Sunday, May 15, 2011

Great Allegheny Passage Trail, May 9-12, 2011

Let me just get this out of the way at the beginning: The Great Allegheny Passage bike trail is a national treasure. Although I have not ridden every long-distance bike trail in the country, I feel confident in proclaiming the GAP trail, quite simply, the best. I can imagine none better. The Erie Canalway Trail was interesting, but it is in a different league from the GAP. Other longish trails are nice, I'm sure, both beautiful and well maintained, but none can possible compare to the 135 gorgeous miles of the GAP.

Anyway, on with the trip. More praise at the end.

The intrepid reader (all one of you) will recall that last summer my wife of 25 years (as of day two of that trip) and I rode from Buffalo to Seneca Falls, mostly by way of the Erie Canalway Trail. We rode the longest continuous off-road segment between Lockport and Newark (85 miles), then on- and off-road segments at the beginning and end.

The intrepid reader will recall that we had fun, despite stiff headwinds, March-like temperatures, and, of course, rain. But we were ready for a better experience. That trip and this trip were done in-transit to picking our son up at college in Philadelphia. Both years, we finished our own teaching, frantically graded tests and papers, assigned grades, and leapt in the car to drive far enough to make it possible to ride on Monday-Thursday, before picking the son up on Friday.

This year, the logical trail to try was the Great Allegheny Passage, which runs continuously from Cumberland, MD, to just south of Pittsburgh (soon to be all the way to Pittsburgh). A former rail route, the GAP was reputed to be well-maintained, very scenic, with ample places to stay and dine along the route. Because the Pittsburgh segment is not quite done, we chose to make the northern terminus in or near McKeesport.

The original plan was to end there. In fact, here is the complete original plan. (Do not pay particularly close attention to this, because it changed at the last minute.)

Turn in grades on Saturday, jump in the car on the Saturday evening, drive to, oh, say, Cleveland. Sunday, drive to McKeesport (remember: just south of Pittsburgh), pick up a U-Haul truck. Park the car in McKeesport (where? That was something that needed figuring out), load the bikes into the U-Haul, drive to Cumberland, turn in the U-Haul, spend Sunday night in Cumberland, and begin riding north on Monday. First night, Meyersdale, second night, Ohiopyle, third night Perryopolis, reunite with the car on Thursday. Luckily, that plan did not come to pass. Why luckily? That first day would have been a problem. Stay tuned for the reason.

Instead, here's what we really did: Turn grades in on Saturday, take a bunch of deep breaths, start thinking about packing, load the car on Sunday, read the papers, have a leisurely lunch, leave for Pittsburgh Sunday afternoon. We even had dinner with our son Sam in Ohio on the way. We stayed in a nice Hyatt Place hotel near the Pittsburgh Airport.

And here's where the plan changed dramatically. Rather than leave our car, rent a truck, drive to Maryland and bike back, we reversed it. We left our car and biked south, having reserved a truck in Maryland to drive back to our car.

And where did we leave our car? In reading blogs and discussion groups, it became clear that the best place to leave the car was in the Boston (that's PA) trailhead lot, a few miles south of McKeesport. Free parking, patrolled by police. In fact, when I contacted the Allegheny Trail Alliance (the official umbrella organization of the GAP), the nice woman gave me an email address of someone who would let the police know that the Michigan van was legit.

So that's what we did. No exhausting driving back and forth to position cars prior to the trip. Just park and go.

So there we were, on the trail again after exactly one year. For the gear-heads out there (well, considering the odd gear, I don't suppose real gear-heads would care), but here's how we were outfitted:

Same bikes: 27-year-old Trek 620 with, basically, no original parts other than the cranks and the rear brakes (700C wheels outfitted with 38mm Kenda Qwik Roller tires; full fenders, front and rear racks with Wald baskets, Rivendell shop sacks in each basket, clamp-on handlebar bag, trekking handlebars mounted on a high stem + extension), and a cheap Trek women's hybrid, which, although costing less than $400, has been a completely adequate bike. Cindy's bike had 37 mm tires and a rear rack with a large rack trunk.
Both bikes had full fenders. Interestingly, our only mechanical problems were with the fenders. On the first day, both Cindy's and my front fenders were missing a nut, causing rubbing and annoyance. Nothing that zip ties couldn't fix. But there were more serious fender problems, which I will discuss in a separate post. The official Riv-ish love of fenders has an important caveat.

