C&O Bike Tour 2 with the boys (Shepherdstown to Horseshoe Bend campsite, return)

9 – 10 October 2022

After the success of our first bike tour, I was keen to get the boys out for another adventure before the weather got too cold. With a long weekend coming up, and a stable — but cold — weather forecast, it was perfect time for it.

On the last tour, we rode from the C&O Canal Parking at Shepherdstown to lower town Harpers Ferry, over 3 days and 2 nights. This time, we started from the same place but rode upstream, away from Harpers Ferry.

The plan was to ride for 8 miles to Horseshoe Bend campsite, camp for 1 night, then reverse the route the next day to meet Lexi at the parking spot again.

In some ways, it’s an even better route because there are fewer people and less bike traffic. It’s completely in the woods so the scenery is lovely. The surface is good quality crushed gravel with only a few rough patches.

Day 1: Shepherdstown to Horseshoe Bend campsite (8 miles)

We set off after lunch on Sunday. I remember feeling a bit stressed that morning getting ready. But that soon all melted away once we got underway. The boys were really excited again and all smiles as we set off.

Setting off from Shepherdstown

The trail is beautiful, traffic-free, and flat, so it’s ideal for riding with the boys. At points it drops down steeply to the river, so I had to encourage Owen to look forwards and ride in a straight line. He does weave about a bit but he did tremendously well to ride the full distance on his tiny bike.

The C&O Canal trail is ideal for riding with kids since there is only one way to go and no traffic

When I’m out with the boys, my policy is to stop whenever they want to explore. They don’t want to ride non-stop like I do, they want to see things and engage with nature. It’s the best way to keep them happy and break up the day so we can cover the distance and keep it fun.

On this section of the canal, there are tons of caves to explore, so we stopped at just about every one.

Lots of caves to explore along this section of the trail

We also stopped by the river whenever opportunity presented itself. I’m happy to enjoy the stunning river vista and the boys are happy to hunt for shells, bugs, and fish.

Watching the minnows at Snyder’s Landing boat ramp

I had to encourage the boys to keep pedaling, to keep some momentum, to ensure we could get to camp before it went dark though.

Brothers on the trail together

We pulled into Horseshoe Bend hiker biker campsite around 5.30pm, an hour or so before dark. This gave ample time to set up the tent, make dinner, and, you guessed it, explore the surroundings.

Our tent at Horseshoe Bend campsite

It was a beautiful fall evening and the colors along the river were starting to show. In another week or so, it’ll be sublime!

Beautiful fall colors along the Potomac River

We shared the campsite with one other bike tourer, a gentleman named Mike, who was riding from Pittsburgh to D.C. (this is the GAP + C&O combined, that Pete and I did as part of our 2014 NE bike tour).

Full view of the campsite

Mike had a fire going already when we arrived, and the boys enjoyed this as much for the spectacle of the fire as for the warmth. It was a cold evening, a portent of things to come.

Enjoying the warmth of a campfire and hot chocolate (wishing we’d brought s’mores stuff!)

It was dark by 7.30 so we were in the tent before 8 to read books (Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, fantastic story!).

The boys were asleep by around 9, me shortly afterwards.

It was a cold night! It got down to 34 F. The boys slept right through the night but I woke up a few times rather cold, my old summer sleeping bag not quite cutting it. Not a bad night though, I had plenty of layers to put on.

Day 2: Horseshoe Bend campsite to Shepherdstown (8 miles)

We awoke to a beautiful morning, with mist hanging over the river.

Mist on the Potomac River at daybreak
Waking up in the tent after a cold night. The boys slept as well as they do at home! 🙂

Owen helped me make peanut butter bagels and hot chocolate (for the boys), granola and tea (for me) on the camp stove. Once made, we took the breakfast back to the tent to eat with Dominic, from the warmth of our sleeping bags.

Packed up and ready to ride, morning of day 2

The riding on day 2 was a reverse of day 1’s route. They were a little tired so I bribed them with M&Ms every time we stopped.

Rough area ahead (but it wasn’t bad at all)
Dominic and Owen on the trail
Me bringing up the rear

Dominic found a great rocky beach to explore mid-morning. We found lots of river clam shells (some really big ones) and hung out for a half hour or so playing games and watching the river rush by.

Beach combing along the Potomac

Again, we explored some of the many caves in the area. The boys wanted to go deeper than I was willing to go. When Dominic said “Dad, we’ll have to crawl through here” I said that was far enough 😉

I just need to mention “spider!” if I want to get them out the cave quickly

We had a longer lunch break at Taylor’s landing (incidentally where I met Chuck on a paddle board trip a couple of months ago).

The boys were content to balance on this log and jump back to the shore. Everything is a playground at this age.

The Great Outdoors. Best playground in the world.

We passed a (water) snake on the towpath after lunch. The boys were fascinated. Soon after, we saw a couple of field mice, which would have made a tasty snack for the snake.

Snake on the trail! A water snake (I think)

Half a mile further on, we crossed paths with Chuck and his buddy, out on a bike ride going the opposite direction, and chatted with them for a while.

Then all that remained was to ride the last couple of miles back to the parking lot at Shepherdstown, where Lexi met us.

Lexi took the boys and their bikes, the trailer, and all the camping gear home. I rode back home on my bike. It was a nice to ride a light bike again.

Overall, it was great fun and another successful trip together. Way more fun that sitting around the house and watching TV. I think the boys enjoyed it as much as I did. My goal is to have them enjoy it so they want to keep doing these adventures for years to come.

2 thoughts on “C&O Bike Tour 2 with the boys (Shepherdstown to Horseshoe Bend campsite, return)

  1. Demir Aydemir

    Inspired me from the heart. Exceptional storytelling as always. And real beauties of life. Thank you Collins Brothers

    Reply
  2. Pauline Collins

    Great photos Ben and loved reading all about your adventure. Hope we can chat from your hotel or wherever. Have a great trip and give boys my love Mum xx

    Sent from my iPad

    >

    Reply

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