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Reply to GAP Resurfacing - Ohiopyle to Confluence

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Rivnuts from Homestead, PA on 7/14/2020 9:25:20 PM:
From the GAP webpage: "Re-surfacing of the 11 mile section of the Great Allegheny Passage between Ohiopyle and Confluence will begin on Monday 7/13, with an anticipated end date of 7/24. Although the contractors plan to keep the trail open it would helpful, if at all possible, to please bike elsewhere during the next week or so. Thank You!"

TexasTree from Houston on 7/19/2020 8:02:08 PM:
WHat are they resurfacing the GAP with? Is it ashfault or similar or crushed granite/ clay? Is there a place to look to see what the trail surface is from Pitts to Cumberland? It seems Cumberland is Clay/crushed Granite but correct me if I am wrong. Trying to figure the right type of bike to bring from Houston.

John W. from Pittsburgh,PA on 7/19/2020 8:09:59 PM:
It’s still crushed limestone, it’s just a resurfacing which I think they do every decade in sections or where erosion requires it. 90% of the GAP is crushed limestone except where it’s paved out of downtown Pittsburgh for the first 10-12 miles, a little bit through Connellsville, and the last bits before Cumberland.

Rivnuts from Homestead, PA on 7/20/2020 7:38:35 AM:
Virtually any bike will make the trip successfully albeit a road bike with 19mm or 23mm tires might be less than desirable if you encounter significant rain. (There can be some occasional soft spots and puddles under those circumstances). Road bikes with 28mm tires or larger, hybrid bikes, gravel bikes, recumbent bikes and mountain bikes generally would be fine. I don't see many tandems on the trail but they should be ok as well as long as there isn't a sustained deluge during your journey. Take the bike you are most comfortable on and can carry whatever load you'll be taking and you should have an enjoyable trip.

TexasTree from Houston on 7/20/2020 10:16:41 AM:
John from Pitts, and Rivnuts - Thanks for the prompt feedback. It is SO MUCH appreciated. Really, ... THanks. A clarifications GAP TRAIL 1. Between the two messages I gather the surface and that it is relatively smooth and PACKED, meaning not loose gravel, to Cumberland? Tire size suggestions were excellent, by the way. A fellow traveler does not have experience on unpacked trail and it would be difficult to get that experience before hand. It would not prevent the trip just mean possibly a different set of equipment and allocation of time. So the clarification needed is whether it is packed. C&O trail 1. I am wondering if the same tire sizes are recommended for C&o trail. I get the idea that the C&O is much less smooth and packed. Again, thank you so much for your time.

Richard from Washington DC on 7/20/2020 11:50:04 AM:
I haven't ridden the entire GAP, but the sections that I have ridden are crushed limestone. That gets a little mushy in the rain, but it is not like mud. Even a thin road bike tire might work, but I'd recommend something a bit wider. The C&O Canal towpath presents a very different surface. In the worst areas, it is two thin lanes of dirt with a grass median. This is the result of years and years of bikers riding over a dirt surface in opposite directions. If this gets wet, mountain bike tires would be best. I ride it on a mountain bike with big fat tires and only get into trouble when it's really muddy and the mud gets stuck in the fork. There is a nice bypass around Hancock, Maryland that is asphalt and a wise choice. Yesterday, I rode from Mouth of Monocacy to Harpers Ferry on the towpath. It's been resurfaced with crushed limestone and quite firm. I don't know how far up in goes, however. It does go down to White's Ferry. From there to Violette's Lock, the towpath is the two-lane dirt affair. It has never been completely dry any time that I've been on it. There is a base of sand so that my mountain bike with fat tires has always been able to push through the many mud holes, but thin tires would not. From Violette's Lock to Georgetown, it's a macadam surface composed of rocks and sand and dirt. This generally is dry even after rains. However, the rocks are rather large in places. The bike shops in DC advise against road bike tires because they can get punctured. In any event, the rocks will shake you to death on road bike tires.

Rivnuts from Homestead, PA on 7/20/2020 2:37:47 PM:
The GAP Trail has virtually no loose gravel sections. When dry, the surface is "packed" i.e. your bike tires will not penetrate the surface. With lots of rain it becomes soft in some spots and you'd be able to see your bike tire tracks in the surface albeit not like riding a muddy, earthen trail. Tire width on the C&O is a function of whether the trail is dry or muddy. I've ridden a road bike with 28mm and 32mm tires in both conditions but wider is better, even in dry conditions. I have purchased 35mm knobby tires for the trip this year in case it is wet. Even wider tires requiring less pressure might even be more comfortable.

