Ohiopyle State Park, PA

We arrived before check-in time on Sunday, August 2, at Ohiopyle State Park’s Kentuck Campground, so we got permission to head to the dump/water stations and empty/fill while we waited.

In the past, Ohiopyle—the village in the middle of the state park—along the Youghioigheny River (pronounced yak-a-GAIN-ee and called The Yack for short) and the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) Rail-Trail, has been a favorite among our stops. We had never until this trip, however, been there in the “high” (read “swimming”) season. You can check out two of our prior visits, one without bicycles during 2015 here; and details of riding the Ohiopyle segment of the entire GAP on a wonderful ride during 2018 here.

The “Yack”

For the curious among you, here’s a short shot of history about Ohiopyle: 

Once called Falls City, this town’s economy has always been driven y the power of water. The name Ohiopyle is derived from the Native American word, “ohiopehhla,” which means white, frothy water. Once considered for the route of the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal, the Youghiogheny River here was clearly not suitable for navigation by barge.

The rural economy grew when the B&O RR came through in 1871 and later the Western Maryland, whose corridor is now the GAP trail. Ohiopyle thrived as a popular summer resort until the early 1900s, with thousands coming by rail from Cumberland and Pittsburgh.

Early industries depended on the force of water to drive machinery—now tourism based on whitewater rafting and other outdoor recreation drives the economy. 

The entire Ohiopyle State Park is quite vast and includes multitudes of hiking trails, including steep grades, gorges, and cliff faces, all over the place. Not only hiking but also horse trails, snowmobile trails, rock climbing opportunities, special natural areas, and birdwatching and photography sites are included.

Ohiopyle State Park

Along with the venerable GAP (starting in Pittsburgh and going all the way to Cumberland, MD) two of Frank Lloyd Wright’s famous constructions are nearby: Kentuck Knob and Fallingwater. Closings were strange for the two properties in the Time of Plague, but in the past, the tours were both worth the money. This time, John and Mary were able to tour Kentuck Knob’s outdoor sculpture gardens, but not the house’s interior.

But I get ahead of myself.

En route, Jack and I noted a slight issue with the wireless brake connection from the car to the trailer. Well, it was more than a “slight” issue—there was no connection between the trailer’s brakes and the car’s. Normally the controller is able to proportionally brake the trailer in tandem with the car’s braking pressure/strength and help ease the load on the car brakes.

So we took it slowly and carefully until we could figure out what the issue was (having fiddled and plugged/unplugged everything we could think of when we stopped to try to find the trouble ourselves).

As we were parked at the potable water station (one of the bath houses) John and Mary pulled up, also too early to set up, so we all stayed near the entry gate per instructions, and chatted. In addition to John and Mary, their dog Riley was a welcome sight and he was happy to receive our scratches and pats—possibly a bit over-enthusiastically on our part, since we’d been dogless for so long. 

J & M had the farthest to travel, so we’d earlier promised them a hot dinner on arrival night—a chicken pot pie cooked in the Dutch oven. After basic set-up, I got to work on what I’d started the day prior (chopping and sautéing veggies) so we would be able to eat before 9pm.

The two sites we reserved (electric only—225 & 226) were off to themselves, quite near two bath houses—the one at which we filled up our water, plus one serving the Ivy and Juniper loops.

Having arrived on a Sunday, we were hopeful that most campers would have left for the week. But an enormous group (from their dress it was obvious they were a religious group) easily took over both bath houses when it was shower time. Not a one of them of any age wore masks, and it was impossible to use the facilities when the gang was all there. Happily, they had an outdoor hymn-singing Sunday night, and most were gone by noon on Monday.

After our delicious dinner (even if I do say so myself) we enjoyed an International Space Station pass over our heads Sunday night. It was a great day (except for having to share space with such a large no-mask contingent).

Monday, August 3: There must be a Cooper’s hawk nest or roost near our sites. I heard one of them moving through the woods overhead, and then watched as it and another gained lots of height to soar off into the distance. Monday mornings have been our health-check times, but we were unable to get the pulse oximeter to work—it just would not recognize that our fingers were actually in place. But we took our temps anyway, which were both normal for us.

Later, we heard from a nurse that the sensors get filmed over, and need a wipe with rubbing alcohol now and then—we did that the following Monday, and it worked again (yay).

