Day One | Day Two | Day Three | Day Four | Day Five
On June 15, 2008, Norma took me bicycling on the Great Allegheny Passage rail trail. She had done much of this trail previously with her sisters. Back then, it wasn't complete. It still isn't completely done but it is much closer to being finished than it was 4 years ago.
This well-maintained, 2% grade, 150 mile long trail will go from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Cumberland, Maryland, once complete. At the time of this writing, there is just a short trailless section at Homestead, Pennsylvania. The first section was opened in 1986 near Ohiopyle, Pennsylvania.
Norma and Carmen had been talking about biking the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) for a few months. After setting their mind to do it, they kicked around dates, discussed lodging, camping, and a shuttle to ensure it would be a one way trip. I pretty much just sat back and let them do the planning. Anything they suggested would be fine with me.
A week prior to our trip, we got a little taste of hot weather bicycling on June 10, 2012 at the Tour Dem Parks Hon bike ride. That was only 33.5 miles of riding with minimal gear. For our multi-day trek of the GAP, we would average about 40 miles a day carrying full camping gear on unpaved trails. But we were confident we would have no trouble accomplishing this. The only question was how much fun could we have along the way? A lot or way hella lot?
Day One, Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Carmen met Norma and me at our house. I loaded up the three bikes and all our gear. We were on the road by 0800ish. A few hours later, we arrived in Cumberland at Western Maryland Adventures (now a broken link). A friendly fellow loaded up our bikes and gear in his van then drove us to Pittsburgh. His good nature was a foreshadowing of the rest of our trip.
In Pittsburgh, we checked in at the Alpine Lodge. This isn't an actual lodge but rather someone's personal row house who has some extra bedrooms. It was quite basic but that's all we need. We shared a bathroom with another guest that we never saw. After unloading our camping gear, we set out to explore the town on bicycle.
Pittsburgh is much different than Carmen and I expected. We though it would be a dirty steel town but that was the Pittsburgh of long ago. Now it is clean, cultured, and diverse. I heard it has a low crime rate too. But two things really stood out: the people are friendly and there are bridges all over the place. Carmen calls it the "city of bridges" which I think is appropriate. But not surprisingly, her naming is not the first. See downtown Pittsburgh.
We rode into the downtown area, crossing the Allegheny River by one of many bridges. Even though the place is very urban, I found it pretty easy to get around on bike. Of course we weren't competing with rush hour traffic but even when we were riding with lots of cars, we found the drivers courteous...much moreso than the Baltimore/Washington D.C. area.
The metropolitan part of town was full of big buildings but the mathematician in me took a special liking to the PPC Place which is mentioned in The Mathematical Tourist. As Norma pointed out, it is pretty easy to have a corner office in a building constructed like this. See first photo.
Our big stop was the Cathedral of Learning at the University of Pittsburgh. What makes this building so special is that it really does look like a cathedral, both inside and out. See second and third photos. Additionally, many of the rooms are designed to reflect classic architecture from various countries. See Nationality Rooms. Hence, there is a Japan room, an Armenian room, an African room, a Swiss room (fourth photo), a Turkish room, an Indian room (fifth photo), etc. We saw as many as we could until they closed. In the Japan room, I learned that
Seki Takakazu (1640? - 1708) is considered the greatest mathematician in pre-modern Japan. He founded "wasan," the native mathematics of Japan. Living in the same period as Newton and Leibniz, arguably the two greatest mathematicians in the past millenium, Takakazu developed a method for approximating the roots of a higher order algebraic equation very similar to the well-known "Newton's method." Takakazu also formulated the theory of determinants to solve multiple equations, which is purported to have preceded the similar theory of the German mathematician Gottfried Leibnitz (1646-1716).
- from sign in Japanese room
It was a shame we didn't start biking until so late in the afternoon. Museums were closing up. At least we made it to the gift shop of the Carnegie Institute Museum of Natural History Museum of Art. I was looking to buy a trilobite fossil but they didn't have any. In front of the building, Norma and I posed in front of a diplodocus. See sixth photo.
Many of the museums and other buildings in Pittsburgh were built using money from Andrew Carnegie. Just as the DuPont family was so significant to the Brandywine area of Pennsylvania and Delaware (as Norma and I learned on October 28-30, 2011), Pittsburgh would not be what it is today without the help of Carnegie.
