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  • Writer's picturePatrick Baechle

Stairway to Heaven

Today started out great. The weather was perfect and I was cruising down the West Penn trail. It was a little rougher than the Ghost Town Trail but still very negotiable. Some rain from the night before made it damp and muddy but also helped keep it cool in the shady woods. Every once in awhile the beast would get a little squirrly in a mud patch but I'm starting to get used to that sensation of a semi truck getting ready to jacknife on a snow covered highway.

I am In a new world today, riding along the Conemaugh River. It is beautifully swollen and muddy brown from all the recent heavy rains and all of the flood planes are full to the brim creating broad lakes. I am starting to connect, in my mind, how all of these rivers contributed transportation for the industrial revolution.

I am traveling upon another railroad bed now, converted to a trail. I believe this was a Lackawanna route. The rail bed cuts perpendicular across the sinuous flow of the river. Stone arch bridges cross the river every mile or so opening up spectacular vistas.

Railroads don't let mountains get in their way. They just bore right through them. I was very excited to see that my trail was going to go right though a tunnel up Ahead, until I arrived and my eyes adjusted and I was confronted with this.

The trail just ended at this giant Iron fence blocking the tunnel. I looked around trying to find an alternate route, found no road and was astonished to see a steep staircase winding up the side of the mountain. This can't be right I said to myself.

Notice that the builder of the stair was considerate enough to add a rail to the side of the stair to roll the bike up. Now I am a strong guy and I could roll my road bike up this ramp, licketty split, but if you think I am going roll 70 pounds of bike and gear up this....

Well it's getting hot and... take one step at a time .. and the Itsy Bitsy Spider song and breathing really hard and then I get to this sign.


The rest of the day, though, was quite pleasurable with lots of interesting sights.

Around 6 o clock I arrived in Export. I was really thirsty an I just wanted an ice cold coke. I saw this bar and I wanted to go there because my brothers are official jiggermasters and I was hoping to find a souvenir for them. I sat down under this canopy drinking my coke and it poured a ferocious rain for a full hour. I was happy that I wasn't out on the trail.

The day ended with me getting lost, climbing a 14% grade over a very high mountain then sitting at a noisy and brightly illuminated Sheetz store. on route 30, at 11 o'clock at night with no place to stay. I had to call an Uber to drive me to a hotel, but this is another story I shall embellish upon another day. All is good.

Leaving Belle Vernon now to travel upon the Great Allegheny Passage Trail and expect to be camping tonight at Ohio Pyle.

Be cool


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