One last gear comment: The Rivendell shop sacks in baskets are, ahem, a unique way of carrying gear, but it works beautifully. The baskets and racks are completely rigid, so there's little swaying, even though the gear is up high, and the Riv sacks can simply be popped out of the basket and carried in to the inn or B and B at the end of the day. A large and a small Shop Sack (plus Cindy's rack trunk) carried all our clothes for four days.

Getting ready to go at the Boston trailhead
Anyway. We set off from the Boston trailhead at 11:00 or so, riding south along the west bank of the Youghiogheny River, which was to be our companion for nearly three days.  The weather was cool but not cold. I quickly switched to shorts and my normal summer long-sleeved shirt.

(About the weather: Although we had a nice time last year in the windy cold drizzle, we didn't really want to do it again. It has been a cold rainy spring, so we were watching the weather carefully the week before we were scheduled to ride. In fact, we didn't book any reservations until the Friday before we left, when we were sure that the weather was going to cooperate. As if to make up for last year, the weather this time was perfect: Four days of sunny skies and temperatures in the 70s. The last day was very warm at lower elevations, but we were at the high point of the trail, so it was delightfully cool. Despite a rainy spring, the trail surface was dry and firm, with only occasional ruts left from previous muddy rides; clearly, the trail handles rain well.)

Between Boston and Perryopolis
This initial stage of the trail was nice, if not spectacular. The river is very pleasant, wide and slow, lined with trees. We passed through scattered small communities (really, just groups of houses), crossed small roads now and then, and felt like we weren't far from civilization. The trail was in perfect condition: hard-packed stone dust, wide enough for two to ride abreast, with little center vegetation. We passed volunteers who were spraying vegetation along the trail to prevent encroachment; the trail is obviously well cared-for.

Rarely was the trail this primitive.
For the whole trip the CSX railroad tracks ran parallel to the trail on the opposite side of the river. Freight trains rumbled by at regular intervals. 

On this sunny Monday in mid-May, we saw quite a few people using the trail, particularly at the beginning, within 10 miles of the greater Pittsburgh area. Beyond 10 miles, the traffic thinned quite a lot. We didn't see any touring bikers at all this day. In general, the traffic on the trail seems to be quite light this time of year. Overall, we only saw a handful of through-riders going either direction. In the summer and fall, I think trail use is much heavier.

The first of many benches on which we rested.
We were only going 25 miles this first day, so there was no hurry. We stopped fairly often and sat on benches that appeared at regular intervals along the trail. (This proved to be true for the whole trail: There were always benches to sit on, with even an occasional covered picnic table.) The trail was basically flat, with little elevation gain. Although the trail gains nearly 1600 feet between Pittsburgh and its highest point south of Meyersdale, most of that happens in the seventy miles after Connellsville.)

I must say, I was lukewarm about the trail at this point. I had a headache, which the scenery and trail were not enough to make me forget. It was not much different from riding along the Erie Canal.

We were headed for Perryopolis, which is located just off the trail. It doesn't even show on the map as being a trail community. To get there, we had to push our bikes up a very steep hill and ride about a half mile. What we found was a tidy little town of small, well-maintained houses, a small downtown with a "wagon-wheel" layout (designed, the visitor is told many times, by George Washington, who once owned all the land on the which the town stands), and a healthy looking school complex filled with healthy looking students. The town doesn't offer much; we had to walk way down state route 51 to CoGo's gas station to buy a state map, but it seems like a nice little town.

The Inn at Lenora's in Perryopolis
Just off the the rim of the wagon wheel is Lenora's restaurant, which also has an inn attached, called, logically enough, The Inn at Lenora's, a name that doesn't make much sense if you don't know what Lenora's is. This was to be our favorite lodging of the three. A true inn, with nicely appointed rooms and a very good attached restaurant, this was quite a lovely place to stay. Lenora herself is the chef and hostess. We had a nice chat with her as we ate our tasty breakfast seated at the bar.

Day Two, Perryopolis to Ohiopyle, 31 miles

The day started with a lovely downhill run back to the river along a road different from the one we came in on. We almost got to go through a little tunnel until we discovered that the tunnel led to a bridge over the river—and, as a result, over the trail. Instead, we detoured around the small ridge through which the tunnel runs, descending down to the river's edge, where we found the trail. (Actually, I made a quick trip through the tunnel just to have a peek.)
The tunnel on the road from Perryopolis

The scenery improved dramatically on this second day. The first twelve miles to Connellsville were nice (much like the previous 25 miles had been). But starting in Connellsville, the trail follows the Youghiogheny up into Chestnut Ridge and the mountains proper. The river narrows, speeds up, and gets noisy. The river valley has steeper sides with frequent rock faces with small waterfalls tumbling down them.

Between Perryopolis and Connellsville.
Man towing a raft on a trailer north of Connellsville
The trail goes along city streets in Connellsville.

Connellsville is the last major city until Meyersdale, 58 miles away. We shopped at a nice grocery store right next to the trail, on the north side of town. The trail goes right through town, along city streets, before emerging into the suddenly beautiful Yough valley south of town. There was some evidence of soft trail conditions in the past (primarily tire and water flow ruts), but by the time we got there, the trail was hard and dry.

South of Connellsville, the start of truly spectacular scenery
We were only going 36 miles this day, so we again were in no hurry. We made it a point to stop often and enjoy the sights and sounds of the river rushing through its rocky bed.

We met a group of school children wearing shirts that read "Biking 34 Miles for Cystic Fibrosis." Obviously, they were Connellsville children biking the 17 miles to and from Ohiopyle. There were a lot of them. I was glad they weren't going our direction. It would have taken a while to pass them.

Looking upstream toward Ohiopyle
The rapids got bigger and bigger, and the country felt more and more rugged as we approached Ohiopyle. The approach to town from the north is announced by a pair of spectacular bridges over the Youghiogheny, which offer wonderful views up and down the river gorge. It's disorienting to ride into town from the north, because you pass over not one but two bridges, and when you get back alongside the river in town, it seems to be flowing in the wrong direction. This is because the first bridge puts you onto a peninsula formed by a large loop in the river. The second bridge puts you back on the side you started on (technically the west bank), but the river is to your west, and it has momentary doubled back on itself to flow south-ish.

The first Ohiopyle bridge

View from the first bridge
We arrived before the official check-in time to our guesthouse, so we hung out in the park next to the river, enjoying the rapids and waterfall in the warm spring sun. Ohiopyle is not much. Just a few shabby businesses (including a single open restaurant, of sorts) and a few shabby houses with a few residents, most of whom seemed to be kayak bums (the river equivalent of ski bums). This seemed grim to me. I can understand being a ski bum or a windsurf or surf bum. Conditions are constantly changing, making the experience of skiing, surfing, or windsurfing in the same place different every time. Buy kayaking? It's always the same river. Why would you want to do it over and over? Sure, it looks fun. But over and over? The same stretch of river? Give me skiing or windsurfing.

Our lodging this night was the M******* Guest House, which shall go unnamed. It was, basically, a flop house, an old family home in which the owners (not living there any more) were renting out rooms. The front door is always unlocked, so we just let ourselves in. Each bedroom had its own lock and key. We only caught a brief glimpse of our hostess as she dropped off slices of cake-like strawberry bread for breakfast. Otherwise, there was a refrigerator full of bottles of expired orange juice, and a container of stale Maxwell House coffee next to a coffee maker for our breakfasting pleasure. There were also some frozen blueberry muffins. It was hot upstairs, there were no screens in the windows (most of which didn't open anyway), and the toilet broke. Oh, and I spotted a cockroach scurrying under the baseboard. It wasn't as bad as it sounds (and Cindy wasn't as critical as I was), but it was only a place to sleep, nothing more. We were glad we didn't need to share it (and its two bathrooms, one of which was attached to the kitchen) with anyone else.

The area around Ohiopyle is lovely. We took a long hike around the peninsula and then around the rapids. It's easy to see why tourists flock there in summer.

Day Three: Ohiopyle to Rockwood, 31 miles.
Early morning between Ohiopyle and Confluence
We weren't tempted to hang around in Ohiopyle. We also weren't exactly stuffed from our strawberry-ish bread/cake and expired orange juice. So we ate just enough to prevent us from passing out on the trail, and set off for Confluence, 12 miles away, were we were pretty sure we could find an open restaurant for breakfast.
Stopping by the Youghiogheny south of Ohiopyle.
It was yet another lovely day. Sunny, rapidly warming by the time we left at 8:45. The trail continued along the Youghiogheny as far as Confluence, and the scenery continued to be lovely (although the trail leaves the river now and then, making this stretch not quite as perfect as the stretch between Connellsville and Ohiopyle.)

The confluence of the Youghiogheny and Cassellman Rivers
In Confluence (so-named because two rivers and a creek converge at one point), we did indeed find an open restaurant serving breakfast, Sister's Restaurant. (It may have been the only open restaurant in town, which made choosing it easy.) We had an acceptable breakfast, made better when another through-biker on a Rivendell Atlantis pulled up and came in. I think it was the first Rivendell I've seen (other than mine) east of the Mississippi. I didn't rush over and gave him a big hug like a long-lost brother, but I did admire his bike as we were leaving.

Between Confluence and Rockwood
Below Confluence (actually, east from Confluence), we left the Yough and started following the Cassellman River, also beautiful. Less water than the Yough, but nearly as beautiful. The trail stayed mostly right by the river the whole way to Rockwood (17 miles).

The trail continued its steady but slight climb, which started in Connellsville. Although we knew were going up, it only slowed us (or tired us) a tiny amount. This steady climbing over two days was going to pay off big on our final day. On this stretch we were passed by a south-bound biker for the first and only time.
Bridge over Cassellman River

One of the regularly spaced covered picnic tables
A closed tunnel that the trail goes around

We arrived in Rockwood at 2:00. (We easily could have gone another 10-15 miles, but this was where the lodging was.) We had milkshakes at the ice cream store in the old mill (and opera house), then found our lodging for the night, The Gingerbread House, just south of town, right next to the trail. We were the only lodgers there, too, but at least it didn't feel like we were living in a ghost house. In fact, it was lovely. Very pleasant room, nice house, even a place to stash our bikes. We met the B&B keeper, arranged for breakfast in the morning, and relaxed for a while.
Gingerbread House B&B in Rockwood

At 5:00 or so, we walked into town to the Rock City Cafe, basically a bar serving food. But our Berk's Burgers (conglomerates of everything under the sun) were tasty, and my draft beer cost a buck. Sleep that night with a window open, listening to a rushing creek.

Day Four, Rockwood to Cumberland (44 miles)
This was payoff day. We would climb another 500 feet in 20 miles, and then plunge 1600 feet in 24 miles. We needed to get to Cumberland by 3:00 to get our U-Haul. We were hoping that we hadn't lost the reservation, since U-Haul had had no way to call us to confirm. (Although the Rockwood visitor's center at the trailhead has a cell-phone signal booster, it only works for Verizon and ATT, not T-Mobile. Grr. So we had our fingers crossed that we wouldn't be stranded in Cumberland.

Salisbury Viaduct, north of Meyersdale
The first twelve miles took us to Meyersdale, the other real city between McKeesport and Cumberland, still climbing, following the Casselman River. After Meyersdale, the trail was in the best condition of all. Wide, hard, fresh crushed stone in many spots. We climbed another eight miles, passing over one of two spectacular viaducts, and over lovely old bridges, until we reached the apex of our journey, the eastern "continental divide" between the Chesapeake and Gulf of Mexico watersheds.

South of Meyersdale

The highest point in the trail

As we were planning, it seemed reasonable to make this the longest day of the trip. We knew that it would end with 24 miles of downhill, but we didn't really know how much down it would be. I mean, I sort of knew, and I read the altitude tables that showed that we would lose the altitude we had gained over three days in 24 miles, but I didn't dare think that it would be ALL downhill, as in glide for 24 miles.

But that's what it was. If it had been paved, we literally could have glided for 24 miles, except for one tiny uphill bump near Frostburg.

We felt giddy. We flew along at 15 mph with virtually no effort, just pedaling to give our legs something to do.

The descent begins

This graphic says it all. Notice Mckeesport (right) and Cumberland (left)
On the way we went through three fun tunnels, including the 3294' Great Savage Tunnel. The trail was perfect. Two miles outside of Cumberland it turned into asphalt for the final sprint.

Big Savage Tunnel, 3294'

Benches and view south of Big Savage

Welcome to MD
The trail runs alongside the scenic railway tracks going into Cumberland.
Arriving in Cumberland
The end of the trip.

We arrived in Cumberland at 2:00. We found our way to the U-haul pickup point (they nearly gave our truck away when they couldn't get hold of us), loaded our bikes in, and roared off for McKeesport, 119 miles away. We dropped the truck off at a transmission shop right next to the trail, unloaded our bikes, and rode the final two miles back to our car, which was where we had left it, no tickets, no dead battery. We loaded our bikes in and drove off. The trip was a success.

What I learned on this trip:
1. Warm sunshine beats cold rain and stiff headwinds.
2. Travel north to south on the GAP unless you want to start with a 24-mile climb. (This wouldn't be impossible. In fact it would be like riding into a 15 mph or so headwind for 24 miles—we've all done it. But it was more fun going down.)
3. Don't use close-fitting fenders. (We both had our fenders nearly torn off when they picked up sticks. See my separate post.)
4. Make reservations. This time of year, it's easy to find lodging. In summer or fall, not so much.
5. Don't try to do the GAP in two days. Take time to putz and enjoy the view. Sit on the benches. Look at the water. Watch the trains go by. Go for a hike in Ohiopyle. We wanted to see Kentuck Knob (Frank Lloyd Wright house not far from Falling Water), but we couldn't figure out a way to get there that didn't involve biking up the steep hill out of the river valley on a busy road.
6. Don't plan on cell phone service. I never had any beyond Connellsville (using T-Mobile, at least). Two of our inns had wi-fi internet. The scary place didn't.
7. Ride the GAP trail. Everyone who can ride a bike should do it.


  1. I think I can explain about the kayak bums. This was something I actually learned from the raft guide on the Salmon River when I did my one-day raft trip some years back. The water was low in August when I was there. I commented that it must be even more of a challenge when the water is really high. The guide said not really, that it's just a totally different challenge. She explained that as the water level rises and falls, the whole pattern of the river changes...the many rocks that are barely under water when the river is low are no problem at all when the water is high, but the fewer but really big rocks that tower over the river in low water are barely visible in high water. Since there are fewer rocks but a lot more water force when the water is high, the challenge of navigating is quite different from the low-flow but many rocks challenge of low water. Thus, I'd infer from this that the kayak bums aren't kayaking the same stretch of river over and over.

    I've actually biked a little of that trail out of Ohiopyle. It's one of only three trails I've ever biked, and all were short segments I ended up riding just because I stumbled on the trails when I was driving past, and had a bike and a couple of hours to kill. They are the GAP out of Ohiopyle, the Virginia Creeper trail from Damascus, Virginia, and the Hart-Montague trail in Michigan.

  2. Almost feel I did it too! Almost. So glad it was such fun. You both deserve it after a busy year.

  3. When I first knew Kathy, we both rafted on the Youghiogheny, in 4-person rafts. It was fun. We camped at Ohiopyle State Park. Nearby is the highest point in Pennsylvania, an imposing peak we climbed (actually a meadow with on imperceptible rise.) The bike trip sounds perfect.

  4. Great post! I live here and yet have not ridden this trail yet. I do frequently ride the Montour trail. It is scenic most of the way and has some cool tunnels, notably the National Tunnel. The local news reported that there is just one more mile of trail to complete (going through the Sandcastle waterpark in Homestead PA) to connect to downtown Pittsburgh.


    1. Hi Phil,
      The Montour Trail... It took all summer (2012) for my son(9) and I to complete. Each weekend, 5 miles upgrade, 5 miles down. He did great for a single speed, 20 inch. We made several stops along the way. He brought a note book to document the animals seen and noise heard. We got his multi speed 24 inch just in time for our ride from Rt 19 to Rt 88 and back.
      Summer 2013 my wife and a few friends will drop us at Montour mile zero, and go on ahead with the support vehicle to the camp sites, mile 28. The plan day 2 was to ride to library and take the T into Pittsburgh. If current construction continues, the support vehicle may be meeting us in Large.
      First things, first. POINT MADE, June 15, 2013.

