I cycled with other people today, which is always an event worth noting. A couple of coworkers invited me for a spin on the W&OD trail after work today. I’ve never been on this trail and I’ve heard many good things about it, so I was eager to give it a shot. With a little planning, I was able to bring my car to work, change at the end of the day, and join my buddies. We got in a 16 mile ride amongst some nice scenery, had some pleasant conversation, and I didn’t embarrass myself. I could ask for nothing more.
The trail is a paved railroad bed, formerly the Washington & Old Dominion Railway. Established in 1859, the W&OD was originally built to bring coal from the Appalachians to Washington. The railroad’s heyday was the early 1900s, when it serviced commuters heading to Washington from “distant” towns such as Falls Church (now part of the DC urban sprawl) and Leesburg (still in a rural setting). The railroad ceased operations in 1968 and the local power company bought the right of way to install power lines which are still in place. Eventually, it occurred to folks that the railroad bed would make an excellent hiking/jogging/biking trail, and in 1974 work was begun in sections. The project was completed in 1988 and is now one of the longest bike paths in the region.
I didn’t bring a camera with me for fear that my cycling mates would think me daft, but this photo I found online is fairly representative of the stretch I was on. The surface was excellent and the hills were gradual. The paths were lined with trees and housing developments. The two drawbacks were the frequent road intersections which required us to unclip and ensure the route was clear (to be fair, local drivers seem to be very aware of the trail’s existence and were good about stopping to let us pass) and the many people on the trail with us. On this day, it was very manageable, but I can imagine what it must be like on the weekends. The number of pedestrians would make it almost impossible to navigate. Further west, the land becomes more rural and I suspect the congestion problem isn’t as severe there.
After an hour, we pulled back into our office building and called it a day. It was a great spin with office mates on a beautiful afternoon. I think I’ll be doing this again.