Segment #2: The Allegany Highlands Trail from
Cumberland, Maryland to McKeesport, Pennsylvania;
After completing the long, but enjoyable hike of the C and O Canal I was ready to take on the next challenge, the 134 mile Alleghany Highlands Trail. This trail from Cumberland to McKeesport, Pennsylvania, on the Monongahela River near Pittsburgh travels through woodlands filled with wild rhododendrons, past Amish farms and then along several small rivers, past Frank Lloyd Wright’s famous “Fallingwater” house, and on into the industrial clutter of urban Pennsylvania. The trail is a good one, well maintained and easy to walk. I found that I was able to average about 3.5 to 3.7 miles an hour and in one stretch near McKeesport I was able to make a little over four miles an hour for about five miles.
After a good night’s sleep I set out on the morning of the 25th for Frostburg, Maryland some fifteen miles up the trail. The skies were clear and the temperature hovered around 25 degrees.
From the Cumberland Railroad Station and the end of the C and O Canal I hiked out the northwest end of town along the right of way for the Western Maryland Scenic Railway. Just out of town the path led through the “Narrows,” a beautiful gorge nearly a thousand feet deep. I saw no one else out hiking on this clear, but cold morning. The ground and mud puddles were frozen, which was actually a blessing, because the muddy stretches of trail were frozen and I was able to make good time. I passed along through leafless hardwood forests and soon began climbing higher in elevation as I the mountains.
At about the 5 miles mark I came to Brush Tunnel, the first of several long railroad tunnels the trail passes through on its way west through the Appalachians, between Cumberland and Confluence, Pennsylvania. This tunnel is 912 feet long and was built in 1912. The trail shares this tunnel with the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad. The trail continued on through the quite forests and mountain streams for another ten miles where its passes through the town of Frostburg, Maryland. This aptly named town was my first day’s destination. Tomorrow I would head sharply north, across the Mason Dixon Line and into Pennsylvania. Once I reached the Frostburg train station (milepost 16) I called for a cab in Cumberland to come and pick me up and take me back to Cumberland for the night.
The next day I hired the same cab to take me back to Frostburg station. At a little after 10:00 I set again. The trail continued its gentle climb and soon I reached the Borden Tunnel about three miles out of town.
I had completed the C and O section in late October and made plans to begin my hike of the AHT in late February of 2004. The weather was a little colder than I had hoped and there was still snow on the ground in a number of places at higher elevations but over all hiking conditions were good. I flew to Washington DC on 24th and rented a car and then drove to Cumberland where I bought my trail supplies.
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