Ohiopyle & the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP)
We have had a most excellent day today (Oct.12). And no car was involved from start to finish!
After our leisurely rise and breakfast (Jack and I finally cooked the bacon we’d brought along), Gloria and I conspired to create a picnic lunch that was carry-able in two small backpacks. At just before noon, we set off from the campsites to hike the connector trail from the campground to the Youghiogheny River Trail, one part of the larger, Great Allegheny Passage trail system that connects Pittsburg to Washington DC. Also called “The GAP,” it is a trail Jack and I have been on many times in the past, and part of it crosses the Eastern Divide, where the riverflow splits, with one side going to the Atlantic, and the other side going to the Mississippi/Gulf of Mexico.
The Youghiogheny River (The Yough, or “YACK”) is just beautiful here, and the small town of Ohiopyle is making great use of the natural beauty and outdoor sports opportunities for visitors.
Anyway, the connector trail is about 200 yards or so from our specific cul-de-sac, and it stretches about a quarter mile downhill along a loosely-graveled path to the Trail. From there, it’s no more than a mile to Ohiopyle proper, and we took lots of photos and were crowded by lots of bicyclers (who apparently don’t know about warning pedestrians of their approach from behind with a bell or a salutation . . . we were lucky no one hit us, honestly).
On the GAP, we crossed the Yack almost immediately, headed toward Ohiopyle/Washington DC.
The final span of the river (it takes a “U” turn right at Ohiopyle) is a pretty trestle bridge that brings you right into the Ohiopyle public park and busiest downtown area.
We sat down by the Yack (Youghiogheny is pronounced yak-ee-o-gain-ee, or yak-uh-gain-ee and Yack for short) to eat our lunch in the town park, near the waterfall. Then we wandered around a bit and found ourselves at the Visitor Center, which has lots of great interactive displays for adults and children alike. I got lots of ideas for Blue Ridge Heritage’s Cultural Education Center (an effort I’ve been involved with for nearly 15 years now).
After wandering through the town, which is not much more than a few restaurants, ice cream places, and bicycle/water sport outfitters, we headed back up the GAP to our connector trail and thence to the campground. While Ohiopyle (the town) was not nearly so frantically populated as when we drove in yesterday, there were nevertheless tons of folks about, taking in the sights, renting bikes for the trail, hiking, picnicking, or just taking photos.
Our campground, so filled with folks yesterday, is nearly empty today. We took advantage of the user deficit to take showers, and we got that long-delayed (it just got too late yesterday for us to start one) fire started at about 4PM.
This entire region is one we definitely need to spend a few weeks exploring. We picked up a booklet to help us plan, and I hope this will be something we do next year. Jack figures that, if we park Roomba more-or-less where it is now, we could take a ride to one end of the GAP carrying our gear for an overnight near Pittsburgh; next day ride back to Roomba for another sleep and a re-provisioning for the third day; a ride to the opposite end of the GAP, with tents, etc., and then return to Roomba again.
The hiking trails that are offshoots of the State Park here are intriguing to say the least. One we passed today that really piques our interest is called The Gorge Trail. Another is the Ferncliff Peninsula, formed in an elbow of the Yack below the Ohiopyle falls. I’d like to hike more of the trails next time we visit.
Here’s a little bit of history for those interested.
The combination of tumbling, falling water and plentiful forests led to the creation of Falls City in 1868. Water power ran the saw and grist mills as well as factories that tanned leather, made spokes for wagon wheels, barrels, chairs, and pulp for paper.
After Falls City became Ohiopyle in 1891, the Youghiogheny River drove turbines that supplied citizens with electricity.
The railroad first came to the town in 1871, connecting Falls City products to marketplaces elsewhere. But soon, passenger trails from Cumberland and Pittsburgh brought thousands of tourists to see the falls. The Ferncliff Hotel, Ohiopyle House, and Ranier Park offered forest trails, music & dancing, bowling, and even a carousel.
For some, the Ferncliff Peninsula, a “thumb” of land carved by a relatively sharp “U” in the Yack, was a summer destination looked forward to all year long (in the mid-to-late 1800s). Walkways, painted fences, flowerbeds, and an ornate gazebo greeted travelers as they stepped down from the passenger car pulled by the B&O Railroad, as it pulled into the Ferncliff depot. The forests and falls, fine food, and electrified guest rooms in the Ferncliff Hotel, music & dancing, fountains and venues for sports all combined to create an enchanting resort and escape from the city heat. At the peak of its popularity, Ferncliff charmed 10,000 – 20,000 sumer visitors into buying a $1 ticket for the 65-70 mile trip from Pittsburgh or Cumberland, MD to the beauties of Ferncliff.
In addition to the Ferncliff Hotel that stood on the peninsula, the Ohiopyle house was heated for year-round use. Near the hotel in Ranier Park, a steam calliope filled the river valley with music as children and adults alike rode the carousel for a nickel.