Best Free Vacation
Bike Camping at Swains Lock
Take: sleeping bag, spare tube, tent, mini-stove, fuel and matches, some food and water and coffee, a headlamp, a book. Leave: your cash. Just 16 miles from Thompson Boat Center is the first of 30 no-charge hike-in/bike-in campsites along the towpath of Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Park. Swains Lock has five campsites, all with soul-comforting views of Potomac inlets, the upper reaches of the George Washington Memorial Parkway, and, in case you never bike anywhere without your basketball, a hoop. You can leave in the afternoon and be in your cubicle the next morning with no evidence that you’re slowly turning into the Unabomber except your stubble and stinky pits. Remember that the C&O towpath punishes ambition—the next campsite is only 10 miles away, but on that gravelly surface the distance feels twice as long. Save it for a weekend.