DID YOU MISS THE GRAND OPENING CEREMONY - SEE IT NOW!
More than 1,000 people on bicycles gathered in a parking lot at Sandcastle Waterpark in West Homestead this morning to celebrate the completion of the last mile of the Great Allegheny Passage. There were at least that many hugs and pats on the back.
"Wow," said Linda McKenna Boxx, to an ovation when she took the stage. "To look out at all of you here today. If we had known that it would take 35 years and $80 million, I don't know if we'd have had the heart to do this. "Ms. Boxx, the president of the board of the Allegheny Trail Alliance, was described by Jack Paulik, the alliance's project manager, as "the mastermind" in putting together all the pieces.But she called out the names of a dozen people who gathered in a line in front of the stage, each of them having taken the lead in advocating for a connecting segment. "This is the human chain of the Great Allegheny passage," she said as they linked arms.
After the ceremony, the crowd rode single-file, slowly, 6.5 miles to the Point to celebrate again. Among the riders were Rep. Mike Doyle, who spoke in a bicycle helmet, and former Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy, who wore fingerless biking gloves.
"We will ride slowly, to savor the moment," said Seth Gernot, who led the procession with an American flag given by U.S. Sen. Bob Casey before Mr. Gernot and a dozen riders left yesterday from Washington, D.C. to arrive at Sandcastle in time for the ceremony.The trail from Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C. is 328.5 miles.
On a rainy night in Ohiopyle, I shared a B&B with a couple who were riding the trail from DC to Pittsburgh. They had spent ten days exploring the country along the trail as they journeyed north. Each day they planned small side trips and the following day they were headed to Fallingwater, which is an amazing house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1936.
The couple had traveled from Louisiana to ride this trail which marked their seventh "through trip" (GAP & C&O Canal together). They looked forward to this trip all year and explained that the beautiful scenery, the interesting Trail Towns, and the abundant wildlife kept them coming back.
They traveled half way across the country to ride a trail that's in my backyard. It made me take a step back and appreciate what Western Pennsylvania and this trail had to offer. It was this trip in 2009 that inspired me to start this website and share my trail adventures with others. Having this trail in my backyard also made me happy that I don't live in Louisiana.
CAN YOU RIDE THE DISTANCE?
When the renovation of the Big Savage Tunnel completed in May 2006, local Pittsburgh media gave the milestone considerable exposure. The tunnel was one of the last obstacles which linked two sections of the Great Allegheny Passage Trail together. It was a big deal because now you could bike 300 continuous miles of trail from Boston, PA to Washington DC.
In an effort to
capitalize on the media blitz, Pittsburgh's mayor, Tom Murphy, pedaled his bike
from Pittsburgh to DC just after the tunnel grand opening. The mayor is
a wee little fella
who s athletic but didn't strike me as much of a marathon cyclist. When
I saw that he was able to complete the ride to DC, I was inspired. I
thought that if he could go the distance so could I. As it turns out, you
don't have to be a hard-core cyclist to do this ride. Though it does help
to have a good pair of padded bike shorts.
The trail has some hazards like fallen tree branches, loose gravel near locks, dark bumpy trail in the Paw Paw Tunnel, but these obstacles are easily surmountable. No exceptional bike handling skills are required to conquer the trail. The attribute you will need is endurance. The ability to manage fatigue will be useful.
If you are able to effectively manage fatigue, you could pedal your bike for 10 hours a day and ride the distance in three days. If you reduce the hours on the bike each day to three, you would make the trip in 11 days. Most people will be physically able to ride the 335 miles, but the question is...how many days will it take?
TWO TRAILS BETWEEN PITTSBURGH AND DC
The bike trail to between Pittsburgh and Washington DC is really a combination of two trails which intersect in Cumberland, MD. The Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) connects Pittsburgh to Cumberland and the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal (C&O) connects Cumberland to Washington DC. The 150 miles of the GAP are converted railroad tracks that wind it's way through the mountains of Pennsylvania while the C&O Canal trail was once a towpath used by merchants to pull barges full of freight from the Chesapeake Bay to customers up the Potomac valley. The C&O is a little longer at 184 miles and is filled with history.
Be prepared because the trail surfaces are completely different. The GAP is paved in a few spots but most miles are covered with a smooth crushed limestone surface. The C&O is more rugged. There are some crushed limestone sections but the majority is basically a dirt road with roots, potholes, and a strip of grass growing down the middle. The combination of the two trails provide over 330 miles of continuous car-free riding. There is another 50 miles of trail that connects to the GAP near Pittsburgh called the Montour Trail. Click here to learn more about planning your trip.
THE MONTOUR TRAIL EXTENDS THE GAP ANOTHER 47 MILES
The Montour Trail is a 47-mile spur off the Great Allegheny Passage which loops around the western suburbs of Pittsburgh. The trail shares the road between where it connects to the GAP in Mckeesport, PA and the town of Clairton. After you leave the GAP you will be on the road for about four miles before reaching the trail head in Coraopolis. There are several sections under construction at the southern portion of the trail near Clairton which forces you to ride the road, but the construction disappears and the trail becomes continuous from McMurray for thirty miles until the northern end in Corapolis.
The trail surface is primarily crushed limestone with a few miles of pavement. Over the course of 47 miles, the character of the trail varies from suburban to rural, level to sloping, quiet to bustling. The busiest areas are around Coraopolis and Peters Township (where it has incorporated the existing Arrowhead Trail).
There's a long hill between
Imperial and McDonald which may is probably the least traveled
section. Most visitors to this area won't notice that they're passing through
reclaimed strip mines; reclamation efforts have effectively restored the area
to a green condition. After the crest of the hill, the trail descends to the
outskirts of McDonald, and crosses over the newly restored McDonald Trestle.
This impressive structure takes you over the Panhandle Trail which
follows the valley below.
Learn more about the Montour Trail from their website here.