Day 57 – Maryland Panhandle Part 3

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,,


Day 56 – Maryland Panhandle Part 2

With the intent to catch a few minutes of Sunday night football, I tried the burger at Friday’s before retiring next door in the Walmart parking lot, which may as well have been a KOA campground given the twenty plus campers filling the outer spaces.  Being on the East Coast and off daylight savings; however, it was dark outside while I watched a few of the afternoon games.  It looks like the Giants may be the team to beat…my friend Torii must be happy.  I haven’t been keeping up with the Cowboys’ schedule, but I’m presuming they played the Sunday night game and lost given a friend informed me via text at 12:52 am that the “Cowboys stink”.

The dogs and I returned to Antietam to complete the 8.5 mile auto tour a second time as well as to hike an additional 3.5 miles of trails.  On the auto tour, we stopped at the Dunker Church and a handful of historic farmsteads such as J. Poffenberger Farmhouse, Piper Farmhouse, and Sherrick Farmhouse.  Additionally, we passed by several monuments, even one honoring Texas.  Our walking tour included two trails:  The Bloody Lane Trail and The Final Attack Trail.

The Bloody Lane Trail led us around the battlefield where Union soldiers led by General William Henry French’s division attacked the Confederates who were bunkered down in the Sunken Road on the morning of September 17, 1862.  Terribly outnumbered, the Confederates stood their ground for nearly three hours as the Federals continued over the hilltop firing at the trench below now known as Bloody Lane.  Over 5,500 soldiers were killed or wounded here before the Confederates retreated from the road.  The Union soldiers were too battered; however, to press forward, thus little advantage was gained.

The Final Attack Trail led us through the area in which the battle took place in the late afternoon and early evening.  After 8,000 Union troops successfully crossed the Burnside Bridge, they formed a line a mile wide and prepared for the final attack to drive the Confederate army from Maryland.  In this battle, two generals were killed and Colonel Harrison Fairchild’s Brigade of Union soldiers suffered the highest percentage of casualties in the Union army at this site.  During these hours of the battle, the Confederates were able to hold their ground as A.P. Hill and his Confederate troops arrived at the scene and counterattacked the much larger 9th Corps.

The reason the Confederate troops were outnumbered at Antietam was due to the “Lost Order”.  Robert E. Lee’s forces were recently victorious at the Second Battle of Manassas (Bull Run).  He moved his army from Virginia to Maryland with the intent to enter Pennsylvania.  His line of supply and communication into Virginia was threatened, however, by Union troops at Harper’s Ferry; thus he divided his army to neutralize the threat.  Lee’s Special Order 191 which included such planned operations was found by a Union soldier.  McClellan, realizing Lee’s forces were divided, ordered his troops to attack the nearby gaps on South Mountain.  Upon the Union army overtaking Harper’s Ferry and the Confederate troops surrendering at the nearby gaps, Lee ordered all his troops to Sharpsburg to make a stand at the Battle of Antietam.  The Confederate troops fought shorthanded until the rest of Lee’s army could arrive with support.

After a sunny, yet windy morning at Antietam hiking and finding a virtual cache; Scout, Petey and I visited another historic site at Fort Frederick State Park.  The Fort was constructed in 1756 and 1757 to protect the western frontier from the French and Indians.  Walls 17 feet high and 4 feet thick surround two wooden barracks and an officers’ quarters.  After the French and Indian War, the Fort later served as an American prison camp for captured British soldiers in the Revolutionary War.  In addition, during the Civil War, Union troops manned the Fort’s ruined walls.

On my way to my final scenic stop for the day, the Paw Paw Tunnel in GreenRidge State Forest, I found two more caches: one was an ammo can near the resort in Rocky Gap State Park and the other was a film canister at a beautiful overlook in Green Ridge State Forest.  I ended up in Rocky Gap State Park because I thought I might camp there for the evening, but I arrived before 3 p.m., so I thought I would try to find the tunnel.  I backtracked to the forest and experienced the usual:  winding dirt roads with steep grades in the middle of nowhere without cell phone coverage.  I kept thinking I better hurry and don’t get a flat because it will be dark by the time I leave!

I was curious to see the tunnel as it was the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal’s biggest engineering feat.  The tunnel, over 3,000 feet long and constructed of nearly 6 million bricks took 14 years to complete.  The canal, George Washington’s idea and commissioned by John Quincy Adams in 1828 is 180 miles long and runs all the way to Washington D.C..  While mules plodded beside the waterway with low slung boats in tow for nearly a century, the canal met its demise with the arrival of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad and is now simply enjoyed by joggers, hikers, and cyclists.

