Thursday, June 30, 2011

W & OD Rail Trail

Since the weather has gone back to Gorgeous Summer Day, yesterday afternoon's adventure was trying out the Washington and Old Dominion Rail Trail, whose west end starts at Purcellville, VA. The W&OD operated from 1859 to 1968, and although the original investors had high hopes for moving products and passengers between the Port of Alexandria and the Appalachians, it struggled during most of its time in operation. The right-of-way is now a 45 mile long paved multi-use trail.

Purcellville is a pretty little Loudoun County town popular for antiquing. It also has a very fine restaurant that just happens to be right beside the end of the trail.

Magnolias at the Mill

So, off I go. Welllll... This is a highly populated corridor. So while you might be seeing this:

You turn around in the same spot and see this:

Not only does it have a lot of street crossings, but it runs parallel to some major roads, so even when in a green corridor the roar of cars is next to you.  But at times you do get to see some of the remains of the history of the county, which was formed in 1757, and there are some peaceful stretches.

Remnants of railroad days are still around, like this building at Hamilton Station.

And there is a lot of historical signage along the way.

As I was noticing all this, I was also noticing that there seemed to be a slight downward slope as I headed east.  And that it's a heck of a breezy day, with long stretches on the trail where you are pretty open to getting pushed around by the wind.  Since I had decided on 10 miles out and 10 miles back, I was a little concerned.  But, oh well, it stays light late and if coming back is harder it will just take longer.

Um, yeah.  If I had read the web page more closely I would have seen this - " a four mile long gradual climb over Catoctin Mountain through Clark's Gap" - in reference to the trip back from Leesburg to Purcellville.

It was a MUCH longer trip back.  I was already tired from fighting the head wind, and a constant up-slope for miles was miserable.  Did I mention the head wind?  It was pushing me so hard at times that there was no way to coast - it would just stop me.  A turtle could have passed me at times.  My quads felt like they were exploding.  I finally started dismounting and walking the bike across intersections in order to give my legs a little break.  And oh what a relief it was when I finally passed Clark's Gap, though I didn't realize at the time that things would ease up from there on.  Except for the head wind.  Did I mention the head wind?

But finally milepost 44.5 appeared, and I actually made it back to the suv, loaded the bike back up, pulled on a dry t-shirt, and got down to the important business of the day.

'Cause life is very, very good, even with tired quads.


  1. Sounds like a day well-spent, tired quads or not.

  2. Very nice, MUCH better than sitting in an office all day like I did! I envy you, tired quads and all... :-)

  3. @NFO - telework is a glorious thing. No more miserable commute, at least for 4 days out of the week.