The C & O Canal Trail was done. It was now time to tackle the Greater Allegheny Passage (GAP) and the beginning of it would be the hardest.
I was up and out of the hotel at 7ish. I hit the nearby McDonalds for a quick breakfast sandwich and went down the streets to the bike shop and mile zero of the GAP.
Now the trail guides make mention of the grade the first 23 miles of the GAP and say it isn't too bad, and looking back, it really wasn't too terrible. It was just slow and the day was going to be hot. I just pushed along as people flew past me going down grade and passed a couple leisurely bikers on my way up to Savage Tunnel and then the Eastern Continental Divide. I would also be entering PA today.
As I made my way up the trail I came to Brush Tunnel. At 914' long, I figured this wasn't a big deal, so I didn't rig any lights. Besides it was paved and I could see the exit clearly. It was a really weird feeling as the light from the entrance faded and I found myself in the pitch black middle. I could feel myself moving, but had no other sensory input other than seeing the exit getting larger in small increments. It was quite an experience and I'm thankful it was a totally smooth surface as I rode through. I'm sure one bump would have sent me careening into the wall.
I continued on, climbing as I went. Just going steady and not worrying about how much time it was taking to get the first 23 miles done. I would stop when I felt like it and take a short break. I would also stop at every information board I would see, just to rest and also to read the interesting facts about the area.
|Looking into PA from MD|
I was about 20 miles in and it was time to leave Maryland. I crossed the Mason-Dixon Line and took a little break, ate a snack and then moved on.
|Savage Tunnel Entrance|
|Eastern Continental Divide|
As I was riding along, a guy came up on me from behind. I thought he was going to buzz on past and leave me behind, but he matched my speed and we started a nice conversation. It turns out his name was Steve and he said he was one of the people responsible for the trail. He said he is friends with Mary Shaw and Roy Weil, two very active supporters of the trail and told a lot of how the trail was made as we sped along towards Meyersdale, PA, my lunch stop for the day.
Before I knew it, we were crossing the road that marked Meyersdale. After doing 23 miles in almost four hours, I had just done another 10 in 40 minutes. I liked going "down hill". Steve told me that a Sheetz was just down the hill, so I single mindedly just started down instead of looking around. It was quite a downhill, that I had to walk back up. If I would have stopped at the refurbished train station/visitor center for a bit, I would have seen that everything I needed was within a few hundred feet of the trail, but it wasn't a big deal.
After my lunch, I moved on down the trail. At Rockwood, I picked up the Casselman River and started following along. Every so often a spring or stream would come cascading down the hillside to meet the river. This was a pretty cool waterfall that was right next to the trail.
After Rockwood, I came to the Pinkerton Tunnel, which was closed. Instead the trail followed the river around the hillside and back again. There was something weird going on on the hillside. It kinda looked like a landfill or maybe a strip mine reclamation.
I arrived in Confluence before 4pm and knew I was good to go another 10 miles. I filled up on water and kept riding down stream, but now I was following the Youghiogheny River and would follow it all the way to Pittsburgh.
I arrived in Ohiopyle and stopped at an information booth. There was an older gent on a recumbent bike also taking a break. We talked a while and discussed the merits of the strange bike he rode. I'm sure my ass and hands would be feeling a might different if I had one of those, even though they look weird.
Onward I continued across the river twice as it does a horseshoe bend around the town. I eventually came to a sign point up a path to the campground. And I do mean up. I had to climb the ridge along this path. I saw two others start up just ahead of me and we walked up together pushing our heavy bikes. They were part of a boy scout group that had biked here a couple days, were going to raft tomorrow and then bike back to their starting point outside Pittsburgh. They proudly stated that they had ridden 40 miles today and looked at me like I was either crazy or lying when I said I had done 72.
Eventually we got to the top of the trail. After talking to their road support guy, I found I had to continue on to the contact station and register for a site. It wasn't as bad as the path and I eventually got there paid my resident fee (using my Dad's address) and ordered some firewood to be delivered by the Camp Host.
I checked out the site and found two suitable trees to hang my hammock and was all settled in and headed to the shower by about 6:30pm. I had a nice dinner, a nice fire and hit the hammock just as the woods were getting dark.
|Hammock set up|