Teeny Tiny Arch Between the Blue Goose and the Bat Tunnel

Simple arch seat at the east end of the closed Indigo Tunnel near Little Orleans MD

Much hiking and biking over Labor Day weekend here – the weather gods must have forgotten about the holiday weekend and there wasn’t a cloud in sight. On Monday, managed to get a ride in with my wife, who has been doing much more running than biking in recent years.

We drove out to Hancock MD and did 14 miles out and 14 miles back on the Western Maryland Rail Trail. We went west, out to where the paved rail trail stops and you have to switch to the C&O Canal Towpath for 2.5 miles. The obstacle is the Indigo Tunnel, which houses several protected species of bats – no plans to run the trail through the tunnel. Not usually a major obstacle when the Towpath is dry, but we were about at Carole’s mileage limit, so we parked the bikes and walked into the woods a bit to see how close we could get to the tunnel opening for an arch picture.

Western Maryland Railroad Indigo Tunnel

The topo map above shows the sheer cliffs at either end of the tunnel. The does appear to be a path in the middle of the bend that would get you to the top – if you are a mountain goat. The towpath along that bend is 2.5 miles, the tunnel is about 4,500 feet long – boring the tunnel through the mountain wasn’t easy back in those days, but saved the WMRR over a mile of track.

Turns out, not very close – in a hundred yards or so the path ended at the “small arch” seat (and fire ring to the left) in the picture above. We turned around, biked back to the Blue Goose Market and enjoyed fine locally baked goods and picked up some local corn and tomatoes for dinner.

The middle 13.5 miles of the Western Maryland Rail Trail

2 response to "Teeny Tiny Arch Between the Blue Goose and the Bat Tunnel"

  1. By: gregblood Posted: September 8, 2020

    Even if there was a trail through a tunnel full of bats, I don’t think I go through there out of fear of getting bit in the neck and either getting rabies or becoming a vampire. I’d just lift my bike onto my shoulder and find a way to hike over the hill and rejoin the trail on the other side. (But yeah, I get it: if they did build the trail through there, the bats would be gone.)

  2. By: jpescatore Posted: September 8, 2020

    I updated the post to show a topo map of the tunnel area – not too many people are going to scale either end dragging a bike along!

    They made the decision back in 2010 not to disturb the bats and the biking community was generally supportive, but the hope was that they would improve the surface to make the detour a bit easier on road bikes. That section of the towpath around the loop isn’t too bad during dry spells but it has a lot of potholes and gets real messy during wet periods – and takes a while to dry out.

    The C&O Canal Towpath National Park has been getting funds to resurface about 10% of the towpath each year, but has (rightly so) focused on washed out and/or heavily used areas. As of this year, the surface is really nice up to Antietam at about mile 70 (of 184) but the tunnel is at mile 138 or so.

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