C&O Canal Thru-Hike – 1-Location

Parameters that will drive the preparation, training, gear, food, water, etc:

  • Distance: 184.5 miles. Cumberland, MD, to Washington, DC.
  • Duration: 4-6 days
  • Terrain: Nearly flat, very little terrain variety. Portions may be rocky, muddy, overgrown – but the trail is essentially flat. Long stretches with shade, long stretches no shade.
  • Proximity to water: High during entire duration.
  • Season/Weather: September, second half.
  • Party size: 1

Notes and Thoughts

Duration: I will have to refine this estimate based on training and level of intensity. At 4 days, that’s 46 m/d. At 6 days, that’s 30 m/d. Given the terrain, 30 m/d is doable – 46 may be insanely optimistic – or just plain insane. I live 0.5 miles from the C&O – I’ll be able to do some good training hikes to figure this out… TRAINING: Do several long hikes to determine rate of travel.

Proximity to water: There will be ready access to water, though potability will be questionable. PACK: 500ml water bottle, filter, purification tabs.

Season/Weather: Anticipate temperatures from 90+ during the day. While unlikely, temperatures could get to near freezing at night – more likely, 50-60s. Rain is possible. Snow highly unlikely. Can check weather as get closer. Mosquito mitigation a must. PACK: Layers, rain gear, bug mitigation.

Party size: I intend to solo the hike. In mid-September, I anticipate reasonable trail use – so I’m not overly concerned about not finding aid if an emergency arises. Additionally, as the C&O is, essentially, a single trail without deviations and branches – it should be close to impossible to get lost. PACK: cell, battery, Ham radio programmed with frequencies of repeaters along the route.

C&O Canal Thru-Hike – Overview

I turn 50 this year!

To commemorate, I will thru-hike the C&O Canal. I have always had a love of the outdoors – and a love for self improvement. While I’ve had the dream of thru-hiking the Canal since my early 30’s – my desire was rekindled a few years back when reading Mark Divine‘s “The Way of the Seal.” Mark emphasizes the value of significant physical efforts to help forge mental toughness.

“By holding them accountable to a standard they never thought attainable, they learn that their physical limits are actually determined by their mental limits.”

Mark Divine

This will be my first long-distance hike, and I really have no idea where to start or how to prepare.

Accordingly – I will use this blog to capture preparation, training, coordination, execution, and lessons learned. I hope this information may be useful to those who wish to make the same journey.

Shout out to the Hikengripen and HoboKitten sites. Your posts have been instrumental in getting me started! REI’s Expert Advice articles are also immeasurably useful. I’ll commit to procuring all needed supplies from REI given the contributions they’ve made to this trip!

These pages are a work in progress, and each is likely to change until after the trip concludes. I envision the following articles:

1 – Location
2 – Gear (including shoes!)
3 – Food and Water
4 – Training
5 – Getting Ready
6 – Lessons Learned