Andrew Carnegie (November 25, 1835 – August 11, 1919) was a Scottish-American industrialist who led the enormous expansion of the American steel industry in the late 19th century. He was also one of the most important philanthropists of his era.
He earned most of his fortune in the steel industry. In the 1870s, he founded the Carnegie Steel Company, a step which cemented his name as one of the "Captains of Industry". By the 1890s, the company was the largest and most profitable industrial enterprise in the world. Carnegie sold it in 1901 for $480 million to J.P. Morgan, who created U.S. Steel. Carnegie devoted the remainder of his life to large-scale philanthropy, with special emphasis on local libraries, world peace, education and scientific research. His life has often been referred to as a true "rags to riches" story.
- from Andrew Carnegie - Wikipedia
We passed the Stephen C. Foster Memorial which reminded Norma and me of our April 6, 2010 visit to the Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park in Florida.
The three of us also passed a log cabin (seventh photo), the Phipps Botanic Gardens, and a farmers market. They looked around at the farmers market while I took a nap (or tried to). I like the whole concept of a farmers market but this was one of those trendy overpriced ones. A dozen eggs were $5!!! The free range western Maryland eggs I sell at work go for half that.
We rode through Schenley Park and on Panther Hollow Trail. We saw no panthers.
Next, we biked on the Three Rivers Heritage Trail and the Eliza Furnace Trail which is a subset of the former. Along the trail, we learned a little about the history of the city.
The shift to mass production in the steel industry brought thousands of new workers to Pittsburgh and forever changed the city. Between 1870 and 1900, Pittsburgh's population quadrupled. Through Ellis Island and from across the nation came the people who would forge Pittsburgh's famous work force.
Workers labored in twelve-hour shifts for seven days a week, never seeing the light of day. In overcrowded boarding houses and shanties, landlords rented the same rooms for two shifts. Typhoid fever and industrial accidents claimed hundreds of lives.
- from sign on Three Rivers Heritage Trail
We had some really awesome views of the city skyline being as the weather was so clear. The bridges offered some good vantage points. See eighth and ninth photos. On our pass over the Monongahela River to get to the South Side of the city, we saw a sign informing us about one of the engineers whose nickname should have been "the beaver."
Here in 1846, [John A.} Roebling built the first wire rope suspension bridge to carry a highway over the Monongahela River. He also designed a bridge across the Allegheny River, a railroad bridge at Niagara Falls, and the Brooklyn Bridge.
- from Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission sign
Norma, Carmen, and I locked up our bikes and walked around a busy part of town filled with young people. It noticed that there seem to be a disproportionately large number of people in Pittsburgh with tattoos. We were hungry and looking for an interesting place to eat. We had a few choices but the owner of Cambodican Kitchen talked us into trying his place. His mannerisms, humor, and appearance reminded me of Tom Arnold. But what I liked most about him was his enthusiasm. Clearly, he loves what he does and that alone made the dining experience interesting.
We biked back to the Alpine Lodge in the dark. The city has a special beauty in the evening with all its lit up bridges and buildings. See tenth and eleventh photos. The neighborhood in which we stayed was a little loud at night with folks swearing and talking loudly. I think there was also a loud cat and train but I had my earplugs so I was happy and slept soundly.
Day Two, Thursday, June 14, 2012 (Flag Day)
After packing up, we headed out, riding downhill through the Old Allegheny Rows Historic District, which dates back to 1840. We passed a community garden (first photo) and some artsy construction (second and third photos). They gave the community a playful and fun feel.
A quick bite to eat at a local coffee shop gave us an energy boost. Then we made our way to the Fort Pitt Museum (but didn't go in) and Fort Pitt Block House (which we did go into) in Point State Park. See the block house in the fourth photo.
Continuing south, we crossed the Monongahela River then rode to the a popular attraction called the Duquesne Incline. This is a vehicle that takes people to one of the most scenic overlooks in the city. See fifth photo. From up there, I counted 16 bridges! The view was pretty spectacular.
Sixth photo: Looking to the east. See Point State Park on the peninsula.
Seventh photo: Another look to the east, this time with the incline car. How many bridges do you see?
