It’s been awhile since my last blog post. At the beginning of October my mom had to make the difficult decision to bring in Hospice care for my step-father who had been battling the effects of Alzheimer’s for eight years. (Full disclosure: he was my step-father, but for the past 30plus years he was my dad and Grandpa to my children. #nostepsinthishouse) She had been lovingly caring for him on her own, and knew she had done all she could. I traveled to Ohio to help her get everything set up at home. While there I was able to see the two of them interact and see the total and complete unconditional love they had for each other. It was so inspiring to see. He knew the Lord would be calling for him soon, and yet all he could think about was how she was and did she have everything she needed. And two weeks later, the Lord did call him home.
In the midst of all that is going on in our world right now, we all need times when we are witness to that kind of love. In addition to the love the Lord provides between two people, he has also blessed us with with beautiful, peaceful surroundings. My loving husband knew that I was in need of this peace and beauty right before my dad passed away. As many of you know who have read my blogs in the past, we love to get away on our bicycles.
Since it was early October, we headed to the western Maryland town of Frostburg, to ride part of the Great Alleghany Passage (GAP) and see the fall foilage. We’ve ridden the entire trail in the summer and wanted to ride this part again. We booked a room at the Trail Inn Lodging & Camp http://www.trailinnatfrostburg.com/ located at the end of the Western Maryland Railroad Line. Very quaint and quiet.
A short bikeride down the hill and we were on the GAP. It was a beautiful fall day, but since the weather had been so warm, the leaves weren’t quite at peak yet. Seeing this sign, brought back lots of memories from our first trip. I remember seeing the where the bottom of the mile sign said 200 Washington and almost cried! That was where we were headed! Luckily, today we were only going to ride about 8 miles the other direction.
We started our journey, uphill, but it was a gradual incline toward the Continental Divide. It was so quiet, with only the sounds of nature and the occasional cyclist either going the other way, or like this gentleman, going the same way. He had also started from Trail Inn, but was carrying all his gear. I soon passed him, since my load wasn’t heavy at all.
We continued on an about mile 6.5 we crossed the famous Mason-Dixon Line. I was standing in Pennsylvania and Mike was standing in Maryland! If you ever get the chance to take this hike or ride from Frostburg, it’s a really nice memorial. And beyond is a small park with restroom facilities and picnic area.
This was the view from the picnic area. Somewhere out there was Pennsylvania and Maryland and all the chaos. But here was peace and tranquility. Just sitting on the park bench and looking out over this vast landscape, it was hard to believe that, not only was my father in the last days of his life, but our country was in such turmoil over who should be our next President.
But, eventhough I wanted to stay and look at this view forever, we continued on. We headed toward the Big Savage Tunnel, just a few hundred feet from this spot. This 3,300 feet tunnel that is lit for bikers and walkers, but we also had a bike light. It may look ominous from this picture, but it is really cool to go through.
This gives you a good view of the lights that line the ceiling. Once out the other side, we continued on toward the Eastern Continental Divide.
I remember reaching the Eastern Continental Divide when we rode the GAP two years ago. When you are traveling east from Pittsburgh, the GAP is a gradual incline (for 4 days!). I knew that when I hit this spot, we would start going downhill! On this trip, this was our turnaround point, meaning we would be heading back downhill. Yippee!! We would only be coasting the 8 miles back to Frostburg, but if you kept going, you would coast all the way to Cumberland! Another 15 miles!
We made it back to the Trail Inn, showered, walked around the town, had dinner and tucked ourselves in for the night.
The next morning, the fog was pretty heavy. We walked into Frostburg and had a hearty breakfast at the Princess Restaurant http://princessrestaurant.com/ . The Trail Inn did provide us with a basket the night before containing muffins, yogurt, fruit, snack bars and juice. However we felt we would need something more substantial for the day’s journey. The Princess Restaurant had a wonderfully huge breakfast, with all the usual hearty breakfast fare. We would highly recommend it!
We checked out of the motel, meaning we packed up our things, left the keys in the room, and locked the door, and drove to Cumberland, Maryland. This is where the GAP ends and the C&O Canal Towpath begins. Since the fog hadn’t quite lifted, we checked out the Western Maryland Railroad Museum and Gift Shop.
We then continued our journey to the start of our ride for the day, Little Orleans Maryland. The last time we did this part of the trail, we were headed east and it was pouring down rain! As you can see, that was not the case on this beautiful day. Our destination for the day was the PawPaw Tunnel, West Virginia. About 16 miles one way. The Towpath surface is not nearly as smooth as the GAP’s crushed stone, but it was more flat.
Along the way we had to stop and take a picture at the train tressel we stopped under our last time. At that time it was raining heavily, with thunder and lightening. We were just trying to protect ourselves from the weather as best we could. Luckily that was not a problem on this day!
We finally made our way to the PawPaw Tunnel! Unlike the Big Savage Tunnel, which was a railroad tunnel, the PawPaw Tunnel was a 3100 ft. canal tunnel. It was also not lit, so you had to walk your bike through on the upper path, where the canal workers would have walked guiding the boats on the lower canal. A very neat experience! https://www.nps.gov/experiences/paw-paw-tunnel-and-trail.htm
Once out the other side, there are picnic tables, and if you go a little further, you can go into the quaint town of PawPaw, West Virginia. There are a few restaurants and new Bed & Breakfasts have recently opened. If you are inclined to walk to and through the tunnel, there is a park on Route 51. We rode into town for some ice cream before we started back through the tunnel.
As we were riding the 16 miles back to the car, the beauty that God has created was all around us. It was wonderful, if for that few hours, to forget the reality of everything that was going on, and focus on what was important. The time we could spend together.
If you’d like to read all about our 2014 Pittsburgh to Georgetown trip, check out my blog, Our Big Bicycling Adventure at https://jskinnell.wordpress.com/