Category Archives: Family

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.

First Backpacking Adventure With The Boys

Day 1: Home to Harpers Ferry Campground, 2.5 miles, 8/22/21

I’ve wanted to take the boys camping for a long time but never quite gotten around to it. Something always came up or the weather didn’t cooperate. This time however, the stars aligned. I had a gap in the schedule, the boys haven’t started school and the weather forecast was stable (although rather hot!).

This is sad to say, but it’s been years since I’ve camped (something I plan to rectify!). I had fun digging my old camping gear though and packing for this adventure. Everything looked like new again. That’s the thing with good quality outdoor gear — it lasts a lifetime if you look after it.

In my pre-kids life I did a lot of camping so it was easy to plan what we needed and get everything together. The boys carried some of their clothes and water bottles in their bags.

We set off around 3 pm, full of excitement! The boys were embarking on their first camping adventure.

Leaving home!

Lexi walked with us for the first quarter mile to Nash Farm. Owen didn’t believe us when we said that mom was turning around here. “You’re joking right?”

All smiles as we passed Nash Farm, about quarter of a mile from home 😉

We strode on, down the trail from the back of Nash Farm to the river. Owen face planted twice on the way down, the poor guy. No harm done, just muddy knees. At the bottom of the hill I led the boys through the river tunnel under the rail tracks rather than crossing the tracks. It was almost bone dry.

At the canal headrace on the Potomac River, looking out towards Maryland Heights (which we climbed with the boys earlier this year)

We stopped to explore the Canal Headrace and enjoy views out to Maryland Heights. At this age, the boys are mostly indifferent to pretty views though. They prefer bugs or interesting graffiti.

We arrived at the campsite around 5 pm. I couldn’t find the caretaker, so we picked the furthest tent site and set up camp. The boys helped put the tent up, and then proceeded to trip over the tent pegs every 5 minutes 😉

The boys were super interested in how the tent went together

The tent is a 7 year old Mountain Hardwear Skyledge, which is a lightweight 2-person tent. It was comfortable with me and the boys, if a little cozy. I’ll consider taking the 3-person pyramid tent next time.

Our home for the night!
It’s a nice campground! We got the end tent site which was nice.

Once we’d set up camp, we wandered back to the river shore to explore for an hour or so. We built sandcastles and hunted for shells. It’s serene and beautiful in the evenings. Again, the boys were digging in the mud whilst Dad was admiring the view.

The Potomac River is beautiful in the evenings
Another dreamy view on the Potomac River
Cooking dinner!

Back at the tent we had dinner. I brought the MSR Pocket Rocket stove to heat up a camp meal for myself. The boys had sandwiches, fruit and muffins.

That night I had my work cut out! They were excitable and wanted story after story. All good fun and they fell asleep around 9.30 pm. I was nodding off by then too.

But sleep didn’t come easily because it was so hot in the tent. I ended up keeping both fly doors open and cracking the inner doors too. Thankfully there were no bugs so that wasn’t an issue. I eventually fell asleep properly sometime after midnight. I was woken up a couple more times but overall it was a relatively good night.

Stories before bed in the tent

Day 2: Harpers Ferry Campground to Home, 2.5 miles, 8/23/21

Morning of day 2 as the sun rises over the river

It was a beautiful morning when we woke up, with the sun rising over the river and pouring through the trees. We were all awake by 6.30 am when the tent got light.

Our first job was to retrieve our food bag that we hung last night. We didn’t hang it to protect from bears (low risk here) but I wanted to protect from rodents in the night. It was also a fun experiment to do with the boys. It worked a treat.

We hung our food bag in the trees to protect it from rodents.

Then it was onto breakfast. I had this hot granola, which was surprisingly good, and a cup of tea.

Making breakfast for Dad

Another family with young boys was camped a few sites down from us (the rest of the sites were empty at this end of the campground), so we stopped and played with them for a while before setting off on the trek home. We stopped for a paddle in the river too.

Last look at the river from our campsite before we began the trek home

We went a slightly different way home and met Lexi along the Armory Trail.

We took the trail that cuts up to East Ridge St, and then home from there. It was another super hot day so I was relieved it was only a short day!

Passing the canal headrace on the way home. Hot already!

Overall, this was a fantastic mini adventure. It wasn’t easy but it also wasn’t too hard. I’m looking forward to more trips with the boys in the future!

Maryland Heights with Lexi and the boys

21 June 2021

5 miles / 1,122 ft ascent / 5 hours

I’m proud of my boys for climbing to the top of Maryland Heights under their own steam! Especially since it was 90 F (32 C) that day and a tough walk even for mum and dad!

(It was their second mountain summit after Weverton Cliffs.)

O wore his green dinosaur backpack the whole way, so he could collect things along the way. Here he is striding along the C&O canal:

And here’s D climbing up Maryland Heights. He brought a Lego set and a plastic bag to collect a caterpillar (which we eventually found and brought home to release in our garden).

Half way up Maryland Heights. Managed to get the whole family smiling at the camera:

The top! The view from Maryland Heights, looking across the Potomac river to Harpers Ferry, is fantastic.

Here’s the family portrait at the top. We were all hot and sweaty from the climb. D loved dipping his hat into the streams to cool himself off. All in all, a fantastic family day out!

Weverton Cliffs with the boys

This was our last hike of 2019.

We squeezed it in during that weird period between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.

For Lexi and me, it was our second hike up Weverton Cliffs (route description). For the boys, it was their first real mountain climb.

Weverton Cliffs, Md. is the third mountain hike accessible from Harpers Ferry, after Maryland Heights and Loudon Heights. It’s a 9-mile out-and-back from Harpers Ferry — much too far for a 2yo and 4yo — so we opted to start from the car park at the base of the mountain.

The route is part of the Appalachian Trail. It’s a short and easy climb and rewards walkers with some of the best views of this area. It’s well worth doing but I’d avoid weekend afternoons.


Dominic leading the way up Weverton Cliffs.



Owen walked about a 1/3 of the way and went the rest of the way in the backpack.



He refused to walk but took a lot of convincing to get in the backpack 🤷‍♂️.



At the summit junction, where Weverton Cliffs trail splits off from the Appalachian Trail.



At the top enjoying the splendid views!



Looking upstream of the Potomac River, towards Harpers Ferry.



Owen walked most of the way down.