GAP 3, Pittsburgh, PA

September 13, 2018

It is pertinent to mention at this juncture, that a week prior to our trip, the entire area, especially Western PA—more specifically, the northern reaches of the GAP trail—had been inundated by the remnants of Hurricane Gordon (made landfall as a tropical storm in the Gulf of Mexico on September 4). By the 7th, 8th, and 9th, heavy rains had flooded many of the Westernmost GAP trail neighborhoods. We witnessed the aftermath of the flooding all along our route, primarily our first 4 towns, starting with Pittsburgh. 

We rode straight along the GAP trail until we reached downtown, and we turned onto a busy city street that took us to the Convention Center and our tour guide, Dave of Bike the Burg tours. Allen and Mary probably knew this, since they set the whole trip up and did a lot of research beforehand—but Dave is an ex-Williamsburgher who had worked at Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) and so there was much playing the “name game” amongst the Williamsburg folks. Since Jack and I had left the ‘Burgh long before Dave had gotten there, we didn’t know many College of William and Mary or other folks in common.

Anyway, he’s a dyed-in-the-wool Pittsburgher now, and was an excellent guide for us.

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Much of what you might guess was on the tour were architectural and cultural buildings and areas. So I’m just going to show you a montage of our sights and sounds in the big city, and mention briefly what we saw in each area.

Our first stop-and-chat session was at a city park, across from a very posh hotel (The William Penn, built by Andrew Carnegie during the peak of the Steel Industry in Pittsburgh). The area was an interesting mixture of the old and the new, including one 1960s “futuristic” building that was being converted to apartments for more downtown living space.

Next we rode to the arts district where we saw an elderly cinema that has been renovated as a live theater venue, the opera house, and (most unfortunately) the building that houses the owner of the Mountain/Valley pipeline, EQT Corporation, at EQT Plaza in the deep downtown. Some of our group, from the western reaches of the Commonwealth of Virginia, had a mind to go over and take a leak on the structure, in visible protest of the pipelines running through our area of VA. But we restrained ourselves.

Near the center of town is the Downtown Market, which was alive with booths, fresh vegetables, truck vendors, and food of all styles and stripes.

There was one area Dave took us that appeared really quaint and artsy, like a Soho or Brooklyn before they became gentrified. It was called “The Strip.” 

Dave assured us that the name had nothing to do with nudity or red lights—but he also said that whenever his brother came to town, they always came down to The Strip to check out the newest happenings in the most interesting part of the city. I’d go back there to spend some time, for sure. The photos I have of the area (we only stopped to get doughnuts from the sweet “Little Doughnuts” shop, and there was lots of construction going on around the church) don’t convey any of the interesting action we rode our bikes through, unfortunately.

The old Heinz buildings are near The Strip, and they have been renovated and restored, and are turning into more downtown living areas, hence the “Heinz Lofts” sign, bridging two of the buildings.

Pittsburgh also has a “thing” its doing with dinosaurs and fossils, to celebrate one of the many contributions to the city that the Carnegie family made: The Carnegie Museum of Natural History, whose core exhibition surrounds dinosaurs, 75% of are original fossils from one of the finest paleontological collections in the world. Several of the skeletons, including Diplodocus carnegii are holotypes: the original specimens upon which their species are based.

As with Berlin’s Bears and Blacksburg’s Turkeys, artists were invited to take a sculptural representation of a dinosaur species and decorate it. Because Heinz was another iconic name in Pittsburgh, one artist decided to turn a Triceratops into a Heinz ketchup bottle.

Pittsburgh has many may bridges — not only those spanning waterways, but also counting those carrying interstates across and around the city: 446 to be exact. More than any other city in the world, including Venice.

We crossed many on our bicycles, some twice, but did not cover them all (thankfully). Our next stop took us across the Allegheny River to view the city from the opposite side, and to visit the Pittsburgh Pirates home field, PNC Park. When the team isn’t practicing or playing in town, they open up the park for visitors and fans to just stroll or ride their bicycles through. It was a pretty impressive showcase for America’s Game.

