10 Cool Things to Know About the Pennsylvania Rail-Trail Sojourn

Posted 03/04/15 by Amy Kapp in Building Trails, America's Trails

Last day of the 2014 Pennsylvania Rail-Trail Sojourn | Photo by Katie Harris

RTC’s 2015 Pennsylvania Rail-Trail Sojourn will be an unforgettable 200-mile bike trip along the Montour Trail and Great Allegheny Passage (GAP).

From awesome architecture, to ice cream, to some of the most famous events in American history, there’s a ton of experiences to note—and to have—along the route.

Here are just 10...

Portrait of George Washington, 1797 | Painted by Gilbert Stuart Williamstown

1You’ll ride in the footsteps (literally) of one of America’s greatest founding fathers.

According to “An Uncommon Passage: Traveling through History on the Great Allegheny Passage Trail” by Edward K. Muller and Paul g. Wiegman…during the Seven Years’ War, a 22-year-old George Washington, then lieutenant colonel/deputy commander of England’s Virginia Regiment, helped clear what became known as Braddock’s Road—a route over difficult terrain connecting Fort Cumberland in Maryland to the Ohio River in present-day Pittsburgh, Pa. (to attempt to defeat the French at Fort Duquesne). This road now makes up a portion of the GAP. 

2You'll get to use a portable shower truck.

Each night, RTC brings in a portable shower truck where you can refresh after a long day’s ride. This is cool mainly because many of us have never used a portable shower truck before. (Or have you?) NOTE: Bring flip flops.

Falling Water | Photo courtesy x-ray delta one | CC by 2.0


This magnificent homestead in Mill Run, Pa., is a “site” to see. Completed in 1939 by America’s most famous architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, for the Kaufmann family (of department store fame), this National Historic Landmark stretches out over a 30-foot waterfall.

4You’ll cross two hugely important boundary lines.

The first is the Mason-Dixon Line—surveyed by Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon between 1763 and 1767. In addition to settling a long-standing Pennsylvania vs. Maryland colonial boundary dispute, the line represented freedom for tens of thousands of people escaping slavery in the south in the first half of the 1800s.

The second is the Eastern Continental Divide (ECD) (which began forming hundreds of millions of years ago), a ridge line that runs from Pennsylvania to Florida and demarcates the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Seaboard watersheds of the Atlantic Ocean. In the 1700s, the ECD also represented the boundary between British and French colonial possessions.

2014 sojourn ice cream break | Photo by Cleo Fogal

5You’ll eat lots of treats. Like ice cream.

Of course, nobody’s going to force you. But if you like to eat ice cream and/or many other similar treats…there are numerous opportunities to do so on the sojourn. (RTC’s Katie Harris, who went on the 2014 sojourn, says she had ice cream an estimated five times, maybe six, FYI.)

6A train ride is involved.

How cool is this: You can (optionally) take in the first part of the sojourn (Cumberland to Frostburg) by steam train—via the restored Western Maryland Railway Station, the last remaining building linked to Cumberland’s railroad heyday.

7The GAP runs past the sites of two of America’s most notorious labor battles.

These are: 1) the “Battle of Buena Vista,” a bloody gun battle between striking coal miners and imported strikebreakers of the Armstrong Coal Works, which occurred in Elizabeth Township, Pa., on Nov. 29, 1874; and 2) the infamous incident during the Homestead Strike of 1892, in which thousands of striking steelworkers (plus families, supporters, etc.) from the Carnegie Steel Co. confronted 300 Pinkerton guards at the now “Historic Pump House.” (This year's sojourn will pass by the first site!)

2014 sojourn whitewater rafting excursion | Photo by Cleo Fogal

8There will be rafting (and also relaxing).

Day 3 of the sojourn is a layover day in Dunbar, and as part of the fun, you can choose between a whitewater rafting trip on the Lower Youghiogheny River (minimum age 12) or a canoe float down the Bottom Yough from Dawson to Layton. But if you prefer, you can also just relax in Dunbar or explore Connellsville, too! The choice is yours. 

9There are some pretty awesome tunnels and bridges.

Along the GAP you’ll find the 3,294.6-foot-long Big Savage Tunnel; the 101-foot-high Salisbury Viaduct; the Pinkerton High Bridge over the Casselman River; and the Tree Tunnels (they’re literally interlocking tree branches) between Confluence and Ohiopyle. And then there’s the Montour Trail with the Greer Tunnel, Chartiers Creek High Bridge (beautiful vistas), the 500-foot Enlow Tunnel, the curved (lighted) National Tunnel and the 1,000-foot-long McDonald Viaduct. And those are just the highlights.

2014 Pennsylvania sojourn | Photo by Cleo Fogal

10You’re basically going on the coolest all-ages summer camp ever.

Imagine 300 people of all ages and abilities—who love trails—converging for six days, biking and seeing the sites, doing fun activities, eating meals together, helping one another, enjoying each other’s comradery in the evenings, cooking s’mores on a fire…and then camping out under the stars.

That’s the sojourn.

comments powered by Disqus