I love living in southern Pennsylvania for many reasons.
The top reason is that my favorite people in the world live here. But there are other things I like about living in this location such as easy access to so many great historical and recreational spot.
This summer we've enjoyed a number of rides on the C&O Canal towpath. The C&O Canal (stands for Chesapeake and Ohio) has been abandoned by canalers for nearly a century and is now a park open to hikers, bikers, and horseback riders.
Through the years we have hiked and biked on portions of the 180 mile trail. This year we bought The Towpath Guide to the C&O Canal which has enhanced our canal experience.
One of the nice things about the towpath is that there is so many access points. We are marking on a map the parts of the towpath that we have biked. Since the canal is nearly flat, it is perfect for children. But our progress is slow, especially since we park, ride a few miles, then ride back to the van so we are biking every mile twice.
But enjoyment, not completion, is our goal.
Dads who pull children are also glad for flat trails.
This little one has the easy ride but she didn't enjoy our first bike rides this summer and was quite vocal in her displeasure. Our last visit to the trail, she was the perfect traveler and made the experience more enjoyable for everyone.
Sometimes the trail is just too exhausting. Usually the ride home in the van is very quiet as even mom falls to sleep.
The towpath guide lists all the important (and not so important) historical and geological features. I have been reading the guide book to the family on our way to the access point so we know what to look for along the towpath.
The children are always on the lookout for a good place to stop for a picnic.
In May we biked the area around Great Falls for the first time. I was unprepared for the beauty. The Potomac River, which is usually visible from the towpath, is always lovely, but here at Great Falls it is outstanding.
On a recent Saturday we biked the section directly south of the Antietam Battlefield. We veered off the towpath to bike up to the top of the bluff (a serious climb) to Ferry Hill - an old plantation house that is now a visitor's center. We would have never known about Ferry Hill without the towpath guide and we thoroughly enjoyed the park volunteer who filled us in on the history of the area.
The children loved the collection of dress-up clothes. They could pretend to be a Union commander, a canal mule driver, or a fashionable lady from the 1860's.
Besides the history, there were some amazing caves along this part of the canal. My boys want to come back - but next time bring their flash lights so they can do more exploring.
I love when one activity hits more than one goal. For us, biking the canal towpath has increased our knowledge of local history, given us great family memories, exercised our muscles, and allowed us to enjoy the beauty of God's world.
You can get your own copy of the Towpath Guide to the C&O Canal at the visitor's centers along the towpath or at the Harper's Ferry website.
What activities do you enjoy with your family at the location where you live? Anyone want to join us on the towpath?