Eighth photo: Bridges to the west along with a big bird.
Ninth photo: Norma and me.
I also saw cargo boats, tug boats, a submarine (tenth photo), stadiums, skyscrapers, and kayakers. On the ridgeline rests a sculpture called "Point of View". See eleventh photo.
[It] is a monument to George Washington and Seneca tribal leader, Guyasuta. The sculpture commemorates a pivotal point in Pittsburgh history, because the meeting of the two men resulted in negotiated trade and land agreements. At the time it is said that Washington was a commander of British forces who were encamped at Fort Pitt, which the sculpture now overlooks at Point State Park.
Unlike yesterday, where we rode carrying minimal gear, we were now loaded to the gills with camping gear. See twelfth photo.
We started making our way out of the city but soon came to stop for lunch at the Hofbrauhaus Pittsburgh. See thirteenth photo. Eating here reminded us of our friend Clark, who is currently working in Germany.
The steel roots of Pittsburgh have resulted in lots of big metal objects left over from its industrial days. They now dot the sides of the trail. It is like corporate art blended with some history. One such object just begged Carmen to investigate further. See fourteenth and fifteenth photos. Much later, we learned what it really is.
The discovery by Henry Bessemer that steel could be made in quantity by adding oxygen to iron, was responsible for the growth of the steel industry, as his "Bessemer Oxygen Furnace" or BOF was used by all major steel companies for over 80 years.
- from Flickr IMG_4808
Did I mention that the trail isn't quite finished? After talking to some friendly people (it seems everyone in Pittsburgh is friendly), we figured out how to get from the southernmost section of the north side to the northernmost section of the south side of the trail. This required us to walk our bikes along a railroad track and junkyard, then through a parking lot at a water park, and finally past some waterfront businesses. If you try this endeavor yourself, please be patient and don't expect any signs to guide you. The best thing is to just ask the natives for assistance.
All our casual stops gave us a late start. We didn't make it to the first actual GAP sign in Homestead until well after 1600. See sixteenth photo.
The well maintained packed gravel trail made for easy riding, despite it being ever-so-slightly uphill. How slightly? Well let's just say I couldn't tell. As far as I'm concerned, it was flat and level.
Not surprisingly, we crossed many waterways via old steel railroad bridges. See seventeenth and eighteenth photos.
We ran into quite a few people but one that we saw several times was a man by the name of Lynn who was biking the trail with his son. Like I said, everyone was friendly...but perhaps it is partly because I was riding with two good looking chicks.
We took a quick break in McKeesport.
I helped a fellow who had a flat tire. He had a REALLY fast bike but his skinny tires weren't well suited for the rail trail. This was his second flat for the day.
Even though the rivers looked a little low, some waterfalls still flowed. One flowed down red rocks. See nineteenth photo. The rocks were red because of acid mining.
The water here is acid and iron rich, coming up to the surface from underground mines, staining the rocks rust red. Acid mine drainage is a major source of water pollution and the cause of extensive stream degradation and environmental damage.
- from sign on trail
Another waterfall fell over white rocks (twentieth photo) which I heard is a result of mine drainage from the Charleston Mine. I guess I won't be refilling my canteens here.
A little after sunset, we finally reached our destination...Cedar Creek Campground near mile 37. We set up our tents, ate dinner, then called it a night. Norma and I ate wheat tortillas with turkey pepperoni and cheese. It gives us lots of calories, protein, fat, and complex carbohydrates without taking up lots of space in our bags. It doesn't require refrigeration if we'll only be out for a few days. Additionally, it means we don't have to cook or boil water. It is my food of choice for backpacking and bicycle camping.
One thing about this area is there are lots of trains. A track went right by our campsite. Even with earplugs, the noise would have been hard to avoid. But we did as best we could, getting a few winks between trains.
Day Three, Friday, June 15, 2012
Norma, Carmen, and I awoke to another fine day. We had nice weather during the previous two days and it looked like today and the next two days would also be nice. I checked the weather prediction before we left on Wednesday morning. The Pittsburgh forecast was
Wednesday: Sunny, with a high near 74. North wind around 9 mph.
Wednesday Night: Mostly clear, with a low around 49. North wind around 7 mph.
Thursday: Mostly sunny, with a high near 80. East wind around 7 mph.
