Tuesday, October 13, 2015

GAP/C & O Trip Diary

Day 1
Pittsburgh – Roundbottom Campground, 50 miles

I left a weeping, rainy Pittsburgh Saturday, Oct 3 after an all-night bus trip. 

Always a concern is fitting the front wheel into the drop outs. A challenge on my old 1983 Trek which wasn't outfitted for anything quick-release. I think altogether I was done and ready to ride in half an hour. I changed into rain pants and rain jacket and filled up my water bottles. Ready to take on the road—albeit a wet one.

Now for the load. It felt fine. And the rain. Had stopped. Only the streets were wet. It was cold and miserable, but I was cold and miserable on the GAP.

The GAP, Greater Allegheny Passage, is a 150-mile car-free trail all the way to Cumberland, MD. Along the way the trail rises in elevation until it reaches the Eastern Continental Divide.

Signage was okay. It's always hard to get oriented--especially in a town with 3 rivers. I happened to pick the right direction and actually ended up after a block or two on the trail at a bike shop where a guy came out and confirmed I was going the right way and helped me center the front wheel as it was rubbing some. Classic with this bike.

Hot Metal Bridge
I crossed the Hot Metal Bridge, went through industrial backwaters and those faked up shopping complexes named after parts of the town now demolished. I lost the trail at The Waterfront—where it goes behind the eateries (TGI Fridays, etc) but you can also just ride through the football field-size parking lot and pick the trail up. After The Waterfront I really was in the country. I believe the trail is paved all the way to McKeesport where I ate lunch at a Subway. In McKeesport there is some street riding to pick up the trail across town. I asked a woman where the GAP was and she thought I meant the clothing store. No.
former smokestacks, now the lawn design out from of a shopping center

railcars carrying coal

abandoned railroad trestle, connecting a mine to the tracks across the Yough
exposed coal seam
 And, after lunch I could put away the rain gear completely and go down a layer. Topography is karsts formations of exposed wall outcropping on one side and down below the Youghiogheny River (the Yough, rhymes with wow) and, of course, railroad tracks.

Pennsylvania is the keystone state, also known for coal, oil, steel, and fracking. I saw evidence of the coal industry: old mines, tugboat and train cars carrying coal, and coal seams in the exposed rock wall.

Tonight I stay in a FREE campground that is top notch. It is called Roundbottom--about 50 miles from Pittsburgh. There is a pump and the water comes out brown. I am in a 3-sided hut like the kind I stayed in in Sweden. I sit typing by my fire and listen to the railcars rattling by. There is also a pit toilet.

Tomorrow hopefully I’ll get to see the sky as all day it has been overcast.

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