The weather from August 23-25 was perfect: highs around 80 degrees, not terribly humid, breezy, sunny. We could not have asked for more perfect conditions, except that a few weeks ago it was really rainy, and the subsequent standing water seems to have led to a bumper crop of tiny, hungry mosquitoes. We had to ration the bug dope. When my kid got home, they tried to count their bug bites, but lost count or got bored after 150. Things were okay in the sunshine and breezes, but there were miles-long tree-shaded passages with boggy, shallow, temporary pools in the depression left on one side by the former canal. I called these "Mosquito Alleys." We itched and got used to it.
We started out from McMahon's Mill on a Thursday morning. It was immediately clear how high the water was everywhere. The little creek that runs through McMahon's Mill was rushing fast and hard. The towpath was muddy and, in some cases, water was streaming down the rock face on our right and crossing the trail on its way to the river. Where the trail verged on the Potomac, water was cresting over the edge.
There were dragonflies, and lovely greenery:
We made some phone calls. We slept hard. We took grateful hot showers in the morning as though this weren't the first night of our "camping" trip. Then we hiked back into town to the only available cafe besides the Waffle House, Desert Rose.
Desert Rose, we realized as we approached, was an oasis of rainbows (including the gigantic mug we have at home that reads "NOBODY KNOWS I'M GAY"), featuring a large effusive male employee with a braying laugh and obvious Heart of Gold, Rose herself (quiet and unassuming, but friendly), and a surprising number (considering my experience of the town so far) of gay and/or politically liberal customers. They had interesting local candies. They had hiker supplies. They had really awesome coffee. My kid felt welcomed, which is not always the case in western Maryland. Highly recommended, not that you have a lot of options when you are in Williamsport.
After breakfast we hopped back on the trail detour, which went all over including through some brickyards before reconnecting with the towpath.
During the afternoon, we got some relief from mosquito-alley sameness by passing a big dam and then a series of picturesque locks and old mills in quick succession. The trail does lack variety sometimes, but this was a good bit.
As it turned out, the ranger said they were "having a muster" that weekend. Apparently there are French-and-Indian War re-enactors. Lots of them. One (white, I think) guy was even dressed as an Indian, with paint and feathers. Hmm. I pretty much just ignored everybody as I passed among their tents and returned to my child, waiting by the water pumps, and our campsite by the beaver pond, rich with mosquitoes.
This third and last day was more humid still, and blisters were had by all. We were back in the world of startling green, though, and I love that.
By the latter half of the day, kid was limping and having trouble envisioning the last few miles with their painful blisters. Various minor surgeries ensued. Lunch was a purely functional affair eaten plunked down by the edge of the path in a sunny patch. There was still cool stuff, like this culvert, but we were ready to hike to the finish line.
About 3:30 pm, we were halting in to our final destination, the Hancock Visitors Center, at mile 122.8. Final mile marker of the trip at right-->
We had two hours until my husband was due to pick us up and the mosquitoes were hungry as ever. The sky had clouded over, which meant we couldn't just hang out in the sun as a respite. Hopefully the Hancock Visitors Center would have indoor stuff! A restroom! Maybe a snack bar! Comfy benches!
Oh, there's a truck stop just down the road, he said. Restaurant, gas and store and everything. How far? About 1000 feet.
It might have been closer. I've rarely been so thrilled to enter a dark, dingy, and barely occupied dining room. Kid ordered a basket of fried shrimp and french fries; I ordered eggs and toast and coffee. We arranged for my husband to pick us up at the restaurant. There were restrooms. We are wimps, but for a few days every year, we get to feel like badasses.