Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Camping on the Passage

My weekend ride and recent news has led me to again think about camping along the Great Allegheny Passage and how there needs to be more opportunities.

Dan Onorato is making a push for completing the trail to Pittsburgh in 2008. Even so, there is likely to be zero campsites for the northern 29 miles of the trail. Bikers won't have a problem covering that distance but anyone hiking will either need to find a hotel or have a long day.

>From the camp at Dravo Cemetery to the Cedar Creek Trekker Campground is 13 miles. That's a more typical hiking day. It's then 10 miles to Round Bottom and then 10 miles to what will be called the Stewart's Crossing Campground at Connellsville. The question I have is will this be a free camp or will you have to pay for the privilege to pitch a tent? Since this is being developed by the Connellsville Redevelopment Authority, the Connellsville Historical Society, the Cultural Trust Foundation, the Yough River Trail Council (YRTC) and the Regional Trail Corporation (RTC) I'm thinking it will be free (although one is likely to have to pay something for the privilege of sleeping inside the caboose being moved to the site).

It's another 17 miles to the Kentuck Campground at Ohiopyle. Camping is free but Reservations are required. Another 10 miles to the Youghiogheny Dam Outflow where there is a $3 to camp in the hiker/bike area.

And here's where it starts getting unpleasant again. The Husky Haven Campground at Rockwood is due to open up 19 miles away. The cost for camping is due to be $15.00 per night per campsite plus $5.00 per person. Then, its going to be 28 miles to Frostburg where the Trail Inn is developing a campground. No idea on what pitching a tent there may cost.

Finally, Frostburg to Cumberland is 15 miles and then another 4 miles to the first hiker/biker site on the C&O Canal. (Which is really noisy, as is the second campsite. Going to the North Branch camp adds nearly 10 miles out of Cumberland.) Once on the C&O there are some 34 campsite for 184 miles. That an average of one camp every 5.4 miles.

The way I see it, The Allegheny Highlands Trail between Cumberland and Confluence is unfriendly to hikers especially. There are long distances between places to camp and the places that do exist are going to charge you to pitch your tent.

I know there's a lot of talk about trail town development and I'm all for supporting communities along the trail. But personally, when I'm hiking, biking or camping, I don't want to stay in a Bed & Breakfast. Part of my idea of being outdoors is that nature is a cheap date. I don't feel bad throwing $3 at DCNR to pitch a tent at Confluence and support the cause but $20 straight into the pockets of the guys at Husky Haven seems a bit steep to rent a patch of grass for the night. I think the AHT needs more free campsites. And the trail especially needs a campsite in that long stretch between Rockwood and Frostburg. It would not surprise me to see hikers setting up pirate camps in some empty patch beside the trail somewhere between Sand Patch and Deal.

For myself, I'll continue riding the entire AHT trail in one day and
camping once I get down on the C&O.

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