Turning 40 on the Great Allegheny Passage and the C&O Canal

May 4, 2017 - David Gill chose to turn 40 during an ambitious, self-contained adventure.

Over the years, I have done many memorable things to celebrate my birthday. When I turned 40, I chose my first-ever, self-contained cycling trip on the Great Allegheny Passage and the C&O Canal, riding 355 miles in five days.

For my first day, I planned a 90-mile effort, but by 7:00 PM, I was tired and starting to get a sore knee. After hitting 83 miles, I pulled over at a cool spot next to the Casselman River, my home for the night.

On day two, I rode 73 miles and it started to sink in: I packed too much stuff. Don’t over pack! I could have shaved 20 pounds of gear off my trailer. All the effort had me sleeping soundly at Pigman’s Ferry hiker/biker campsite on the C&O. 

On day three, I stopped and helped a fellow cyclist change a flat tire. He was having a hard time with the tools and know-how.

Later on, while walking the bike through the Paw Paw Tunnel, I must have cracked a pedal cleat because shortly after the tunnel, the cleat cracked and I couldn’t stay clipped into my pedal. I turned around immediately to cycle back to Cumberland where I knew there was a bike shop. Cumberland Trail Connection in Cumberland, Maryland had a spare cleat in stock saved my ride! Riding a recumbent with feet above your pelvis is tiresome without being able to clip in.

I slept at the Cumberland YMCA that night. I paid the $10 and took a hot shower!

Day four was my birthday and I turned 40 years old. I wondered what kind of day it would be on the trail.

After an early 6:30 AM start, I climbed out of Cumberland and crossed the Eastern Continental Divide. The humidity was terrible, but a bit of sprinkling rain felt cool.

When I made it to the Borden Tunnel, it was a great place to stop and cool down after a hot morning of enjoying lots of wildlife: deer, a turkey with a brood, and several rattlesnakes on the trail near the Maryland-Pennsylvania border.

I planned to sleep in Ohiopyle, but hyped up on birthday vibes and power bars, I made it to Ohiopyle around dinner time and checked the GPS to see how many more miles until the Roundbottom Campground ... yeah, I can make that. Off I went and pulled into the Roundbottom Campground at 8:00 PM. 101 miles! 

I slept in a little on day five with only a short, 35-mile ride to get to my car parked at the McKeesport Trailhead.

Little setbacks kept me from completing my goal of riding 400 miles over the five days, but bike travel, I learned, is like that.

And here’s the map.

Photos by David Gill


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