We could not believe it when we saw the place, in fact, we biked past it. Unlike the wooden lockhouse buildings we had been passing- white with green shutters- this place was brick. It was on the other side of the locks we had passed, the opposite side from most other lockhouses we had passed. Circling back for a better look, yes, wow! This was Lockhouse 49 in what used to be the Four Locks community – our home for the next two nights. It was magical to stay here! As a lovingly restored historic home, it was a little like a museum or fancy B&B. It also was a bit like camping (no plumbing), and like a youth hostel (4 beds per room). We explored the house and the area and got settled in. There were books and old photos inside the house, outside we could walk around the bottom of the canal where the boats used to float back in the day.
We walked around the lock structures around us again this morning. It was a beautiful day, and the stone structures were interesting and lovely in the light.
The kids were reluctant to go after two days of biking, but this place surpassed our expectations and turned out to be a highlight of the trip. It was about 3 miles from the lockhouse, back the way we had came, so we biked over to mile 112.4 to check it out. From the entrance to the park, we could tell this place was really cool. There was a rustic wooden fence, the kind with rough-cut wood leaning at angles against the parallel ones. Beyond was a massive stone wall as far as we could see. To the left was a parking lot with plenty of bike parking, which we rapidly monopolized. There was a log cabin-type buiding next to the parking area, and several smaller buildings behind that.
Fort (L) and visitor center (R)
We were looking around when L. Wonderful started trying to gather us to let us know “There are costumed reenactors! They’ll give us a tour!” We all headed for the fort entrance, which we learned until recently had a massive wooden door. Standing by the entrance were indeed two men in costume, one of whom was speaking about the history of the fort in a strong English accent.
The guide with the accent turned out to actually be from England and both guides were happy to discuss history of the Fort. We had them talking for a long time after they did their usual tour since there were not a lot of visitors that day. The fort was built for the French and Indian War, also known as the Seven Years War, in the 1750’s. It was later used during the Revolutionary War as a prison for British soldiers, and during the Civil War for Union soldiers to protect the C&O Canal from attack. Later, it was forgotten, fell into disrepair, and was even used to house livestock until the 1920’s when it became owned by the State of Maryland and was rebuilt as a Civil Conservation Corps project in the 1930’s. Meanwhile, here in 2015, the kids ran around and tried on costumes and generally explored the place and played all they wanted.
Above: start of tour inside soldier barracks (outside is shown in last picture) Below: our kids running around and playing in costume
It was so unexpected and so much fun. L Wonderful and I loved hearing the English version of the Boston Tea Party and details of the soldier’s lives in Fort Frederick. It is also interesting to know that Fort Duquesne, currently known as Pittsburgh, had a similar design, ironically a French design, of a large square with diamond-shaped corners, shown below.
below: L and me trying to make straight faces so we can be proper soldiers!
After the fort, we went back to the lockhouse. Happily, we were indoors during the big rainstorm that happened that evening. We played cards, looked at the books and other reading material about the history of the area, and enjoyed the old-fashioned kids’ games that were there for our use in the house. That night, it might have happened that I had to get up and use the facilities, and it is also possible I started thinking a lot about ghosts there in that house for a moment in the quiet dark night in that old, old house…
This was to be a light day of biking with time to relax and explore a canal town. We packed up the bikes and cleaned the lockhouse after breakfast. Our next stop was only 10 miles away and we were to stay in a hotel this night. We passed some nice rock faces, a dam area where the canal boats used to ride on the river on the flat area upstream of the dam, and wonderful views of the Potomac. A large group of young men on a group trip passed us energetically.
We arrived, biked to the hotel, then explored this cute town for the day. We found a swimming pool, an ice cream shop, an historic farm, and an antique car show. Getting off the trail at mile 99.4 there was an aqueduct (the one where a boat fell off in the 1920’s! You can still see the damage.) and a nice museum about the canal. The Conococheague – which I am proud I learned to pronounce as “KAHN-eh-ka-jig” – River meets the Potomac here, thus the aqueduct.
above: Williamsport, the affected side of the aqueduct(with grassy hill in foreground), the intact side
below: things we found in Williamsport, in no particular order. The town park was very nice – green, large, included a swimming pool open to the public for just $3! We had it almost to ourselves. Antique cars, ice cream parlor, Springfield farm.
We had a swim, some ice cream, and a walk around the town before calling it a day. We went to sleep in a modern building for the first time in 4 nights, and waited for the rain everyone said would come over night.
We awoke to the sound of rain. A steady, relentless rain that had been predicted the day before. The Park Service people even said the rain might threaten the towpath; parts had washed out from rain in the past. We decided to give up our last day of biking and drive the rest of the way to Harper’s Ferry. R. Wonderful and I were to drive him there to pick up his car, bring both cars back to the hotel, then we would all pack the cars and head out. We headed in the rain for my car in the parking lot, a few yards from the hotel room. In that short space of time, we realized that a few people wanted to bike in the rain. Heck, I wanted to bike in the rain. So did RW. And Mr. Fantastic didn’t really want to bike; he might be happy to take non-bikers to a museum or something… and so hatched the plan to bike 40 miles in the pouring rain! What happened? Stay tuned, tripsters!!