Great Allegheny Passage, Day 4 (Meyersdale to Cumberland)

On May 3, 2015 · 2 Comments

The final day, like the end of all great adventures, was bittersweet. Nobody wanted to stop and yet we all had our lives to get back to and our responsibilities awaiting us that needed attention the next day. Most of the day’s ride would fly noticeably downhill. All of the gradual elevation we’d earned over many strenuous hours would come back to us in a 23-mile joyride into Cumberland. All we had to do was reach the final crest a few miles farther down the path. Mother Nature envisioned one more little trick. Prevailing winds cranked up to a sustained 20 mph with gusts even higher, and blew from the opposite direction than usual. Heading out of Meyersdale going uphill with a strong headwind after riding so many miles seemed unusually cruel.

Eastern Continental Divide



Which Way Will the Water Flow?

A little wind couldn’t stop us though. It felt like conditions that I’d biked through all winter long so I pushed forward to the highest point along the trail, the Eastern Continental Divide (map), and waited for my companions. Loyal followers of Twelve Mile Circle will understand my excitement. This was a genuine geo-oddity of some significance. Water poured directly atop the divide would roll either towards the Gulf of Mexico or towards the Atlantic Ocean; two very different locations determined solely by the simple fate of how it teetered along a razor-thin line. I sacrificed a small stream to the Geography Gods from my water bottle and wondered about the journey it would take. Actually it probably evaporated on the spot although I didn’t want to spoil my little fantasy moment.

The keepers of the GAP Trail obviously understood the importance of the Divide too. The small tunnel at this pivotal spot included an elevation map (photo) as well as several murals outlining the history of the area and the trail.

Now the well-deserved downhill sprint could begin.


Big Savage Tunnel



Big Savage Tunnel

Remember my long list of worries during the planning? The Big Savage Tunnel (map) was right near the top. I didn’t have a fear of tunnels even though this one was particularly long, and the longest on the trail at 3,300 feet (one kilometre). Rather I feared it might be closed. There wouldn’t be an easy detour if its imposing steel doors were padlocked.

Its restoration took two years and $12 million so the Allegheny Trail Alliance wasn’t in any hurry to go through the trouble again. They closed the tunnel every winter to prevent ice damage. The tunnel would open again in early April or "sometime" in April or definitely before May, according to various websites I consulted. We’d had a particularly cold winter and I figured it might delay the schedule. I watched the trail alerts anxiously until I saw an announcement saying it had opened for the season on April 3, 2015; two weeks before we would need it. I could relax.

The tunnel was in great shape, well lighted and a smooth ride.


Mason & Dixon Line



Mason & Dixon Line

Another fascinating geographic division appeared just after we passed the landmark tunnel, the renowned Mason & Dixon Line (map). Twelve Mile Circle readers should be well acquainted with the line so I won’t go into great detail (e.g., surveyed by Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon circa 1763-1767, the traditional dividing line between north and south in the United States, the state boundary between Pennsylvania and Maryland). For me, it provided a great opportunity to take a bunch of photographs of our bicycles in two states at the same time. Shouldn’t bikes get a little geo-oddity love too?


Mishap



Twisted Chain

It was bound to occur. Oddly the first and only bit of misfortune during our entire trip happened a mere fourteen miles from our goal. One of our group ran over a twig at the exact same time as a gear shift. A twig hitting at that vulnerable point must have acted as a lever, twisting the chain and locking the pedals. Even so we were lucky in adversity. This happened right before the Frostburg trailhead. We walked our bikes into town, had lunch, and made arrangements for a bicycle shop in nearby Cumberland to pick up the bike for repair while dropping-off a rental for the remaining few miles. We lost very little time, thankful that it hadn’t happened on an earlier day several miles from the nearest town.


Finishing the GAP


Cumberland, Maryland
Mile 0 in Cumberland, Maryland

On the Maryland side, the trail followed active tracks of the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad. Active, yes, although not very frequent. The WMSR was a weekend excursion line operating only during the warmer months. I would have been overjoyed to see a vintage steam engine chugging up the mountain directly next to the bike trail. I’m not sure I’d have felt the same way if I’d been in the Brush Tunnel at the time — bikes and trains share the same tunnel (photo) — although seeing an antique train in general would have been nice. Unfortunately the first train of the season wouldn’t run for another couple of weeks.

I pedaled past the town of Mount Savage (photo) which I mentioned in an earlier article, Savages. It was pretty enough sitting way down in the valley although we were on a mission at that point, nearly finished and I kept going. One last attraction did entice us to stop, the Bone Cave only four miles from our destination. Workers constructing a railroad cut stumbled upon the cave in 1912. They found fossilized bones from Pleistocene-era animals dating back 200,000 years. Fossils included cave bears, saber-toothed tigers, mastodons and wolverines, some forty different species according to a marker placed at the entrance.

