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Showing posts with label Ohiopyle. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ohiopyle. Show all posts

Sunday, August 22, 2021

FROM THE "FORKS OF THE OHIO" TO MOUNT VERNON (or...I DID A THING)

In 1754, a young, ambitious, and hard-headed George Washington made the first of three journeys to the "Forks of the Ohio."  It was an epic journey to the strategic confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers (forming the Ohio River) that helped catapult the young Virginian onto the world stage.  267 years later, it is possible to trace that very same route using modern day bike trails....the Great Allegheny Passage, the C & O Towpath, and the Mount Vernon Trail.  I began planning my journey months ago...picking stopping points along the 350+ mile route where my wife could easily meet me at the end of each day..where we could get a good meal...and easily find a hotel for a good night's rest.  This whole nerdy adventure wouldn't have been possible without the encouragement and help from my wonderful wife, Robin.  (Thank you, Honey!)  I budgeted four days (Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday) to complete my ride.  On the Thursday, prior, Robin and I packed my gear in the truck and headed to my starting point..."The Forks of the Ohio"...Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  

Standing at the "Forks of the Ohio" where the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers come together to form the Ohio River. -- August 13, 2021

The French built Fort Duquesne at the "Forks of the Ohio" where the Monongahela and Allegheny Rivers converge to form the Ohio River.  This strategic piece of land was important to both the British and French empires in the mid-18th century.  Whoever controlled this spot controlled access to the interior of the North American continent.  Today, this location is Point State Park (one of Pennsylvania's 121 State Parks).  One of the features within Point State Park is an outline of the exact location of Fort Duquesne.  This was my chosen starting line...wanting to retrace the path George Washington would have taken back from the "Forks of the Ohio" to his home, Mount Vernon.

My official starting point was the site of Fort Duquesne located in Point State Park -- August 13, 2021

DAY 1

I was most nervous about getting out of the city of Pittsburgh...which actually proved to be quite easy.  With the iconic fountain located at Point State Park now behind me I easily found the green bike trail that is the Great Allegheny Passage.  Riding alongside (but not on!) the interstate I made my way to the Hot Metal Bridge and across the Monongahela River...catching my last view of the city of Pittsburgh.  Leaving the city, the Great Allegheny Passage made its way along the Monongahela, and then Youghiogheny, Rivers...passing old steel mills and industrial towns like Braddock and McKeesport.  I know that that, on this leg of my journey, I would be pedaling more than 100 miles...in 90+ degree heat.  Fortunately, there was a town about every 15 or 20 miles for me to stop and grab a drink or something to eat.  (I would have no such luck on day 2.)  I also knew that I would be passing through one of my favorite spots in the world...Ohiopyle, Pennsylvania.  After a brief stop for some ice cream at the Ohiopyle General Store I pedaled on...another thirty miles...to Rockwood, Pennsylvania where Robin was waiting for me.  My total for day one...108 miles with no real problems or issues along the way.

Point State Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania -- August 13, 2021

Great Allegheny Passage passing through downtown Pittsburgh.  -- August 13, 2021

Crossing over the Monongahela River on Hot Iron Bridge I caught my last glimpse of Pittsburgh -- August 13, 2021

Heading away from Pittsburgh on the Great Allegheny Passage -- August 13, 2021

Welcome to Connellsville, Pennsylvania -- August 13, 2021

Braddock's Twelfth Camp located along the Great Allegheny Passage in Connellsville, PA -- August 13, 2021

Passing through one of my favorite places on Earth...Ohiopyle, Pennsylvania. -- August 13, 2021

Wrapping up the first day of riding in Rockwood, Pennsylvania.  -- August 13, 2021

Day 1...Pittsburgh, PA to Rockwood, PA (108.63 miles) -- August 13, 2021

DAY 2

I began day 2 of my journey, with another 100+ mile day ahead of me, experiencing some of the worst chafing I've ever experienced from riding my bike.  I expected to be sore, but this was next level chafing.  Robin joined me for the first few miles of my ride before heading back to the hotel to check out and drive to my next destination, Hancock, Maryland.  I didn't know it, but the next 104 miles would be the hardest bike ride I ever embarked upon.  The Great Allegheny Passage picked up where I left it yesterday...with an uphill grade until reaching the Eastern Continental Divide.  The 25 mile decent, past the Mason and Dixon Line, and into Cumberland, Maryland was quite fun...and quite rewarding after 125 miles of pedaling uphill.  Once in Cumberland, I headed straight for a local bike shop for chamois butter to help ease my sore rear end.  I will never do another ride of this caliber with out it!

