After we left Greenbelt National Park we headed home. On the drive to Pittsburgh there are a ton of National park signs, mostly battlefields. I am always tempted to stop, but I really am trying to save most of those for when we are studying the pertinent wars. We had just started the Civil War in a very introductory way so now was not the time. Especially alone with a tired baby. But after we got out of my least favorite corridor of the drive, I saw a sign for C&O Canal, right as someone began to wail about bathrooms. I pulled off and followed signs. As I pulled in I spied a row of porta potties. I parked next to them and the kids bailed out as I looked up this park on my phone. The baby was asleep so I wasn’t too excited to get out and head into the little house which was just over a rise, but luckily as a canal there are many stops. I chose Cumberland as the stop we would make giving the baby a bit more sleeping time and boy was it a great choice.
Cumberland had an entire canal museum. The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal was an integral part of our nationwide canal system and runs 184.5 miles along the Potomac river. It is now part of the Rail to Trail system allowing you to bike old railroad and canal paths, nice, broad, level trails. There is parking across the street and a playground, so it is a great stop with kids. We entered and got our Junior Ranger books, then headed back toward the museum. My kids ran through the tunnel and all the pictures, past the educational displays and straight to the half canal boat. You could remove all the planking and put it back on, then you “caulked” the boat seams with rope that was hanging. This was a loud clattering activity that they loved. When they were bored of it, they began to look at their books and explore the exhibits. The exhibits were excellent and focused on canal life and boat building. My oldest was really interested in the tools of boat building, which were displayed on a wall. My daughter was thrilled by the life stories that were told when you picked up a Telephone. Telephones seem to be intriguing in general to the younger crowds, I guess because they aren’t common place anymore.
There were many examples of canal life, you can see the pot belly stove in the picture and a drop leaf table to show space saving techniques used aboard the boats. I really didn’t expect it to be so in depth. There are a number of hikes to take none of which were do able for me alone with the 3 little kids or the time constraint but Cumberland is a cute town and I could see visiting it again. The Junior Ranger booklet was of medium complexity. There was some long division, and a lot of great architecture notes about tunneling and aquaduct building. This was a nice addition to the Canal Stops we have done this summer at Cuyahoga, and Allegheny Portage. The employee checking people in also told us that you could a canal boat through a lock being pulled by a mule at one of the canal stops AND that the one we had stopped at to use the bathroom was in fact closed so I’m doubly glad I hadn’t woke the baby up for it! In honor of the “Summer of the Canals” I bought myself this sweet Mule Cookie Cutter!
After the museum we went outside to enjoy snacks by the fountain and ended up enjoying the fantastic playground that is adjacent. Definitely a great spot to stop as a midpoint with kids! And the last stop of our DC mini trip, which ended up being quite the badge haul for 3 days!