Leg Eight – Into the Rain, Into the Cold, Into the Stream, Into the Tunnels, Into the Gap and on to the GAP

May 13

Sixty Miles today – Fifteen Mile Aqueduct to Frostburg.

 

It didn’t rain much overnight after all, but in the morning it started raining while I fixed breakfast – with temperatures in the 40s. We got an early start despite the rain, since we let Danielle take the wet tents away. We immediately got lost trying to find our way back to the paved rail trail – at first it looked inaccessible on a trestle over the road, then the promising ramp to the right ended at a fence, while the parking lot across the street clearly provided access. After about two miles down the paved trail, it dead ended at a nonexistent bridge, a dirt road led in the general direction of the towpath, but that route also dead ended with a choice between a road submerged in a stream, or a gate marked “private”in the wrong direction. We eventually settled on fording the derailleur-deep stream.

The first highlight of the day was Paw Paw tunnel – a quarter mile canal tunnel through a hill that avoids a long bend in the river. It was nice to get out of the rain and ride with our lights through the dark tunnel.

After Paw Paw, we slogged the muddy and increasingly less maintained towpath with an early lunch and warm up stop at the restaurant in Old Town in mind, twenty miles down the towpath. When we finally made it, we figured out that the restaurant was closed on Mondays. So we slogged on in the cold rain. The next option to warm up and eat was not until Cumberland – another twenty miles on.  The trail got muddier and muddier, with 100 yard stretches of standing water hiding occasional deep potholes. Our bikes got caked in mud, so much so my front derailleur jammed again.

In the last five miles before Cumberland, the rain let up and we started to see some cyclists heading in the other direction. The Cumberland Gap was a welcome site, and marked the junction with the Great Allegheny Passage Rail Trail to Pittsburgh. We stopped at the Crabby Pig for lunch and to warm up and charge up.

After lunch we biked the fifteen miles to Frostburg, 1600’ of climbing up a gentle but unrelenting grade on a faster crushed stone trail. We had breaks of sun, and more rain, and we sheltered out the last storm  at the trail access shelter right below town. The Trail Inn advertises a bike wash and a laundry as one amenity, and we took advantage of it to spray the mud off our bikes and wash our clothes.

Tomorrow we are off to the Eastern Continental Divide and on down the GAP trail.

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