The Borden Tunnel is just up the hill from Frostburg and is really cool to ride through. The trail is paved in the tunnel but you can't see the ground because there are no lights. You can feel like you're in a Kaleidoscope.
At 1908', the Salisbury Viaduct is the longest bridge on the Great Allegheny Passage. RP crossing it on her way to Meyersdale
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The Western Maryland Scenic Railroad has a turntable just up the hill from the trail
The western entrance to the tunnel. Note: the tunnel closes each year during the winter months. It's typically closed from mid-December and reopens at the beginning of April
Whichever direction you're traveling, the Eastern Continental Divide is a significant milestone on the trail because it marks the highest point. Whether you are headed to Pittsburgh or DC, it's all downhill from here. Inside the tunnel there's a map on the wall showing the trail mileage and elevation changes between Cumberland and Pittsburgh.
The Eastern Continental Divide, in conjunction with other continental divides of North America, demarcates two watersheds of the Atlantic Ocean: the Gulf of Mexico watershed and the Atlantic Seaboard watershed. Prior to 1760, the divide represented the boundary between British and French colonial possessions in North America. The ECD runs south-southwest from the Eastern Triple Divide in Pennsylvania to the watershed of the Kissimmee River, which drains via the Lake Okeechobee and the Okeechobee Waterway to both the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean.
Big Savage Tunnel
One of my favorite landmarks on the GAP is the Big Savage Tunnel. On a sizzling hot day in 2010, I climbed the 20+ miles from Cumberland to the Big Savage Tunnel. It was a little before noon and the air temperature was already 94 degrees with no clouds in the sky. The sun was baking me on the climb. The Big Savage Tunnel is at the top of the climb and was a welcome treat because it's like a giant natural refrigerator. The air temperature inside the tunnel was easily 20 degrees cooler than outside. It was so much cooler that a thick fog had formed reducing my vision significantly. The fog was so dense that the ceiling lights weren't able to light the trail...I couldn't see the ground I was riding on. Halfway through the tunnel I could hear the voices of other bikers but they were hidden in the thick fog. They were slowly riding towards me and only became visible once they were within 20 feet from me. It was the coolest thing.
One of the most spectacular views along the GAP is on the southern end of the tunnel. From the top of Big Savage Mountain you can see for miles. The banner image at the top of this page was taken from that vantage point. It's difficult to make out in that image, but the town of Cumberland lays in the distant valley.
Here's some more details about the tunnel: The Big Savage Tunnel is an abandoned railway tunnel located about 9 miles (14 km) southeast of Meyersdale, Pennsylvania. The Big Savage, Borden Tunnel, and Brush Tunnels are part of the Great Allegheny Passage rail trail. It was originally built for the Connellsville subdivision of the Western Maryland Railway. The mountain and tunnel are named for John Savage, an early surveyor who narrowly avoided becoming a victim of cannibalism in the area in 1736.
The tunnel was renovated for use on the Great Allegheny Passage trail. It is the longest tunnel on the trail. The tunnel is closed between roughly December 15 and April 10 each winter to protect it from icing damage.
The Salisbury Viaduct is a 2000' bridge in Somerset County, located just down the trail from Meyersdale. It was built in 1912 as a railroad bridge to cross the Casselman River valley and it offers fantastic views of the valley below. It was decommissioned in 1975 and converted for pedestrian and cycling as part of the Great Allegheny Passage in 1998.
Cumberland Bone Cave
I wouldn't say that the bone cave is a fascinating sight because there's not much to see but it's very unique and worth a stop. The cave is located a couple miles down the hill from Frostburg, and what you can see is a sign sharing the history and the entrance to the cave which has been closed off with a chain link fence. The cave's history is really interesting and it's right on the edge of the trail. In 1912 workers excavating a cut for the Western Maryland Railway along Andy's Ridge broke into the partly filled cave. A local naturalist, Raymond Armbruster, observed fossil bones among the rocks that had been blasted loose and were being removed from the cut. Armbruster notified paleontologists at the Smithsonian Institution, and James W. Gidley began excavating that same year. The cave later became known as the "Cumberland Bone Cave".
Between 1912 to 1916, Gidley excavated the Cumberland Bone Cave, where 41 genera of mammals were found, about 16 per cent of which are extinct. Numerous excellent skulls and enough bones to reconstruct skeletons for a number of the species were present. Skeletons of the Pleistocene Cave Bear and an extinct Saber-toothed cat from the Bone Cave are on permanent exhibit in the Ice Age Mammal exhibit at the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. Many of the fossilized bones date from 200,000 years ago. The Cumberland Bone cave represents one of the finest Pleistocene-era faunas known from eastern North America.
Today very little of this cave is still in existence, though some excavations are still being performed by the Maryland DNR.
Borden Tunnel is 2.5 miles west (uphill) of Frostburg. The tunnel was bored for two tracks and has a length of 957.5 ft. After the 1975 abandonment, the track was left in all the way up west of the tunnel. It was left to serve a small coal strip mine here. I had a really freaky experience in this tunnel at the end of a long rainy ride from Connellsville.
It was early evening and the rain finally stopped but the air was wet and the sky overcast. Clouds had formed inside the cooler temperatures of the Borden Tunnel. There are no lights in the tunnel so the only light source was coming from the opposite end of the tunnel which was clouded with a cool fog. The light was being diffused through the fog in such a way that I felt like I was riding through a kaleidoscope. It was a really freaky moment. It was as if I were floating because I couldn't see the ground or the walls of the tunnel, just the diffused light coming from the far end. Pedaling through the tunnel towards the light felt like a sneak peak of Heaven. I stopped to take a photo but there was so much moisture in the air (my camera was still wet from filming through the Big Savage Tunnel) that my camera refused to cooperate.
Mason Dixon Line
The Mason–Dixon Line was surveyed between 1763 and 1767 by Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon in the resolution of a border dispute between British colonies in Colonial America. It is a demarcation line among four U.S. states, forming part of the borders of Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, and West Virginia (then, part of Virginia). What started as a border dispute between British colonies in America is now a famous geographic landmark that forms the borders of four states and is also considered the boundary between the northeast states and the southern states.
You will cross the Mason Dixon line about half way between the Big Savage Tunnel and Frostburg. A couple cyclists from Virginia and myself witnessed a bear crossing the trail as we approached the Mason Dixon Line marker. Unfortunately, I wasn't quick enough with the camera to capture the scene. I've never found it, but I heard stories of a rattlesnake den located nearby.
This town is the turn-around location for the Scenic Western Maryland Railroad, which starts in Cumberland and winds through "the Narrows", a deep water gap and terminates at the Railroad depot in Frostburg.
The trail passes through Canal Place in Cumberland Maryland which is the home for the mile 0 medallion. Canal Place is also the home to a half dozen small businesses including the Crabby Pig restaurant and the Trail Connection bike shop. The guys at the Trail Connection are super nice and helpful. It may be the only bike shop I'm aware of where you can buy everything you need to repair your bike and all the ingredients to brew beer at home.
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