Finally the surface turned from gravel to asphalt, an oddly quiet situation after riding on rougher road for most of the last four days. People began to appear on the trail in abundance for the first time; walkers, joggers and recreational bikers. This offered another tantalizing clue that civilization couldn’t be too far ahead. Cumberland appeared on the horizon and we rolled into town for our final mile. The trail ended at Canal Place, back where we’d caught our shuttle four days earlier. The countdown to Mile 0 finally ended. We offered congratulations to each other, took plenty of photos as evidence and headed towards our cars. Two hours later I was back home, still feeling great and wondering when I might be able to do something like that again.


The Great Allegheny Passage articles:

Savages

On March 25, 2015 · 2 Comments

I continue to make progress with the logistics supporting my recently-revealed 2015 Travel Plans. First on the docket will be a 150 mile (240 kilometre) bicycle adventure on the Great Allegheny Passage trail between Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Cumberland, Maryland. I’ve been scoping the route and noticed a peculiarly-named town on the Maryland side of the border, Mount Savage (map). It seemed as if it would have fit within the theme of an earlier 12MC article from 2012, "Carnage, Slaughter and Mayhem." Too bad I didn’t discover the town until now.


Mount Savage
Mount Savage by Joseph, on Flickr (cc)

Hopefully in a few short weeks, and assuming all goes well, I will be able to substitute my own photograph for the one I borrowed above. I figured Mount Savage must have been named for someone with the not completely uncommon Savage surname. Did the surname have its roots in people who were wild, primitive, barbaric or possessing other seemingly impolite behaviors? Well yes, and no, and sort-of.

In the British Isles, Savage appeared to trace from the Latin silva (forest) then to Old French then to Middle English. Source material was scarce although a cluster of consensus implied that the word meant something similar to courageous and unconquerable during the Sixteenth Century and would have been a compliment. It shifted to its current uncouth definition later.

In Eastern Europe, Savitch and variations existed independently and were frequently associated with Jewish populations. Savitch often became Savage when immigrants bearing the name settled in the United States. The etymology was even more obscure. It may have derived from the Sava River (map), a tributary of the Danube flowing through current Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Serbia. Alternately, it may have derived from the first-name Sava, possibly a Slavic form of Saul. No source seemed definitive.

Mount Savage was named for "a land surveyor, Thomas Savage, who happened to be traveling through the area in 1736." There was an even larger town elsewhere in Maryland called simply Savage (map). Its name derived from "John Savage Williams, a Philadelphia merchant with interest in a mill on the falls of the Little Patuxent." Both of these Savage surname usages appeared to tie back to the British Isles derivation as did other examples I discovered.


Neen Savage, Shropshire, England


Ford
Ford at Neen Savage by Ollie Brown, on Flickr (cc)

I expected to find at least one Savage in the United Kingdom given the surname’s ancient pedigree. Neen Savage in Shropshire came to the forefront as the leading example (map). I teased its history from an old book, Shropshire: Its Early History and Antiquities (1864)

Neen Savage. The Celtic nene signifies a river and the word nan a brook is said to be a remnant of a primitive language. Certain it is that two of the Shropshire Neens are intersected by a stream. Neen Savage is the subject of the following entry in Domesday Book: — "The same Ralph holds Nene, and Ingelrann [holds] of him. Huni held it [in Saxon times] and was free"… Neen and Neen Savage were held by two several feoffees of Ralph de Mortemer who himself held of the king. The family of Le Savage descended from the Domesday Ingelrann hence the latter place acquired the name Neen Savage its present title.

It seemed appropriate to select an image of the ford over the body of water that inspired the Nene of Nene Savage for this part of the article.

I also learned a new word, feoffee ("a trustee who holds a fief (or ‘fee), that is to say an estate in land, for the use of a beneficial owner.") I don’t imagine I’ll get to use that one much in casual conversation.


Savage River, Tasmania, Australia.


Untitled
Savage River by caspar s, on Flickr (cc)

Savage River (map) defined a body of water, a town and a national park in Tasmania. Of the name, "Although it is tempting to think that ‘savage’ was a description of the river, it is equally likely that the river was named after Job Savage, a storeman at the Pieman River sometime before 1881."

I was actually more fascinated by legends of the aforementioned Pieman River (map). Rumor had it,

The Pieman River gained its name from the notorious convict Alexander ‘The Pieman’ Pearce who was responsible for one of the few recorded instances of cannibalism in Australia. In a bizarre footnote to the history of the region Pearce and seven other convicts attempted to cross the island to Hobart where they hoped they could catch a merchant ship and escape to some ill-defined freedom. They lost their way and in the ensuing weeks all of the escapees disappeared except for Pearce. When he was recaptured unproven accusations of cannibalism were made against him. The following year Pearce escaped again accompanied by another convict, Thomas Cox. Once again Pearce found himself without food and, to solve the problem, he killed and ate Cox.