I plan on visiting the canal tomorrow, perhaps in another location, as I didn’t get to spend much time there today once I found it.  Not to mention, I was a bit leery of a black sedan that coincidentally followed me into an otherwise remote, empty gravel parking lot.  It was probably with just cause too, as when I headed toward the Walmart for the evening, the highway was shut down due to a wreck so I spent much of the evening at a nearby Wendy’s listening to a guy talk about how he could land in jail if some girl blabbed!  It kind of reminded me of the time I was in Penn Station during the wee hours of the morning getting Dunkin’ Donuts before the horse finals and the guy in line behind us used my trainer Kelly and me as pawns in a theoretical description of how to shoot someone.  I figured I waited long enough for the traffic to die down.  VANilla is rocking in the wind with the top down, so I imagine I’ll be laying low with the dogs tonight. ETB,,

Maryland, Virginia

Day 55 – Maryland Panhandle

How about waking up to this sunrise every day?  At least I got to wake up to it for a day.  Not only did I get to enjoy a beautiful sunrise, but also homemade cranberry scones, compliments of Katherine!  What a cook.  Just watching her, I learned a few tricks to try a year from now when I have an oven again.

After a warm pastry and hot cup of coffee, we headed to the barn to visit the horses and take a ride around the surrounding property.  I rode Lucca, Katherine’s eight year old show hunter while Katherine and Barb, the barn owner, rode fox hunters.  We squeezed between pine trees, trotted along the fence line, and cantered across the field next to the Shenandoah River.  The horses were feeling their oats in the cold weather which made for a few feisty moments, but this time I wasn’t unseated!

Once I enjoy a heated house, good company, a home cooked meal, and a little football while sprawled on the couch, it gets a little hard to leave.  The dogs and I moved on to the Maryland panhandle and made our first stop the Washington Monument State Park.  While the Washington Monument in this state park certainly doesn’t mimic the likes of the one in Washington D.C., it does hold the distinction of being the first memorial ever built to honor the nation’s first president.

Virtually every villager in Boonesboro participated in building the monument during a July 4th celebration in 1827, 51 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence.    The 34 foot tower, once used as a signal station for the Union Army during the Civil War, offers spectacular views of the surrounding valleys and served as an afternoon resting spot for a few birders watching eagles and hawks that glided overhead.

After our visit to the Washington Monument (of Maryland), we stopped at Antietam National Battlefield.  What an extraordinary site…a must see!  This site consists of countless acres of fields, historic farmsteads, hiking trails through the battlefields and monuments honoring fallen Civil War soldiers.  The monuments mostly honor the Union States as the Confederate States were so battered that it was difficult to raise the money to pay for such tributes. Furthermore, fences and stone walls have been reconstructed to portray the battlefield site.  In addition, canons have been placed where artillery was used to defend each side’s lines.  The barrels of the canons were from the Civil War while the bases were added.  Six canon barrels submerged upside down in concrete have been placed where generals died during the bloodiest one-day battle in American History.

Of nearly 100,000 soldiers engaged in battle, around 23,000 were killed, wounded, or missing on September 17, 1862.  Hearing of the shortage of medical supplies reported in the news, Clara Barton, who later founded the American Red Cross, provided bandages and food on a neutral basis to the fallen soldiers.  A variety of different battles took place at the site…one at Lower Bridge (Burnside Bridge).  We arrived here in the late afternoon, so the dogs and I took the short one mile walk around this area and watched the sunset.  We are going to come back here tomorrow as this area is truly magnificent…an interest in history is not required to be amazed. ETB



Day 50 – Maryland’s Eastern Shore Sampler Part 2

The dogs and I got a late morning start after enjoying a bagel and coffee (and dog food for them) at Kari’s efficiency.  Given I’ve been to Washington D.C. a couple of times, I didn’t feel the need to go see the monuments again, though they are spectacular.  I snapped a picture on my way out of town.  I decided to go back to Maryland to finish up the drive from yesterday which I cut short in order to get to D.C. at a reasonable hour.

We first stopped in Cambridge and took a walk around the harbor on the Choptank River.  I didn’t even think to take a picture as the setting was more like a grassy park, and I was preoccupied with getting a decent stroll in with the dogs since today and tomorrow weren’t that accessible to hikes.  After our walk, we visited Old Trinity Episcopal Church.

The church, constructed of brick in the late 1600s is believed to be the oldest chapel in continuous use in the nation.  The church sits on 89 acres next to the Church River by which some parishioners travel to attend Sunday service.  Aside the church is a cemetery with headstones marking the graves of soldiers who fought in the Revolution, the War of 1812, and the Civil War.  I believe the surrounding fence was once home to a cache as well, but it appears from a few logs that the cache has been lost or removed.

