GAP and C&O Canal Bicycle Tour 2014 Connellsville to Rockwood

Back to Pittsburgh to Connellsville / Forward to Rockwood to Cumberland

53.9 Miles

In the daylight it was clear another tent had popped up during the night. It was Lam and his 13 year old son who is also named Lam. When I met them in the morning they apologized for the commotion late yesterday, saying that they had ridden in the dark for an hour to get to the campground.

Everybody was breaking camp and Scott and Delinda were the first on the trail. It took me a while to get organized and I started out at about 8:00. I was headed to Connellsville to a local diner that I knew from last year. As I walked into the diner, I noticed Scott and Delinda who had taken my recommendation for the diner and waved “hello”. When I finished breakfast and left I noticed that they were still seated. I stopped by their table and found that they were going to try to get to Meyersdale today, which is about 66 miles from Connellsville. The grade also increases to about 1% all the way to the Eastern Continental Divide. I wondered if they would make it because they were still hanging out at the diner when I hoped onto my bike and hit the trail.

After breakfast I passed Ted and Becky as well as Lam and Lam. I couldn’t help notice the awkward rigs that the father and son were riding. They were very top heavy, relying on the racks in the back to carry much of the load rather than panniers.  Lam senior also had a 2 ½ gallon plastic bottle filled with water hanging off to one side from the rack. He was having some difficulty controlling his bicycle because of the load distribution. I wondered if they would make it all the way to Georgetown. I didn’t see Scott and Delinda during the day.

Brian and I were taking turns passing each other during the day. We had lunch together in Confluence. From him I learned something about packing camping gear. He had a lot of backpacking experience and was passing on a tip that he had received from other experienced hikers. The advice was to avoid using stuff sacks. The cylindrical shapes of the stuff sacks create little voids that can’t be filled. I tried it the next morning and found that I had much more room for stuff. I would use that extra space for food when I got onto the C&O Trail.

The greatest joy of the day was riding along the Youghiogheny River for most of the day. There are some great views of the river from high above on the trail. I hiked a short distance to view a waterfall that I missed the last time I rode through here.

At Confluence, the Youghiogheny goes in one direction and the trail in another to follow the Casselman River. The stretch of trail from Confluence to Rockwood is boring. The river is often far from the trail. It is also too shallow to support water sports.

About 22 miles past Confluence I came to the Pinkerton Tunnel. The tunnel is closed since it was abandoned in 1970 and needs repairs. According to various reports, there is a plan to refurbish and reopen the tunnel by next year. Having access to another of the great tunnels built over 100 years ago will be an interesting feature on this part of the trail. At this time there is a 1.5 mile detour around the tunnel.

There was a welcome booth set up at the edge of Rockwood, my destination for the evening. The attendant shared that the temperature would fall to 40 degrees Fahrenheit overnight. Brian also rolled into Rockwood and was planning to continue to ride another 12 miles to Meyersdale. This was that last time that I saw him.

The forecast temperature was not good for me because the sleeping bag that I brought was good to only 50 degrees. The idea of struggling to keep warm all night was bothering me.  I drove to the Husky Haven Campground to look at the tent sites and rationalize a course of action. I knew from my experience last year that the Husky Haven owners also had a guest house. It didn’t take long for me to visualize the cold and I called the owner to see if the guest house was available to rent. It was available and I headed straight for town. In less than 15 minutes I was at the guest house and paying my $50 rent for the night. While the term “guest house” implies rooms for rent, the house is rented as an entire unit rather than individual rooms.

The guest house is a nice feature of the Husky Haven Campground. There are enclosed showers and bathrooms next to the guest house for use by campers. The facilities are very modern and clean. There’s also a place where you can wash you bicycle. The guest house itself can house up to seven people: there are two rooms with double beds; one room with a twin bed; and the living room has a double bed sleeper sofa.

As I was moving the last of my gear into the guest house, Scott and Delinda rolled up, looking to pay the campground fee. The guest house has an office in the basement where people come to pay the fees. I offered to let them have one of the rooms. The rooms all offer some privacy because they all have locks. They jumped at the opportunity because of the temperature forecast. They paid an additional $35 each and they gave me $10 so that we split the cost of the house. Before dinner, Scott and I took a ride to the campground to see if Ted and Becky were there. There was room for them in the guest house and I wanted to offer it to them to stay out of the cold. They were not there.

During all of this, a young camper rolled in to clean his bike and himself before bedding down at the campground. He was in his 20s. I was curious about his itinerary and asked. It turns out that he had ridden from Pittsburgh today and was headed to Washington DC. That’s over 111 miles by my calculations. He admitted that he was pushing very hard, but I know that would be impossible for me at age 68 regardless of push or desire. I also don’t think that he was able to stop and enjoy the environment much during the day. Two more long days would get him back home to DC.

After Scott, Delinda, and I cleaned up, we walked to the restaurant and had dinner together. We went to sleep at about 9:30.

By the way, there is also a hostel in town on Main Street. Another cyclist that I met near Pinkerton Tunnel, a guy named Harry, and his two companions were staying there. It’s nice to have three alternatives close together in this locale.

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