This morning we officially left the C&O Canal Towpath behind as we rode our bikes over Mile 0 of the Great Allegheny Passage in Cumberland. Before I did this, I went back to get a picture at the last mile marker on the C&O, Mile 184.5, which is somewhat hidden, and I had missed it yesterday on the ride into town.
|Mile 184.5, terminus of the C&O Canal Towpath|
|Great Allegheny Passage Mile 0|
I rode alone today with my iPod in one ear, and made some friends that were not with our group as we continued to leap frog each other on the trail.
The Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) experience was much different than the rugged and muddy C&O. The surface of the GAP is similar to the Three Rivers Heritage Trail in Pittsburgh (which I had trained on) and is either paved or crushed limestone, making for a smoother, faster, and cleaner ride. *To experience the trail by video, check out my friend David's helmet-cam videos he's been making throughout the trip. I've added this feature to the bottom of the page.
A few miles into today's ride, the 16-mile gradual incline through the Allegheny Mountains began. I was a little unsure of this section because I had heard so many different descriptions of it. I decided in the end that it was neither as easy or as hard as people had described, and with steady persistence and patience, it is very doable.
|The Great Allegheny Passage|
I took 2 short breaks to eat some fruit on the way up the hill and while I was eating pineapple at my first stop I saw a turtle right up against the railroad tracks as if he was waiting to catch the Western Maryland Railroad train, with tracks that ran right next to the trail for several miles.
At Frostburg, a few miles from the top of the mountain, I stopped at the support van to refill my water. This morning I had forgotten that there wouldn't be any more water stations and didn't fill my second bottle, so I had to ration my water on the hill.
After my water break, I felt strong and the rest of the incline seemed to fly by. I passed through Borden Tunnel and then reached the Mason-Dixon Line and crossed into Pennsylvania. Soon after, I was at the top of the Allegheny Mountains at an overlook where a lot of riders were gathered sitting on benches.
|Crossing the Mason-Dixon Line by bike|
|View from the top of the Allegheny Mountains|
|Big Savage Tunnel|
|Riding through Big Savage Tunnel|
|The Eastern Continental Divide|
These points of interest throughout the trip are like mega-mile markers. While each mile marker is a reassurance and a celebration on the ride, each moment of greatness like a bridge or aqueduct is a destination.
I sat outside and ate at a picnic table and then headed up to the visitors center where the shuttle and some of our new group were riding in. I hit the trail after stopping to talk to a few people, with just about an hour left to ride.
|Toole Shed Sandwich Shop, Est. 2013|
|Old train station and visitors center, Meyersdale, PA|
There was trail resurfacing work being done a few miles from our end point and this was the hardest part of the day. The packed sand surface will eventually harden like concrete, but today was still being pressed and my tires sunk in like quicksand. This seemed harder than the ride uphill this morning.
It was early, but nothing else was going on at the resort, and it seemed like everyone was ready to catch up on some sleep after the past few days of riding. Just 2 days until we arrive in Pittsburgh!