Yesterday around 5:30 pm under cloudy skies we pulled into Cumberland, MD, and found the origination point of the GAP. It felt great to have finished today's 61-mile leg and the entire 150-mile length of the trail sans major (or even minor) mishaps.
We knew we were going to get wet when we woke up. As we were having our breakfast, a solid rain was falling running off into the pond outside our bedroom window. It was not going to be a dry day. We put on our rain gear and with a smile started our journey out of Harnedsville.
Mother Nature cut us a break as the rain abated upon our departure and for the first hour or so we felt little precipitation. South of Confluence a thick canopy of maples kept any rain off and with the trail damp, the dust was kept way down.
Key to our success today, or so we thought, would be to keep our speed at 10 to 11 miles an hour. That way we would not burn our selves out nor would we get to our hotel too late. So Ted set the pace and we started our long 40 mile climb.
The nice thing about taking the GAP this way is that the incline is not too extreme and while we did feel the resistance of gravity it did not slow us down too much.
Today we are off the Yaugh and following the Casselman river. It seems wilder and more remote as do we, though we are constantly reminded of the old railroad bed we are driving upon as across the river CSX trains pass us on an hourly basis. A lonely horn, squealing brakes and rails tell us of their presence.
The topography is beginning to change as the cuts in the side to accommodate the trail are less frequent and extreme than those north of us. But they still grace us as planters for the many native flowers, shrubs and trees of southern Pennsylvania. I continue to be amazed how they hang from the tiny cracks that have been created over time in the wall creating a natural terrarium that we are being given the privilege to pass through.
We soon come to our first tunnel--the Pinkerton--and with that arrival the rain starts in earnest. The tunnel is not lit and even though it is 849 feet long 'the light at the end of the tunnel' is easy to perceive. We figure that we do not need to get out out our headlights. As we enter it, the light dims and within 100 feet goes black. Not getting our lights out was a mistake. If there is any hole in the path or obstruction, we could go for a tumble. So I slow the pace and just keep my eyes on the end of the tunnel. Fortunately the trail was perfect.
What we discovered about tunnels, however, is that they have the comfort of a clammy refrigerator. This shouldn't have been a surprise as the temperature of the ground below the frost line is in the low 50s. So with a whoosh of cold air coming in and warm air coming out we had travelled our first tunnel.