WASHINGTON, DC 2006: Most of the trip was made on the Great Allegheny Passage (Youghiogheny River Trail, Allegheny Highlands Trail) and the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal towpath. We decided to take one more day than in 2005, to make a total of ten. (SCROLL down)

Starting out in the almost-constant rain, Day 1, Youghiogheny River Trail

There weren't even any pictures taken until a few miles down the trail. We were sheltered underneath the Boston Bridge while we loaded up and got ready to go. We were thankful for the frequent pavilions along the Yough Trail at the start, but knew it wasn't going to be that way for long. About the last half of the first day the rain held off, but it returned with a vengeance in the night, frightening us to death with lighting and saturating our tents. But we had already enjoyed an ample supper, brought by one of the families, and an uninterrupted time of swimming in the pool at River's Edge Family Campground. Our one-day rider (8) left us at this point. His 13-year-old sister continued the entire distance, enjoying the tandem magic of going the whole way from Pittsburgh to Washington, DC without knowing how to ride a bike! Also going the whole way were another 13-year-old whose older sisters captained, and, remarkably, a nine-year-old who had no family members with her, although they visited at Shepherdstown, West Virginia.

Connellsville, Pennsylvania, Day 2

The second day was fairly rain-free, and we enjoyed our supper in Confluence, arriving well before the deep fryer was turned off.

Outflow Campground, Confluence, Pennsylvania

Although there was some rain starting the third day, it was not so bad as last year while we were making the ascent leaving Confluence. It had stopped by the time we got to Rockwood, and we made Meyersdale without any trouble, pausing for a picture with the famous wind-powered generators in the background.

Salisbury Viaduct, near Meyersdale, Allegheny Highlands Trail

We enjoyed the night in the hostel, with another feast delivered by the Weis family. We had the spacious facilities all to ourselves.

Next morning we looked out to see that the rain had started again. By this time everyone was telling us to brace ourselves--that we were going to have rain the whole way. We packed up, put on our ponchos, and with heavy hearts descended the steps of Meyersdale High School. The rain actually let up after a few miles, and we passed through Big Savage Tunnel and into the sunshine of the rain shadow on the other side.

Exiting Big Savage Tunnel, Allegheny Highlands Trail

The ride down through Borden Tunnel and on into Frostburg was swift and easy. We boarded the train with no problem and continued into Cumberland.

Western Maryland train (Frostburg-Cumberland), Frostburg, Maryland

To save money, we had decided to mix Gatorade from powder this time. We saved money all right, but by the end of the trip everyone was sick of Gatorade powder!

Mixing Gatorade (the eternal task!), Frostburg

Starting the C&O Canal towpath, Cumberland, Maryland, Day 4

Breakfast with the cows, Pigman's Ferry hiker-biker campground, Day 5

Arising at the beginning of our fifth day, we began to prepare breakfast. We were camping at Pigman's Ferry along the C&O Canal, next to a pasture. As we were eating, a herd of cows came into the field. They were pretty boisterous, and were eating all sorts of things just on the other side of the fence, including poison ivy (want to swear off drinking milk?). Suddenly a young one pressed through the barbed wire and headed straight for us. I have never had any experience dealing with cows, but tried to keep the bovine from crushing our tents. It didn't seem to pay much attention to me. I was relieved when at last it pushed back through the fence and rejoined its comrades!

Exiting Paw Paw Tunnel

The rain mostly held off for the next day, and we had a peaceful stay at Little Orleans Campground, where our trail mom joined us for the first of her three days. We expanded the triplet into an articulated quad using a Burley Piccolo trailercycle; these, connected with a device called the Moose Rack, virtually become a part of the lead bike.

The next day we proceeded on toward North Mountain, and, despite getting plenty of water on our outsides, found that we didn't much like the water in most of the wells along the way. Even mixed with Gatorade powder, it was often hard to take. We were thankful that the water at North Mountain was better. We were also thankful that the rain had stopped.

Everything around us was waterlogged, and after about thirty minutes of trying, two riders decided that they weren't going to be able to build a fire. We had brought along alcohol stoves, which enabled us to have a warm supper. After supper we had our Saturday evening church service around the picnic table. The rain did not start again until we were settled in our tents for the night.

Happy to find better water, North Mountain hiker-biker campground, C&O Canal

Frog, North Mountain hiker-biker campground

Red bugs, North Mountain

By our seventh day, we were all more than thoroughly soaked, and had spent an uncomfortable night in wet tents at North Mountain, along the C&O. But the rain did not stop; it was our wettest day, and destined to get wetter. Around noon, having passed Williamsport, Maryland, we were getting hungry, and hoping to find some kind of shelter where we could eat lunch without having it diluted with water. It was like a vision from heaven to have a huge pavilion appear on our right--the facility of a local rod and gun club. There was a group of people eating in the middle, but there were dozens of empty tables. I conferred briefly with our trail mom before venturing to ask their permission to tuck in under the edge.

