Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Forty-four Miles on the GAP

I recently enjoyed cycling a forty-four mile section of the Great Allegheny Passage, my first trip on this iconic rail-trail attraction and my longest ride to date.

I met up with my nephew Chris and his friends Keihly and Tyler, all experienced cyclists, at the Youghiogheny Canoe Outfitters & Campground at milepost 114 In West Newton, PA.  They had begun their trip that morning, cycling the 31 miles from Pittsburgh and arriving at the campground next to the trail about forty-five minutes before I drove in.

Dinner at The Trailside Restaurant and Pub
After setting up my tent we drove to The Trailside Restaurant and Pub where we enjoyed a great dinner and some cold brews.  I had the Cuban Panini washed down with a couple ice cold Sam Adams Summer Ales. It was delicious.

Back at the campground after dinner we built a fire in the fire ring and enjoyed camaraderie and conversation before turning in around 10:30 PM. The sound of occasional trains rambling up and down the tracks just across the Youghiogheny River was adequately muffled by ear plugs so I could sleep.  A nearby fire siren which sounded at around 11:30 PM and seemed to wail for an eternity, however, pierced the earplugs and woke us all. The 70 degree overnight temperature combined with the lack of a breeze and high humidity made for a muggy sleep outside of my sleeping bag.

After breaking camp the next morning we rode our camping gear laden bikes the three-quarter mile into West Newton where we enjoyed breakfast the Gary’s Church Wagon. I fueled up for the day’s ride by downing a couple cups of coffee and a 2 by 4; two pancakes, two eggs over easy, two sausage patties, and two slices of wheat toast, as well as a glass or two of ice water.  After our bill was paid the establishment was kind enough to fill our water bottles with ice and cold water.

Taking a break at Roundbottom Campground
We finally seriously hit the trail around 11 AM and peddled fifteen miles before our first break at mile 99 and the Roundbottom Campground.  After another fourteen miles we took a long break in Connellsville at a trailside Martin’s Grocery store.  Enjoying our purchases outside at a picnic table, with shoes and socks off, I downed 8oz of Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia, a cold bottle of Dasani, and a peach.  Fueled by our Martins purchase and with clean, dry socks on my feet and sunscreen on my arms and face, we left Connellsville for Ohiopyle, fifteen miles to the east.

A few miles from Ohiopyle we were treated to an outstanding view up the gorge on the inside of a turn, followed a few miles later by double side view of the river as we peddled onto and then stopped on the middle of the trestle just outside of town. Once in Ohiopyle, forty-four trail miles east and 461feet higher than our day’s starting point of West Newton, we paused for a break and snacks at the OhiopyleBakery and Sandwich Shop. Afterward, I bid farewell to my cycling companions and drove home.  They, on the overhand, were going to cycle another eleven miles to Confluence and their reservations at a B&B, and from there, after multiple days on the trail, all the way to Washington, DC.

Looking upstream from the bridge into Ohiopyle
I thoroughly enjoyed the forty-four miles of the GAP that I experienced.  The trail was well maintained, well-marked, and had plenty of amenities.  At times the trail was exposed to full sunlight.  At other times I felt enveloped by the deep mountain laurel, rhododendron and quartzite filled Penn’s woods. As I was enjoying the company and the scenery of the day’s ride I was thankful for the opportunity to experience it and thinking about how I might someday ride the whole trail, including the C& O Trail, from Pittsburgh, PA to Washington, DC.

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