Cumberland, Maryland marked the end of the Great Allegheny Passage and the beginning of the C & O Towpath.  This is where my ride became difficult.  In my mind, I envisioned the C & O to be like the GAP.  It was not.  The trail, even with the slight downhill grade, was no where as refined as the Great Allegheny Passage.  Parts were rocky and criss-crossed with roots.  At times, this first part of the C & O Towpath became more of a single track than a bike path.  Unlike, the Great Allegheny Passage, I went for dozens of miles, passing through Green Ridge State Forest, without seeing a town, without passing another person, and without cell reception.  As challenging as it was, day two of my ride was also incredibly visually stimulating.  I crossed over the Salisbury Viaduct, pedaled through Big Savage and Paw Paw Tunnels, and passed multiple locks on the old canal as I made my way to Hancock, Maryland through off and on rain showers.  After 104 miles, I met Robin in Hancock...soaked and covered with mud (me...not her!)


David and Robin Raymond --August 14, 2021

Salisbury Viaduct in Somerset County, Pennsylvania --August 14, 2021

Somerset County, Pennsylvania --August 14, 2021

Reaching the Eastern Continental Divide on the Great Allegheny Passage.  It's all down hill from here (in theory) --August 14, 2021

Elevation map of the Great Allegheny Passage and C&O Canal Towpath.  Eastern Continental Divide --August 14, 2021

Crossing the Mason & Dixon Line into Maryland  --August 14, 2021

Enjoying my 25 mile decent into Cumberland, Maryland on the Great Allegheny Passage --August 14, 2021

Mile 0 of the Great Allegheny Passage // Mile 184.5 of the C & O Towpath.  Cumberland, Maryland --August 14, 2021

My birth city...Cumberland, Maryland --August 14, 2021

Lock 75 on the C & O Towpath just south of Cumberland, Maryland. --August 14, 2021

C & O Towpath passing through Green Ridge State Forest in Maryland. --August 14, 2021

Paw Paw Tunnel on the C & O Towpath. --August 14, 2021

Paw Paw Tunnel on the C & O Towpath. --August 14, 2021

Wrapping up day 2 of my journey in Hancock, Maryland. --August 14, 2021

Day 2...Rockwood, Pennsylvania to Hancock, Maryland (104.81 miles)  --August 14, 2021

DAY 3

I was excited that Robin was able to ride the first ten miles with me on day three.  We picked up the C & O Towpath in Hancock...right where I left of the previous day.  The weather had completely turned...gone was the heat, the humidity, and the rain.  With temperatures in low 70s and with very little humidity, day three turned out to be the easiest day of my journey.  My seventy mile ride from Hancock to Brunswick seemed remarkably short after back-to-back century rides.  Along the way I passed Fort Frederick State Park, dozens of historical locks and a few Civil War historical markers.  As I made my way towards Brunswick, the trail which had become very primitive at times just a day ago, became much easier to ride.  Pulling into Brunswick, I headed straight for Boxcar Burgers for a Raymond XL Burger.  It was a great day on the bike.

My day three starting point.  Hancock, Maryland. -- August 15, 2021

My wife, Robin, rode the first 10 miles with me.  It was a fantastic way to begin the day! -- August 15, 2021

My journey on day three took me through Fort Frederick State Park. -- August 15, 2021

Fort Frederick was built by the colony of Maryland during the French and Indian War to protect the interior of the colony. -- August 15, 2021

C & O Canal Towpath -- August 15, 2021

Mile 92.25 marks the exact midpoint of the C & O Towpath between Cumberland, Maryland and Georgetown. -- August 15, 2021

Riding along the Potomac River on the C & O Towpath -- August 15, 2021

Nearing the end of my day three journey, I passed by Harpers Ferry, West Virginia for the 4th time this year! -- August 15, 2021

Brunswick, Maryland -- August 15, 2021

Boxcar was the perfect place for a post ride meal!  -- August 15, 2021

Day 3...Hancock, Maryland to Brunswick, Maryland (70.37 miles)-- August 15, 2021

DAY 4

I woke up on day four of my trip knowing that I only had 70 more miles to go.  A friend of mine, Lynn Nichols, joined me for the first 10 miles of the last part of my journey.  Lynn, a cancer survivor, is currently participating in the Great Cycling Challenge to raise money to fight childhood cancer.  I was so happy to have her join me for part of my ride.  Shortly after Lynn turned back I experienced the first flat tire of my ride.  Not to worry, though...each day I was carrying enough to fix my bike twice.  Five miles later, my rear tire went flat again.  I was now experiencing a little bit of anxiety...I had come all this way and now, if the tire went flat again...I wouldn't be able to fix it.  With my fingers crossed, I continued on down the C & O Towpath passing Great Falls on the Potomac River and into Georgetown where the C & O Towpath ended very unceremoniously at mile 0.  Actually, I had to use Google Maps to find mile 0.  Once there, I paused and then headed out to cover the final 18 miles to Mount Vernon.

