Introduction - Fall Colors Bike Tour on the GAP - CycleBlaze


Why I am chasing fall colors on the Great Allegheny Passage

The Salisbury Viaduct crossing the Casselman River Valley near Meyersdale, Pennsylvania
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My cycling friend Chuck and I emerged from the tunnel of green after cycling three uphill days. Before us lay the vast expanse of vibrant green and blue valley. The sun shone brightly in the nearly cloudless sky illuminating the scene before us. We were at the western edge of the 1908-foot Salisbury Viaduct that crosses the Casselman River Valley outside of Meyersdale, Pennsylvania.

The above scene cemented the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) into my memory. The sight of wind turbines spinning on the ridges surrounding the valley. Farms, roads, and train tracks created a patchwork that blended nature with the traces of human inhabitation and industry. I never tire of this scene and look forward to this scene from behind my handlebar on my bike tours across the Great Allegheny Passage.

I have cycled the Great Allegheny Passage and Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Trail (C&O) end-to-end five times since that June 2011 tour when I first set sight on the Salisbury Viaduct. I have organized numerous weekend cycling retreats on the GAP that always includes a ride across the Salisbury Viaduct. I relish my annual trip to the trail which is my all-time favorite cycling destination.

The pandemic has challenged my bicycle touring calendar. Last fall saw me tour the GAP with a group of friends from Georgetown to Pittsburgh. I stayed close to home this year but longed to return to the GAP. I usually cycle the 3-2-1 Ride, a Pittsburgh-based charity bike ride benefiting melanoma and pancreatic cancer research. Alas, it is a COVID casualty for a second year.

My cycling friend Ron whose wife passed away from pancreatic cancer inquired if I was interested in a GAP tour this October. I cycle the 3-2-1 Ride to honor Ron’s wife, Sue. I did not hesitate in affirming I was ready to get on the bike and ride the GAP. The tour group grew and evolved as the plans progressed. Eight of us will leave Pittsburgh cycling east to Cumberland on October 12.

Autumn is my favorite bike touring season. The temperatures are favorable. It is dry snd air crisp. It is a less-traveled time of the year. The biggest motivator and bonus are the fall colors. The Allegheny Mountains are spectacular in mid-late October. I am an avid amateur photographer. An October tour presents many calendar-worthy photos.

This year will not be an end-to-end GAP and C&O tour. It will be a casually-paced three-day end-to-end GAP tour. I look forward to touring with both old and new touring friends this time around. I hope that you follow my journal entries on this scenic tour in the Allegheny highlands and the tapestry of red, orange, gold, and yellow that blends with the blue sky and rivers.   

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