As I get ready to bike the Great Allegheny Passage and the C&O Canal between Pittsburgh and the Washington DC area with my high-school friends at the end of the month, I am reminded of this letter that I wrote in the year 2009.
“Many of you have been reading about my experiences on the C&O canal for the last few years, and you might still not get a sense as to why this has become a part of my life. Truth of the matter is that most folks who live in this area are not even aware of the existence of this jewel in our backyard. The C&O canal is just not a major topic of conversation in these parts. But there is also another small dedicated group of people that is aware of this resource, and there are news-groups on the Internet where people like me visit to share stories and get information.
I have only traveled about 125 miles along the canal so far, and the towpath eventually ends at Cumberland, MD, at mile 184.5. Beyond the C&O canal, to the northwest, lies the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP), and a trail that runs all the way up McKeesport, PA, the place where Mona did her residency a while back. The combination of the GAP and the C&O canal runs over 300 miles from McKeesport (near Pittsburgh) to Washington, DC. There are many people who walk and bike these trails for recreation these days, and the experience is awesome. There are villages, rivers, mountains, canals, railroads, bridges, viaducts, locks, aqueducts and tunnels to see. There is Nature. There is even a sense of history on the trails, with the stories of the civil war battles along the Potomac, and the stories of the little old towns that used to exist in the early days of the country, and a way of life that has almost completely disappeared.
I have never biked the trail for any long distance, and when I read the stories of people who have gone through the experience of doing the entire stretch I feel inspired. I am having a hard time describing why one feels this way. It is not that one is doing something that is important and will make a difference to humanity. I think this could be the purest form of entertainment and adventure. You experience nature in an unadulterated form, at your own pace, and without the benefit of any sort of motorized assistance. These days you do not even have to rough it out on the trail during the nights, since there are little towns with little bed-and-breakfast facilities and restaurants along the way. It appears that the popularity of the trail could be reviving some of the old villages in a little way.
Will I get a chance to ride the entire trail myself? I do not know, but it would not take much for something to tip the scales and for me to make up my mind to set out on my bike one fine day. Of course, it is not that simple. One has to be prepared. You have to carry supplies when doing such a trip. You have to be ready to face the unexpected. But if somebody out there wants to share the experience with me, I am ready to set out on this adventure! Any takers?
The link below is to an article written about the GAP in The New York Times.
Side story – Early this year, I got an e-mail from the President of the Allegheny Trail Alliance asking if they could use one of my pictures in the 2009 trailbook. I said yes. I had a hard time finding my picture when the trailbook came out. It ended up in black and white in a tiny format in a corner of a page. But that was good enough for me. One of my pictures has now been published! ”
Postscript: It is hard to believe, but many years later I am about to embark on the trip I talked about in 2009. I have to thank my good friend Koushik (who is riding with me) for motivating me to get off my butt and finally do something about it.
Also, I was approached once again this year to donate a few of my pictures to the 2016 edition of the trailbook for the GAP. A couple of my pictures appear in the guide.