That was amazing stuff. In a land known for its characters the Pieman took the, um, cake. He was even more extreme than Captain Thunderbolt. Too bad the Pieman River wasn’t actually named for him. Never let facts get in the way of a good story.

Alexander "The Pieman" Pearce really was executed for cannibalism though.


Other Travel Plans

Some travel plans go well. Others change. The Thousand Islands trip is off. Apparently we waited too long to start looking for places to stay so maybe we’ll try that again next year although search a little earlier. Instead we will travel to Asheville, North Carolina (something may have piqued my interest there). Does anyone have any Asheville suggestions?

Cumberland

On February 1, 2015 · 3 Comments

People have expressed a couple of distinct thoughts as I’ve discussed my upcoming bike trip along the Great Allegheny Passage. The immediate reaction was that I must be crazy and then I’d explain that I’m not intending to ride it all in a single day. The second was confusion about its endpoint in Cumberland. There are multiple Cumberlands and the one in Maryland (map) may or may not be as familiar to some people as, for example, the Cumberland Gap which is several hundred miles farther away near the KYTNVA Tripoint. I agree, my ride would seem a bit more extreme if I were heading towards that more distant Cumberland.

The discussion brought up an interesting point in the process. Why where there two places named Cumberland? Actually, let’s make that more than two. I was also familiar with Cumberland County in Maine, the home of its largest city, Portland. That made at least three well-known locations plus numerous lesser-known spots all named Cumberland (GNIS listed 26). They were spread over hundreds of miles along the eastern edge of the United States. Was there a connection? Why yes of course, thank you for asking.


Prince William, Duke of Cumberland


Cumberland Falls
Cumberland Falls (my own photo)

I didn’t check every single Cumberland although all of the ones I did examine traced back to Prince William, Duke of Cumberland (1721-1765) as their namesake. He was the third son of George II, King of Great Britain. Cumberland, Maryland began as Fort Cumberland on the extreme edge of British settlement in 1755. The Cumberland Gap, along that same wilderness line albeit considerably farther south, was named for the nearby Cumberland River which in turn was named for the Duke of Cumberland in 1750. One will find a nice string of Cumberlands all along the old colonial frontier — the part of British territory actively being settled and named in the middle of the 18th Century — all honoring the Duke of Cumberland.


Battle of Culloden


View of Culloden Battlefield on Culloden Moor, Scotland
View of Culloden Battlefield on Culloden Moor, Scotland
by Danie van der Merwe, on Flickr (cc)

There were plenty of members of the British royal family with places named for them during North America’s colonial era, although not every figure received equal treatment. Sure there might have been a town or county here-and-there named as a birthright for the nobility who never ascended the throne. However one should be impressed by the sheer volume of Cumberland’s fingerprints. The preponderance traced back to a single event, the Battle of Culloden in 1746.

Britain had been in political and religious upheaval for several decades by that point. Without getting into too many details, the exiled House of Stewart was attempting to wrestle control of the throne from the House of Hanover in a series of Jacobite Risings. The final rising began in 1745 ("the Forty-five"). Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie) sailed to Scotland, rallied Highlanders and marched south. British troops pushed them back towards Inverness, onto the moor of Culloden (map). The Duke of Cumberland commanded British forces during this decisive battle and defeated the Jacobite army. This crushed the Stewart’s attempts to overthrow the Hanoverian dynasty and regain the crown.

This also began a great flurry of naming things for the Duke of Cumberland in the colonies. He was hailed widely as a hero for his military victory that preserved the House of Hanover and it reflected in geography. History was less kind to him. He came to be known as the "Butcher" because of his brutal repression of the Jacobite movement subsequent to the battle and his assault on Scottish culture and traditions in general.

Very few places would have been named for the Duke of Cumberland without the battle. He would have counted Prince William County in Virginia as his legacy, established when he was ten years old, and maybe that would have been about it. His geographic impact on North America might have matched a lot of other British noblemen of the era, which would have been minor.


What of this Cumberland?


Carlisle Castle
Carlisle Castle by Andrew Bowden, on Flickr (cc)

The principal source of the Cumberland name in North America had been solved. However that still left me wondering about the underpinning of the Duke’s name. Land of Cumbra? For that piece of the puzzle I turned to sources such as the Online Etymology Dictionary and an old book published about a century ago, The Place-names of England and Wales. Cumberland, of course, was an historic county in northwest England in the vicinity of Carlisle. That area is now part of Cumbria (map). Cumberland and Cumbria shared a common root with Cymry, the people of Wales. Thus, Cumberland referred to the land of the Welsh. This area was once part of a Brythonic kingdom up until the 10th Century. The name remained afterwards as a reminder of the people who ruled the territory in ancient times.

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12 Mile Circle:
An Appreciation of Unusual Places
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