Saturday had another chilly forecast, but there was not much riding left until Point State Park in Pittsburgh, the endpoint of the GAP trail. After everything the days before, I considered these last sixteen miles or so the ceremonial final stage of the trip. But they still needed to be completed without incident, so I couldn’t let my guard down just yet.
I had a big breakfast and packed everything up for a descent down back to the trail on roads that were mostly empty on the weekend morning. I crossed over the tracks back onto the trail and noticed a coal train slowly rounding its way towards me. The gates at the crossing lowered and I watched the train approach and took a photo of the lead locomotive. Then I gave chase: why not be escorted into the city by a coal train?
I started to catch back up to the front of the train. There were a few bridges I had to take up and over the tracks back and forth, and sometimes the trail diverged up into the adjacent hills a bit. It also became clear that the train had very gradually picked up more speed than I could match, so I took the time to photograph it while perched atop the crossings or on the hills. One photo looks across at smoke rising over Braddock, PA. Another shows the sheer length of these coal trains: even with its higher speed and my slower pace, there were still dozens of cars stretching back towards the rising sun. To my left I passed the back of the Kennywood amusement park, steel and wooden coasters swooping about. I also passed a water park that, from my vantage point, seemed to consist mostly of hectares of parking lots. The trail went by a vast shopping center and some multistory housing, the trail serving as the backyard for people and their dogs.
At some point I was within the city limits, passing by the Steelers’ and Pitt’s football practice facilities before crossing over the Hot Metal Bridge. From there I headed downtown next to and underneath the highways along the river. I made it to the entrance of park, which juts out into the confluence of the Allegheny and the Monongahela Rivers where they form the Ohio.
I pedaled into the park and through an underpass. Several joggers and a few tourists this morning but mostly empty. Stairs led down to the point so I sought out a ramp off to the side and rolled to the tip of the point. It was below freezing but sunny and windless. The rivers spilled calmly, lake-like around the point. I’d made it.