The Francis Scott Key bridge crosses the Potomac River connecting Georgetown and Virginia.  On the Virginia side of the bridge I was able to easily access the Mount Vernon Trail.  I covered these final 18 miles with a huge smile on my face with anticipation of completing my goal.  From the trail I could see the Lincoln Memorial, U.S. Capitol Building, and Washington Monument on the other side of the river.  The Mount Vernon Trail passed near the Pentagon, Reagan International Airport, and through Old Town Alexandria.

When I reached the gate at Mount Vernon, I was greeted by my friend, Matt Briney.  He was kind enough to allow me (and my mud covered Diverge) onto the grounds so I could take a picture at the doorsteps of the home of George Washington.  What an absolutely satisfying ending to and amazing journey.  Non of this couldn't have happened with out the help and encouragement of so many people...first and foremost, my wife, Robin, who gave up four days and met me with a smile and a hug each day.  I also need to thank my friend, Jim Seevers, the best bike mechanic on the planet, for dialing in my bike for me prior to my trip.  Thank you, also goes to Lynn Nichols, for making the trip to be part of my journey. Thank you, Matt Briney, for your help and encouragement.  And finally, thank you to my dad and Mary Jane for their constant text messages full of love and support.

All in all, I rode 352.92 miles from the "Forks of the Ohio" to Mount Vernon.  I did a thing.


I was honored to have Lynn Nichols join me for the first 10 miles of the last leg of my journey from Pittsburgh to Mount Vernon -- August 16, 2021

Wildlife on the C& O Towpath -- August 16, 2021

On the last day of my journey, I had, not one, but two flat tires. -- August 16, 2021

A canal boat located near the Great Falls Visitor Center. -- August 16, 2021

Riding near Great Falls on the C & O Canal Towpath  -- August 16, 2021

Entering Georgetown and nearing mile 0 of the C & O Canal Towpath.-- August 16, 2021

Mile 0 of the C & O Canal Towpath!  I successfully completed all 148.5 miles of the Great Allegheny Passage and all 184.5 miles of the C & O Towpath.  Only 18 more miles to Mount Vernon. -- August 16, 2021

Crossing from Georgetown and into Virginia on the Francis Scott Key Bridge.  In  the distance you can see the Washington Monument.  -- August 16, 2021

Pausing at the Welcome to Washington DC sign just before accessing the Mount Vernon Trail. -- August 16, 2021

A glimpse of the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial from the Mount Vernon Trail. -- August 16, 2021

Mount Vernon Trail -- August 16, 2021

Arriving at the gates of George Washington's Mount Vernon. -- August 16, 2021

I am so grateful to my friend, Matt Briney, for allowing me and my bike (both covered in mud) onto the grounds of Mount Vernon to complete my epic journey.  Thank you!  -- August 16, 2021

Day 4...Point of Rocks, Maryland to George Washington's Mount Vernon (69.11 miles)-- August 16, 2021


I did  a thing!  Exactly 352.92 miles from the "Forks of the Ohio" to George Washington's Mount Vernon!  -- August 16, 2021


Life is a journey...not a destination.



David A. Raymond -- August 22, 2021

Refueling with some rainbow sherbet in Cumberland, Maryland -- August 14, 2021

With only six more miles left, I stopped for a celebratory root beer float at the Custard Shack -- August 16, 2021

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Here are the GARMIN maps and data from some of the adventures featured in this post.
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 DAY 1 -- PITTSBURGH, PA TO ROCKWOOD PA

DAY 2 -- ROCKWOOD, PA TO HANCOCK, MARYLAND

DAY 3 -- HANCOCK, MARYLAND TO BRUNSWICK, MARYLAND

DAY 4 -- POINT OF ROCKS, MARYLAND TO GEORGE WASHINGTON'S MOUNT VERNON

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