Greater Allegheny Passage / GAP Trail : Day Two - Connellsville to Rockwood

On day two of my six day GAP trip, I went from Connellsville to Rockwood.
Actually - since I departed on day two from the KOA, which is at mile-marker 92, my full mileage would have been around 48 miles / 77km.



Connellsville to Rockwood is pretty much the most intensely journeying through forest and nothing but forest stretch of this trip. Despite the couple of towns you pass (Ohiopyle and Confluence), you fly right past them, and are immediately back in forest again.

I had great weather to start. The river on the left again, and cliffs on the right. The Youghiogheny River has a lot more rapids down here though, so it is actually more scenic and more beautiful a view over these miles.



As I was headed southbound, I had three different groups of cyclists fly by me, headed northbound. They looked like local club cyclists out for a morning ride. They were really tearing it up, but they also had the advantage of the slight downhill grade of the trail.
Everyone talks about how flat the GAP trail is by the way. And sure, it's flat, I agree.
BUT - you do notice the grade sometimes. When you're headed south, I felt the slight uphill of the trail on days two and three (not so much on day one). In fact heading into Rockwood I was really feeling it, but (as I'll explain below) I also got caught in the rain and was in wet trail for a while, which didn't help.

I stopped briefly in Ohiopyle around 10:00am. I had an apple and refilled my water bottle in the station, and then decided to knock off the next ten miles to Confluence. From Ohiopyle to Confluence I must have had a good tailwind - because I was really flying along this stretch, despite the cargo trailer and the slight uphill grade.
View of the Youghiogheny River as it bends around Ohiopyle.

Clouds moved in and the sky was darkening as I hit Confluence. I decided to sidetrack a bit and bike right into the little downtown and wait out the storm under some cover somewhere. Confluence is a tiny little town that reminded me a lot of the Andy Griffith show.
I went into Confluence Cyclery and had a wonderful experience with Brad here at this shop. With the storm seeming to be about to burst, Brad let me pull my full bike and trailer into his shop to wait out the storm. He also got me onto his wifi (he had to reboot his router), and directed me to Sister's Cafe, a few shops down, to get some ice cream.
The storm actually barely hit while I was in the town. I sat on the front steps of the bike shop for a little while, drinking a milkshake, and ended up talking to a cyclist down from Pittsburgh, who had rented a recumbent trike from Brad, to do part of the GAP trail. This gentleman would be one of the first of several who would hear my Canadian accent and realize that this guy wasn't from around here. When I said I was from Ontario, he mentioned his frequent visits to Ontario, and we had a good talk that ended up being about the Penguins, Steelers, and how crappy the Pirates are (his words, not mine!).

When it looked like the storm had completely passed by, I thanked Brad and hauled my rig out of his shop, and got pedalling again, and just five minutes south of town the skies opened up and poured down rain. I hid under some trees and actually didn't really get that wet myself, but, the trail was now a soggy mess. And it was a soggy mess for ages - almost the entire 20 miles or so to Rockwood.

Confluence to Rockwood on day two was one of my least favourite parts of the trip:
a) the rain and the now soggy trail, greatly slowing me down
b) the seriously uphill grade (Confluence has an elevation of 1340 feet, and Rockwood 1826)
c) the river often entirely disappears and it is a fairly boring ride
d) complete absence of other cyclists! At least on this day, at this time, it was ghostly except for me. The storm probably contributed to keeping people off the trail.


As mentioned in this video, the rain and the trail to Rockwood made me realize that you need quite long fenders when you're using a cargo trailer. I sprayed dirt and mud all over my trailer through this stage of the ride. So, lessons learned here are:
a) use fenders in general for this type of long distance riding
b) if hauling a rig of some sort, make sure your fenders will be long enough to keep your tires from throwing mud back at your trailer.

Rockwood!
I didn't journey up to the little mainstreet, so I only saw the Husky Haven campground and their guest area. I liked the Husky Haven, though it has a slightly odd setup. The campground is right along side the trail, but the town of Rockwood, and the Husky Haven office, are across a bridge over the Casselman River, and down a little side street. So... to get water, showers, wifi, power for your devices, you have to go over to the office. Not the end of the world, but not as convenient as a KOA kind of set-up, where everything is right there.

At the campsites, he has tons of firewood which is free and is sitting there waiting for you at your site. He even has newspapers and kindling tucked on top of the firewood for you. I hadn't expected to make a fire, but made one for the hell of it and sat there reading my book for an hour or so after my dinner of veggie Mr. Noodles (Ramen noodles).


I was fairly wrecked by the day two ride. 77km, hauling that trailer, noticeably uphill, through wet trail, really fired up my appetite, so as soon as I got to Rockwood I checked in at the Husky Haven office, and then went to the little gas station / store and bought a can of Pringles, a bottle of coke and a bottle of flavoured water, then biked to my campsite and just sat there eating all the Pringles and drinking all my fluids.

Then, I biked over to the little bike shop that is right at the Rockwood trailhead, and I paid the guy there $5.00 to let me use some cleaning solution, brushes, oil, to clean up my drivetrain, which had gotten pretty gunky from the wet trail.

Then I went back to Husky Haven offices and showered, charged my devices, did some social media messaging, and filled a bunch of bottles (including the pop bottle and water bottle I'd just bought and finished) with water, and went back to the campsite feeling refreshed.

I think there were only two other sites in use while I was at the Husky Haven. One site was being used by a father and son combo (the son was only 12) who were headed north along the GAP trail. I'd catch up to them on my return trip north and we'd ping-pong back and forth... seeing and passing each other... from Ohiopyle all the way back into Point State Park on our northbound trips.

Main note about Rockwood that you need to know - and a good thing to know about bike camping along the GAP trail in general - TAKE EARPLUGS BECAUSE THERE ARE A CRAZY AMOUNT OF TRAINS IN PENNSYLVANIA!!!!!!!!
Seriously. There are a lot of trains here.
It most affected me in Rockwood, and in West Newton on my return trip north. In both these places, it seemed like as soon as dusk set in, you had train after train blowing their whistles / sirens as they clattered their way through town.

I think that's about all regarding day two. Ohiopyle is gorgeous, but I noticed that more on my northbound trip than I did on this day. The Pinkerton Tunnel was interesting, but after you see the Big Savage tunnel closer to Cumberland, it puts pretty much any other tunnel on the GAP trail to shame.

Day Two was basically my one and only rain day, so that put a wee bit of a cloud over day two.




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