Carefree Sunday

Sept 30, 2019

Exploring on a Sunday

Middletown Valley, Md

Today, yesterday, my boyfriend and I both went places we had never been before. Me – Cacapon Mt, where his work buddy owns property and we are going (soon) to get firewood; my boyfriend – Paw Paw Tunnel. It had been a few years since we – my dad, son and I – had been to the tunnel.

The picture above is taken from I70, overlooking Middletown Valley, MD.

Great Cacapon Valley

We only stopped here for a minute, to take some pictures and stretch our legs. We had been on the road for over an hour. It was definitely time to stretch…especially since we were in my little, red Chevy Aveo.

I know this is hard to read, so it is transcribed below:

“George Washington’s View: Higher on Cacapon Mountain, Prospect Rock (also called Cacapon Rock) offers the same spectacular view. It was a hazardous daytrip for visitors on horsebakc from colonial times to the early 20th century. Washington often rode here, fueling his vision of a way west and (something) for his Powtomack (Potomac) Navigation Company. Today, its unique rock formations may be reached by a 12 mile fire road and flat hiking trail along the top of Cacapon Mountain accessed from Cacapon State Park and hiking trails from Coolfont Resort.

“Over the years, the view from Panorama has been lauded by many including the following: Art Association rates Panorama view the 10th finest in the world; Museum of Natural History in New York rates Panorama view the 5th finest in the US; National Geographic called it the “Switzerland View of America”

I wish I had actually written the info down, rather than thinking I could read it off my camera. Or taken a pic with my cell phone.

Back country road

This is on the way back to the property where we’re going to be getting firewood.

beautiful waters

If we had actually had all the time we needed, we would’ve stopped here and done some exploring. You can tell the water is low (we’re actually in the middle of a drought).

low rapids

We were actually in my car, on a bridge they call “low water bridge”. When they get a lot of rain, you can’t cross it.

Paw Paw Tunnel

The Paw Paw Tunnel is a 3,118-foot-long canal tunnel on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal in Allegany County, Maryland. Located near Paw Paw, West Virginia, it was built to bypass the Paw Paw Bends, a six-mile stretch of the Potomac River containing five horseshoe-shaped bends.

Address:Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Towpath, Oldtown, MD 21555

Length: 3,118′ 0″

Tunnel clearance: 24 feet (7.3 m)


on the path

The path is easy and just a short walk. According to the site Alltrails, it’s 4.9 miles (there and back) and is considered moderate. It definitely did not feel like an almost 5 mile hike. Although, if you include walking through the tunnel – then maybe.

“The Paw Paw Tunnel stands as a monument to the ability and daring of 19th century canal builders. By building the mile long cut through the mountain, including the 3,118 tunnel, the canal avoided 6 miles of river bends and steep, rocky cliffs. Methodist minister and contractor, Lee Montgomery, began construction in 1836, with estimates of completion in two years. Labor shortages, financial difficulties, underestimating the cost of work, and a maze of lawsuits eventually forced Montgomery into bankruptcy. Work on the tunnel stopped. In 1850, the tunnel was finally completed, opening the canal from Georgetown (outside of D.C. to Cumberland (MD).

(1) Surveyors used simple instruments to keep the digging on a true course

(2) Blasting the unstable shale with unpredictable black powder was dangerous business, injuries and deaths were commonplace

(3) Two shafts were sunk in an effort to speed the work. This enabled workers to dig from four directions

(4) Excavated materials were dumped in the hills surrounding the tunnel

Hand Labor
the men
Against the grain

“The Potomac River meanders through six miles of bends here with steep cliffs dropping to the river, making the digging of a ditch canal nearly impossible. The canal company engineers could have followed the natural fold (1) in the rock stratification to burrow the tunnel but this would have taken them too far from the river. They decided to tunnel a shorter distance diagonally (2) through the rock folds. The river and the rocks here are unforgiving. They cost the canal company time and money in its race against the railroad.

Tere is a trail that goes over the tunnel, but we didn’t take it.

the tunnel


  • Workers removed 82,000 cubic yards of shale to build the tunnel.
  • The 24-foot-high tunnel is lined with six million bricks.
  • The tunnel took its name from the paw paw, an exotic fruit that grows on nearby ridges.
  • The completed tunnel was wide enough for only a single boat to pass through at a time.
  • For more fast facts click here: Paw Paw Tunnel
inside the tunnel – taken with no flash!
about half way through
close to the end

It is definitely recommended to bring a flashlight if you go. On the way out, the first trip through, I forgot all about my cell phone flash light. Crazy me! So, the first walk through took us a little longer than on the way back.

the other side
Paw Paw Toad

Directions from Cumberland, MD: Travel east on MD State Route 51 about 25 miles to the tunnel trailhead parking lot located on the left hand side of the road. The trail begins at the back of the lot.

Directions from Frederick or Baltimore, MD: (approx 75 mi/100 mi) I-70 W for about 47.1 miles, left on US-522S Hancock towards Winchester 5.7 miles, right on WV-9W 21.2 miles. about 1 hour 28 minutes from Frederick (if traffic is moving)

From any other points (like D.C. or New York), I suggest looking up directions on Google Maps. The directions are way too complicated…but basically if you can find your way to either Cumberland MD or Frederick – the rest is easy.

The trail is open year round. There is also a campground located near the parking lot.

I’ve got more pics, but this is all I’ve been able to edit! The rest will have to wait!

“the earth has music for those that listen” – William Shakespeare

Hope you enjoyed!

Have a great day, night or evening!!

Thanks for stopping by!

click on either image to see what I have available at Picfair and/or Pinterest.

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