We crossed back over the river to The Point, which is actually a PA State Park. It usually sports a fountain and a whole lot more folks enjoying the open space where the two rivers (Monongahela and Allegheny) join forces to create the Ohio. But remember Gordon? The storm had layered the entire Point with mud, so they had to shut down the fountain, and they were still working to clear out the mud when we were there. The plaque reads: “Point of Confluence; Point of Conflict; Point of Renewal.”

From there, we could see the Steeler’s stadium; a strange circular monument to Mr. Rogers (another famous Pittsburgher); and the 1877-vintage Duquesne Incline (also closed due to Gordon), which many of us had hoped to ride up to Mt. Washington (on the other side of the Monongahela) to view the city from the highest point around.

At the literal point of the city, the State Park is a favorite lunch spot for the many business people working in the downtown area, at least in good weather and without the mud. But we had fun wandering around.

Our final city stop, besides grabbing lunch with our guide, was another center-city square, busy with shoppers, tourists, and business people. It was obviously a more modernized section of the city, with interesting buildings sporting reflective surfaces. The square was dotted with globes and a central fountain area where visitors (children?) could actually walk in the water if they so desired, which seemed a strange contrast to all the folk in business attire. We also saw more of the decorated dinosaurs. We were close to the convention center where the tour business was located, and over lunch we discussed our next plan (since so many of the options that Allen had researched for us to choose among were closed up) and the route homeward.

Of the many options Allen had painstakingly researched for us, many were closed, others rather too far away, since we’d taken quite a long ride around the city already (see bike stat totals below) even though Dave had suggested we’d only ride about 8 miles (it was more like 16 in town). So the majority elected to see if we might be able to find the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, even though it was close to 3PM by this time, and it closed at 5.

After getting thoroughly lost several times, we finally followed a kind Pittsburgh cyclist who was going our way, and climbed and climbed and climbed some more up to the spot.

As a quick aside, we found the majority of city residents and drivers to be very kind and accommodating to our group and our occasional lack of cohesion and direction. The folks we met were unvaryingly patient with us, and I feel this is somewhat unusual for city dwellers. Another gold star for Pittsburgh.

Anyway, we at last made it to the Gardens, but due to the late hour we elected not to pay the entry fee to get into the Victorian Glass houses where all the tropicals and unusual specimens were. Still, it was a lovely respite and well-appreciated after all the climbing.

We rolled back downhill and zipped back across the “Hot Metal Bridge,” so named because in 1901 when it was built, it allowed transport of hot iron from the blast furnaces on the northern side of the Monongahela River to the open hearths on the south side; then for the movement of steel ingots back to the rolling mills on the north side. Today, after a $10 million renovation project to allow bikes and pedestrians safe access along with the traffic below, it is the major artery connecting GAP trail tourists to downtown.

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Eagle at the end of the Hot Metal Bridge.

Once we got back out of the city and on the GAP trail proper, we motored on back to West Homestead for our final night at the terminus end of the GAP—we raced (and beat) the rain that was threatening what had been a beautiful day.

Tomorrow: From Homestead to West Newton, PA.

Bike Stats:

  • Ride time: 2:22
  • Distance: 28.2 miles
  • Average speed: 11.9MPH
  • Fastest speed: 23.75MPH
  • Ascent: 660
  • Descent: 666

 

GAP 2, Cumberland, Maryland

Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2018

Before jumping into the shuttle service van that was scheduled to drive us, our bikes, and all our gear (in Minnie-Van) to a ‘burb of Pittsburgh (West Homestead, PA), we had time to take a quick walking tour of Cumberland, mostly along the waterfront GAP trail, and up Washington St. to the famous Episcopal Church on the hill, in which Tiffany windows glow even with the dull, cloudy day on which we started our adventure. But more of that in a bit.

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There’s a lot of history in Cumberland, where a very young George Washington surveyed the area, and where Wills Creek (channeled with concrete in the photo to mitigate flooding in the downtown historic district) meets the Potomac River. Historically, Cumberland was first a Fort, then a transportation hub; today, it is a hub for recreation, where the C&O Canal towpath trail meets the Great Allegheny Passage rail-to-trail conversion: Mile 0 of the GAP trail. The terminus of the C&O Canal, in the ebb of its heyday, became the beginning of the first US National Road.

