Friday, July 18, 2014

GAP - Connellsville to Pittsburgh, PA

Our final day on the GAP. Not very many scenic views but it was still a nice ride through small town America for the first 50 of today's 62 miles. We rode right through Whitsett, Van Meter, Buddtown, West Newton, Buena Vista, and Boston, PA.

The GAP used to end at McKeesport, about 18 miles from downtown Pittsburgh but they have been able to piece together many bits and sections of trail to finally finish the entire GAP within the last two years. After McKeesport the trail is not very scenic and at that point it was just a matter of getting to the end on paths that crisscrossed roads and factories before finally coming onto streets for the last few miles.

The total mileage for the week was 352. While the C&O Canal Path was nice, the lack of maintenance did take away some of its appeal. Contrast that to the GAP, which was well maintained and very scenic except for the last few miles into Pittsburgh. I would highly recommend the GAP and the C&O was still a great ride, except for the 15 miles into Cumberland.

At the West Newton depot

One of the many small towns we rode through today

Pittsburgh from the Hot Metal Bridge

The finish at Point State Park

End of the GAP at the Three Rivers Confluence

Today's ride:

Thursday, July 17, 2014

GAP - Rockwood to Connellsville, PA

Another beautiful day on the GAP. This is really a lovely well maintained trail through the mountains with beautiful views, bridges, viaducts, and small little towns around every curve. For most of today we hugged the Youghiogheny River and saw rapids, white water rafters, and fisherman.  All viaducts overlooked beautiful rivers or small town America with train whistles in the distance, blue skies overhead, and a cool breeze in the air. And the trail was a gentle one half to one percent grade downhill all the way. Tomorrow we cycle to the end of the GAP in Pittsburgh. I'll let the pictures do the rest of the talking.

Last night's B&B in Rockwood

Along the GAP

The town of Ohiopyle, where we had lunch

Jeff heads over a viaduct
Today's ride:

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) - Cumberland, MD to Rockwood, PA

A beautiful sunny day with low humidity and mild temperatures for our signature day of the ride. Today, we left the C&O Canal at its terminus and began the 150 mile Great Allegheny Passage, or GAP. The GAP is a rails to trails path created when the Western Maryland and PLE (Pittsburgh and Lake Erie) Railroads ceased operations in 1975 and 1991 respectively. The GAP was completed in June 2013.

Our ride went from Cumberland at about 600 feet elevation to the Eastern Continental Divide at 2392 feet in 23.5 miles and then descended to Rockwood. Along the way we crossed the Mason-Dixon line into Pennsylvania, went through the 3300 feet Big Savage Tunnel and across the 1908 foot Salisbury Viaduct. The GAP is well maintained with a crushed limestone base and whereas the C&O Canal Path was muddy the entire 184.5 mile length, I didn't see one drop of water or mud on the GAP today.

End of the C&O Canal in Cumberland, MD

Beginning of the GAP

Riding on the GAP

Crossing into Pennsylvania

The Big Savage Tunnel

Crossing the Eastern Continental Divide
Salisbury Viaduct

Today's ride:

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

C&O Canal Path - Little Orleans to Cumberland, MD

Today we had light rain for most of the ride. After our wives graciously shuttled us from the B&B to the trail head near Bill's Place, we hit the canal path for 45 muddy miles.

The highlight of the day was a walk through the Paw Paw Tunnel at mile marker 155. This is a 3118 foot brick lined tunnel that took 14 years and 6 million bricks to build, saving five miles of canal construction.

The last ten miles of path to Cumberland at mile marker 184.5 were a disappointment, to say the least. The trail was a complete quagmire in many places and a disgrace to what is supposed to be a National Historic Park. Very little maintenance has been done on the trail itself (though blow downs had been quickly cleared). There is no crown to the path and the berm is higher than the path itself, causing water to pool the over the entire width of trail. We were completely covered in mud. Not what one would expect of a National Park. Never the less, the first 170 miles of the canal path were enjoyable, though also not maintained to a reasonable standard.

Entering the Paw Paw Tunnel

Mark, exiting the Paw Paw Tunnel

Typical lock house and lock

Before the mud

End of the C&O Canal Path
Today's ride:

Monday, July 14, 2014

C&O Canal Path - Hagerstown to Little Orleans, MD

Today was an easy day, or what we call a "rolling rest day". From the hotel, we took roads to the paved Western Maryland Trail which paralleled the C&O Canal for 22 miles. Then, it was several miles back on the canal path to Little Orleans, where we had lunch at Bill's Place before shuttling to the hotel.

Our B&B was one of the first hotels built for auto travel, on the National Road, in 1916. Of course the main highways now bypass the road the hotel is on and the guests now consist primarily of cyclists and tour groups. We spent a nice evening at the hotel including a wonderful dinner and breakfast.

The Western Maryland Trail

Bill's Place

The Town Hill Bed & Breakfast
Today's ride:

Sunday, July 13, 2014

C&O Canal Path - Point of Rocks to Hagerstown, MD

This day was overcast with threatening skies, though it did not rain until the evening.

Our ride today was 51 trail miles from Point of Rocks to Williamsport with side trips to Harpers Ferry, WV for sightseeing, and Sheperdstown, WV for lunch. It concluded with four road miles to the hotel in Hagerstown.

Today the path still had many weekend cyclists and some walkers. We stopped on the trail and walked across a railroad bridge to Harpers Ferry where the whole town is historic and a national park. Lunch at the Blue Moon Cafe in Sheperdstown was delicious and we still had 30 plus miles in the afternoon before reaching our hotel.

Big Slackwater was a highlight, where the Potomoc River pools behind a dam and power station. The trail ran right along the river.

At the hotel we had to say good bye to Dave, who goes back to work tomorrow. The rest of us will continue on to the end of the C&O at mile 184.5 in Cumberland and then to Pittsburgh on the Great Allegheny Passage.

Harpers Ferry from the railroad bridge over the Potomoc River

The view down the Potomoc from Harpers Ferry

The Canal Path at Big Slackwater

Mark and Gary at Big Slackwater
Today's ride:

Saturday, July 12, 2014

C&O Canal Path - Washington DC to Point of Rocks, MD

Great ride from Georgetown to Point of Rocks, MD on the C&O Canal Path.  It was good to see Mark Koltz, Mark Weisbarth, Jeff, Gary, and Dave (Karen Koltz's brother) again for another adventure.

It was a nice day with sunny skies. Hot in the sun, but for the most part we were under a canopy of trees where it was cool. The canal path was very heavy with runners and local cyclists for the first 30 miles. The C&O is primarily a dirt path with minimal maintenance. So it is muddy in spots with plenty of roots and rocks to rattle your bicycle. I found it to be a completely different ride from the KATY trail. Much more demanding on the arms and a bit slower although the surface was generally harder.

Start of the ride in Georgetown. Left to right:  Mark K., Jeff, Mark W., Gary, Dave, Joe

At Mile Zero of the Canal and Canal Path

The typical scenery today. The Potomoc River to our left and C&O Canal to our right.

Mark, Gary, Jeff, and Mark at the Great Falls overlook
The ride today included a stop at Great Falls, Whites Ferry, and several aqueducts. At Great Falls, the Potomoc river drops 76 feet in one mile with several 20 foot waterfalls. Whites Ferry is the last surviving car ferry over the river.

A wonderful evening was spent at the Koltz's lovely house where Mark and Karen had a cookout for everyone.

Today's ride: