June 19th, 2009
By Guest Bloggers: Trail Town Outreach Corp
The Trail Town Outreach Corps, a five-person team of college graduates from across the country, seeks to foster economic revitalization and sustainable redevelopment in the Great Allegheny Passage Trail Towns through minds-on and hands-on service to the communities. The Outreach Corps is a partnership project between the Trail Town Program (Greensburg, PA) and national non-profit the Student Conservation Association.
In early May the Trail Town Outreach Corps embarked on a “Fam Campaign” to try for ourselves “The Ride of our Lives” so we could pass our experiences along to other trail users. It’s hard to describe all of the little triumphs, lots of laughs, and moments of awe at the scenery during our journey together. The towns along the trail offer much in the way of good food, sweet shops, recreational opportunities, and fascinating history; a trip on the Passage wouldn’t be complete without exploring what’s off the trail as well. We’re glad to share our highlights, but it’s best to experience the Passage for yourself. We’d love to assist in trip planning or offer advice. So, what are you waiting for? Get out on the trail and make some memories of your own!
Day One, McKeesport to Connellsville, 43 Miles:
We found our way to the McKeesport trailhead and were on our way after a quick chat with employees at McKees Cafe.
We wound over streets and trail and pedaled through beautiful Dead Man’s Hollow and stopped for a photo op and map-check at the Boston trailhead.
We continued on our way through meadows and passed Milestone Specialty Produce, a source for hydroponic lettuce. We stopped for a rest on the porch swing at Peddler’s Village where you can get snacks or even organize a leisurely tubing trip on the Yough.
As the skies darkened with the threat of rain we peddled faster into West Newton and made it to the Visitors Center, a restored train station, before getting too soaked. Betsy at the Visitors Center took our picture for their “wall of fame”. We headed to the Trailside Café for lunch and waited out the worst of the storm while enjoying hot drinks, sandwiches and sweet potato fries.
Before heading out we picked up extra bike parts from the West Newton Bike Shop. Well-equipped and well-fed, we hit the trail again. The trail was teeming with wildlife between West Newton and Connellsville. A large snapping turtle reluctantly posed for photos and a deer stopped along the edge of the trail to have a look at us bikers.
We continued on, stopping occasionally to learn about the coal and coke heritage of the region, viewing old buildings and cokes ovens.
We rolled into Connellsville as another storm brewed at our backs. We picked up some healthy snacks at Martin’s Grocery Store, right off the trail. For dinner we enjoyed delicious authentic Mexican Food at El Canelo! Before heading back to clean off and load up our bikes for day two we finished off the day with milkshakes from Valley Dairy.
Day Two, Connellsville to Confluence, 28 Miles:
After a brief debate about whether to venture on in the pouring rain it was decided: not even a downpour could stop TTOC!
We rallied at the trailhead and laughed our way through the rain, which only enhanced the beauty of the scenery and intensity of the waterfalls!
As we neared Ohiopyle the sun came out to dry us off while we enjoyed the High Bridge and later a vitalizing and yummy lunch at the Firefly Grill— complete with chocolate turtles for dessert.
After digesting a bit we set out on the second leg of day two, the oldest section of the trail! We enjoyed the Trillium and Wild Columbine growing on the hillsides, and even picked some Ramps and Morels to cook for breakfast in the morning.
As we entered Confluence, we paused at the famous “Turkey Foot.” The scene was bucolic and peaceful with fluffy clouds while the afternoon light gave everything an ethereal glow.
We rode into downtown Confluence and stopped at the Confluence Cyclery and got some mid-ride repairs and necessary supplies (waterproof gear, and a handlebar bell, which we then used to celebrate each passing mile).
For dinner it was the Lucky Dog Café for delicious, fresh food and a local wine selection.
Day Three, Confluence to Meyersdale, 31 Miles:
Some of the early risers went to Sister’s Café to fuel up with coffee for the day, and picked up some local eggs. After enjoying our fresh-picked “Trail Town Scramble” breakfast we strapped our panniers to our bikes and got day three underway. We enjoyed the woodsy scenery and stopped for a snack break on the Pinkerton Bridge to enjoy the majestic views of the Casselman River while birds soared overhead.