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As a National Historic Place registrant, Cumberland has a lovely pedestrian area where old building facades have been preserved and are in use as boutiques, restaurants, businesses, and shops, accessible from the GAP trail. Much artwork adorns the Wills Creek area.

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This is just a small section of an enormous mural adorning two complete building walls framing the corner of the pedestrian mall area.

As we walked across Wills Creek and up Washington Street toward two amazing tours Allen had arranged for our group (one was a Historic Society preserved Victorian home with most of the period furnishings and structure intact), we saw many homes and churches in the oldest, highest-above-the-river part of town. Among the prettiest is the one at the top of this blog post. 

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Some of the homes need a bit of TLC.

The original Fort Cumberland, a colonial-era stronghold, was built atop the high ridge, with a protective (and controlling) view of the mighty Potomac River.

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Artist’s interpretation of what Fort Cumberland might have looked like when it was used in the 1700s. This image shows the Potomac River in the foreground, with Wills Creek joining it near the lower right—that is not a turn in the Potomac, but rather the two flowing together, then meandering off to the right, out of the picture and toward the Atlantic.
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View of Cumberland today from the old fort site.

At the time, much more of the municipality was on high ground. The earth has been removed for building and roadways over the long years since it was just a fort. Now Cumberland occasionally floods. This knowledge and seeing where our cars would be parked for the trip left the three couples who had vehicles in the Canal St. long-term parking area slightly concerned about local flooding with Florence’s potential trajectory. What we hadn’t counted on was the pigeons—more on that in the final installment of the cycling part of this trip.

Upon the site of the old fort was built, in the 1800s, the Episcopal Church with the Tiffany windows.

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The neatest aspect of this building, in my opinion, is the way in which they preserved some of the abandoned fort infrastructure, and used the old fort’s tunnels upon which the church sat as a stop along the Underground Railroad. For many, many years the pastors of the church hid, nurtured, and transferred escaping slaves to the next stage of safety along their road to freedom. 

Our guide began our tour with a digital “playing” of the old organ (complete with a heraldic horn section). The congregation’s organist is also an organ tuner and builder, and he’s adjusted the equipment so it can be played digitally or manually; from the back of the room or from the front (during special musical events). It was pretty awesome.

Louis Comfort Tiffany was the talented son of Charles Tiffany, the jewelry store owner. L.C. Tiffany was an interior designer in the mid-1800s, when his interest turned toward the creation of stained glass. He opened his own studio and glass foundry because he was unable to find the types of glass that he desired in interior decoration. He wanted the glass itself to transmit texture and rich colors, and he developed a type of glass he called “Favrile,” which he patented in 1892. Favrile glass has a superficial iridescence, which causes the surface to appear to shimmer, and “collects” light from that which surrounds it. “It is distinguished by brilliant or deeply toned colors . . . iridescent like the wings of certain American butterflies, the neck [feathers] of pigeons and peacocks, and the wing covers of various beetles” — according to Tiffany himself.

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While this image appears blurry (and it was, in fact, taken from a long distance, but with the camera solidly on a firm surface) I think it is a technique used by Tiffany to affect a “painting” or brush stroke with the glass. I may be wrong, but I think it’s made of streamer glass. The phrase “streamer glass” refers to a pattern of glass strings affixed to the glass surface, to represent twigs, branches, and structures like feathers. Streamers are made from molten glass that is vigorously swung back and forth to stretch into long, thin strings which rapidly cool and harden. These are pressed onto the molten surface of sheet glass during the rolling process and become permanently fused.
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This Tiffany triptych is not backlit. Instead, it’s made using many, many layers of glass, to “shadow” areas, and to leave other areas able to capture the ambient light and direct it—as with using lighter-colored paints—to illuminate the areas in the scene that either show light or reflect it. Here the light comes off the actual torch raised above the saint’s head, and the glass gathers light where the torchlight hits the martyrs bodies in the scene.
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Another Tiffany window one might think is backlit, but it is not. There are many layers of glass in the darker portions to create the many, many shades of blue throughout. It is an incredibly heavy window.

One of the stories told by our guide involved the integration of the church, just after the American Civil War. Some of the former slaves had been “raised” to be Catholic, but when they got to the north (Maryland was actually a slave state prior to the ACW) they were not welcomed to attend the Catholic Church’s services. One of the white friends of the Catholic congregation asked the Episcopal priest if the former slaves could attend his church (same fellow who ran the underground railroad stop) and he said, of course. There was an upper concourse set aside for the black folks—but even then, some of the Catholic blacks would not attend a non-Catholic service.

