Day 53. August 5
Before I talk about what might have been the single longest day of this entire trip, let me first tell you about how Ethan and I are nature heroes! So after we left the pizza place, even though we had literally ate our weight in pizza and wings, we needed a sweet treat and Ethan wanted beer. The grocery store was in the same strip as the pizza joint so we wheeled our bikes down to the other end. As we were setting our bikes against the wall this maintenance guy starts up a leaf blower to clean the door area in front of the store. I’m watching him blow trash around and I noticed something move. I quickly realized it was a little baby bunny! I squealed and pointed so that he saw the bunny and didn’t blow him/her away. I told Ethan I thought we should relocate the bunny and he agreed, but after we got what we needed from the store. We went in and rushed around to get what we needed. When we got back little bunny was hiding under a cart, so we moved it then Ethan snatched him up quickly in my Eco bag. We hopped back on our bikes and Ethan carried bunny back to the camp area. We took him over by the woods to let him out and it was really hard because he was so little and cute and fuzzy, but we did it. He hopped away into the woods and we hope he lives a long and happy life! So that’s how we became nature heroes! Yay!
Back to our long day…
We woke up super early to make sure we got an early start because we knew it was going to be a long day. We headed out of Connellsville and back onto the GAP path. It was going to be a long day because our plan was to push for Cumberland, MD which was 90 miles away. If the terrain was completely flat, this wouldn’t have been a huge undertaking, but we were going up to the eastern continental divide in the Appalachian mountains. Yikes! As I mentioned earlier, since we were in the trail, the grade was not steep at all. Barely noticeable when you’re biking maybe like 20 miles on it. But we were biking 70 miles uphill and after a while, it was noticeable.
We weren’t making as good of time as we wanted, but we really wanted to get to Cumberland so we could get to DC on Saturday. We just decided it was going to be a late night and we’d have to live with it. We took breaks every 7 or 8 miles and ran into lots of people out biking. We talked to two brothers who were biking out on the trail for a few days and one of them had biked across the country. It was interesting chatting with him about our different experiences. Most people that we passed were only out for a few days or were doing just the Pittsburgh to DC route. Most everyone that we talked to assumed that’s what we were doing and then their jaws would drop when we told them we had biked here from Seattle. Hehe.
It seemed like forever until we stopped for lunch in Rockwood. When we got in there was a little visitor center and a gazebo, which looked like the perfect spot to make lunch. Ethan went to get us something to drink and I set up shop. As I made lunch I was joined by four other bikers. They were all from Ohio and they were out biking the trail for a few days. They had a car so one person would drive while the other three rode and they would rotate. Ethan got back and they ended up sharing their beer with him and gave us some cookies and peanuts. They were hilarious and it was a great way to spend our lunch break. On the way out one of the ladies brought me over to her car and secretly gave me one of those mini boxed wines. I think she was kind of drunk. She told me it was for celebrating being almost done and then her husband joked that it was to save our marriage after so many days on the road. They had me laughing pretty hard. We still had almost 40 miles to go so we had to say goodbye.
We got back on the trail and ended up seeing a big snake which held us up enough for the group to catch us. They passed us and we were bummed that we couldn’t keep up. Onwards and upwards! After the snake sighting we crossed several long bridges and finally, after 10 hours of biking, we made it to the top. The eastern continental divide!! Woooohoooo!! It’s all downhill from there – literally. There was an elevation map in the tunnel that you go through that shows you where you are and where DC is… See photo.
We had 20 more miles to get to Cumberland and not a lot of time to spare. We booked it down the other side only stopping to take a picture with the Mason & Dixon line, aka the border of Pennsylvania and Maryland! We got down to Cumberland at 8 and we’re losing daylight fast. As soon as we got in town we ran into a guy named Darrien that we had met earlier. He was headed to find a place to camp too so Ethan checked his phone and pointed him to where we were going. We had food to make for dinner but we always need our sweet treats so we stopped a couple walking on the trail to see if they knew of anywhere to get snacks. There wasn’t any place right off the trail, so we’d have to go without. Sigh.
The camp area was on the next path, which is the C&O Canal Towpath. The GAP and C&O meet in Cumberland so as we got through town we got into the Towpath. The camp was another few miles and by the time we got close it was almost completely dark out. We could barely see the path and hoped that we didn’t run into anything. It was super creepy and we were scared that we would miss the camp site. Just as I was about freak out we found it. Phew! And Darrien had made it too. We set up camp in the dark, which I absolutely hate doing. And to make matters worse both our head lamps were dead and we had no extra batteries. We decided to skip making dinner because it was so late and just had pb&j’s and some of Darriens salami.