GAP Trail: Enjoying the Ups and Downs

I’ve written about the GAP Trail (Great Allegheny Passage) two previous times.  Once when we rode with Chris and Bill and another this week when we rode the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad.  But, considering that the trail is 150 miles long, it seems deserving of one more post.  So, today I decided to write about the ups and downs of the trail.

As I mentioned previously this week, the GAP Trail passes over the Eastern Continental Divide at 2,392 feet. I thought, when I found the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad, that I could avoid the biggest ups along the GAP Trail.  Tom, however, really wanted to ride that part of the trail, climbing to the highest point.  He also wanted to go through Savage Tunnel, a long tunnel through Big Savage Mountain.  Knowing that he wouldn’t be satisfied until we did it, I agreed to ride with him.

For some reason Tom really likes tunnels even though I can get claustrophobic in them.  I don’t like the dark in long tunnel.  I feel like all the oxygen is being sucked out of the air and I start having trouble breathing.  But the GAP Trail has lights in all the tunnels!  Wonderful!  So the tunnels on the GAP Trail are easy.  Flat and lighted.

On a previous ride we rode from Confluence through the Pinkerton Tunnel.  An elevation gain of 500 feet along 10 miles.  We felt it and worked hard going up, but enjoyed the ride going back.  Going over the Eastern Continental Divide meant an elevation gain of 500 feet over eight miles.  We were really pumping on the way up.  About mile 5 it starts to feel like a slog and you feel like you are never going to make it.  I put my head down and concentrate on pushing on the pedals.  By doing this I don’t look at the mile markers and before I knew it, we were at the divide!  Woohoo!  Made it!

The Savage Tunnel is a mile past the summit and was fun to ride through – it’s flat.  And just on the other side of the tunnel is a beautiful panoramic view of the valley.  A reward for reaching the top.  After enjoying the view, we turned around for the uphill back to the summit and the downhill into Meyersdale.

Before we got to Meyersdale we crossed the Keystone Viaduct.  This viaduct is 900 feet long and crosses a road, a creek, and the current railroad tracks.  The leaves are just beginning to turn and fall is definitely in the air.  We stopped on the viaduct to enjoy the view.  Then we rode through Meyersdale, a pretty little town with 2,000 people.  The GAP Trail seems to be the biggest thing in town and there were several signs welcoming people to Bed and Breakfasts and local restaurants.

Even though the truck was parked in Meyersdale, we went two miles past it so we could ride over the Salisbury Viaduct, the longest bridge on the trail.  The Salisbury Viaduct is 1,900 feet long and goes over US 119, the Casselman River, railroad tracks, and a local road.  We are always impressed by how high those old guys built bridges to cross over valleys and rivers.  The view from the viaduct was awesome!

Salisbury Viaduct
Keystone Viaduct
View from the Keystone Viaduct
The other end of the Keystone Viaduct
Leaves just starting to turn
Eastern Continental Divide
Wind turbines
View from the end of Big Savage Tunnel
Casselman River
Casselman River from Salisbury Viaduct

After crossing the viaduct we turned around once again and headed back up the two miles into Meyersdale.  After loading up the bike, we thought about eating in Meyersdale.  But, after all our hard work, we decided what we really wanted was one of the fantastic cinnamon rolls at Fuel Coffee Works in Farmington.  You can get an idea of how good they are because we were willing to delay lunch until we got back there around 2 p.m.

We have really enjoyed living so close to the great GAP Trail.  We did not ride all of it – out and backs make that difficult – but we saw the highlights.  Riding the GAP Trail was a wonderful thing to do on our days off in this beautiful area.