Thursday, August 7, 2008

Day 43 - August 4th - Washington to Confluence

(photos: farm buildings on a hillside; Mingo Creek park; bridge in the park; bluebird box along trail; view of Youghiogheny river from the bike trail)

Heavy dew during the night, and cool temps - which made it easier to sleep. But it felt chilly at breakfast and several Riders added a layer of clothing to stay warm until we got on the road. The day's route of 88 miles took us through some high-traffic areas, and included several steep climbs within the first 30 miles or so. One hill was at a 12% grade. Other sections were just long, sustained climbs. But once we reached West Newton - and the lunch stop (mile 38) - the terrain changed dramatically. We would ride on the YRT for the balance of the day. Over 50 miles on a level bike trail of crushed limestone, paralleling the Youghiogheny river. Lush vegetation provided lots of shade. No sunburn worries here. Riding this surface sounded like I was rolling over a path of Grape-Nuts. The steady crunch became monotonous after awhile and sometimes overwhelmed sounds from the river - either water movement or exuberant water rafters. A rocky hillside on the right-hand side of the trail, included damp sections with water dripping into the ditch. Reminded me of the hillside behind the old Carnival restaurant at the base of Terwilliger Blvd in Portland.
I pulsed along the trail until it opened up in the town of Connellsville. There, in a park shelter, a Big Rider alum from 2000 - Fred Husak - had set up a rest stop for us. Sandwiches, cold drinks, fruit and ice cream were waiting to be consumed. Fred knew what we needed! His wife Rose Ann and daughter Bethany were there too, to chat with us and make the stop as hospitable as possible. Today, I had wanted to get into town to find the library so that I could update my blog. But some annoymous Big Rider angels had set up a laptop for me to use right in the pavilion. Thank you!
I spent a couple of hours in the shade at a picnic table, uploading photos, etc. By 2pm, I decided that it was time to unplug from technology and return to the trail. Rode on to our campsite in Confluence - right off the YRT. It was in a beautiful setting, right next to the river. The sound of moving water provided soothing white noise for us all night long. As we were in a valley, cellphone reception was nil. I stopped by the camp office and asked the woman on duty if she could provide me with a weather forecast. Within minutes, she printed out a local report: 30% chance of showers this evening, 50% chance of severe thunderstorms - with high winds and possible hail - tomorrow. Oh joy. Shared the news with others and crawled into my tent.

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