Checking Out the Great Allegheny Passage (Frostburg to the Eastern Continental Divide)

The GAP, with a wind turbine in the background

The GAP, with a wind turbine in the background

A couple of years ago, Candee and I got away from biking a little bit.  She was training to walk the Camino de Santiago, and for purposes of this website, we opted for a more pedestrian form of recreation: one simply sees more on foot than on a bike.  These are among the reasons why I have never taken the time to check out the Great Allegheny Passage.  I was under the impression that it’s by-and-large a crowded bike path that simply isn’t a good place to take a hike.  Today’s round trip from Frostburg to the Eastern Continental Divide proved me wrong.

Borden Tunnel

Borden Tunnel (957′ in length)

Heading up the trail, the first point of interest is the Borden Tunnel.  Like Indigo, Stickpile, and Kessler, this tunnel was part of the old Western Maryland Railway and was abandoned in 1975.  However, Borden has been revamped due to being part of the GAP and doesn’t have the run-down appearance that we’re used to seeing in our neck of the woods.  The tunnel was completed in 1911 and was probably named after the Borden Mining Company.  Due to its diminutive length and broad opening (dual track width), it doesn’t require lighting.

Mason-Dixon monolith on the GAP

Mason-Dixon monolith on the GAP

A few miles up the trail from the tunnel, the GAP crosses the Mason-Dixon Line, and a tall granite marker sits on the right side of the trail.  Also, there is a row of granite blocks on the left that spell out “Mason & Dixon” in individual letters, and the boundary’s course is very clearly marked as it runs across the path.  The layout is elaborate and very well done, making it an obvious place to take a picture or a break.

"Mason & Dixon"

“Mason & Dixon”

As we continued up the GAP, the next feature was the Twin Ridges Wind Farm (Everpower).  The wind turbines are tall white structures with three long blades and are hardly the sort of thing Don Quixote would mistake for a dragon.  I have seen them from a distance and wondered how big of a turn-off they would be up close, but the wind farm actually blends into the scenery quite well and adds to (rather than detracts from) it in a unique way.

Capturing the wind

Capturing the wind

Over the lifetime of the project, the wind farm will pump an estimated $12 million in payments into the coffers of local townships and school districts.  An additional $5 million will be spent on local goods and services.  Also, Everpower created ten habitual structures for the endangered eastern small-footed bat, the same species being protected by the bat gate on the Indigo Tunnel just above the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal near mm’s 139 and 140.

Big Savage Tunnel, 3294'

Big Savage Tunnel, 3294′

As we pressed onward, we came to the impressive Big Savage Tunnel.  The tunnel’s walls are stuccoed, and the structure is very well lit.  Walking through it was vastly different from stumbling through the dark, damp Paw Paw Tunnel (on the C&O) which at 3118′ is nearly the same length.  Nevertheless, most of the Western Maryland Railway tunnels we’ve come across in the past are impassable for one reason or another, and it was a pleasure to actually walk through one of them.

Inside of the Big Savage Tunnel

Inside of the Big Savage Tunnel

All things “Savage” in this area are named after John Savage, a surveyor in this region in colonial times.  Interestingly enough, his survey team ran out of supplies and was near starvation, and he offered himself up to be eaten by the rest of the crew.  Fortunately, another group arrived with food before this tragic, macabre event occurred.

Eastern Continental Divide

Eastern Continental Divide

Our turning point for the day was a road overpass that marks the Eastern Continental Divide.  From this point east, the local streams make their way to the Chesapeake Bay, and to the west they head to the Gulf of Mexico.  The overpass contains murals celebrating the railroad, those who created the GAP, and the C&O Canal.  Naturally, our favorite was the C&O, which begins in Cumberland approximately twenty-four miles away as one heads east on the GAP.  In all, this was a great hike, and I may have to experience the Great Allegheny Passage on a bike someday.  It looks like a fantastic experience!

The lower right corner of the C&O Canal ural

The lower right corner of the C&O Canal mural

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Susan Dalla Betta on April 19, 2015 at 8:41 pm

    Enjoyed your blog about the GAP trail section from Frostburg to the Continental Divide. You may wonder how I discovered it. Yesterday we biked this section and were amazed at the beauty and historical markers. If one stopped biking, not a sound could be heard except for an occasional bird singing. After returning home, I “googled” that section of the GAP trail and found your blog. Thank you.

    As to your walk in Spain, I wonder how it went as I have heard negative comments about it. Some say there is much road noise and not at all what they had expected.



    • Posted by LevelWalker on April 20, 2015 at 12:50 pm

      We walked that part of the GAP during an up-and-back about this time last year. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

      I probably should let Candee do the commentary on the Camino de Santiago in Spain. She walked all 500 miles of it two years ago and describes it as a great experience. She met several people on the Camino that she still communicates with, and I understand that the scenery, food, wine, etc. were great. I think her biggest gripes were the heat and occasional less-than-stellar sleeping conditions.


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