Thursday Night: Mostly clear, with a low around 58. East wind around 7 mph.
Friday: Sunny, with a high near 83. Southeast wind around 6 mph.
Friday Night: Partly cloudy, with a low around 58.
Saturday: Sunny, with a high near 85.
Saturday Night: Mostly clear, with a low around 59.
Sunday: Sunny, with a high near 86.
- from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
After eating breakfast and packing up, we were on the trail sometime between 0930 and 1000. Yes, we were in casual mode.
Riding was easy on such a well maintained trail. Most of it was tree-lined and depending on the time of day, one might be riding in the shade. It was so nice that Norma didn't want to stop to zip up her pannier. So Carmen zipped it up for her while they both rode. See first photo.
But what was even more impressive was when Carmen took off her backpack and hat, put on an extra shirt, then put her backpack and hat back on...all while riding! See second photo.
As with yesterday, we saw several old bridges. But we also saw a black snake (third photo), a northern water snake (fourth photo), and some other snake that got away before I could get a good look at it. But we also saw cute furry critters. There were lots of bunnies and a kitty that Carmen fed one of my big bags of tuna (about 5 human servings).
Some parts of the trail were lined with lots of pink flowers. See fifth photo.
Something that made our time go fast were some memory games that Carmen and I played. She did this on her road trip out to the Badlands. Over the next few days, she taught me the 25 largest states in order along with their nicknames. We stopped at 25 because that's all my pea-brain could absorb. We'll do the next 25 on our next multi-day trip. One thing that made this fun was saying "New Mexico, the land of enchantment" with a flamboyant arm gesture. In exchange, I taught her the military phonetic alphabet which she learned VERY quickly. Maybe she should have been a combat radio operator.
We pulled over for a short nap and snack. Carmen ended up nicknaming the three of us "Team Snack." I guess it is because we stop for food breaks so often. Norma and I liked dried fruit and nuts while Carmen preferred "Frosted Cherry Pomegranate Toaster Pastries" made with love instead of high fructose corn syrup.
One part of the trail was just a stone's throw away from coke ovens built into the side of a hill. See sixth photo. Coke is a vital part of the steel-making process.
First, iron ore is reduced or smelted with coke and limestone in a blast furnace, producing molten iron which is either cast into pig iron or carried to the next stage as molten iron. In the second stage, known as steelmaking, impurities such as sulfur, phosphorus, and excess carbon are removed and alloying elements such as manganese, nickel, chromium and vanadium are added to produce the exact steel required.
- from Steel mill - Wikipedia
We rode through a big arch designed by artist Steven Fiscus built near Opossum Run. This "welcome arch" (seventh photo) welcomed us to Connellsville.
Connellsville is located on the banks of the Youghiogheny River, and once fueled the regional economy with its coke factories. The industry was so lucrative that Connellsville is believed to have once boasted more millionaires than any U.S. city of its size.
- from Connellsville, Pennsylvania - A Trail Town Along the Great Allegheny Passage
One thing I like about this area (and Pittsburgh) is that many of the water fountains have different heights...not just for adults and children, but also for dogs. See eighth photo. Cities that take care of their dogs are o.k. in my book.
Not far from Fallingwater, we posed for photos at a vista overlooking the Youghiogheny River. See ninth photo.
About an hour before sunset, we rode into Ohiopyle, a town once known as "Falls City." See tenth photo. Norma and I have hiked here (see December 29, 2008) and the three of us have skied here (see January 16, 2011). But I haven't been here at the peak of tourist season, which is what this was. I'm not much into crowds and this confirms it. I much prefer feeling like I'm one of few rather than one of many. But still, the town is nice and it offers a lot for the casual vacationer. We ate at Firefly Grill. While the folks working there weren't rude, they weren't exactly friendly either. It was near closing time and I expect they had a long, hard day dealing with the plethora of tourists. But that just made everyone else we'd met until now seem all the friendlier.
As it got dark, Norma and I made our way to Kentuck Campground in Ohiopyle State Park at mile 77. Carmen went to a store in town and would catch up with us later. The path up to the campground was by far the most strenuous part of the entire ride. Norma and I walked up while we pushed our bikes, loaded with gear. The quarter mile trail up was rocky and steep. Upon reaching the top, exhausted, we set up our tents, then took a refreshing (and much needed) shower. It would have been nice to get a campfire going but once we're done for the day, we're ready for sleep.