It was a morning for everyone to manage chores: Jack worked on the electrics for the brake controller; John sought 2PM tickets to the sculpture gardens at Kentuck Knob; Mary had a friend’s logo project to work on; and I got the bikes off the rack, pumped tires, and lubricated chains. After that, I took a short tootle through all the loops of the campground, putting about 3 miles on the odometer.

It was another beautiful day, with morning temps around 75. Jack finally re-paired (repaired) the wireless brake controller. He could tell there was a connection, but we waited until departure to calibrate it again, once the trailer was re-hitched.

Jack and I drove the bikes to town to ride the Ohiopyle to Confluence leg of the GAP (while J & M went to Kentuck Knob) and we found the village to be absolutely mobbed with “waterbabies,” as I’ve come to call those people who disregard The Time of Plague in favor of pretending this summer is just like all others before, and they can swim, raft, eat ice cream, shop, and party like it’s 2019. The photo below of “waterbabies” doesn’t depict the gobbets of people along the shores above and below the bridge from which the shot was taken (nor the # of people I had to avoid on the bridge to take the shot).

It was an extremely rare sight to catch a mask on anyone’s face. Piles of people were picnicking and visiting along the shores of the river, standing in lines to get into a pub or to buy a summer treat; swimming in the river, or on a float trip or raft trip with 12 other people; and gathering in large clusters, without masks or social distancing, everywhere we looked.

We rolled our bikes through these crowds (wearing our masks) to get to the trail, and hared it out of the “stupid zone” along the more distant reaches of the GAP. Once we were free of the mob, it was a fantastic ride. 

Unfortunately, I bumped the “off” button on the Cyclemeter app and missed calculating/recording the entire first 10.5 miles of our 21 mile ride. The good (interesting) part of this omission/accident is that the outbound half was upriver (ascending) and the return ride was downhill (descending). So I managed the highest average MPH I’ve ever ridden for the final 10.5 downhill miles @ 15MPH. Jack, who got both directions, logged a nearly 14MPH average, which is still a great spin speed. So I’ve adjusted my record to reflect his, as we rode the entirety together.

Bike Stats: 21 miles; 1:30 ride time; 15 minutes stopped time; 13.96 MPH average speed.

We cooked pizza on the grill’s pizza stone for dinner, shared the meal as usual with appropriate distancing with J&M (&R), and it was too cloudy to see any stars by the time we turned in.

On Tuesday, August 4 the rains came and went all day, and the humidity was brutal. Everything felt wet, even inside. We had leftover pizza for lunch, and enjoyed a visit from fellow Altoistes, Corde and Ray, who live about an hour’s drive away. We had a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon of chatting about this and that, even though several downpours chased us all scuttling like crabs (with our chairs) under the awning. It was a little “tight” under there for four, but we managed to stay distanced from one another and not get terribly wet during the rain.

The more it rained, the chillier it got, and by the next morning (our departure day) the low was 60 degrees (!!).

Little Pine SP, mini-Russell Reunion & Ohiopyle SP

October 9 – 12
We arrived at Little Pine State Park (PA) on Oct. 9, making our way back southward toward VA. This is a nice campground, although it is cheek-by-jowl already on a Friday. Many families with children young and old, and Hallowe’en is in full bloom. Our across-the-street neighbors have rigged up 5 or more of these inflatable, lighted characters (Frankenstein, a haunted house, Smaug or some other dragon with wings, a ghost, spiders, etc.).

Trick is that these gangly, moving objects sit right in front of a pathway/steep stairway up to the closest bathhouse to our site, right next to the camp host’s site (#82). On top of which, there are acorns all over the steps up, and two bathhouses are simply too few for a place with this many folks. They were always crowded with kids and parents, etc.

The host came by and handed me a flier of all the stuff that would be going on for the local Fall Festival, beginning Sunday at noon. That explained all the families, because they had all sorts of pretty neat activities, including a falconer who would be doing a hawk talk during the fest.

Our schedule would not allow us to take part, however. But during the rest of the day and the next, the campground became packed to bursting with campers of all types — including the hammock-camping flint-knapping presenter/teachers (who came to see Roomba as we were breaking camp on Sunday AM). Interesting pair, which seemed to be a father and son team.

Anyway, we had some delicious chicken stew/soup that Gloria had brought for dinner, and her cold was getting worse, so we called it an early night.

