A visual spin along the Allegheny Passage: The weekend started very early, much earlier than I am comfortable with, because, let’s face it, I am not and will never be a morning person. However, it was worth the effort: I had been looking forward to this weekend the entire year. The idea was to depart from Cumberland, MD and ride our mountain bikes for about 65 miles to Confluence, PA, where we would camp, take care of various sore body parts, eat burgers, drink beer, sit around the fire, be merry, and attempt to sleep until the next day when we would ride back, all while enjoying the beautiful scenery and colors of the fall. We were a little nervous about the weather, as the capricious weather gods had been toying around with us during the previous days, however, it was just beautiful fantastic weather for the entire weekend (albeit a little chilly and overcast on Sunday morning).
The plan was to start pushing the pedals by 10am, so we left my house by 7 am and managed to get to Cumberland by 9am. Unfortunately, the part of the convoy coming from Alexandria had some road bumps and got delayed, which also gave us time to taste the local cuisine at the Crabby Pig (how awesome is that name?) and have some much needed extra coffee and calories.
Of course, no adventure trip would be complete without a slight emergency, which in this case took the form of a friend seemingly forgetting her cycling shoes and helmet. One of us had an extra helmet she could use, but the shoes issue was not going to be so easily resolved. Luckily, there is a local bike shop in the area that came to our rescue, including the most adorable and love demanding shop-pooch that help reducing our stress levels and frustrations at the time. So, my friend acquired new shoes, cleats, and pedals, as the shop did not have cleats for her current type of pedals, and we were –almost- ready to go.
Finally, after installing all the new gear, other random lack of coordination issues, and being slightly overly caffeinated (is that even possible?) we departed Cumberland by 11:20 am or so.
The ride out to Cumberland was slightly uphill for the first 30 miles or so, which, due to diverse fitness levels in the group, made for a slower ride than what we had initially projected. On the other side, it also gave us time to really enjoy the scenery and the colors, and to take tons of pictures and as you can see the path follows the train tracks for a large part of the way.
Our path had several tunnels, all beautiful. The one in the pic below was the first we encountered at about Mile 5 or 6, and I, or course, went insane taking pics. But, not to worry, I have posted only one of them here.
As we rode north towards Pennsylvania, the landscape and colors began to change from what was left of the summer green to the warm colors of the fall.
At some point the train and our path went separate ways, and truth to be told, I did not even noticed when it happened.
And we made it to the Continental Divide! From now on the ride is downhill(ish).
As the afternoon advanced, the lower sun gave us a different beautiful light through the trees.
The beauty of this section of the path was almost overwhelming, and I wish picture could do it justice.
We finally made it to our Confluence camp site a little after 6pm, which implied racing against the dying daylight to set up our tents. Because the season was over, we were lucky enough to have the entire camping site almost only for us –I think there were some tents at the other extreme of the campsite, but there were barely visible. The campsite also had showers and they were GLORIOUS, I believe I may have stayed static under the hot water for at least 20 minutes or so. Really, one of the best parts of a bike ride is the shower after. The only issue was that I had the brilliant idea of washing my hair with no way of drying it and it got freezing cold at night (seriously, temps went down to low 30s); yeah, not particularly smart on my side – thankfully, our most-likely-a-saint friend and self-appointed domestique who drove with all of our shit gear to the campsite and had everything ready for us, also made the most amazing fire ever.
Once we warmed-up by the fire, ate everything around, and drank all the beer and wine available, we realized that there was a small detail that could potentially interfere with our sleeping that night: our campsite was right next to the train tracks, which wouldn’t had matter if not because the train kept passing all night long and every 10 minutes… still, I was SO tired that I still slept straight until 2 am or so. Then I began cursing non-stop the effing train. Oh, well.
Sunday morning was, oh, so cold, and overcast… Luckily, it did not last long and by the time we began our ride back, the sun was showing its warm face and the temps had reached the low to mid 50s.
The friend who had problems riding the day before chose to meet us at Meyersdale, close to where the ride would turn downhill. This meant a faster ride, but we still gave ourselves a few chances to play with the camera and enjoy the scenery.
From Meyersdale, where we had a rather unhealthy lunch, we rode a few more miles to the Eastern Divide – from there, all bets were off and we just, well, hmmm, hauled ass hammered all the way to Cumberland, which means I only had one chance to snap a pic:
We made it back to Cumberland a little after 5pm, exhausted and happy. I can’t wait to do it again next year!
Big Lesson learned: NEVER EVER forget the chamois cream for a ride longer than a couple of hours, because, yeah, OUCH.