Ohiopyle. Photo courtesy Tom Dempsey/The Wall Street Journal.

“I’M A SUCKER for a post-industrial landscape,” writes Beth Kracklauer in the Wall St. Journal. “Unspoiled nature moves me as much as it does the next person, I guess, but give me a rusted-out mill or abandoned railroad tracks with my green and pleasant vista and I’m captivated. Suddenly the scene becomes a story.

“So as soon as I learned about the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP), a bike path that winds through 150 miles of historic coal and steel country on derelict grades of the Western Maryland Railway and the Pennsylvania & Lake Erie Railroad, I started hatching a vacation plan. The GAP runs between Cumberland, Md., and Pittsburgh, Penn., and probes parts of Western Maryland and southwestern Pennsylvania no car can quite reach—places still firmly anchored in another era. Anyway, that’s how I pitched it to my friend Marne when I persuaded her to abandon her family in New York for a week and join me.”

A Pittsburgh native and resident, Kracklauer found that the journey could be made “surprisingly luxe.”

To start, she and her friend rented bikes and saddlebags at Golden Triangle Bike Rentals, underneath the First Avenue T station downtown. For an additional fee, owner Tom Demagall drove the two to Cumberland.

Looking to avoid the trail’s steepest portion, between Cumberland and Frostburg, the author, bike in tow, hopped a 90-minute ride on the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad, spent “curled up in the lounge car’s leather club chairs sipping from a list of regional beers and wines.”

Once in Frostburg, they spent the first two nights indulging in massages and grilled game at Savage River Lodge, “an eco-friendly resort in Western Maryland’s Savage River State Forest that caters to cyclists, fly fishers, bird-watchers, skiers and other outdoorsy types.” Not a bad way to start any trip.

The Western Maryland Scenic Railroad Photo courtesy WMSR Foundation/Wall Street Journal

The cycling began in earnest on day three. At a bicycle’s pace, Kracklauer felt “intimately attuned to the landscape” around her, and crossed both the Mason-Dixon Line and the Eastern Continental Divide. The pair enjoyed sandwiches, fresh strawberries and pawpaw-infused lemonade for lunch at Joe Greens Fresh Eatery in Meyersdale, PA. They then headed over the Salisbury Viaduct and plunged through miles of forest trail before stopping for the night at Horizon View Farms, a scenic B&B in Rockwood, PA.

Day four began with a 30-mile spin to Ohiopyle, which included a stop at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Kentuck Knob. The trip concluded on day five, when the trail spun Kracklauer “out of the forest primeval and smack up against the industrial age,” past aging mills and “a blood-red waterfall” (the result of a mining runoff) before heading back to the confluence.

Read the entire article on The Wall Street Journal.

Brian Conway

Brian Conway is a writer and photographer whose articles have appeared in the Chicago Tribune and local publications. In his free time, he operates Tripsburgh. Brian lives in the South Side.