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Along this wall above the main floor was once the “blacks only” balcony. In the mid-twentieth century, it was reserved for the choir. And finally, it was removed and renovated as it appears today.

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Later in the tour, we saw the original drawings for a cross and candelabra, also designed and made by Tiffany for the church. None of the pix I took of the golden items nor the drawings turned out, I’m afraid.

As we entered and exited, I was interested in the patterns of the limestone slabs in the walkways, after years and years of erosion. They looked a bit like those relief maps of the ocean floor.

After admiring the “above ground” amenities of the structure, our guide took us downstairs, into the tunnels. There were rooms, narrow stairs, thin “runways” and low-hanging structural elements everywhere. It was frightening to think of a live person with black skin coming here for refuge and respite after a long, dangerous trip from Georgia or Virginia. Afraid every second that he or she would be betrayed. Near starvation or looking over the edge toward starvation at every moment. Too tired to sleep—too afraid or hungry or sick or injured to rest.

The fort’s ammo magazine and all the protective below-ground structures were made by erecting wooden forms and filling behind them with clay and rocks from the river. Those hardened and, with the exception of a few river rocks that have come loose over the centuries, the walls have held up to this day.

Our guide told us that, while the fort used long, underground tunnels to access water for the fort’s uses from Wills Creek and the Potomac, by the time of the underground railroad, the same tunnels were used to get human cargo from the “bad part of town” (the red light district, near the waterfronts) up to safety, nourishment, and rest under the church, and then off to the north and across the Mason-Dixon Line, a mere 10-ish miles by crow flight from Cumberland; Milepost 20.5 along the actual rail line that is now the GAP trail; and freedom for the escaped slaves.

There was much more to Cumberland that we did not see, including the structure out of which George Washington worked, and the Visitor Center. But we had a shuttle to catch at 2PM.

And we were off to West Homestead, a suburb of Pittsburgh. 

It was every bit of a 2-hour drive up interstates and toll roads, but we made it without too much problem, except for missing a turn during Pittsburgh rush hour.

But the hotel we occupied, Hampton Inn, was right on the trail and the Monongahela River (the GAP trail heading east follows the Monongahela until McKeesport, where it turns to follow the Youghiogheny River (pronounced Yawk-a-gain-ee, or the Yawk for short). Milepost 150 of the GAP trail is at what the city calls “The Point” where the Monongahela and the Allegheny rivers come together to create the Ohio River. 

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Homestead was once known as the Steel Capital of the World, symbolizing Pittsburgh’s dominance in the industry. Our city guide (tomorrow) reminded us that, at its peak of production, Pittsburgh was commonly known as “Hell with the lid off.”

Homestead’s flagship complex of US Steel was shut down in 1986. At that time, it had 450 buildings on 430 acres, and employed 200,000 workers throughout its years of making unprecedented amounts of steel.

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West Homestead is a mere 10 miles from Pittsburgh’s Point, and along with other suburbs of the city, is re-making itself as a shopping and recreation/tourism draw. Bravo to Pittsburgh and environs for making progress cleaning up and re-focusing the city.

We took a quick shake-down ride to assure our bikes made the trip in good shape (about five miles) and then got cleaned up to walk across the road to an enormous shopping area, with beautiful plantings and flowers everywhere, and more shops and restaurants than you can imagine, including Rockbottom Brewery.

Our group dinner was at Bravo Cucina Italiana, and it was excellent and fun.

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As we walked back to the hotel, we noticed a poster, but couldn’t quite get the idea of Indoor Axe Throwing into our heads.

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Tomorrow, Pittsburgh and a grand bicycle tour of the city!

 

July/August Adventure Post One

We arrived at Shenandoah River State Park in Virginia after a 4-ish hour drive from home, leaving there around 10A on Thursday, July 5. Since it was a one-nighter, we did not unhitch (except to level Roomba, but the hitch was hovering over the ball since we didn’t move the car) nor do our usual set-up routine inside.

Think minimalist.

The day was hotter than 40 hells outside, and inside Roomba, it was in the high 90s as we set up camp. We used the ceiling fan to vent some of the hot air, turned on the air conditioning, and hoped to have temps in the 80s by nightfall. 

I’d prepped some ground lamb for a shepherd’s pie and put that together once the air was breathable inside, and heated it for a while in the Omnia. Since everything was cooked already it didn’t heat up the inside too terribly much, and we ate outside. Lordy it was hot.

The downside of Shenandoah River SP is that it’s a young campground, and there are few shady spots anywhere in the grounds. But we survived and slept okay.

Rolled out of there early Friday en route to Bald Eagle State Park (PA) for a two-night stay. Tried to find ice and a grocery store, but ended up doing without until the “Roomba Landed” at Bald Eagle. Conducted the whole set up routine, then ran out to find a cold dinner to bring back, ice for the cooler, and dinner for Saturday night also.

Found the absolute best butcher up the road (toward Lock Haven) in a burgh called Beech Creek. It was easy to miss, and even with the sign directing us, it was way way down a residential road and past an Elks Park (or some such) and we almost gave it up a second time, when we finally found Pete’s Meats. 

Great stop. Got chicken salad for the night’s dinner (unfortunately, it had sweet pickles in it—not anywhere near my fave thing) but was good and edible; and a Delmonico steak for our Saturday dinner.

Watched the entire place fill up with campers into the evening. Next door at 9PM, the loop’s final slot was filled by the arrival of a pop-up. Felt sorry for those folks, just starting their setup as I waltzed off to brush my teeth, and the sun finished setting below the horizon.

Got up moderately early (after sleeping without the air conditioner, in 50-degree breezy weather under our blanket and with the ceiling vent on low) had sausage rolls for brekkie and then got on our bikes for a “reminder tour” of the entire park complex, which is rather huge. We’d done such a “take every left-hand turn” ride here a couple of years ago, but it was during the off season, and we were virtually alone. This time, everyone and his aunt with all the kids were headed to the lakefront beach, the marina, the canoe/kayak livery, the fishing spots, or the dog-walking areas. 

In the end, we logged nearly sixteen and a half beautiful, cool, breezy miles by riding every paved left-hand road we met along the way, plus a few gravel parking loops as well. There might have been one or two right-hand turns in there, but that was only so we didn’t miss any lefts.

This truly is a beautiful park with tons and tons of stuff to do on the huge lake and off of it. Walking/trekking paths, bird-watching (we saw a juvenile bald eagle during our ride), shady lanes, an enormous Inn overlooking the lake, and all the water sports anyone could ask for. 

Some of the scenes from our ride:

Returned to the campsite for lunch, and lounged for a while as the southwest-facing awning’s shade diminished steadily in the bright sun. Still, it stayed in the 70s to the low 80s outside, and we’d turned on the air conditioner early enough in Roomba to keep that temp in the 70s (even though the camper is not in any shade at all). There are sites that have larger trees than ours does, and all the sites are well separated from their neighbors by hedges and growth-left-tall between them. AND we had forgotten that not all the sites have water hookups (ours didn’t) and not realizing we’d be waterless, we did not fill our tank. 

Still, for two nights water was not any kind of a problem because there’s a nice dish-washing station right at the bathhouse, which is near our site (Sycamore loop #87). Next time, however, we will try to get a site with more shade (although the breeze continued to be cool and refreshing).

This trip had commenced a couple of days after we picked up the “Beta Version” of the replacement awning made locally by our yurt-making friend. Many Alto owners want the older and now-discontinued version of the awning Safari Condo had offered as an option with their Altos. So we are testing a replica to see if folks like it, and if they’ll buy it from our source. 

The one we’re testing has a couple of “warts” that will definitely need fixing if/when the awning goes into production. But overall we’re quite pleased with the Beta Retro-Awning. Next week, more of the folks who’d expressed early interest in our results will be able to see it “up close and personal.” So we’ll see how that goes.

We’re also testing a solar light string that we picked up to use when we won’t have power (or be able to erect an awning) at the Safari Condo Anniversary Celebration next weekend. Neat little “blue moons” charged with their dedicated solar charger. They’re kind of cool, although the blue light doesn’t provide the true lighting we like from our rope lights we normally string on the awning. But the blue moons are pretty.

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Later, after showers and packing up and racking up the gear (decided against a later-evening bike ride) we re-heated some macaroni and cheese from our freezer, roasted some fresh corn purchased yesterday from an Amish family’s roadside veggie stand, and the Delmonico steak we purchased from Pete’s Meats. What a delicious meal! We even topped the perfectly-cooked meat with Jim Gauvreau’s “compound.” What a treat.

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With the Solo Fireplace roaring and the sun setting, we began to enjoy the heat of the fire, and watched the birds go to roost in the “wild areas” of this marvelous park. Definitely a high recommendation to anyone passing through this part of Pennsylvania (Howard PA, near Lock Haven, PA).

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Bald Eagle State Park, PA

Bald Eagle State Park is an enormous area, with plenty to do and plenty to see.


We debated whether to take our bikes up to the Pine Creek Trail on this gorgeous day (Monday, October 3). In the end, we elected to do our Bike/Site Tour Boogie, riding the Park, while Ken and Diane headed to the Pine Creek Trail.

Armed with a pretty good map and a desire to eventually end up across the lake, where the primitive camping area was, in addition to a little town called Howard and a lakeside hiking trail (that we hoped might accommodate cycles) we set off using the “every right turn” directional program.


There are at least 10 miles of hiking trails in the immediate area, and several marks on the map for cross-country skiing trails, and hunter’s trails outside of the campground (but still in the Park). 

Our first right was a “connector” trail called the Shrike Tr., that was just grassy and obviously not for bikes, but we rode through (it was only about 25 yards). The next right turn carried us to a boat launch area where we got right up to, not the lake proper, but Hunter Run Cove. 


On the map it looks more shallow than the main lake, which is called Foster Joseph Sayers Lake, or Sayers Lake for short, which is actually a reservoir. Here’s a bit of the history:

Leased from the US Army Corps of Engineers, the 5900 acre state park was opened to the public July 4, 1971. Completed by the Corps in 1969, the 100 ft high and 1.3 mile long dam forms the Foster Joseph Sayers Reservoir. Created to reduce flood damage and provide water-based recreation, the reservoir/lake is1,730 acres where visitors can recreate year-round. The reservoir honors Foster Joseph Sayers, Private 1st Class. A native of Center County, 19-year-old Sayers was killed during a valiant assault on enemy forces during WWII. For his heroism, he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

At Bald Eagle State Park the Allegheny Plateau’s rolling highlands meet the steep slopes of Bald Eagle Ridge, creating not only spectacular scenery, but also prime wildlife habitat. Migrating hawks ride ridgeline thermals, black bear, bobcat, porcupine, and turkey inhabit mature forests of oak and hickory. Great blue herons wade in Bald Eagle Creek while osprey pluck yellow perch from Sayers Lake. 

The park is the site of one of the most intensive woodcock, songbird, and native habitat restoration projects in Pennsylvania. In addition to the American woodcock, many rare and declining songbirds, like the golden-winged warbler, nest at the park. Partners across the state have been working together to improve and maintain the shrubland habitat for woodcock and other declining scrubland-loving species. 

Our next stop along the Site Tour Boogie (the next right would have taken us to the Office and Rt. 150, so we saved that until we had to get onto the highway to get to the other side of the lake, and we went straight through a 4-way intersection instead of turning right) was the Marina. We thought to go up to the Ecological Learning Center, but workers were re-roofing it, so we skipped it. Next time.

The Marina offers summer and winter dry storage for boats, and a variety of boats that are for rent during the high season (closed at this time, however). I heard through the grapevine that there are 200 slips for private use here, and across from the inlet defining the Marina was a lovely picnic and fishing area (there were tons and tons of walk-in fishing sites/trails designated all around the shoreline we visited).


To get over the water to that picnic ground (and more) we rode back up to the four-way intersection and took the next right, which carried more deeply into the park. We crossed a small dam/bridge dividing the “entry area” from the larger park area, and visited an enormous day-use area that includes the picnic site we could see from the Marina. At this point, we got to the northwest shore of the Lake proper.