JM from Central Florida on 7/22/2020 8:34:43 PM:
Yesterday, I finished a solo, self-supported, N-to-S, camping through-bike from Pittsburgh to DC (7/17/20-7/21/20). The trail conditions were excellent with no rain (dusty), but it was very hot and electrolyte powders/tablets are essential this time of year. The GAP surface is very good, and I saw no evidence of resurfacing work currently occurring along the GAP. The C&O was in relatively good shape and generally dry. The new surface on the C&O (similar to the GAP crushed limestone surface) now extends from the Shepherdstown turnoff (approx. mile 74) to around Edwards Ferry (approx. mile 31), and the new surface is exceptionally nice. As others have said, take the paved Western Maryland Rail Trail (WMRT) from around Little Orleans to around Licking Creek Aqueduct for some relief from the old C&O surface. I averaged 74 miles per day on an adventure/gravel bike (no shocks) with 40 mm tires and about 30 lbs of food/camping gear. I stopped at one supermarket along the way in Cumberland and prepared all of my own meals, so generally had more food in my panniers than might be needed but for Covid-19 precautions. I would not recommend camping at Ohiopyle State Park due to partying and noise from other campers (well past midnight) and no attempt by the park to curtail the noise during "quiet hours" (9pm-8am), but I would recommend the NPS camp sites at Antietam (did not camp) and McCoy's Ferry (camped) on the C&O. Most (but not all) pump handles were installed at hiker-biker sites, and water was usually plentiful maintaining two bottles on the bike. It was a great adventure but, in July heat, not for the faint of heart!

TexasTree from Houston on 7/23/2020 11:05:03 AM:
Rivnuts and Richard thank you for the additional data - it is very helpful. Last question: The bypass around Hancock going from Cumberland to DC. Where do you suggest rejoining the C&O? The only place I found to cross over towards the end, and that is if I have correctly identified the "bypass" trail" is at Ernstville road UNLESS there is some other strategy like going down Big Pool road for a bit then ... Here is a link to the location that I think is for maximizing the bypass. https://www.google.com/maps/place/Big+Pool,+MD+21711/@39.6327779,-78.0301322,327m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m5!3m4!1s0x89ca1930cc5ecc47:0x6fca929deeff8d45!8m2!3d39.6327724!4d-78.0290601!5m1!1e3

JM from Central Florida on 7/23/2020 3:09:41 PM:
Texastree, you have identified the crossover correctly. When you are riding N-to-S along the Western Maryland Rail Trail, you will see a sign directing you to turn right on Ernstville Rd. in order to reconnect with the C&O Towpath. Take that right and go a short distance. At the point where the road turns hard left, leave the pavement and go straight into the woods. That trail isn't marked, but it will take you to the C&O. It is the trail that you've correctly identified on your map. (I was there just a few days ago.)

Rivnuts from Homestead,PA on 7/24/2020 8:05:29 AM:
JM is quite right in his description. As noted it is not well marked as I found on my first trip a few years ago so keep your eyes open or you will ride right past it.

TexasTree from Houston on 7/25/2020 1:19:47 PM:
Thanks for your responses including the trip update from JM from Central Florida - this has been very helpful. Just to share. I wrote the NPS about trail upgrades and where they happened/happening. They pointed me to this link which includes a before and after construction photo. The posts above correlate with their web page. https://www.nps.gov/choh/planyourvisit/towpath-resurfacing-project.htm The base layer of the new towpath surface is crush and run gravel, also known as CR-6. The top layer is stone dust, also known as AASHTO-10. The crush and run layer creates an adequate drainage system, so that heavy rainfall can easily drain off the towpath. The stone dust layer at the top adds a nice, smooth surface.

Richard from Washington DC on 7/25/2020 3:22:37 PM:
The National Park Service's photos and description are a bit rosier than what you may experience on the towpath. The new surface is indeed good and firm but that top layer of "stone dust" gets kicked up when it's dry. On last weekend's ride, the dust hung over the towpath like mist in the morning and left me with shin guards of gray dust from ankle to knee. I suppose my lungs will recover and the dust does wash off. The photo of what the towpath looked like before it was resurfaced was taken at White's Ferry in a well-drained location. In shady areas, which include the path from White's Ferry to Violette's Lock, the towpath almost never dries. There are always mud holes. And during or immediately after a rain, sections of it are virtually impassable. I don't mean to criticize the Canal Trust, which paid for the work, but be prepared for some tough, slow biking on the old surface if it's rained.