Day Four, Saturday, June 16, 2012
In Ohiopyle, we crossed over the bridge from the campground into town. I got an eyeful of the Youghiogheny River below. See first photo.
The three of us ate breakfast at the general store then set out to explore the trails on foot. First, we checked out the natural waterslides formed by water running down smooth rocks. A few men (no women) slid down but there really wasn't enough water to make it exciting. See second photo.
Next, we walked on the Meadow Run Trail (third photo). This trail passed by the Youghiogheny River where we saw probably a hundred people floating down on rafts (fourth photo). A few people were in whitewater kayaks and one special fellow was on a whitewater stand up paddleboard (SUP). He used a really long double bladed paddle. He was quite impressive. See fifth photo. I'm sure I would have fallen under those same circumstances.
Carmen instigated some sparring on the rocks (sixth photo).
Meadow Run Trail then took us to the 30 foot high Cucumber Falls, reportedly the most impressive waterfall in the park (seventh photo). It is beautiful but I'm sure it is much nicer in the early spring, when there is more water. But even without so much water, all the rock formations around it make particularly interesting. See eighth photo. I was hoping to find some sleeping bats amongst all the overhangs but I saw none.
Before leaving Ohiopyle, we ate lunch. Norma and Carmen got something from a place that sells all kinds of locally grown, organic, and vegetarian stuff while I got some fries and a big pork barbeque sandwich at a sidewalk stand. Having refueled, we were ready for another 40 miles of biking.
As in previous days, we had nice weather and lots of bridges (ninth photo). Near one of them, another stray cat was found and fed a large quantity of tuna.
At a rocky beach, I went for a swim. It was a really quick swim since the water was so cold. See me running out to warm up in the tenth photo. It was as refreshing as a cold Sierra Mist. This beach is a popular break area for rafters.
We passed an area called Turkeyfoot, where the French-Indian War began.
George Washington camped here in May 20, 1754. He was seeking for the British a navigable water route to the Forks of the Ohio (Pittsburgh), where the French were holding Fort Duquesne. The young Lieutenant Colonel from Virginia had orders to proceed to the mouth of Redstone Creek (Brownsville), wait for reinforcements, then strike the French.
After canoeing to the formidable falls at Ohiopyle, he turned back and marched his troops westward over the mountain.
Indian scouts told him of a nearby French party. Washington's men ambushed and killed Ensign Coulon de Jumonville and nine of his men. This brief skirmish on May 28, 1754, at what is now Jumonville Glen, opened the French and Indian War.
- from sign on trail
We stopped briefly in the town of Confluence. It is called Confluence because it is
located at the juncture of three waterways coming together from different directions...
At that time the area was known as "Turkeyfoot" for the shape of the junction of the three streams.
- fro Confluence Visitor's Guide
The 849 foot long Pinkerton Tunnel was closed (eleventh photo) so we took a route on the trail that bypassed it.
The three of us rode through Markleton then stopped for a break at a bench where I ate some leftover fries while Carmen tried out Norma's bike and mine. She found mine to be comfortable. I found hers a bit wobbly but perhaps that's because I'd been riding the previous days with a loaded basket on my handlebars. On the bench, a caterpillar crawled about (twelfth photo).
The fatty fries gave me a boost of energy. See thirteenth photo.
Not too late in the day, we reached our destination for the evening...the Hostel on Main in Rockwood, Pennsylvania at mile 106.
Rockwood is a tight-knit rural community whose history is rooted in industry and railroading. While the town was laid out in 1857, it did not boom until the end of the Civil War and the introduction of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad which passed through town.
- from Rockwood, Pennsylvania - A Trail Town Along the Great Allegheny Passage
In Rockwood, we bought snacks and dinner at the general store. I ordered an "Amtrak Pizza" which is really a meat-lovers pizza. I suppose since the trains are so important to this area, they decided to name the pizzas after trains. While at the store, we bought food for tomorrow's breakfast since like many small towns out there, things are closed on Sundays.
The hostel was very nice. There was enough room for about 20 people but it was just the three of us in the whole place. They had a kitchen and showers. Bathing two nights in a row? What a luxury!