      BRUCE, Next trip on the GAP, you can now leave your car at the Pittsburgh Airport. The Montour Trail connector, starts in the long term parking lot. Camping mile post 28. Stay on the trail to Mckeesport or ride the T "trolley" from Library to Point Park. Visit the for details.


  5. I'll be riding the GAP and C&O trails between Pittsburgh and Washington DC during the first week of August. Thanks for your photos and comments on the trail conditions - this will be my first bike tour, and it's good to have some idea what I'm in for. Thanks for an informative post!
    - Scot R.

  6. I was doing some internet research on our bike trip this summer which was to have been along the Erie Canal. After reading this article, we changed our itinerary and have been biking the trail. It's really great.

  7. Nice post but I don't think you were accurate or kind about Ohiopyle. It's no more or less shabby than any town between DC and Pittsburgh or for that matter including DC and Pittsburgh. Any tourist town off-season is not going to have all of it's businesses open.

  8. Replies
    1. Great post Bruce! I'm excited to start planning my adventure on the GAP! As usual, your wit is wonderful and makes your trip come alive.
      Thanks for sharing!

  9. if one has an extreme fear of heights, would those tall rr bridges pose a problem?

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. You might want to walk your bike across the Salisbury Viaduct, which is long and high, with normal height guardrails (which seem low to a bike rider). The other bridges wouldn't be too intimidating, I wouldn't think.

  10. Sorry to hear your experience in Ohiopyle was not good. I have stayed there multiple times (at the Yough Plaza) and enjoyed it tremendously. Several decent restarants, bars, and very friendly people. It IS a rafting/kayaking town, so it's necessarily kinda laid-back. That's part of the charm. If you're looking for more genteel accomodations, there are some very nice places in Confluence (just 9 miles down the trail.)

  11. Enjoyed your post on the Gap trail. Thanks for sharing your problem with fenders. Will be riding Gap-C&O this summer on my Bruce Gordon BLT pulling a BOB. With 38mm tires bike fender clearance is probably around 1/2 inch TOO TIGHT.

    BTY I own a 8 year old Rambouillet and can't understand why they dropped this model other than it has a 210 lb rider weight limit and a 20 lb rear rack load limit. Looks like Grant is pushing 650 wheels and focusing on bikes for heavier riders.

    I'm also getting close to buying a folding bike? Would you ride your loaded bike friday with trailer on the GAP?

    Mike Barga

  12. Tight fender clearance on a rail trail seems to be a problem. At least be sure to have quick-release fender stays. (Riv sells them separately.)

    I love my Ram, but I only use it for unloaded road riding. I think Grant discontinued it because his evolving philosophy of bike design didn't value a bike that was optimized for 700x28 tires (although I have been able to put 700x32s on with fenders).

    I also love my Bike Friday, but I would never ride it plus a trailer on a rail trail. That is, I will never do it again. I've done it and hated it. The small bike tires plus the trailer just create too much drag. I finally bailed out and found a road running in parallel. (This was in Michigan.)

    1. As an update to this answer, see my post about loaded touring with the Bike Friday using a rack and panniers. It was fabulous. Highly recommended. I don't mind towing the trailer, but when possible, I'll always go with panniers on the BF.

  13. Hi Bruce,
    We're coming up from Charlotte, NC to ride the GAP over four days this summer. Have you ever heard anyone say anything about camping along the trail? We can't make up our mind to camp or stay in B&B's.
    We have a bike trailer to haul all of our stuff.

  14. I'm afraid I don't know much about camping along the GAP. I know it's possible, but I don't know where (other than Ohiopyle). The various GAP guides would be helpful, I'd think.

  15. There is camping many places along the trail. But not just any place you might want. The website is rather complete on all information.

  16. June 10, 2013

    Happy to report that Bruce and I safely returned from our 4 day, 150 mile bicycle trip on the GAP bike trail from Pittsburgh, PA to Cumberland, MD. This was our first bicycle tour on our own.

