This morning, September 10th, we returned to Rockwood to begin my final journey from the spot where I stopped the previous day. Maybe it was the overcast sky, or the higher humidity, or creeping fatigue, but I definitely felt less energy and enthusiasm this morning. My mind seemed unfocused and foggy. I began pedaling at 8:42 am facing 44 miles ahead to Cumberland.
There wasn't much to see during the first few miles, so I didn't stop to take many pictures and made good progress. These two pictures show the trail out of Rockwood on this hazy, gray morning. In the lower picture I had gone 4 miles with 40 still to go.
This small waterfall made a pleasant, peaceful scene.
Soon, above the trees, I began seeing many, many enormous wind turbines slowly rotating. They looked impressive looming above me, like machines from War of the Worlds. I could hear them turning in the morning quiet. Unfortunately, many attempts to photograph the turbines were unsuccessful. The sky was milky white, and the white turbines were virtually invisible against the background sky in most of my photos.
After pedaling about 10 miles I came upon the Salisbury Viaduct, a 0.36 mile long bridge passing over Route 219 and surrounding countryside.
The next picture is a panoramic view from the viaduct made by combining three individual images into a mosaic. There are lots of wind turbines on the ridge to the left of center, but they don't show well against the white sky. Click on the image for a better view.
Rows of neatly planted corn were arrayed below the viaduct.
I drastically darkened the foreground in the following picture to make some of the wind turbines seen from the viaduct more visible.
About two miles beyond the viaduct I arrived at the train station in Meyersdale.
I combined three individual images to make this somewhat distorted panorama of the Meyersdale station. Click on the image for a larger view.
Inside the station a museum included some model railroad displays.
After leaving Meyersdale I encountered this hulking bridge at the beginning of the Keystone Viaduct. At this point I had covered about 14 miles from Rockwood and had 30 miles to go to Cumberland.
Soon after crossing the viaduct I came to the hardest segment of the trail. The five mile stretch leading up to the continental divide was almost completely straight. It passed through open, bland territory with no shade. The sun beat down, and the humidity started to affect me. It felt like riding through a green desert as I slogged on, drinking frequently from my water bottle. The trail receded to infinity before me. Finally, in the distance, I saw the continental divide.
The continental divide is the high point on the trail at 2,392 feet above sea level. The journey from Pittsburgh (at 720 feet) climbs 1,672 feet over a distance of about 117 miles. The descent to Cumberland is steeper. Here's a closer look at the colorful pictures beside the tunnel.
I crossed over the continental divide through this tunnel. Notice the elevation chart on the right wall. I'll show a closer look at the chart shortly.
There were colorful displays on the eastern side of the divide.
The next picture looks back after crossing the divide. The long hot trail leading to the tunnel can be seen in the distance.
Click on the picture below to see a larger version of the elevation chart in the tunnel. As I mentioned before, the trail rises 1,672 feet in 117 miles between Pittsburgh and the continental divide. This long gradual climb is represented on the right side of the chart. Continuing east from the high point, the trail drops 1,787 feet in only 24 miles from the continental divide to Cumberland (at 605 feet). So the downhill slope, shown on the left side of the chart, was bound to be more apparent.
I did enjoy a noticeable downhill slope on the way to the Big Savage Tunnel. These pictures show my approach from the west.
The tunnel was long, well lit, and refreshingly cool. It was fun to ride toward "the light at the end of the tunnel".
The tunnel exit opened onto a nice scene.
Shortly after emerging from the tunnel this panoramic view was visible on the left side of the trail. Click on the image for a larger view.
Looking back toward the tunnel exit I could see two of the numerous wind turbines located on the ridge above. Wind turbines are the technology of the future. The tunnel, and the coal hauling trains it serviced, are becoming technology of the past.
Now the trail was definitely downhill. It was easy to get some speed and fly onward. The next landmark, just before the 20 miles to Cumberland marker, was the Mason-Dixon Line, where I crossed from Pennsylvania into Maryland.
The Borden Tunnel exit framed an inviting picture.
Many times along my three day journey I passed piles of broken slate and shale at the bottoms of layered rock formations next to the trail. These rocks screamed, "Search me for fossils!" I did stop several times, but had no luck until one particular rock caught my eye. Somewhere between 18 and 16 miles from Cumberland I thought I saw a fossil leaf on a piece of shale. Stopping quickly, I pedaled back, dismounted, and picked up the piece I had spotted. Yes! It did have a section of fossil leaf on it, but the leaf was incomplete, and the rock was too big to carry on my bike. Maybe there were more fossils in this particular pile of fragments. Maybe some would be small enough to carry home.
Carefully avoiding poison ivy and hovering wasps, and keeping a lookout for snakes, I started searching through the huge number of available fragments. In no time I found several fossil leaves. Most were fragments, or several leaves mashed together. I picked up two pieces small enough to fit in my belt bag. The first piece has a small leaf at the top on the right.
My fossil hunting fantasy is to find a nice fern, or single leaf, displayed flat and distinct on a small piece of rock, so I kept poking around in the hot sun. And there it was! A fern leaf! It was just the right size to carry home, but, unfortunately, it was on a delicately thin piece of shale. I carefully put it in my wallet and hoped it would survive the rest of the trip without breaking. Finding these fossils was a highlight of my trip. I wish I could return to this spot with better equipment and more time.
About 14 miles from Cumberland, and 30 miles from my start in Rockwood, the tracks of the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad began running parallel to the trail.
Both the tracks and the trail pass through Brush Tunnel about 5 miles from Cumberland.
Not far beyond Brush Tunnel I was surprised to come upon the Cumberland Bone Cave where fossilized bones from the Pleistocene have been found. The cave was inaccessible, but the nearby sign was informative. Click on the picture of the sign to read it more easily.
Cumberland was now only three miles away. At this marker I had pedaled 41 miles since my morning start at Rockwood.
Cumberland was not far beyond this bridge.
The last two miles or so into Cumberland were paved. The city itself is coming into view beyond the waterway here.
The trail ends behind the train station, about 50 meters beyond the stop sign . I had to cross a busy street on foot to get there.
I reached trail's end at approximately 2:30 pm. The time is only roughly correct, because I forgot to look at my watch. So, on this final day of travel, I pedaled 44 miles in roughly 5 hours 48 minutes for an average speed of approximately 7.59 mph. Today I spent more time than any other day taking pictures and fossil hunting. It felt good to reach my goal.
Before changing clothes in the nearby train station, I posed in front of the sculpture marking the end of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Towpath and the beginning of the Great Allegheny Passage. I stood in front of this same statue in 2003 when I completed the C&O Canal ride. Now I've biked, in segments, the entire trail system from Washington, DC to Pittsburgh. It's been great fun!