Ohiopyle and Oldtown - a supported three days on the GAP and C & O
I spent my three week vacation this August on a car tour of scenic and natural areas in central and western Pennsylvania. This included a two night tour along the Allegheny River Trail, and what turned into a two night supported tour on the Great Allegheny Passage and C & O Canal to end the trip. However, the support wasn't planned for originally. My riding partner JAGraham was taken ill and under doctor's orders not to exert herself. So we scrapped a planned three days of backpacking and she gave up riding with me on the GAP aside from the downhill into Cumberland, Maryland. Still, we had fun. Including my supported tour on the last weekend in August.
Our plan for Friday was that I'd make my way to Cumberland, MD, store my car and excess gear there, and ride to Oldtown on the C & O, where JAGraham would pick me up and take me back to our campsite on Mount Davis, PA's highest peak. Then on Saturday I'd start a two day ride of the 'Western Maryland' portion of the Great Allegheny Passage. I parked the car in the long term lot at Cumberland and headed south in the late afternoon.
Aside from the area around Harper's Ferry and the final 30 some miles into DC, my favorite stretch of the C & O is Cumberland to Oldtown. It had a variety of terrain and landscape, and avoids the 'green tunnel' effect I find on much of the C & O. This is at Lock 75 on the canal.
I made descent progress on the hard, dry trail, save for my hands. Now that I'd improved my saddle by finding a sweeter spot, my hands had been going numb after a few miles of riding. Fortunately that's a good excuse to take a photo. Unfortunately I want to get to the point I can ride and ride without stopping. Like these through tourists I met at Pigman's Ferry.
Still, if I have to stop, it's nice to stop in places like this:
JAGraham picked me up at Oldtown, we dined in Cumberland, and then went back up the mountain.
I woke up, crawled out of my tent, and plotted my drive home Sunday afternoon. It was so breezy I had to anchor the map lest it blow away:
After breakfast nearby, we headed to Ohiopyle. Once there, JAGraham and I rode in the 'wrong' direction, towards Connellsville. I'd decided I wanted to see my favorite overlook on the Passage, six miles out. Repeatedly on that trip we met CrazyGuyOnABike poster Larry Albert and his two companions. Albert and JAGraham know each other from the forum, but had never met in person. Albert's account of the meeting is here. And here he is riding down the trail:
The overlook was as pretty as I remembered it, even with the Yough at a low level:
I turned round and rode back to Ohiopyle. I watched the kayakers navigate around Fern Clif from the High Bridge:
After meeting JAGraham at Ohiopyle, it was off to Conflunce for a late lunch. I rode, she drove. Sisters' Diner is in decline, and I may have to skip it when I'm next in town. Confluence Cyclery made some adjustments to my derailer to eliminate a squeak. And then south, and uphill, to Rockwood for my final night on the trail. I made decent time despite my hands going numb and my itchy photo-fingers.
I arrived at 7:30, rode to Husky Haven for my last night in a tent, had a big dinner, and retired with a 43 mile day behind me and a 43 mile day ahead of me.
The morning was warm as I set out from Rockwood. After a full breakfast, showering and using the computer at the showerhouse/game room at Husky Haven, JAGraham left to get lunch for us, drop my camping gear off in my car in Cumberland, and to park her car at the Deal Trailhead. Meanwhile, I had to grind up from Rockwood to Garrett as the day grew warmer. This part of the Passage isn't very steep, but my legs found it tougher than I expected. However, once I reached Garrett the climb lessened, and soon enough I was at Salisbury Viaduct.
By the time I'd reached Keystone Viaduct, on the other side of Meyersdale....
... I'd begun to feel queasy. I don't know if it was the heat, not enough fluids, or a Clif Bar I'd had an hour before, but as I pedaled on I was very sick to my stomach. Finally as I neared Sand Patch I thought "I feel like I could throw up." And a minute later I was at the side of the trail doing just that. I stopped for a few minutes on the shadeless trail and drank long and hard from my water bottle. Once I felt better, I continued on. JAGraham had left the Deal Trailhead and ridden the mile to the Eastern Continental Divide where she could hang out in the cool underpass. I met her there, sat down for a few minutes, and drank a Diet Pepsi. JAGraham and I chatted with other cyclists hanging out in the cool, dark underpass. I soon recovered, and we were off on the "glide" portion of the ride.
The 24 miles.1600 feet of downhill was such a blur there's little to say. I've done it four times now and it's still a thrill. At the high point of the Passage:
Big Savage Tunnel:
View from the south end of Big Savage Tunnel. Welcome to Maryland!
Cyclists come out of Bordon Tunnel, just above Frostburg.
Downhill to Cumberland! The Clydesdale Express thunders down the gravel track!
Entering the Narrows, the bottleneck north of Cumberland. It was near here in June 2008 I crashed and fractured a rib when crossing wet railroad tracks. And this was the third time I'd crossed them successfully. Practice can make perfect, it seems.
Success! Daisy the Mule watches my bike Roark at mile zero of the GAP, the Western Maryland rail station.
Judy and I said goodbye. She arranged to meet her husband for dinner in Cumberland, and they would drive up to retrieve her car. I packed up my bike in my car and headed out on the five hour drive home.