September 2012

Month: September 2012

Big Slackwater

Gorgeous view at Big SlackwaterIt’s a good day to be a C&O junkie… the Park Service has finally reopened the Big Slackwater portion of the trail, meaning we’re *this close* to having the entire trail reopened from Georgetown to Cumberland with nary a detour in sight. There’s the little matter of the much newer detour by Great Falls to dispense of, but that might be done soon.

In any event, riding this portion of the trail was of great consequence to me personally, because it was the only piece of the trail I had yet to ride… of course I’ve ridden the detour many times. It seems to have been worth the wait… it’s a 5 mile (ish) stretch that includes the formerly impassable portions that have now been converted into gorgeous concrete roadways mere feet from the Potomac. Figure the flooding issues will always be issues, but these structures don’t look like they’ll be too subject to the whims of the river.* Figure it chops off about 30-40 minutes of the ride compared to the former detour, which is nice because that’s 30-40 minutes closer to beer o’clock at the cabin on the second day of the ride from DC…

All in all, my favorite part of the trail. Good job NPS!

*Be sure to remind me with headline links to “Massive flooding closes C&O trail again” later this winter. Jinx.

Continental Divide

Top of the Allegheny's

Last week, I wrote about riding the GAP to the MD/PA state line. Sunday, I rode with MJ for the first time since our west coast adventures and made the trail all the way to the eastern continental divide. At a length of 50 miles round tripping from Cumberland, this was a fairly vigorous ride, but oddly easy considering the accurate, but misleading, elevation chart.

The ride confirms that the 135 miles from Cumberland to Pittsburgh is an “easy” 2 day trip, with a likely overnight in Ohiopyle State Park, or maybe a leave-no-trace wild camp if it’s appropriate (although probably not technically allowed). Unfortunately as the fall weather makes this trip beyond tempting, my fall schedule is tricky to coordinate enough consecutive days to make it happen. Since one of the tunnels closes November 1st, it might be that this section of the trail may be the only part I can do until next spring…

MJ on a horse

MJ on a horseFrom the archives… this was before we decided wheels were better than legs. Also, I believe our ride guide was thrown from her horse shortly after this shot was taken. Number of times I’ve been on a horse since: zero.

Riding the GAP

Sunday was a gloriously perfect day for a ride, so I drove about an hour west of my cabin to Cumberland, MD to check out the Great Allegheny Passage, a 130-ish mile trail linking up the end of the C&O with Pittsburgh. I’ve read some great things about the trail, mainly its surface. Sadly, I didn’t have the time to carve out a multi-day trek, but I got a good sense of things in my 41 mile round trip.

  • The surface is nice, but not as solid as I thought it would be. The crushed limestone wasn’t compacted in several spots, leaving a pretty soft slide when hit wrong. The portion I was riding had a slight incline to it, so on the descent things can get a bit dicey if you’re not paying attention.
  • Come fall, the vistas will be amazing… serious foliage potential. One ridgeline on the climb features a line of turbines… not a natural feature at all, but I’ve always thought they stand as a nice juxtaposition of technology amongst the wilderness.
  • The climb is not difficult at all, but it is about 25 miles long. By mile 20 I definitely felt it, but then again I never really took a real break to speak of. About MM 25, you hit the Eastern Continental Divide, so the rest of the ride turns into a gentle descent as you roll west. Since the climb goes pretty fast (and the descent even faster), I figure it’s reasonable to do the 130+ miles in 2 days (and therefore, the Pittsburgh to DC run in 5).
  • The train was cool, but the smog that comes out of that stack is no good for the lungs. The tunnels were nice and big for this claustrophobe, thank you very much.
  • Loved the Mason-Dixon line setup at the PA/MD border. I chose that as my turnaround point rather than tempt myself with what lay beyond the Continental Divide…
  • Oh, and the Bills won while I was riding. Like Cube said, it was a good day