I have a detailed trip report elsewhere in the blog for this same tour that I took in 2016, which remains my favorite off-road trip to date. In contrast, I didn’t have nearly as much good to say about the first time I took it in 2012, which was colored by my inexperience, bike problems, and poor weather. But recently, browsing through my photos brought back a number of good memories and, at this point 8 years later, I remembered more of the good times and have mostly forgotten the negative details.

For completeness, I decided that I should do a look-back post on it. Unfortunately, I have forgotten nearly all the names and details of the other riders, as well as the exact identification of many of the locations. So this will be more of a photo-essay with a few comments thrown in, but I did take more time to get some good photos than I tended to do on later trips when I was in more of a hurry.

Day 1 – June 10, 2012: New Boston to Ohiopyle

The 6-day trip doesn’t start at the actual beginning of the Great Allegheny Passage trail, but instead in the small town of New Boston, at the start of the more rural and interesting parts of the trail. This was my first trip to Ohiopyle and I stayed at one of the only hotels in town, then was up early to start the 50-mile first leg of the journey.

Meeting outside Wilderness Voyageurs HQ at 7AM
Trailhead in New Boston
Our guides unloading the bikes
And we’re off!
It was the usual wet Spring and water was flowing down from the hillsides
One of the nicer trail towns along the way
Our first well-stocked rest stop
Memories of the railroad along the trail in many places
The Voyageurs always supplied some good lunches
Kayaking and white-water rafting are popular along the rivers
Connellsville was the only sizable town of the day
Entering Ohiopyle State Park
We followed the Youghiogheny River for a couple of days
A series of bridges cross the rivers on the way into Ohiopyle
Approaching Ohiopyle and the end of the day’s ride

The normal overnight spot in Ohiopyle is the Trillium Lodge, located up in the Laurel Highlands and owned by Wilderness Voyageurs. However, on this night it had been rented out by a private party and we were instead given rooms in town at the same hotel that I had stayed in the night before. If I had known about this change beforehand, I wouldn’t have bothered moving out of my room this same morning!

Ohiopyles finest?
Not much to look at, but clean and conveniently located

An outdoor buffet-style dinner was prepared for us in a pavilion at Voyageurs HQ and afterward we were free to wander around town (ice cream and other goodies easy to come by) and turn in for the night.

Day 2 – June 11: Ohiopyle to Frostburg, MD

The second day was another 50+ mile trek along the GAP trail, ending at the town of Frostburg a little way past the Eastern Continental Divide. We followed a couple of different rivers most of the way with a number of nice stopping points and things to see along the way.

There are numerous bridges along the route
I had some good riding companions on this tour
One of the rivers that we followed
There was a bypass around the blocked Pinkerton Tunnel that was open when I returned in 2016
There were a lot of places along the trail where the van could meet us to set up rest stops and this delicious lunch
Two more of the people who were riding at my pace
The Salisbury Viaduct crosses a valley over a highway and railroad tracks and is one of the most-photographed sights along the way
View from the viaduct
Meyersdale is a typical “trail town” with a converted original station
An old caboose from the C&O Railroad days
Crossing the Eastern Continental Divide. This is where I had my first flat of the trip.
The Big Savage Tunnel can be disorienting to ride through even if you think you can see where you’re going
On the way downhill from the Divide, the old line separating free and slave states
Finish line for the day, but they don’t tell you that “1/2 Mile” is all uphill!
A cozy but comfortable room in the quirky Hotel Gunter

Unfortunately, after we got to the hotel, we heard that one of our number had fallen inside the Big Savage Tunnel and had broken her wrist. The crew had handled the situation and she was on her way home to Pittsburgh, but surprisingly she rejoined a couple days later — not riding — so she could enjoy the rest of the tour with her group of friends.

The Hotel Gunter is truly a unique, funky place and is described in more detail with photos in my 2012 story. That evening, the guides drove us to a local restaurant for a provided dinner. Ominously, it was raining the whole time, which didn’t look promising for the next day’s very long ride onto the C&O Canal trail.

Day 3 – June 12: Frostburg to Hancock, MD

This was scheduled as the longest day of the tour: 70+ miles simply due to a lack of other options along the route. It started with a long downhill run to Cumberland, MD and the start of the C&O Canal Towpath trail, with a light drizzle still hanging around after the previous night’s rain. As we found out, this did not bode well for conditions along the C&O, which were simply one dirty puddle after another with few options to avoid them.

A rest stop in Cumberland was my first chance to take a photo due to the rainy ride down the hill
The start of the towpath. It had stopped raining, but the pavement ran out quickly and it turned into a day-long slog
Typical conditions along the route
Some of the old lockkeepers’ houses have been restored and can even be rented, while others are dilapidated and falling apart
Likewise, some locks have been restored while others are practically buried
The path is mostly a two-track beside the old canal
It was at this rest stop that I called it a day and had the guides load my bike up for the final leg
When I came back here in 2016 we walked our bikes on through this long, dark tunnel and kept on going to Hancock
At this point I learned the usefulness of a splash guard and shoe covers. Again, fixed (and needed) in 2016
Loaded up for the day. That evening, the guides took the bikes on the van to someplace where they were able to wash them off

Our lodging for the night was in the Colonial Inn, which is some distance off the trail in Berkeley Springs, WV. It was the nicest place we had stayed so far, and I felt bad about having to wash off all of my muddy riding gear in the bathtub and hoped that all the grit went down the drain.

The Colonial Inn
A really nice large room. Sorry about the mud in the tub…

Continue to Part 2

Categories: Tours


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