C&O Bike Tour with the boys (Shepherdstown to Harpers Ferry)

16 – 18 September 2022

At the beginning of summer 2022, my wife and I sat down with our boys and made a bucket list of summer adventures. We had a great summer and ticked most of them off. But there was one adventure — dear to my heart — that we hadn’t done yet. Camping.

The boys were desperate to go. They really enjoyed last year’s micro backpacking adventure. I was keen too, so it was time for another adventure.

Day 1: Shepherdstown to Antietam Creek campground (3 miles)

I rode from home along the C&O canal to Shepherdstown where I met Lexi and the boys. She picked them up from school and brought their bikes and the camping gear in the car. The plan was to ride back home over the next 3 days.

Super excited as we set off!

I used a Burley Flatbed trailer to haul our camping gear: the tent, 3 sleeping bags, 3 roll mats, cooking gear, spare clothes, 3 days of food, and about 12 liters of water!

Off we go!

Typical scenery along the canal

We covered the 3 miles to Antietam campground quicker than I expected. The boys rode really well.

I forgot that Antietam campsite required online bookings, so for a short while the success of the trip hung in the balance whilst I booked one of the last remaining tent sites, on my phone with very patchy data.

The campsite was fantastic (apart from the individual shouting obscenities at various times through the night. Drunk? Probably. Thankfully the kids slept through it.)

Day 2: Antietam Creek campground to Huckleberry Hill campground (8 miles)

We were up and away by 8 the next morning. A thick, wet fog hung over the river and the campsite so the grass, the tent, the bikes, and our feet were all soaking as we set off.

Soon after leaving the campground, we arrived at Antietam Creek Aqueduct, so we stopped to explore for a while.

Looking out at a foggy Potomac River

The river looked stunning with the fog.

Potomac River from Antietam Aqueduct

We stopped for lunch at Lock 37. Chicken wraps, fruit, muffins, and tea (for Dad) were on the menu.

Owen’s helmet had a lot of positive comments from other hikers and bikers

Along the way we stopped frequently to explore the river edge, collect bugs, and check out the cave near Dargan.

“Shell beach” near to Huckleberry Hill campsite
“Naan” the cicada came along for part of the ride
What’s more exciting to a 7-year old than a real cave?

The boys rode strongly all day and easily managed the 8 miles. The key was the frequent stops to explore, so that they never had to ride too far in one go.

We arrived at the campsite in the early afternoon, when no-one else was there. By dinner time, a handful of other bike touring groups had arrived and one hiking group.

The evening light over the river was beautiful.

That evening a park ranger visited the campground, to check everyone was ok and ask for more information about the drunk at Antietam the previous night. I was relieved that the ranger was out there, because I was nervous he might show up again.

Another unusual thing happened that night too. We heard a series of loud pops, then a few moments later, heard a tree falling down. It sounded like fireworks going off! Thankfully, it happened some way away from the campsite but nevertheless was a sombre reminder that there are risks to being out in the woods. It was dark when this happened and I meant to look the next morning, but completely forgot 😉

Day 3: Huckleberry Hill campground to lower town Harpers Ferry (4 miles)

We enjoyed a leisurely morning at camp, enjoying the quiet and chatting with the other campers.

Huckleberry Hill Hiker Biker Campsite

We returned up the trail to “Shell Beach” for another explore, before turning our bikes downstream again, and heading down the trail towards Harpers Ferry.

We stopped to explore the river edge by the ruins of Dam 3, where the flat water turns to whitewater, and becomes a section of rapids called “The Needles”.

We reached Harpers Ferry at around 11.30am.

Climbing the stairs up the pedestrian bridge with the loaded trailer was the hardest physical challenge of the trip. It’s a spiral staircase and I was at my limit hauling the loaded trailer to the top.

The boys were tired as we walked over the bridge into Harpers Ferry. It was a hot day and they had reached their limit. We bit off just the right amount.

Lexi picked them and the trailer up in lower town, and I rode the final uphill mile back to the house.

Tired but happy at the finish line!

All in all, it was a fantastic, memorable trip with the boys. Really, really good trip.

They seemed to enjoy it a lot too. I’m looking forward to our next adventure together!

1 thought on “C&O Bike Tour with the boys (Shepherdstown to Harpers Ferry)

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