Sunday, April 25, 2010

My Legs Hurt and Other Parts Too!

In spite of the terrible forecast, (gloom and doom, rain, thunder and lightning) Sue, Houston and I took off for Confluence, PA along the Great Allegheny Passage. This trail begins at Cumberland and meanders 150 to Pittsburg. I've only done stretches from Cumberland up to Meyersdale so was excited to see more of the trail. This was a trial run to see if the new bikes and various gear would work out for Sue and Houston who, along with Bruce (a friend who lives in Alaska) are riding from Missoula, MT to Talkeetna, Alaska (where Bruce lives) over 7 weeks this summer. Both Sue and Houston just got new bikes (I was riding my trusty steed of 11 years) and wanted to make sure that 1. the bike fit 2. that the gear would stay put and 3. that they could actually pedal all that weight. I was just going along for fun (whoopee!) Fun being described as 45 miles uphill to camp in the rain and 45 miles uphill (how is THAT possible?) back to the comforts of home.

But boy oh boy was this trail beautiful. It's a rail to trail that some geniuses sunk some major cash into. 150 miles of gorgeousness that connects with the 184 miles of the C&O Canal so one can ride from Pittsburg to DC without the worry of being hit by a car.

Our bikes needed a rest now and then so we usually stopped at great views.

We saw many creeks and rivers, the main rivers being the Casselman and the Youghiogheny. Miles and miles of the trail ramble along the Casselman and the path was wide enough that you could safely look down at the water. Both rivers are la-de-da calm in places and kick-your-ass-silly in others. We saw mostly calm and crossed over them on bridges a few times. A kayak trip down the Casselman may be next!

This trail was similar to the woods we would go backpacking in, but we are going a lot faster and can travel many more miles in a day. Cascading creeks were plentiful... were wildflowers. This is trillium, a showy, girly flower that invites a closer look.

This is a gathering of the adorable and aptly named, Dutchmen's Breeches.

See how these cute little flowers resemble Dutchman's breeches?
We saw spring beauties, wild phlox, and lots of others I couldn't identify. I was surprised to see how far behind the Laurel Highlands (this part of the trail goes through the Laurel Highlands) were, about 3 weeks behind. The further north we got, the less leaves were on the trees and in Confluence, the leaves were still tiny buds. Spring is my favorite season so I was thrilled to have another one.

Along the trail are many ridges which are studded with wind turbines. At times we could see the massive blades turning in the breeze. As you can see, I was always in the back (GIB: Girl in Back) which was fine with me. I listened to my Ipod (thanks Chemical Brothers and U2 for keeping me going!) and just looked at the beautiful scenery with an ear to ear grin.

I know that the bridges have been in existence as long as the rail road, which is the early 1900's. People have been working on this trail for 30 years and I think they've made a nice transition from large trains passing over to having bikes travel across.

And this very long span traverses Highway 219.

This is the highest point along the trail, the Eastern Continental Divide. The western waterways travel to the Gulf of Mexico and the eastern waterways empty in the Atlantic Seaboard. No matter which way we traveled on the trail, it was uphill to this spot.

The trail passes through 'trail towns' which boast amenities to the bicyclists, like bike shops, delis and taverns (!). Since this is a rails to trails, a metal sculpture combines the train and bike theme.

We also passed a few homes along the way and a few car graveyards.

We arrived at our destination of Confluence, set up our camp in drizzle before the real rains set in. We hightailed it to the Lucky Dog Cafe (we were the lucky dogs!) where we had yummy portabella fajitas, wine and beer and gratefully hung out in the warm and dry cafe until dark thirty when it was time to crawl into the tents for a restful night of sleep.

It rained bunches during the night and we woke to dense fog but the promise of a sunny, dry day. The forecast was worse for Sunday but it was proved wrong by a day full of pleasant riding in the sun (except for that darn uphill stuff!). We rode back to our starting point just as the first few drops of rain were falling. Lucky us! The Allegheny Passage Trail is simply a delight and I highly recommend it to everyone. It really is an easy ride, with many put ins so one doesn't have to ride very far. I see kids on bikes with training wheels so it's meant for all levels of riding. Get out there!


Andrea said...

I'm jealous!! We've talked about riding this rail/trail, starting in Pittsburg, but have yet to actually do it. You pictures might be all the inspiration we need. Sounds like a great trip.

willowisp2 said...

Lovely ride, beautiful wildflowers, and you dodged the yucky weather for the most part.