After having completed the C and O (Chesapeake and Ohio) Trail in 2011, Wade Hampton and his daughter, Kate, decided to complete the second part of the trail, known as the GAP.
The GAP (Great Alleghany Passage), which runs from Cumberland, Maryland to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is a 150-mile rail-to-trail conversion with several trail towns along the route. The C and O Trail is 185 miles and runs from Cumberland, Maryland to Washington, D.C. Both trails together equal 335 miles.
“When we finished the C and O, we knew we wanted to bike the GAP,” Hampton said. “We’d done things like the Virginia Creeper Trail, which is (roughly) 20 miles, and the New River Trail several times and we enjoyed riding in nature and being out in the woods.”
To train for the 150-mile bike ride, Hampton said he rode his bike around Salem Lake and the Salem Creek Greenway off of Salem Lake and by participating in Bike MS: Tour to Tanglewood.
“Kate lives in Washington, D.C. and she used the bike share program to train,” he said. “I rode a Trek hybrid and Kate used a mountain bike. They both worked well. The rail-to-trail was mostly hard packed gravel, while the toe path on the C and O was muddy with rocks and gravel at times.”
Hampton said there are a lot of supporting materials for both trails, including books and maps, as well as other information that tell how long the ride will be, what to bring and where to stay.
Hampton explained that he and Kate were on the GAP trail this year during the second week in October, which allowed them to see some great fall color. They spent four days and three nights on the trail, staying at bed and breakfasts (B&B) along the way.
“My wife and mother-in-law would follow us along and meet us at each B&B. The first night we stayed in Cumberland at The Inn on Decatur. Small trail towns like this have really started to cater to hikers and cyclists,” he said, noting they hiked between 30 – 40 miles each day.”
Each day, Kate and Wade took time to stop and see the many sights along the way.
“Both trails have a lot of historical aspects, so there was a lot to see and do,” he said. “On the C and O, we saw the Antietam National Battlefield, Harpers Ferry, where we stayed in a lockhouse one night. On the GAP, we saw Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater (house), built in the 1930s. It was amazingly modern looking. We went over the Mason-Dixon Line and went through a number of tunnels and trestles. One was 3,700 feet long. In Ohiopyle State Park, there were a lot of natural things with lots of kayaking, canoeing and camping in the area.”
Hampton said while they met people along the way, they also had times of solitude.
“There is a lot of solitude on the trail. You can go miles without seeing anyone, and then it can be crowded (on the greenways) in cities,” he said. “We talked to a couple that was on their second thru ride and another couple that had biked quite a bit. They told us about Swamp Rabbit Trail in Greenville, South Carolina. Learning about other trails from riders is always fun.”
Hampton said while a majority of the trail was fairly easy, the first day was a little challenging.
“It was raining on the first day and that’s when we did most of the climbing, but the rest of the time was fairly easy. Having a good pair of bike shorts is important,” he shared.
Hampton said his most memorable moments were crossing the Continental Divide and riding beside the rivers for miles.
“We saw a lot of trout fishermen and a lot of natural beauty,” he said.
Hampton is a member of the Kernersville Cycling Club and was a member of the Pedestrian and Bicycling Committee for the Town of Kernersville before the cycling club was formed.
“I have been cycling all of my life, but I have been seriously cycling for 20 years,” he said.
Hampton enjoys cycling for many reasons.
“It’s easy on the knees and you can see more territory (than on foot),” he said.