When we last talked, the three of us had decided to leave the AT and start a new adventure on the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) trail. (You can read more about the reasons here). My really amazing & accommodating brother dropped us off in Pittsburgh, PA and after furiously googling everything we could on our new trail, we set off to hike it.
The GAP trail is a "rails to trails" path that is primarily used for biking, but hiking and jogging are common too. It's really flat and is mostly made of crushed limestone, but parts are paved too. It weaves through towns that are teeny tiny and some that are larger too. You travel along water almost the entire way, but from what we saw, not a ton of access to it. The GAP trail runs from Pittsburgh, PA to Cumberland, MD where it connects with the C&O trail, which is very similar. The C&O takes you from Cumberland all the way to Washington D.C.
Day 1 on the trail was a rough one. Most of the trail has tree cover and is peppered with views of the water or trees. The initial stretch out of Pittsburgh though... that part is a bit different. Looking back on it we should have realized that the trail wouldn't be green and woods-like in such a big city, but we didn't think it would be so urban. There was ZERO tree cover and the trail was entirely paved in the beginning. Not a big deal if you're biking, but when you're walking it's pretty rough. We were sweating and really struggling to stay hydrated and comfortable. By the time we finally made it to McKeesport, one of the first towns out of Pittsburgh, we were spent.
While we were in the hotel, we did more research and found where the trail picked up tree cover and resembled more of a trail rather than a city park. So we packed up and skipped ahead about 10 miles to give it another go. From this point on, we were back to our normal selves and hiking was fun again. The trail is very different from what we were used to and it was strange not being able to camp anywhere we wanted, but it was all part of the adventure.
My only "complaint" really is that the flat ground took a toll on my feet. You would think walking a flat surface would be easier than climbing the mountains on the AT, but it's not. At least on the AT your feet are constantly adjusting to roots, rocks and anything else in the path. But on a flat trail your feet do one consistent motion repeatedly which really puts a strain on one or two key pressure points. Last fall I stress-fractured my foot while running on a trail really similar to this one and I could feel that exact same injury coming back again.
We are both taking some time to readjust to living in a city again and spend time with my brother, who is putting us up until our condo is ready. We found a great dog park for Rooney, Serial found pick-up soccer and basketball games and I've been jogging the city streets. We soaked up the farmers market, spent time with my parents, celebrated birthdays and relaxed as a family. We met babies that were born while we were gone (3 of my good friends had children this summer! cuteness overload!!) and caught up with friends. In short, we've had a good couple of days!
We still have SO many people to see and catch up with. And plenty to do once our condo is ready for us to move into. Oh, and there's that silly little task of getting jobs :-) But for now, we're taking it one day at a time and enjoying everything we can.