Monday, September 19, 2011

One Match: Biking and Camping on the GAP

Initially, I had grand plans for a July 4 long weekend journey through some remote parts of Ontario (Canada is my second favorite place in the world after Pittsburgh). When those plans fell through, I jokingly told people I was going to ride my bike to Maryland. I'd heard of the trail that connects Pittsburgh and DC, but had never done any research or inquiring about it. The more I said I was going to ride and camp all the way to Cumberland, Maryland, the more I thought - "well, maybe I can actually give this a shot." And so, on July 1, my friend Corey dropped me off at a trailhead parking lot outside of McKeesport and I hopped on my bike loaded up with camping gear and supplies for a four-day ride. I'd never attempted any kind of long ride like this, nor had I ever camped on my own, so I was noticeably nervous. After the first leg of the trip and after getting my campsite set up for the first time and starting a fire without setting the whole forest aflame, I was in love with what I was doing. Thank goodness the trail isn't yet complete all the way through to Pittsburgh (it's expected that all the gaps will be filled by 2012), because no one would ever see me on the weekends. I'd always be biking and camping.

Carrie and I ended up with a free weekend at the end of August, so we planned a mini biking/camping trip on the GAP to celebrate the end of summer.

A happy sight: my bike loaded up and ready to make a quick 'lil journey.

We started off at the same trailhead, and biked just about five miles to the Dravo Cemetery campground. We debated taking another bike ride after dropping off our stuff, but instead we set up our tent and explored the woods and the river, climbed a tree, and wandered around the cemetery. It came time to build a fire, and using just one match - ONE MATCH! - we started a fire that lasted all night and was still smoking the next morning when we woke up, allowing us to throw some kindling in to get it going again. ONE MATCH!

This fire: one match!

We made rice, tomatoes and beans for dinner and then ate s'mores into the night. There was a wedding reception happening across the river from the campsite, so we were treated to some background music along the lines of "The Electric Slide" and "Margaritaville." Not my first choice for campfire tunes, but oddly enjoyable as the night went on.

The next morning we woke up early and jumped on our bikes for a six-mile ride up and down the trail. It was absolutely peaceful and fun, zipping along the trail through backyards and along the Youghiogheny River. Back at camp we made egg and cheese sammiches for breakfast and devoured more s'mores before packing up and biking the five miles back to the Boston trailhead.

When the GAP is completed all the way through to downtown Pittsburgh, it's going to be incredibly difficult to not abscond away every weekend with my tent, my new axe (!!!), and s'mores supplies. It's getting easier and easier to get out of the city without having to rely on a car, which means more weekend adventures to come, I'm sure.

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