Friday, December 23, 2016

Day 17: The Red Waterfall....

July 21: I got a particularly late start to the day's hiking today. Amanda and I hadn't gotten back from the drive-in movie theater until about 1:00 in the morning and because we were up so late, we woke up late.

Amanda seeing me off!
But I still planned to hike 22 miles today, so I couldn't linger all morning. I packed up my stroller outside of the teepee and walked over to the trail and started hiking. Amanda saw me off, but then went back to sleep--check out time wasn't until noon and she seemed happy about not having to drive me to the trail, instead using the extra time for sleep. =)

My goal for the day was the town of West Newton, which was largely uneventful. I passed numerous historical markers about the coal industry in the area, including an old coke oven where coal was turned into coke for the steel industry centered in Pittsburgh. A couple of plaques marked nearby locations of mining disasters including the Darr Mine disaster which killed 239 miners and the Port Royal Mine No. 2 disaster which initially killed 4 people, then later killed 16 rescuers trying to save the victims of the initial blast.

Lots of history in these mountains! Not always good stories, either....

After yesterday's relatively pleasant weather, I hoped for a repeat today, but the heat and humidity returned. *sigh* Throughout the day, temperatures continued to rise and probably peaked in the 90s. It was brutal. Later, Amanda would tell me that she went swimming in the pool at the KOA before check out time while I was melting away in the heat. She really seemed to enjoy rubbing it in too! *shaking head*

I reached West Newton, and Amanda was already there waiting for me, but after a quick break and a cold Coke, I decided to push on another 6 miles to Buena Vista for my longest day so far of 28 miles.

An old coke oven, used to turn coal into coke.
Along this section, the trail passed a beautiful, red waterfall. The water wasn't red, but the dirt around it was. Unfortunately, as colorful as the waterfall was, a nearby sign explained that it's not natural. It's due to pollution from--but of course--mining.

With my already late start in the morning, I didn't reach Buena Vista until about 7:30 in the evening. The sun was quickly setting and darkness was descending, and I raced to finish before it got too dark to take photos. It was a close thing, but I was done. Some of gun--28 miles? And I didn't even start until 9:30 in the morning? What had I been thinking?!

Oh, yes.... I remembered.... that would put me a mere 30 miles away from the end of the trail. If I got an early start tomorrow, I could--just maybe--finish the trail tomorrow. Awesome. =) I just finished my longest day so far on the trail, and tomorrow I might finish an even longer one. BUT--I would definitely start a lot earlier in the morning than I did today.

Amanda had to catch a flight at some ungodly hour like 5:00 am the next day, which meant that she'd have to dump me off on the trail at an even more ungodly hour like 2:00 am. Which I can't walk at because it's way too dark to take photos. So we figured the best option would be to just leave me on the side of the trail to set up camp and she could drive to the airport that evening.

Before leaving, however, we'd go out for dinner. Buena Vista isn't a big town so we drove in towards Pittsburgh where we ate dinner at Primanti Bros, a Pittsburgh institution--and Amanda didn't drop me off on the trail again until 10:30 at night.

In town, with my smartphone, I started surfing the web for lodging where I could stay in Pittsburgh tomorrow night. I should definitely take a shower and clean up before trying to catch a flight! I focused my searches on downtown Pittsburgh near where I'd finish the trail and by the airport where I'd be flying out from, but the sole hostel in Pittsburgh I found online appeared to be closed at this time and the prices of actual hotels downtown were prohibitively expensive. So I wound up making a reservation at a hotel near the airport. "Now I have to finish the hike tomorrow!" I said to Amanda.

I set up camp behind some bushes near the river. The campsite was almost certainly illegal, which was even more annoying for me because there was a perfectly legal campsite just a couple of miles down the trail--if I had been able to reach it, it would have been my first, free legal campsite on the entire GAP. But by 10:30 at night, it was already too dark. I wouldn't leave until morning.

And I hit the sack pretty much immediately. I knew that tomorrow was going to be a long, long day.... I needed the rest.

Inside the old coke oven.

Yep, still following that Youghiogheny River!

I have absolutely no idea what this bizarre little creature is! I've never seen anything like it!

One of the few legal, free places to camp along the GAP.

The water pumps on the C&O Canal are treated with iodine and tested weekly to make sure they're safe. The pumps on the GAP.... user beware! You're expected to treat the water at these pumps.

This section had a HUGE number of butterflies that were oddly slow and surprisingly easy to get photos of.

Whitsett is a typical "patch town" with "company houses." The Pittsburgh Coal Company provided houses, most built between 1900 and 1920, for its employees. While most of the buildings have been updated, the settings, the street plan and the design of the town and structures are intact and relatively well-preserved, and in 1995, Whitsett's Historic District was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

This pile of old tailings left a nice viewpoint of the river!

The plaque in this photo is a little hard to read, but it describes the Darr Mine disaster which took place near this location on December 19, 1907. An explosion ripped through the Darr Mine killing 239 miners—one of the worst mining disasters in the nation. This prompted the ban of open flame mine lamps.

Interstate 70, where it crosses the Youghiogheny River.

Another plaque that's hard to read in my photo, but it describes another mining disaster. This time, the Port Royal Mine No. 2 disaster that struck on June 10, 1901. "Near here were shafts for mines connected by three tunnels under the Youghiogheny River. Port Royal No. 2 was sealed off from its Fitz Henry counterpart, entombing John Peebler (killed along with 3 others) by an explosion of damp gas. A second explosion four hours later killed 16 rescuers, and research indicates that ten others may have died in addition to the 20 known fatalities."

There aren't very many places one can legally camp on the GAP, but for some bizarre reason, three of them are located less than a day's walk from each other. This is another one! (And the third one is about two miles past where I stopped for the day.)

Why are these vending machines in cages? So people don't steel them?!

A nearby post describes this exposed wall as the "Mailbox Formation."

West Newton Cemetery

The old West Newton Train Station

The Red Waterfall is pretty, isn't it? But the water here is acid and iron-rich, coming up to the surface from underground mines, staining the rocks rust-red. Acid mine drainage (AMD) is a major source of water pollution and the cause of extensive stream degradation and environmental damage. Coal mining exposes pyrite to oxygen and ground water causing the formation of sulfuric acid and a number of red, orange and yellow compounds. AMD occurs when this mine water seeps or bursts out into streams.

Buena Vista, PA


Anonymous said...

Were you able to open the flaps at the top of the teepee to regulate air flow? At least, that's how the plains tribes did it.

-di and her guy

Ryan said...

No, not really. The only way we had to regulate air flow was the fan they put inside.

-- Ryan