From Home to Harpers Ferry (and Antietam) by Bicycle

I have taken many long-distance cycling trips since I became interested in bicycle travel. But I hadn’t done the one thing I’d really wanted to do all along: roll my bicycle out of my back yard in Bethesda, Maryland, and bike to somewhere far away.

I live close to the C&O Canal National Historical Park, so the canal towpath is a perfect option for a cycling excursion from home. I visit the towpath often to walk or bike, and I’ve bicycled its entire length twice. I’ve always thought a trip from home to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, via the towpath, with a side trip from Harpers Ferry to Antietam National Battlefield near Sharpsburg, Maryland, would make a perfect three-day bicycling trip.

During a stretch of unseasonably warm weather this past October, I finally ran out of reasons to put off this trip. I made a two-night reservation at a bed and breakfast in Harpers Ferry, loaded clothing, supplies, and snacks into one of my touring panniers, and headed for the canal.

(Mile markers appear along the towpath at one-mile intervals and provide a handy reference for describing locations along the canal, as in the captions below.)

Harpers Ferry occupies the strategic point of land where the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers merge. Once an industrial town, it became known for John Brown’s raid on the federal arsenal here in 1859, an event that helped incite civil war a year and half later.

Union and Confederate troops traded control of the town throughout the Civil War. After the war, severe floods helped end industry here. Much of Harpers Ferry is now a national historical park managed by the National Park Service.

Harpers Ferry itself is well worth a visit. However, I’d visited many times before, so I didn’t do any exploring. But staying overnight at the Stonehouse Bed and Breakfast was a first for me.

The next morning I biked another 12 miles up the canal towpath to Boonsboro Pike (Maryland Route 34), and then another easy 4½ miles on roads to the Antietam National Battlefield visitor center near Sharpsburg, Maryland.

Antietam preserves the grounds of the exceedingly costly Civil War battle that took place here on September 15, 1862. By the end of 12 hours of fighting, about 23,000 soldiers were killed, wounded, or missing. It was the single bloodiest day in American history.

I headed home the next day, retracing my route down the canal. I had biked almost 75 miles from home to my farthest point in Antietam, and a total of 162 miles over three days.

David Romanowski, 2016

Advertisements

About David R

For more about me, check out my blog "Bike Walk Drive" at https://bikewalkdrive.wordpress.com/.
This entry was posted in Bicycling, Maryland, West Virginia and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to From Home to Harpers Ferry (and Antietam) by Bicycle

  1. Tim says:

    Reblogged this on historyplaces and commented:
    My friend and former writer for the Smithsonian, David, writes a great blog about his biking and other adventures. Here’s a recent post he wrote about a bike trip to one of my favorite history places, Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. Be sure to check out some of his other posts.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s