the area simply breathtaking, it is also historic as the likes of Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Harvey Firestone, and John Burroughs camped here.
I tried in earnest to get my phone to locate geocaches before we went for our walk, but I was unsuccessful in attaining a signal. As I returned to camp, I randomly got a burst, and as expected there are several stashed in the cliffs, boulders, and fallen logs. I think I may just take the dogs for their morning walk along the same trail, but perhaps in the opposite direction, and try my hand at a few caches that I loaded into my GPS (though the screen has been faulty so the hunt may be difficult). The morning light ought to make the hike even prettier than it was on this glorious afternoon. ETB