There and back again

Not quite ready for the house of Elrond, but as ready as I’ll ever be for this particular outing.

By Stephen Haynes

A few weeks ago I set out in the spirit of Bilbo Baggins for a grand adventure of the solo variety. Many wouldn’t see this as a warm up to some greater adventure, let alone an “adventure” in itself, but an adventure it was for me.

The ride was simple. Take the Great Allegheny Passage from near my house outside Pittsburgh to Rockwood, MD some 80 miles away. Camp in Rockwood and meet my Wife and kids in Ohiopyle State Park halfway back on the return trip.

I brewed up the idea of a self supported overnight jaunt after I was given the opportunity to test the Maya Cycle bicycle trailer (Keep an eye out for my full review in Bicycle Times Issue #13). I felt like I needed to give the trailer a good shakedown and what better way than isolated rail trails and many miles all alone?

Friday evening I laid everything out for my journey. I didn’t shy away from packing my full sized gear, figuring any extra weight on the test trailer was a good thing. This would come back to haunt me later in my travels. But it does make an impressive collection of stuff.

All my stuff. Yes, I was only gone one night.

I started out early Saturday morning. It was about 65 degrees out with little humidity as I pedaled along the Youghiogheny River. This section of the trail passes under overpasses, between back yards and through small boroughs and towns that litter the outskirts of Pittsburgh. Old mine shafts, coke plants, and industrial age relics pop up here and there amidst the trees, houses and parks.

Buzzing along the GAP, in the early morning.

A few hours in and I’m making good time. Connellsville, PA is coming up and I’ve had a short chat with a guy on a carbon fiber cross bike. My knees make a nearly perceptible whimper as he peels away from me and my steel bike, pulling 50+ lbs worth of trailer.

Connellsville comes and goes and I enter into the more isolated world. Closing in on the Ohiopyle State Park boundery means more trees and less development. Unfortunately it also means that there is a steady 2% grade ahead of me for the next 5 hours as I head towards Rockwood, just shy of the Continental Divide.

The forest begins.

I arrive in Ohiopyle right at lunch time and have a nice talk with a guy about biking the various rail trails that Pittsburgh has to offer. One turkey sandwhich, fries and Coke later and I’m back on the bike.

The rest of the days ride is pretty uneventful with the exception of my legs blowing up with just under 20 miles to go to my destination, the Husky Haven Campground right on the trail in Rockwood.

Husky Haven is one of those places that you scratch your head over. It’s right on the trail, there’s a bath house, water spiggate, reusable gallon jugs and free fire wood all for $10! I got camp set up, made some burritos, had a few Troegs Treogonators and fell asleep before 8 p.m. All the while thinking, “Best $10 ever.” Then, around 9 p.m a train came rattling through on the other side of the river, horn blowing and tracks rumbling. This happened every hour on the hour. At one point two trains passed each other I woke thinking some apocalyptic fate was about to befall me. Still a great place, just bring ear plugs.

Home for the night.

Despite my lack of real solid sleep, I woke before dawn, made a pot of coffee and ate breakfast. My legs felt much improved as I packed up camp and before I left I spoke to the only two other campers at Husky Haven that morning a couple of guys heading to DC from Pittsburgh. We shared opinions about various gear choices and I wished them luck.

Just down the trail from camp.

The return trip was fantastic. Brisk early morning riding on empty trails through beautiful wilderness. Deer skittered on the trail then off again in leaps and bounds that seemed to defy physics. I’m smiling while I enjoy the last of my coffee and the 2% downhill grade.

Bridge over the Casselman River. Early morning.

The Casselman River near Somerset County, Pa.

A loud twig snap shakes me from my reverie and I slow to gander at what could have made such a noise. To my right, between me and the river perhaps 40 feet away, is a black bear cub. And it’s pacing me! I momentarily entertain the though of stopping to take a picture then quickly dismiss the idea, realizing I’m nowhere near anyone or anything that could help me. Instead I shift into high gear and put distance between me and what my imagination thinks will be certain doom.

After 30 minutes of solid pedal down riding I decide I’m probably ok and listen intently to make sure.. No twig snaps or growling, I fall back into a leisurely pace. Ohiopyle comes into view more quickly than I’m expecting and I make my way to the meeting spot where my Wife and kids will be arriving at some point in the morning.

Me and the trailer getting a move on.

Though I didn’t encounter any trolls or dragons, fight off orcs or see the City of Rivendalle I did have a fun adventure, though next time I think I’ll invite friends. Perhaps a fellowship of riders?..


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