Saturday we were up and into the car to go see Jack’s Russell Family regional home. We had arranged already to meet up with his cousin Russ’s wife, Tracy (Russ was traveling in Mississippi visiting friends and fellow car enthusiasts) for Saturday dinner, and Jack has two additional cousins living in the area with whom we wanted to touch base — but we were out of cell service at Little Pine.

We showed the K & G the Russell homeplace, and various haunts and distressed towns he remembers as — if not thriving, at least getting by — from his childhood. The more recent loss of jobs and economic stressors is quite evident in the area, but there are still some lovely neighborhoods with beautifully-kept gardens and lawns, and the leaves are changing colors, so it was a lovely drive.

We saw a little pizza place and Glo had mentioned that she’d love to get a NY-style pie, so we stopped in and had what the cook called a “Garbage Pizza” meaning it had a bit of everything thrown on. It was yummy and we made all of it disappear.

Back into the car, we frequently intersected with the Pine Creek Trail, a Rails to Trails conversion that Jack has actually ridden in the past. Glo and I were itching to get out and walk on the trail, but we were overruled by the pilot of the vehicle, so we headed to a cemetery instead. Glo and Jack do the genealogy thing, and that stop also gave some opportunity for cell phone calls. I called my mom back in Roanoke to check in, and Jack was able to get into touch with the additional two cousins (and their husbands), and with Tracy to set up a dinner spot and time. Then we drove by and made the reservations for an early dinner at a great spot called the Venture Inn, right on the Pine Creek Trail.

Rumor has it (from the cousins) that the place used to be a rather scary dive/tavern, but was taken over fairly recently and really improved in atmosphere and food (and beverages). We had a really fun evening with Barb & Tony, Ginny & Bill, Tracy, and Glo and Kerry. Somehow, I managed to cut Barb (camera right) and Bill (camera left) out of the photo of us all at the table.


Anyway, the food was great, from everyone’s reports. I had a 12 oz. slice of prime rib and it was really delicious.

Even though we began early, we stayed late, and the conversation was lively, catching up on all the family news and doings. We drove back to Little Pine and headed to bed in the 9:30 range.

We didn’t have to race to our next reservation as it was only about 3-4 hours drive away (Ohiopyle State Park, PA). But we didn’t need to dump any gray water, but talking to the flint-knappers set us back a bit.

There wasn’t much to see en route, although it was a very pretty drive, up into and through and down from the mountains. Unfortunately, the photo ops from the car were very slim.



After a lunch and break at Applebees near Johnstown, PA (the site of the great flood of that name that happened in the 1930s) we carried on and there were moments along the very narrow route when we were afraid we might hit a low-overhang bridge that Kerry could not traverse in his RV (that happened to us en route to Little Pine, and K&G had to stop and go “the front way” into Little Pine SP).

When we arrived in Ohiopyle, the town was thronged with visitors — walkers, hikers, shoppers, bicyclists, looky-lous, and leaf peepers. We were afraid that the campground would be similarly packed, but it’s far enough from the town that it was relatively quiet.

But unfortunately, when Gloria helped cancel our friends’ reservation, the service also cancelled HER reservation. So we had to choose whether to keep our reserved space and be miles away from Kerry & Glo, or switch to a pair of campsites near one another. Since our plan was to continue to alternate the provision of dinner, we felt we would have to be near each other, so we picked a pair of sites at the end of a cul-de-sac, and pulled in.

Leveling at all these sites is quite the challenge. The sites are all nicely separated from each other, and there are lots of drives and ways and “streets” down which the sites are aligned. But all among those from which we were able to choose were badly out of level. Kerry & Glo just couldn’t fully level their RV in the site near us; and we had to use additional 2 x 4 boards under the levelers for Roomba. Our site is #137, and K&G are in #135, off the road called Ginko.

The little chipmunks are constantly yelling at us as we’re in “their” territory. But the sunshine through the golden and red leaves is simply lovely.

I cooked a shepherd’s pie for us on the stovetop oven, but we were unable to find firewood for a blaze until Jack returned from a trip beyond Ohiopyle to find a seller. So we decided to postpone the fire circle until tomorrow night.


Today is a holiday for most, so we’re going to take a drive in a little while, and Glo and I are definitely going to hike along the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP), which Jack and I have ridden our bicycles on in the past. I hope there will be some good photo ops as we tour the neighborhood.