Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Day 4 on the Great Allegheny Passage

Ohiopyle to West Newton (43 miles)
For most of the day our trail hugs the western shore of the Youghogheny River.
We can hear the whistles, the clacking wheels, and the singing sounds of steel scraping steel as trains pass on the opposite shore, but the trees are so thick between us that we usually cannot actually see the trains.
There are lots of little springs, and a few lacey waterfalls trickling down the rocks where our rail bed was cut from the side of a mountain, leaving steep layered rock outcroppings.  We always marvel at all the ferns and wildflowers that can somehow find a roothold and enough nourishment to thrive in spots like this.
At lunchtime, we ride through Connellsville to a small community park with a picnic shelter, where our leader Angela has, as usual, set out a generous spread from which we can choose to assemble our lunch.  Adjacent to the park is a bar that welcomes cyclists with signs promising cold beer, and quite good music blaring from speakers outside.  We enjoy the music from a distance, and are pretty sure it would be too loud inside. No one slips over there for a beer. (Am I the only one who even contemplates the idea?)
This totem pole is unlabeled, so its origin and meaning remain a mystery.  A nearby marker with geological and historic information about the area is labeled as an Eagle Scout project.  Bravo to the Scout!
This is a Connellsville Bike Shop--would you rent this bike?
I am enjoying the trailside art.
These elaborately decorated tanks are beside an otherwise grungy little industrial operation.  I am not sure what they make, but all the big garage doors are open on this hot day, and I can see a couple men carrying long metal poles with glowing hot cylinders on the ends from a furnace to a work area.
We also see many signs of a long gone industrial past along the trail.  There are rows of black holes in the mountainside--the remains of what used to be 40,000 coke ovens along the river.  We see remains of abandoned coal mines, and a small memorial near the site of one of the worst coal mine tragedies in our history--239 miners died in a coal dust and gas explosion in 1907.  Flowers and other tributes have been placed around the marker by those who have not forgotten.
Another legacy coal mining is the acid drainage that continues to leach out from some of those old mines. 
We stop for a moment to savor the moment when we reach the 100 mile marker. 
But we still have lots of lovely wooded miles to go before we hit our end point for the day, West Newton. 
We complete 121.6 miles on and around the GAP, and celebrate with hot fudge sundaes at a pizza and ice cream shop strategically located at the West Newton trail head.  (I can't resist commemorating this meaningful moment by finding a geocache strategically located at the trail head as well.)
Tonight we have a speaker who provides a presentation on Frank Lloyd Wright's home for the Kauffman family--Falling Water.  We will be visiting Falling Water tomorrow, and have been eagerly anticipating this presentation, but we have a very difficult time keeping our eyes open.  Is it her terrible presentation skills, or are we just bushed from today's ride?

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