Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Day 16: Coal Mining, Teepees and Drive-ins--oh my!

July 20: I rolled out of bed--or rather, my sleeping bag--ate breakfast, brushed my teeth, and Amanda drove me the mile or two back to the trail where I was back to hiking by 8:00 in the morning.

Bridge over the Youghiogheny River out of Ohiopyle.
A couple of hours later, I noticed one of the informational signs that mentioned coal was mined in the area--no surprise there!--but it said to take a look at the cliff next to the trail. The cliff was formed by the railroad that cut through the hillside, and there was a dark band clearly visible which was a seam of coal. Cool! I don't think I'd ever seen coal in its natural location like that, just sticking out of a rock before. And it was cool just seeing how the seam of coal ran through the cliff like that. I took pictures, then continued onward.

A short while later, I noticed another coal seam running through the cliff. This one was just a couple of feet off the ground and right next to the trail--easy to reach out and touch so I did just that. I kind of assumed my fingers would turn black touching the coal (that's what coal does, right?), but rubbing it against my fingers rather aggressively, it looked more like a small smudge. I knocked a tiny piece of it off so show Amanda later. Did this make me a coal miner? I wanted to try burning it--despite the fact that burning coal has a well-deserved reputation for being terrible for the environment--to see how well (or not) it burned, but that could wait for later. Basically, I was curious. Coal had always been one of those abstract thoughts to me. I'd never seen it so up-close and personal.

For the first time since I started this hike, today didn't get especially hot. It was still warm and maybe hit 80 degrees at its worst, but that was positively chilly compared to what I'd faced the last two weeks. Wonderful!

Late in the day, I reached the small town of Connellsville, which is the first place I reached on the GAP where hikers and bikers were allowed to camp for free. It was off on the edge of town where a few shelters--the wooden kind with three walls and a roof like regularly found on the Appalachian Trail--had been erected. It was a pleasant atmosphere, right near the river, but I didn't like it's proximity to civilization at all. There was even a giant grocery store just a five or ten minute walk away that I passed by on my hike towards the camp.

I wouldn't be camping here tonight, however. I still had Amanda around, and she had a rental car. I didn't know where we'd be sleeping tonight, but I wanted somewhere with wi-fi nearby to get some work done online.

I continued about four miles past the town where I was planning to meet Amanda at a road crossing near a KOA campground, and she was already there waiting for me when I arrived. And she wanted very much to stay at the KOA--mostly because they had teepees for rent. "I want to spend the night in a teepee!" she exclaimed. "They have wi-fi too!" She knows me well.... =)

In terms of convenience, it was--quite literally--right next to the trail, so we went into the office to inquire about the teepees which were running $60/night. Surely we could get a real hotel room for that price, but Amanda was really excited about the teepee and I wasn't entirely opposed to the idea of trying something new as well, so we booked ourselves into a teepee.

Which was... a teepee. No surprise there. The interior was freakishly hot--like a greenhouse that traps heat--but it included a fan which we turned on to circulate the air and get some of the air from outside to replace the air from inside.

Amanda also said that there was a drive-in theater near Connellsville and she was interested in going. Sure, why not? It was playing The Secret Life of Pets and Ghostbusters. We got into the car and drove back up to Connellsville. We stopped at Wendy's for a quick dinner then on to the drive-in and waited for sunset when the movies would start.

And that was that, the end of another day. We enjoyed the movies and drove back to our teepee for night.

Hey, look at that dark streak near the top of this cliff. It's a coal seam!

Of course, I had to grab a piece. I'm a coal miner now!

A rare sighting of a salamander! I can remember seeing these exactly twice in my entire life--and this is one of them!

Lots of trail construction going on.... I think they might have been working to pave this section of trail, but I could be wrong!

Still following the Youghiogheny River.

Never trust water that turns the ground red!

Entering Connellsville, I saw these wonderful painted tanks!

Some more bike art, this time in Connellsville.

Kids are swimming in the Youghiogheny River, near what looks like an old bridge support in the center of the river.

British Major General Edward Braddock camped here on the banks of the Youghiogheny River, June 28-30, 1755. His goal was to reach Fort Duquesne (Pittsburgh) and drive the French from the area. He was accompanied by colonial militia and volunteer aide-de-camp George Washington. On July 9, 1755, Braddock's army was defeated by the combined French and Indian forces about 9 miles from Fort Duquesne. Braddock was mortally wounded in the battle.

The Great Allegheny Passage doesn't have regular campsites along its length like the C&O Canal does, but there are about four different places with shelters where people are allowed to camp at no cost. On foot, it's largely impossible to legally camp the entire distance from Cumberland, MD, to Pittsburgh, PA. On a bike, it's more doable since long distances can be covered easier. But it's not a great location--located in civilization at the edge of Connellsville. There's a large supermarket just a few minutes walk away!

Amanda checks out our teepee for the night. =)

We spent the evening watching two movies at the Comet Drive-In near Connellsville. (This photo was taken before the movies started, waiting for it to get dark.)


Karolina said...

Ryan, your photos are great and I think you should invest in a more professional camera, so that the pictures that you show will look even better, more vivid, with more depth! I mean it!

Rebecca and Aaron said...

Hi Ryan,
Can you tell me what the graffiti on the trestle bridge says (pic 17)? It looks like "R. HOOP" at the end of the first line, but I can't read the rest. I'm just curious because I am R. Hoop!

Ryan said...

It says "FOUSE SAYER HOOP". Actually, that P might be a F--the writing isn't entirely clear. If it's a P, they didn't connect the loop in the P completely making it look kind of like an F.

Rebecca and Aaron said...

Thanks! Either way, it is still confusing. I'm just glad it doesn't say "For a good time call R. Hoop." ;)