We rolled into Rockwood in time for lunch at the Rockwood Mill Shoppes. The pizza and baked goods were all delicious, and the shops offered lots of interesting baubles to feast our eyes upon. A funky metal water bottle was just the purchase we needed to continue the trip well-hydrated. We even got a tour of the new “Hostel on Main.” Our timing in Rockwood was spot-on to watch the Pittsburgh Penguins play in the Stanley Cup Play-offs. There was something for everyone in Rockwood, as half of us went to Tin’s Tavern to catch the game, while the other half went on a mini-geocaching adventure and met up with the owner of the Rockwood Trail House Bike Shop. We also chatted with Maynard, a 100 year old Rockwood resident who has seen his home go from train town to Trail Town and now greets trail users at the Visitor Center. Before hopping back on our bikes we went back to the Mill Shoppes to have some famous “Rockwood” ice cream.
On the way out of town we explored the Wymp’s Gap Fossil Quarry and discovered some fossils from when Rockwood was at the bottom of an ocean. As we rode deeper into Somerset County, the scenery changed from wooded trail to rolling hills and farms in the distance. We even biked past a farm with peacocks displaying their tails.
The Salisbury Viaduct offered expansive views of town, country, and windmills as we neared Meyersdale.
Once we got in town we rode down to our accommodations at the Meyersdale Trail Hostel in their Community Center.
Our greeting was warm, the hostel was clean and cozy, and the price was right! For dinner we crossed the street to Missy’s Café for some hearty and filling food. Then it was back to bed to rest up for another early morning out on the Passage!
Day Four, Meyersdale to Cumberland, 32 Miles:
Day four greeted us with a chilly start. After warming up with coffee from Donges Motel and Drive-In we stopped in to the Meyersdale Train Station Visitor Center to say hello and check out the exhibits on trains and local history. We bundled up against the morning mist and peddled on for the final day of our trip. We reached the Eastern Continental Divide cold but in good spirits.
We celebrated our ascent to the highest point on the trail by taking lots of photos documenting our progress.
From there the miles flew by as we whizzed downhill. (Thank goodness for our windproof bike gear!) The Big Savage Tunnel was a highlight; watching our shadows change shapes and listening to our voices echoing as we rode through the hulking tunnel. The epic view at the other side of Big Savage was fogged over, but that didn’t stop us from pausing to see what we could see! We arrived in Frostburg, and explored our options on the electronic kiosk before enjoying the easy pedal up the switchbacks into town. The Western Maryland Scenic Railroad was pulling in as we were, so we got some great pictures of the old rail cars.
We decided to try El Canelo #1 for lunch and were warmed by homemade chips and salsa.
After lunch we hopped back on our bikes for the last 16 miles. As we descended into the valley the scenery became lusher with greenery and redbuds everywhere. A large porcupine ran across the trail and straight up into the top of a tree. We were amazed at its agility and speed. (Not to mention the size of its leg muscles!) Slowly the area around the trail became more developed and we knew we were close to our final destination with the digits on the mile markers quickly diminishing. The mural in Downtown Cumberland greeted us as we pedaled toward Mile 0, where we lined up to victoriously cross the finish line together.
After a few whoops of celebration, hugs and high-fives, we parked our bikes and headed into the Cumberland Trail Connection to say hello to the crew and return the panniers we had rented that made the trip such a breeze. We got some eats from Kramer’s Deli in the historic train station and then strolled through the pedestrian mall on our way to get ice cream —no bike trip is complete without it— from the Queen City Creamery and we finished the Ride of Our Lives with a cherry on top!
To learn more about the Great Allegheny Passage and for trip-planning resources visit: www.GAPtrail.org. For information about the Trail Town Program (and the Trail Towns!) visit: www.trailtowns.org. Visit the SCA at www.thesca.org. For up-to-the-minute updates on the Great Allegheny Passage, find us on Facebook and Twitter. Search “Great Allegheny Passage” on Facebook and “GAP_Trail” on Twitter.
TAGS: Big Savage Tunnel · Confluence · Confluence Cyclery · Connellsville · Great Allegheny Passage · Lucky Dog Cafe · McKeesport · Meyersdale · Rockwood · Rockwood Mill Shoppes · Salisbury Viaduct · The Firefly Grill · Trail Town Outreach Corps · Trailside Cafe · West Newton
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