Great Allegheny Passage Trail

Wednesday, September 9

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Today I rode from West Newton to Pittsburgh, 35.0 miles [ 36.56 miles after I made my way from the official endpoint at the confluence back to where my car was parked at First Avenue Garage]

Last evening, after sending off the trail report, I walked down to the Trailside Inn to get some carryout food, and I saw a man who was just finishing a bike ride and getting in his car - with a parrot. As I walked past, I asked him if the bird actually goes along with him when he bicycles, and he said yes. It is a 24-year-old blue macaw - a beautiful bird. He says the bird sits on his shoulder while he rides. He was sitting in his car while we chatted, and the bird was gnawing on his steering wheel.

I took my burger and mac and cheese from the Trailside Inn back to the B&B and enjoyed it with my last summer shandy while sitting on the back porch of my house. Not long after that, I was ready for bed.

This morning, I left the Bright Morning B&B at 9:15, equipped with a sack lunch that Mary Lou at the B&B had packed for me.

The day was sunny and already warm and a bit humid when I started down the trail. I came to the red waterfall that I had seen on my outbound ride and stopped to make a short video of it. Not too far down the trail from it, I came to a similar waterfall which had coated everything with white. There was no sign nearby explaining it, but when I mentioned it to Steve, he said it was likely aluminum sulfate, and indeed, that is the cause cited by this author I found on the internet:

I saw some wild turkeys on today's ride and another groundhog. The groundhogs don't seem to be at all disturbed by the human traffic, and this one barely took notice of me as I passed. At one point, I heard a woodpecker in the forest, and some of the holes I've seen in dead trunks would indicate that the pileated woodpecker might live around here.

I paused for about an hour at Boston, a place where I had stopped in a little park in my outbound ride. I opened up the sack lunch from the B&B, and it was plentiful - fresh grapes, some almond trail mix, a couple sliced tomatoes, a ham and cheese sandwich, a pasta salad and a blueberry muffin. I couldn't even it half of it, but I ate what I wanted and packed the rest of it back in my pannier.

I looked around at some of the signs and the old P&LE railroad car at the little park and took a few photos. I noticed the name "Bettendorf" on the truck of the old boxcar and did a Google search to see if there is a connection to Bettendorf, IA. Indeed there is!

After I left Boston, I climbed the side of the mountain just before Port Vue, where the trail diverts to a road with car traffic for less than a half-mile. It's not a busy road (unless you count bicyclists), and one is back on the trail before crossing the bridge over the Youghiogheny. In that short stretch of road, I met an oncoming cyclist who waved me down to ask a few questions - he wanted to know if there were good lunch options where I had come from, and he asked how far I had ridden. He was on a long-haul ride, starting in Denver, CO, and heading for Alexandria, VA. Actually, his intention is to ride the perimeter of the entire country. He once lived in Westminster, CO, but when he retired, he sold everything and lives on the bicycle now. He was loaded with new front and rear panniers, all packed very neatly, so it would appear that he's off to a good start. He has a niece who lives in Alexandria, where he'll stop to visit and then plot his next route.

Just after I passed through McKeesport, now riding along some railroad tracks and the Monongahela, I paused to take a photo of a ramp leading up to a bridge which crosses over the tracks. There are a couple bridges like this in this section, and I wanted a picture of the ramp because, on my outbound ride a couple of older cyclists in West Newton expressed surprise that I had not had difficulty with these "steep" ramps. I think that was my first clue that perhaps this ride really was within reach of my current fitness levels.

Nearing Duquesne, I stopped to photograph the sign noting that I was traveling on Braddock Road, named for Major General Edward Braddock, a British officer who attempted and failed to push the French out of Fort Duquesne during the French and Indian War. He lost his life as a consequence of the expedition, and it strikes me as a bit macabre that the road is named for him. (See

I also stopped to read a sign about the Kennywood Amusement Park and some of its more famous attractions. Two of the roller coasters - "Phantom's Revenge" and "Thunderbolt" are names carved on two trailside benches, and I photographed the one for "Phantom's Revenge" since our  precious little cat Phantom is the darling that bit me in the face a while back.

As I rode along the Monongahela River, I paused at a few places to take pictures of the river and the repurposed landscape. In one place, I saw a massive bank of solar panels atop what looked like an old warehouse.

In South Side Flats, I passed by the training facilities for the Pitt athletic teams, and shortly afterward, I was riding across the Monongahela on the Hot Metal Bridge and cruising on the north bank amid lots of traffic noise and exhaust, heading toward the confluence and the end of the trail.

