Exfoliating Mud Bath: Grit and Grime, on the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) Trail


Head down, tires churning through puddles that are filled with the grit and grime of the crushed limestone bike path, your REI raincoat is splattered with wet bits of dirt, as you splash deliberately through every puddle. . . and you realize. . . this is fun! Your quads are spent, your neck and shoulders ache after 35 miles in the saddle, and you Bonked. . . Tanked. . . Hit a Wall about an hour ago, but you are not alone.

Your cycling community makes sure you never find yourself stranded, miles from camp, potentially dealing with a mechanical failure, which you have no earthly idea how to deal with on your own.

The forecast called for rain, so it was no surprise. You’d been checking the forecast for days, and predictions were changing, hourly it seemed, right up to the day of the trip. You had all your rain gear and said a silent prayer that the storm would pass by quickly, or swing north, and miss the GAP trail all together.

Not a chance! The rain started day 1 of your weekend adventure on the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) trail. Even though you tried to wait out the worst of it, under the shelter of the mom & pop ice cream shop just off the trail, you knew deep down that it was going to last hours, so you’d better just. . . get on with it. Zip up! Saddle up! Show up!


Not every cyclist would keep their commitment to riding 45 miles out, then setting up camp in the rain, to sleep on the cold, wet ground. Not every cyclist would tolerate being kept awake by trains pulling through town, just across the river from the camp site, blowing their horns (every 30 minutes, it seemed!) to announce their arrival. Not every cyclist would wear wet socks to bed, because they heard that the confinement of the sleeping bag would dry them by morning. . . or something like that.

But some cyclists would, and you did!


In return, you earned an exfoliating spa facial treatment, on every patch of exposed skin, courtesy of sandy limestone being tossed into the air by your knobby tires. Your hair is gritty, there’s sand in your ears, and dark flecks of mud fill the creases (smile lines!) that line your face.

There are scratches and bruises, from getting on an off your touring bike so many times, and from doing your best to maneuver the bike, with all the extra weight you and the bike are carrying. It’s early spring, just on the heels of #30DaysOfBiking, so you’re not in the best of cycling shape. You have a few pounds to shed, and the bike seems loaded down with 20 lbs. of gear.

Oh, wait – it is! Tents, sleeping bags, camp stoves, food, lanterns, bike tools and tire pumps, spare tubes, water bottles and a set of dry clothes, which will be soaked 10 minutes into the return trip on day 2. . . these all have their place on the bike. You’ve bought unique frame bags that fit neatly into your bike’s 53 cm frame. Handlebar bags are strapped to the front of your bike and panniers hang on both sides of the rear rack – these are all full. Snacks, Advil, sunblock, camera and phone are tucked into smaller feedbags and top tube bags. (Why exactly did you pack sunblock?)



But you’ve been training for this! (Well, not really.) The trail, formerly a train route, is flat! (Except for that 1 – 2% upward grade, for 45 miles.) The rain can’t last all day! (Oh. . . yes it can!)

So, why do you do this? Why do you put yourself through this? Here’s why!



Sadly, it’s time for you to return home, weekend warrior, until next time. Every piece of clothing, every cycling bag, every water bottle and even chunks of your hair are still covered in mud and grit, as you crawl into your Suburu, bikes hanging off the rear bumper. Perhaps your next purchase, for your favorite touring bike, will be a new pair of fenders!

Now, go dust off your Cyclist Connection water bottle, get some Proofide Leather Dressing onto that poor, water-soaked Brooks saddle, and redo the tape on your Salsa’s handlebars. There’s a lot more of the GAP Trail to explore!

Join me on my next adventure,

~ Kat

Related Links:

GAP (Great Alleghney Passage) Trail – “America’s Finest Long-Distance Rail Trail”: https://gaptrail.org/

Husky Haven Camp Ground: http://www.huskyhavencampground.com/

Salsa Marakesh: https://www.adventurecycling.org/adventure-cyclist/online-features/road-test-salsa-marrakesh/

Cyclist Connection: http://cyclistconnection.com/

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