A few miles from the church, Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge serves as a safe haven for migrating geese.  No dogs were allowed out of the car here, so we took the 5 mile scenic drive through the marsh lands and along the shore to see geese galore.

The starting point of our drive tomorrow was in Williamsburg, some three hours away, so I made the decision to drive today as there were several places on the

Beginning of sunset before I got on bridge

agenda tomorrow.  I believe the highlight of the day may have been the drive to Williamsburg.  I took the Chesapeake Bridge-Tunnel from Virginia’s Eastern Shore to Virginia’s mainland near Norfolk.  It was truly magnificent.  I’m certain anyone that commutes and has to pay the $12.50 toll daily may not be quite as mesmerized, but I haven’t seen anything like it.

I talked with my friend Lisa for 20 to 30 minutes, my whole way across the Chesapeake Bay, except while I passed through the THREE tunnels where I lost reception and while I stopped at a check point due to my propane tank on board.  The combination bridge/tunnel was around 20 miles in length, and I drove the whole thing while the sun was setting – it was a spectacular view!  I wonder how the engineers decided the crossing should be broken into bridges and tunnels and when each type of structure should be employed – Don, my missile building friend, do you know?  Anyway, I highly recommend a sunset drive over this engineering marvel. ETB



Day 49 – Maryland’s Eastern Shore Sampler

I’m afraid I don’t have much to write about today…it was that time of the month…time to get an oil change and the spark plugs replaced.  At Charlie’s recommendation, I took VANilla to Rosemont Tire and Service to get lubed up for the rest of our adventure.  The staff was extremely accommodating, allowing the dogs to hang out in the lounge area with me for the morning…thank goodness, because the outdoors was frosty and our short walk in the park nearby was VERY cold!  Unfortunately, one of the plugs cracked (which only had to be replaced for warranty purposes otherwise it wasn’t necessary), so it took until around 11 before I could start my journey down Maryland’s Eastern Shore.  The good news is I won’t need another spark plug change for 40,000 miles!

After passing over the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal, which connects the Chesapeake Bay to the Atlantic Ocean and saves boaters a 300 mile journey around the Delmarva Penninsula, and driving along a highway flanked with horse farms, I made my first stop at Chestertown’s waterfront.  At the waterfront in 1774, the townsfolk, disgusted with the British tax on tea, dumped a large shipment into the harbor.  This act similar to the Boston Tea Party in 1773 is celebrated every year.  Today the water’s edge was covered in waterfowl.


(and Geese)

Ok, so I’m silly tired right now…hope that brought back memories of Kindergarten for you!

Before I left the area, the dogs and I walked along a short wooden bridge aside the water and I delighted in a Maryland crab cake at the dockside restaurant nearby.  Our next stop was the Town of Wye Mills which got its name from Wye Grist Mill.  The Wye Grist Mill, constructed in 1682, is one of the few remaining mills in on the East Coast and is the oldest working mill in Maryland.  During the American Revolution, this mill along with many others provided flour to George Washington and his troops via the Chesapeake Bay, dubbing the Eastern Shore “the Breadbasket of the American Revolution”.

We quickly drove through the Village of St. Michael’s to get a glimpse of the yachts scattered about the harbor and then made a hard left toward  Bellevue where the Oxford-Bellevue Ferry has operated since 1683.  We didn’t have time to take the 9 car ferry to Oxford, nor did the dogs and I find the cache hidden nearby on our short walk as there were too many muggles launching boats into the Tred Avon River.

With the opportunity to see my cousin Kari in D.C., we skipped the last two stops of the drive and retraced our tracks to Wye Mills where we crossed the bridge to Annapolis and Washington D.C.  I arrived at Kari’s efficiency in Arlington just in time for dinner; spaghetti and meatballs, kindly cooked by her

View was a bit obstructed!

boyfriend Will.  After dinner we went to a show that cast Will’s brother.  The show was a series of plays performed over five weeks to raise money for charity.  We attended week five, thus we saw the last “episode” or “scene” of each play.  It was quite interesting as the scene started up where it left off the prior week thus a narrator provides some back story for the new patrons.

At the end of the evening, the audience votes for the play it enjoyed and the charity associated with such play receives the proceeds from the evening.  The play in which Will’s brother acted won 4 of the 5 weeks…awesome!  After enjoying the theater, we enjoyed a beer at Rock Bottom Brewery and suffered through the Ranger’s final loss of the World Series.  Well, at least they made it!  We had a great evening and stayed up until the wee hours of the morning comparing travels as Kari is a traveler too.  It was so fun! ETB