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Farther out, areas once scarred by coal operations are reverting to forest — just a few miles outside Pittsburgh, there’s a bald eagle nest along the trail.
Beyond the Mon Valley, Connellsville is the largest town on the trail, with B&Bs, restaurants, and a century-old library with a pleasant cafe.
The GAP’s middle section — heading through Ohiopyle State Park — is the bike trail equivalent of wilderness.
For about 15 miles along the Youghiogheny River, there’s not a single road crossing.
The first piece of abandoned railroad right-of-way was acquired in 1978, and the first trail section, in Ohiopyle, opened in 1986.
After 27 more years and million, all the bridges, trestles, and tunnels had been rehabbed or built, allowing the trail to run, uninterrupted, for its full 150 miles.
Towns on the trail are an easy day’s ride apart, with B&Bs and decent places to eat.
If you’d rather save money and throw your tired cyclist body in a tent at night, you can camp at sites along the way.
The views are especially good from Salisbury viaduct, a century-old railroad trestle, 101 feet high and 1,900 feet long, carrying riders over the Casselman River Valley.The next day, heading south, we’d have four days and 125 miles of slight but steady uphill to the Eastern Continental Divide, elevation 2,390 feet.From there, it would be 25 miles, all downhill, back to our car.We decided to check out the Great Allegheny Passage, 150 miles of wide, gentle trail running from Cumberland, Md., north to Pittsburgh.Not only was it scenic and close, the GAP, as it’s called, was a lot easier on my AARP-qualified lungs and legs.