It was no problem, and we gained shelter just as the rain increased again. We broke out our supplies and started to eat, but we had scarcely started when the group invited us to share their feast. Despite our being ravenous, we could hardly make a dent in the mounds of fried chicken, sausages, hamburgers, corn on the cob--the list was endless. During our lunch hour there, three more heavy cloudbursts tore open the skies, and even the roof of the pavilion began leaking. Friendly faces asked us questions about our trip, and warned us about what we already knew--we were approaching the detour at McMahon's Mill, and were not looking forward to it. Finally a professional truck driver stepped forward and offered to put our bikes on his trailer to get us around it. We gladly accepted, and squeezed into his pickup truck as he towed the bikes to a point past the detour. The rain did not stop, but we were past the worst part. Exhausted, we at last crossed the high bridge into Shepherdstown, West Virginia, and checked in at the Day's Inn.

Arriving at the Shepherdstown, West Virginia bridge

Doing the mud dance

Weary of the rain

We flushed the bikes clean at a car wash adjacent to the Day's Inn and got a good, dry night's sleep. Another family met us and took us out for pizza.

Things looked better in the morning, and we had a fairly decent day, rainwise.

Descending the ramp from the bridge next morning

View down the C&O Canal towpath past the articulated quad

Checking on the tail gunner (last person--fourth rider on a quad)

Antietam Creek Aqueduct

We spent the next night at the Green Country Inn in Brunswick, Maryland, dropping off two riders, who were met by supporting families for the return to Pittsburgh. We restored the triplet to its three-rider configuration, sending the Piccolo and the solo bike back home.

White's Ferry

Disappointment at Swain's Lock, Day 9--campground under water, lockmaster gone

Lake Artemesia, Maryland, two miles from the finish line, Day 10, June 28, 2006

We started our ninth day with high hopes that the rain would hold off. We were disappointed. It was at about that point that we began to hear the term "200-year rain." It fell harder and harder, and as we got to the watered section of the C&O Canal, we found that it was almost ready to overflow its banks. As we continued, it did in fact start to overflow. Approaching Swain's Lock, where we were to camp for the night, with the downpour increasing and park rangers warning us of worse conditions ahead, we approached a point where the towpath was actively washing away, cut down about a foot and a half below the surface, muddy water sluicing from the canal over the embankment toward the swollen waters of the Potomac below. Leading on the triplet, I took a deep breath and charged straight through. We made quite a splash, but the bottom remained firm, and we emerged safely on the other side. The tandem followed suit. But when we arrived at Swain's Lock, we found that the campground was covered with water. Worse yet, we found that the Swain family, who had lived in the lockmaster's house for four generations, had moved out in March, and the house was empty. Sympathetic park service employees who kept coming through the locked access gate told us that we were welcome to eat in the little shelter there, but had no idea where we could spend the night. Other visitors also offered their condolences, and one even offered to let us spend the night at her house, but it was about fifteen miles away along busy, rain-soaked highways. She generously offered, though, to buy us pizza about five miles down the road, at Potomac, Maryland. Knowing there was a paved bike path most of the way, I agreed, and we set off toward Potomac. The rain, which had slacked off, started up again. The bike path was often hilly, and the stretch where it did not exist was very unpleasant, as we walked along the left edge of the highway. Before we arrived in Potomac, it was completely dark. It was actually past closing time for the pizza parlor, but they graciously let us stay until our benefactor finished feeding us. Then our destination host and hostess picked us up so that we could stay the night with them and finish our ride, backwards, the next day. We rode from Berwyn Heights over the Indian Creek Trail, the Northeast Branch Trail, and the Northwest Branch Trail to the beginning of the Sligo Creek Trail, where the mud deposited by the flood became too much to bear. Then we came back toward Berwyn Heights, and rode around Lake Artemesia until we had completed our 300 miles. We enjoyed sightseeing in Washington and then returned to Pittsburgh via Amtrak's Capitol Limited. Even the train was delayed by flood damage, and we arrived in Pittsburgh over two hours late.

Reflecting pool and Washington Monument, Day 10 (June 28, 2006)

The Capitol

Lincoln Memorial

Navy Memorial, return-to-home day (June 29, 2006)

The Allegheny Trail Alliance Web site has maps and many links to information on trails in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland, and West Virginia.

Messages: jornada AT juno DOT com