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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The C&O Experience: Meyersdale to Little Orleans (Pittsburgh to DC, Day3)

7/8/2014 79m
This I believe: (1) The GAP is a modern, safe trail. (2) The C&O is a Civil War donkey path, or as DK has written, a shitshow squirrel path tour of hell. Today our group got to experience both, and the C&O delivered on its promise.

The day's itinerary was ambitious: 31 miles to the end of the GAP in Cumberland, and another 45 miles on the C&O Canal Trail to Little Orleans, followed by a shuttle van ride up to Town Hill Inn. As Clauswitz said, no plan survives first contact with the enemy.

The ride started with the seven remaining miles of climbing. Some of the group came by car and joined us in Deal, PA. Crossed the Eastern Continental Divide (a phrase that should focus the attention) and then the Joy of Descent. Great fun coming down into Cumberland. The final segment I was riding sweep with a slower rider who unfortunately fell off the bike in downtown Cumberland, resulting in a few ouchies.

Lunch at the Crabby Pig while the bikes got a mid-trip check at the bike shop next door. Out on the C&O trail. We had told the riders that this trail was different and much more unforgiving, but the conditions were so good that I wondered if we seemed Cassandrish to the group.

While we were in the PawPaw Tunnel there was a major violent storm, heavy rain, hail, strong winds probably with microbursts. Later we heard it was considered a derecho. Lots of downed trees. The trail from Paw Par Tunnel to Little Orleans was an exercise in Slow Riding, portaging, and trail clearing.

It took hours to make the last few miles. When we did reach the trailhead there was no electricity in the local community (storm!) and so our lodging plans needed adjustment. Couldn't call anybody, couldn't reach anybody. Very isolated and out of the loop.

Ended up with a room (and a roof and a meal) in Berkely Springs, WV. The riders who were on the trail for the last segment had a blast. Some of us even got poison ivy while playing forest ranger. If the adventure is the space between the plan and the experience, today was a lot of adventure.

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