Day Five, Sunday, June 17, 2012 (Father's Day)
Before leaving Rockwood, we posed for one final photo in front of the hostel. See first photo. This was our last day of riding and we were sad to see our adventure end so quickly so we wanted to savor every moment.
On one part of the trail, we came to a little information booth that had a log book. Norma found where she and her sisters signed it on July 29, 2006 when they biked the GAP back then.
Carmen continued drilling me on the states. In the second photo, we gesture "New Mexico, land of enchantment!"
At one part of the trail, we found Wymp's Gap Fossil Quarry. We looked around the rocks and found some fossils of prehistoric marine life. This is particularly interesting considering the elevation here is about 1800 feet above sea level. Can you see the shell imprints in the rocks shown in the third and fourth photos?
The rock here is filled with marine invertebrate fossils that are between 330 and 360 million years old. Feel free to poke around and take some with you. The small quarry, marked with a post that says GR-5, is between Rockwood and Garrett.
- from a place that is now a broken link under Great Allegheny Passage
As we got closer to mountain peaks, we saw numerous wind turbines at the Garrett Wind Farm, hard at work, generating power.
We biked across the 1908 foot long Salisbury Viaduct (fifth photo) which spans the Casselman River Valley. We had quite a view from this bridge (sixth photo). Down below on the Casselman River, Carmen spotted a snapping turtle (seventh photo).
The three of us stopped in Meyersdale, Pennsylvania, which is known as the "Maple City."
Founded by German settlers in the late 1700s, Meyers Mill became Meyersdale in 1874 and was an important transportation hub for local agriculture and, later for coal.
- from sign on trail
I never ceased to be amazed at how well maintained the trail is. It is the next best thing to paved. See eighth photo.
We saw the Bollman Bridge designed by Wendell Bollman of Baltimore. This is the same fellow that designed the Bollman Truss Bridge of Savage, Maryland.
Shortly after the Bollman Bridge, we rode on the 909 foot long Keystone Viaduct.
A little later, we came to the highest point of our ride, the Eastern Continental Divide. This is the boundary between the watershed of the Potomac River and the Mississippi Basin. See Norma approaching the divide in the ninth photo. Carmen served as the unofficial greeter to the "divide" by welcoming passers-by. Perhaps she has a future working for Wal-Mart.
The Eastern Continental Divide, in conjunction with other continental divides of North America, demarcates two watersheds of the Atlantic Ocean: the Gulf of Mexico watershed and the Atlantic Seaboard watershed. Prior to 1760, the divide represented the boundary between British and French colonial possessions in North America.
- from Eastern Continental Divide - Wikipedia
In the tenth photo, I demonstrate how water poured out of my canteen on the west side of the Eastern Continental Divide flows to the Mississippi Basin. On the other side of the divide, water flows to the Potomac River. In the divide tunnel, we took a break in the shade (eleventh photo).
The rest of our ride was an easy downhill. Feeling confident, we did some simple bicycle stunts. See twelfth photo.
The three of us rode through the 3294 foot long Big Savage Tunnel. See thirteenth photo. If you're thinking about doing this ride yourself, note that this tunnel is closed from late November to early April and there is no easy detour.
In the early 1900s lucrative coal and steel traffic sparked the Western Maryland Railway's ambitious westward expansion from Baltimore.
In order to compete with the existing B&O Railroad, nine tunnels and over thirty bridges and viaducts were built to shorten the route and lessen the grade.
Here at Big Savage, tunneling went well until workers encountered soft, wet mud and sand 600 feet from the western portal. Conventional methods did not stem the flow so air locks used in New York subway construction were brought in. The 3300 foot tunnel was completed in 1912, but the soft material continued to plague the railway, requiring continual repairs.
- from sign on trail
On the other side of the tunnel, we sat back and took in the views at an overlook. But I actually found the butterflies more interesting (fourteenth photo).
A little later, we biked over the Mason-Dixon Line which greeted us with nothing more than a simple black and white sign leaning against some posts. See fifteenth photo. We expected fireworks, marching bands, and the governor yelling, "Welcome to Maryland!"
We biked through the Borden Tunnel, built in 1911.
A little later, we passed through Frostburg.
