Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Lifestyles

September 17, 2012

Biking Pittsburgh to Maryland on mountain trail

(Continued)

DAY 3: Rockwood, Pa., to Cumberland, Md., 44 miles (71 kilometers)

If your bed-and-breakfast hosts will pack peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, you've got it made. Otherwise you'll have to do some off-trail climbing to find lunch this day.

The ghostly white wind turbines and valley overlooks are impressive sights in the final uphill going. Meyersdale is the only trailside town, a vital place to water up. You can get lunch down the hill if needed.

Soon after, it's time for a mini-celebration. You've reached the Eastern Continental Divide. Inside the little tunnel at the divide, (you can roll through this one), check the map on the wall, showing how high you've come in three days, mostly without feeling it.

The final 24 miles (39 kilometers), crossing the state line into Maryland, are a downhill breeze, your closing treat.

But about those last-day tunnels.

The Borden Tunnel looks like a cakewalk, which it is, if you walk. Unless you've got a light that cost more than last night's B&B, you'll find everything vanishing from sight except the end, which quite suddenly seems too far away.

Next, Big Savage is a much longer tunnel but has well-spaced lights, though some are typically out.

The last, Brush Tunnel, is like the Borden, out to bite you in the middle.

Clear sailing into Cumberland ends this adventure while teasing you about another. The C&O, that funky old granddaddy of off-road bicycle trails, begins straight ahead.

___

If You Go...

GREAT ALLEGHENY PASSAGE: 141-mile (227-kilometer) rail-trail between Homestead, Pa., near Pittsburgh, and Cumberland in Western Maryland, http://www.atatrail.org/

TIPS:

—Starting at the Cumberland end, as many do, gets all climbing out of the way the first day, though it's a slog for nearly 25 miles (40 kilometers). One cheat: Old-time steam and diesel trains operated by Western Maryland Scenic Railroad run 16 miles (26 kilometers) up the mountain and accept bikes. Schedule at http://www.wmsr.com/.

—Some B&Bs are flexible for bicyclists who want to reschedule in bad weather, others lock you in as soon as you book or as many as 30 days ahead, so inquire.

—The Big Savage Tunnel's giant doors shut for the winter, usually December through March or April, and the road detour is not recommended.

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