I had some difficulty navigating to the confluence point and was careful to either stay in bike lanes or get off the bike and walk on the sidewalk. Not being familiar with all the access roads - and because of the plethora of crazy intersections and one-way traffic streets - I did not want my trip to end badly.

Eventually, I rolled up at the brass medallion in the pavement on the tip of Point State Park, the little peninsula where the three rivers meet and mile marker 150 for the Great Allegheny Passage. My odometer (reset this morning) read exactly 35.0 miles. I took some photos, hopped back on the bike and made my way back up the trail to the First Avenue Parking Garage, where my car was waiting. I loaded my bags and the bike, paid the parking tab, and drove to the hotel, where I guzzled some ice water and soaked up some air conditioning for about an hour.

Thus ends the ride. It was everything I hoped it would be and more. I expected to see beautiful country and enjoy mountain scenery, but I did not expect to learn so much history about the region. This was an aspect of the ride that I really enjoyed. I also liked the solitude of the miles, especially in the coolness of the forest, and the joy of other trail users. People were friendly, helpful, and - when the situation called for it - encouraging and supportive. The volunteers who maintain this trail clearly take their roles seriously, from those who mow the grass along the path, to the guy who cleared away the fallen trees, and the dozens of unseen people who clean and equip facilities along the trail. Years ago, I had heard someone on RAGBRAI say that the Great Allegheny Passage Trail is the country's very best long-distance trail, and I have not been disappointed. This is a ride I could actually do again someday. I met many cyclists who have ridden it multiple times. Just as my experience on the outbound ride was different from my experience on the return trip, I think there is still much left to explore on this trail.

Today's lessons:
One trail ends and another begins.

Blue macaw parrot and his owner

This man says his blue macaw sits on his shoulder when he rides his bike

Shrub with face

At trailside - fun with a shrub

Painted rock

Painted rock in a yard along the trail

Boyd's Run - a stream which crosses the trail

Streams which the trail crosses are often indicated with signage. I took this photo for my friend Jerry Boyd, who is a runner.

Boyd's Run sign

Sign for a stream the trail crosses north of West Newton

White waterfall

The white waterfall - caused by aluminum sulfate. For more information, click here.

Wild turkeys on the trail

Wild turkeys on the trail

Molly at the sign for Boston

Pausing for lunch in Boston

Lunch items

Lunch packed by the Bright Morning B&B in West Newton (an optional extra you can purchase with your overnight stay)

Molly at a park in Boston, PA

Molly at the trailside park in Boston, PA

Molly a sign reading Paris

Our original plans for a 2020 bicycle tour involved a different destination, but COVID changed all that

Sign about the P&LE Railroad

A sign about the P&LE Railroad - for better readability, click here

Truck under the rail car

Truck under the rail car - the name Bettendorf caught my attention

Bettendorf name on the truck

Click here to read more about William P. Bettendorf and why his name is on the railroad truck frame as well as a city in Iowa.

Ramp to the bridge crossing the railroad tracks

The incline in the approach to a bridge which takes the trail over some railroad tracks near Duquesne. Not steep, but you'll need your gears.

Sign for Braddock Road

A sign for Braddock Road, named for a British general who died of injuries in the French and Indian War (and was buried in the road - not specifically THIS road... but you get the idea)

Sign for Braddock Locks & Dam

Sign for Braddock Locks & Dam on the Monogahela River

picture of Lewis & Clark keelboat

The keelboat which Lewis & Clark took up the Missouri River was built in Pittsburgh

Sign for Kennywood Amusement Park

Sign for Kennywood Amusement Park - just placed on the trail this week

Kennywood Amusement Park sign detail

Kennywood Amusement Park sign detail

Kennywood Amusement Park sign detail

Phantom's Revenge - one of the attractions at Kennywood Amusement Park

Bench inscribed with Phantom's Revenge

Also a new installation this week - a wooden bench named Phantom's Revenge. There's a second bench inscribed with Thunderbolt.

Railroad, Monongahela and Kennywood

You can see the Kennywood Amusement Park in the distance, across the Monongahela River from US Steel Edgar Thompson Works at Braddock, PA

Mill 19 near Hazelwood

Mill 19 near Hazelwood - a former steel mill being transformed for other uses - see for more detail

Trail's end/beginning at the point in Pittsburgh

Mile marker 150 - the trail's end/beginning at the point in Pittsburgh

Bicycle at Point State Park - GAP Trail start/end

Earl and the endpoint of our journey

Molly at the ride's end

O, the joy!

If you enjoyed this travelogue, you might like reading about these other self-supported bicycle adventures:

Molly on the Main - a trip along the River Main in Germany (2019)

Molly on the Marne - a WWI-themed bicycle tour in France (2017)

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