Frostburg is not named for its chilly temperatures, but rather for Joshiah Frost, who purchased a tract of land and laid out a series of "town lots."
- from Frostburg Visitor's Guide - A Trail Town Along the Great Allegheny Passage
From the trail, we had a nice view of a town called Mount Savage (sixteenth photo) which was named for the same fellow that my town was named after.
Though the community of "Mount Savage" was named for the Savage Mountains, the mountain, as well as the Savage River, were most likely named for the 1736 surveyor and explorer, John Savage.
- from sign on trail
We sped through Brush Tunnel, built in 1911, as the trail continued downhill.
The next feature was Helmstetter's "Horseshoe" Curve.
...the uniqueness of this curve allowed for [train] passengers at both ends of the train to be in view of each other
- from sign on trail
Speaking of trains, it seemed quite a bit of the trail now went along train tracks (seventeenth photo).
I enjoyed looking for fossils at Wymp's Gap Fossil Quarry. So naturally, I was happy to see the Cumberland Bone Cave.
In 1912 a Western Maryland Railway cut near Cumberland exposed a small cave. The cave, which became known as the Cumberland Bone Cave was found to contain a remarkable variety of bones from species now extinct. Paleontologists were called in from the Smithsonian Institution and excavation began the same year. Between the years 1912 and 1916, the remains of over 40 species of mammals including 28 throught to be extinct were recovered. Many of the fossilized bones date from over 200,000 years ago during the Pleistocene Epoch. Skeletons from what is known as the "Cumberland" Cave Bear and an extinct Saber-toothed cat are on permanent exhibit at the National Museum of Natural History. Other fauna identified here include mastodons, coyotes, pumas and even a crocodile.
- from sign on trail
Some of the walls on the outside of the Bone Cave looked like they had actually been part of the inside of the cave, which might have later been partially excavated (eighteenth photo). But sadly, unlike at Wymp's Gap, we were not permitted to get into the area where the fossils were found. A locked fence prevented our entry into the cave (nineteenth photo).
Still more bridges (twentieth photo).
Lastly, we saw Lovers Leap in The Narrows which is named for a very sad story.
This legend describes the love of an American Indian princess for a young English trapper named Jack. They wanted very much to marry, but her father Chief Will forbade it.
Meanwhile, Jack had found a map to a silver mine located somewhere in the Narrows, and offered the map to Chief Will in return for the hand of the princess.
The Chief agreed, but once in his possession, he refused to allow the marriage. A terrible fight began, during which Jack accidentally killed Chief Will. The Indian princess could never marry the man who killed her father, nor could she live without the man she loved. So arm in arm they both walked up to the highest precipice in the Narrows and leaped to their death.
- from sign on trail
See Lovers Leap in the background of the twenty-first photo.
Sometime around maybe 1800, we pulled into Cumberland, our final destination.
Known as the "Gateway to the West" Cumberland gained prominence during the nineteenth century as a transportation center. The City was the site of the beginning of the United States' first National Road, the western terminus of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, and a center for the railroad industry.
- from Cumberland, Maryland - A Trail Town Along the Great Allegheny Passage
At a parking lot in Cumberland, I saw some unusual graffiti that I just had to photograph (twenty-second photo).
We made our way back to my car after having rode 155 miles on the trail plus whatever we rode in Pittsburgh. Our moving average on the trail was a humble 9.3 mph and our total moving time was 16 hours and 47 minutes. See twenty-third photo.
We picked up some food in Cumberland then headed home. I was looking forward to a good shave. The scruffy look doesn't suit me.
This was an excellent and memorable trip. Norma and Carmen did a spectacular job in planning it out. It is hard to imagine how it could have been improved. Maybe if we saw a porcupine?
I highly recommend this route for anyone wanting to do a novice-level overnight rail trail ride. There are plenty of camping or lodging opportunities depending on how much gear you feel comfortable carrying or how much you want to "rough it." There are also numerous restrooms and places to eat.
Over the five days, we got good exercise, saw beautiful things, learned a lot, and enjoyed each others company. Additionally, we had fantastic weather, no flat tires, no speeding tickets, no injuries, and we didn't lose anything. And with our low budget means of camping and lodging, it was a vacation that was easy on our wallets. Superfantastic!