It's All Downhill From Here (USA Day 16)
What a treat! An uneventful day!
We’d slept as much as we could, cowering from the encroaching elements in our tiny red tent. Across the river in the gorge far below, heavy goods trains rumbled to and fro, blaring out their Major 6th chords at the approach to unseen level crossings. (It’s the law apparently. Not the Major 6th element, though. That was just a musically-inclined train-horn-designer.) Amy swore that the trains were getting closer through the night until they were on our side of the river, then right outside the tent. Once we emerged, however, they’d retreated to their own side. Cheeky trains.
The rain ceased just before dawn and we saw sun for the first time since the weekend. Today was downhill the entire way, just half a percent of descent the entire time, but enough that we made triumphant pace throughout. My phone conked out about five miles into the ride, sitting in a patch of morning sun: the way it would have wanted to go. I assume some damp had crept in during the storm and today evaporated, causing some sort of steamy havoc inside. I’m no expert on phones, clearly, but there’s no heartbeat and it won’t respond to input. It’s dead.
The rest of our belongings dried out beautifully during a lunchbreak where we announced our arrival in a bougie Ohiopyle café by draping a full dripping tent and campers’ wardrobe over their garden furniture. Over the course of a (poor) coffee, (incredible) mushroom toastie and a (dodgy) mains outlet to charge our devices, we banished a storm’s worth of wetness then plummeted back into the woods to redouble our GAP attack.
The Grand Allegheny Passage is pretty wonderful. The reason George Washington’s C&O canal gave up at Cumberland and never completed its journey to Pittsburgh is because trains were faster, cheaper and more attractive. By the time he’d got halfway, the trains were already running there and back, and Washington’s wet dream remained just that. The GAP follows this train line that still runs to Pittsburgh, sticking beside a river that changes names but remains beautiful, rapid and densely forested on both steep sides. Aside from the occasional cyclist (more around each town, though those are few) you see only deer, songbirds and the occasional terrapin.
As I write, we’ve camped up by a bend in the river, in a slightly more legitimate spot than yesterday. We’ve ridden 99 of the 150 miles that make up this trail, the remaining portion to be completed tomorrow before resting in Pittsburgh for two nights and a day. That’ll take us over 500 miles for the entire trip and into the next chapter, whatever that may be.
Today: 59 Miles
Total: 499 Miles