Anna, Colin, Elena and Kelsi recently headed out on a 150-mile bikepacking adventure from Cumberland, MD to Pittsburgh, PA following the historic Great Allegheny Passage Trail. This unforgettable adventure was one of many they've embarked on, as the Trailheads crew.
From Anna Clausen-Williams
I’ve always thought of myself as active, as a personal trainer. I live and breathe movement all day long, but I never thought of myself as “outdoorsy.” Having been raised in the Pacific Northwest, that prestigious title was reserved for experts in their fields, it was only until reaching a certain level of mastery that a person could go on all these adventures. "Outdoorsy" meant being a bearded rock climber, something I certainly was not. Trailheads has busted that myth wide open for me. I have planted my feet firmly in the outdoors and declared not only that I belong here, but dang does it fill my soul.
It’s been because of the support and bravery of my three Trailheads buddies, jumping into wild adventures, that I’ve felt empowered to push outside of my comfort zone outside. Trailheads has taught me that I don’t have to be an expert (but it helps to talk with one!) to have a dang great adventure. This past May my husband and I summitted Mount Rainier, a goal that before joining Trailheads would have truly felt unfathomable. That was a crazy thing “outdoorsy” people do, so there’s no way I could do that. But because of all the challenges, new activities, and wild rides we have conquered with Trailheads, suddenly Rainier became possible. Trailheads has helped completely redefine what is “possible” for me in the outdoors. It has brought me to gorgeous corners of this country I never would have visited, introduced me to activities I didn’t even know existed (hello bikepacking!), and reminded me of how being in nature makes me feel unbelievably alive.
From Colin McArthur
I think we say “awesome” too much. The adjective is attached to everything from jalapeño poppers to skateboard tricks. But when I tell people about riding a bicycle on the GAP Trail from Cumberland, MD to Pittsburgh, PA, I fall back on that old familiar, can't-miss description. The ride was awesome. However, unlike the melty-cheesy goodness of fried peppers or a gnarly kick-flip, when I call our trip “awesome,” I mean I was floored by the breathtaking scenery. I was astounded at what my body could do. I marveled at the staggering bigness of the outdoors.
But the most awesome part of the trip was sharing this experience with my friends. There were times when we wanted to quit, when we were on mile ten of an uphill climb in a driving rainstorm. But we didn’t quit, and at the top of the mountain, we stood on the Mason-Dixon Line—history and adventure spreading out before us like the rolling hills of Pennsylvania.
Adventuring with my friends has made all the difference in how I see the outdoors. It wasn’t just me out there, it was us, and it made each step of the journey that much sweeter. We stayed in morgues, raced trains, put our backsides through a week of hell, and all of it was, for lack of a better term, awesome.
So, when I go to eat that next gooey morsel of deep-fried goodness, or I see someone fling their bodies through the air atop a piece of quarter-inch plywood, I may think twice before I call it “awesome.” The word has taken on new meaning. I can't wait to use it again.
From Elena Flory-Barnes
Biking the Great Allegheny Passage was amazing. Having never been to that part of the country, it was such a wonderful experience to take in on bicycle from Cumberland, MD to Pittsburgh, PA. The trail and the surrounding areas are so rich in history and natural beauty, transitioning seamlessly from small town to rural areas to the city.
The trail’s beauty and intrigue kept me motivated and distracted from the physical challenge of biking a trail of such length. It is incredible what the mind and body are capable of. Biking the GAP trail was no easy feat for me. I am not an avid bicyclist so this was a big undertaking. And there is no way I could have done the Great Allegheny Passage all on my own. I had a little help from Colin, Kelsi and Anna.
One of the most enjoyable parts of doing the GAP trail was doing it with three of my dearest friends. We pedaled our way in pouring rain, misty fog and sunshine. Together we biked through tunnels and over bridges. We crossed the Mason/Dixson line and raced the train. Some of our best moments together were just off the trail. When it was time to rest up and refuel the towns off the trail had everything we needed to do so—not to mention additional adventures! Roller coasters and I aren’t friends but Colin, Kelsi, Anna and I are, and I will pretty much do anything with them. That is why I found myself on a roller coaster at Kennywood Park in West Mifflin, PA. There was also the day that Anna, Kelsi and I took on the rapids of the Youghiogheny River from Ohiopyle, PA. Whitewater rafting with my girls was an exhilarating experience that left us soaked and feeling triumphant.
The Great Allegheny Passage is more than just a bike trail. It brought my friends and I together for yet another adventure, exploring parts of the country we’d never been to before, physically challenging us and bringing us closer together.
From Kelsi Umeko
The Great Allegheny Passage was one for the books!
What an amazing experience. I had never explored the East Coast, but it had always been on my bucket list of to-dos, and it did not disappoint. I think bikepacking through the small towns along the GAP trail was the best way to experience the East Coast. All the little towns made for fun little side adventures along the way (and a great place to give our bums a rest)!
Getting to meet all the locals was definitely a highlight for me. Everyone was so nice and so helpful, with all their fun facts that only locals know. One fun side adventure that I’ll never forget is when Anna, Elena, and I took a girls whitewater rafting trip. It was so awesome to be on the river that we had been biking along the entire trip. It was full of all the emotions. Because of the danger that is involved with the rapids that we were going through, there were a lot of nerves, which were followed by cheers of victory as we overcame those rapids! We drank (the river), we laughed, we screamed, Elena burped, we cried! It was our first all-girls trip and it was empowering to all be together, beast-moding through the Youghiogheny River. (Dare you to try to pronounce that).
It’s been so fun to reflect on all the fun Trailheads adventures that we’ve gone on together. Our friendships have all deeply grown throughout the years. We have each said "yes" to an adventure that felt a little out of our comfort zone, heck, a lot out of our comfort zone. But one thing is constant. We all have been there encouraging each other to try new things, not give up and freaking celebrate your heart out when you complete the adventure! It’s the most exhilarating feeling when you push yourself past your comfort zone and see how much you can accomplish.
I am so looking forward to more Trailheads adventures with this amazing group of friends, who now feel like family.
Who’s feeling a Thailand kayaking trip next?!? Because I definitely am!