    Drove to Pitts.(5 hrs) dropped bikes at Holiday Inn Express near bike trail (they stored them in a storage room for us), drove on to Cumberland (2.5 hrs), registered at Fairfield Inn right on trail for last night so we could leave car in their parking lot.  Had dinner in Cumberland caught 7:30 p.m. Amtrak and enjoyed train ride back to Pittsburgh.  Arrived at 11:30 p.m., took taxi to Holiday Inn.  The first few hours of train ride we did in observation car.  Ride was smooth and we saw a lot of scenery, actually enjoyed it; regular seat reclined and had lots of leg room; but, it took 4 hours to do what we had done in 2.5 hours in our car.  It got us slowed down as now the 2.5 hour drive by car was going to take us 4 days on our bicycles.
    We had secured B & B's along the way, which is a gamble as they are non refundable starting 2 weeks before trip.  Who knows what weather is going to be like. We had same experience in Ohiopyle (probably same B & B) We were very fortunate that weather was in mid 70's and overcast first day, blue skies with white fluffy clouds second and third day; but, then light drizzle on 4th day.  Needless to say we were soaked to the bone when we arrived at Fairfield Inn after 32 miles on bicycle.  We had bags inside plastic bags, so kept most things dry. I can tell you that the Fairfield Inn's hot bubbling spa tub looked great.  Of course I took off my shoes before I walked into the lobby as mud had been coming on me from my front tire.  Fortunately since Fairfield Inn is on Great Allegheny Passage bike trail they are use to this.  Later I saw several others arrive the same way.  Fairfield Inn actually has a "bike wash" in parking lot.
    Bruce washed bikes and put them on car bike rack while I took the bags we needed to room to wash mud off them before I opened them.  I had packed a full set of clothes for both of us, including shoes that we had left in the car, so we had clean, dry clothes to wear after cleaning up.  The Fairfield Inn has a laundry room so I took all our wet items there to wash and dry while Bruce got his shower.
    After a good night's sleep, clean dry clothes and complimentary breakfast on Friday we headed back to Cincinnati.
    As I mentioned, last day was not pleasant with constant drizzle; but, it could have been worse.  Temperature was not cold and no strong winds and it was mostly down hill.  Thunderstorms were predicted for the afternoon so we left B & B in drizzle (9:15 a.m.) and it turned out to be best choice.  We saw several deer (and fawns), rabbits, turtles, etc.  The river we rode alongside was shallow (5 or 6 ft) and clear enough that you could see fish swimming.  Lots of rapids on river.  Each Spring river is stocked with bass and trout. We saw a man fly fishing who caught maybe a 14-16" bass. We may return to Confluence to try fly fishing.

  17. Can anyone tell me if it is feasible to pull a Burley Travoy trailer on the GAP/C&O trails? We are biking and camping and prefer to pull some weight instead of put it on the bikes. This is Our first long distance bike trip.

    1. When I ride with my two-wheeled Bike Friday trailer, I find it to be a big drag (literally) on stone dust trails. I can't stand it. It doesn't bother me at all on pavement; I get used to it and don't notice it more than I notice loaded panniers. But on stone dust? I hated it. The Travoy looks like it might be similar.

      It's not impossible, and if you don't mind going significantly slower, it's wouldn't be a big deal. The GAP trail is in great shape, nice and hard, so you could easily do it. I haven't ridden the C&O, but I know it's a more rugged trail.

  18. Excellent post. I'll be leaving for a round trip ride on the GAP in a couple of days starting at the Pittsburgh end. But, where to leave the car? A big thank you regarding your Boston suggestion.

  19. Discovered your blog while researching the GAP. Really enjoyed reading about it. Hope to ride it someday. Have you ever ridden the Katy Trail in Missouri? 237 mile rail-trail conversion with towns about every 10-15 miles. If so, just wondering how it compares to the GAP? If not, the Katy would be a closer trail that I think you'd really enjoy.

    1. I have ridden a stretch on the Katy trail, from St. Charles to Augusta. It was OK. A perfectly nice rail trail along a big fat river. But it was more like the Erie Canal trail than the GAP, in terms of scenery. I never felt the need to stop and soak it in, which we did often on the GAP.