After biking all those loops (there was a beach area, several pavilions, fishing areas, public rest rooms, etc.) we took our next right and headed toward the Nature Inn, a significant lodge, where we were told many, many Penn State fans come to stay for home games – last weekend, we heard, the entire camping and lodge areas were packed due to a Penn State football game.

We tootled along two more right turns to boat launch places, at one of which we saw a blue heron and a praying mantis. 


Then, instead of heading more-or-less straight up the hill to the Lodge, we took an apparently little-used road down to the inlet between Hunter Run Cove and Sayers Lake. There we saw what was once old Rt. 220(?) disappearing below the water and re-appearing on the other side of the narrow throat connecting Cove with Lake. 

We also were accosted by Sadie, an Alsatian mix on a lead with her humans (whose names I forget) who engaged us in a monologue for quite a bit longer than we’d expected to be viewing the watery end of this road.

We at last extricated ourselves and headed back uphill, and the next right turn was uphill some more, all the way to the top of the ridge we can see from our campsite, where the Nature Inn stands. A lovely place inside and out and the views for the guests are truly lovely.


Upon passing several of what looked like interesting trail heads, we briefly contemplated doing some “cross training” (walking as well as riding our bikes) to see where the trails went, especially one marked Skyline Trail with another sign that pointed us to our camping spot (which, incidentally, is called “Modern Campground,” I suppose as opposed to the “Primitive Campground” on the opposite side of the lake).

But we refrained and took another paved road (which was a left hand turn, by the way) that took us off the ridge and down to another boat launch area from which we were unable to escape, except by reversing our path back up toward the Inn, skipping that right-hand turn back up the Inn’s driveway, and again retracing our earlier steps back to the picnic and day-use area opposite the Marina.


Before we headed out of this part of the park, we took one more uphill, due to the fact that a sign labeled “Overlook Sledding Area” piqued our interest. There we found a FedEx guy parked for his lunch in a shady area next to one of the public restrooms, and through the weeds and along a “no vehicles allowed” walking path, saw the Inn from the opposite direction, straight along the top of the ridge. The views were nice from this high spot as well.


Taking a rest stop ourselves, we left the sledding area (might look more promising covered in snow, but who can say?) carried on to Rt. 150, and the narrow road blessedly had a decent shoulder relatively clean of debris, keeping us away from the traffic (a little bit, anyway). We turned left again onto Rt. 26 headed toward another bridge with a view back to the Marina (pic below) and rode on toward the teensy burgh of Howard.

Too bad about the power line, but in the distance, one can see the boats of the Marina.

Had to endure no shoulder along some of 26 to get to the road to the primitive campground, and found an unkempt road full of patches and pots and gravel and humps; and found the majority of the primitive sites to be totally unsuitable for anything except tents (although the walk-in tent sites were quite lovely), despite the area being billed for both tents and RVs. There was, in fact, one RV there, but it looked quite lop-sided and uneven in its site.

The best primitive sites were along the rail road; while we were there, no trains passed, but it was obviously a working RR, and I’d hate to camp there and be awakened in the small hours by a huffing train passing by. 

Back along Rt. 150 was a scenic pull-out, which we took and caught a decent photo.

To the middle/right of the pic is the bridge where I stood to take the previous pic.

And we saw an osprey perched in a snag near the road over a swampy/shallow water area. It didn’t like our presence so near, and flew away before I could get a photo. Other wildlife and critters we saw (in addition to the bald eagle we saw on the first day) were many, many Monarch butterflies, two red-tailed hawks, woodpeckers, several great blue herons besides the one I was (marginally) able to photograph, and many songbirds. Not any pesky insects, however, another plus for “shoulder season” camping. 

By the time we made it back, it was 3:00 and our cyclometers indicated we had 28 miles under our belts. We had not taken anything along except water, and we had a date with the extended Russell family to meet up in Mill Branch, PA, at the Clinton Country Club, to have dinner together at Haywood’s On the Green bar and grill. I gotta say, I was quite ready for a meal, since we skipped lunch in favor of our long ride.

Along with walking the lakeside trail on the southeast side of the Lake on the list for Next Time we visit, is to go farther along Rt. 150, either by car or bike, and visit the Schenck and Sandhill cemeteries, farther to the east of the Rt. 26 bridge. Also, to see if it’s possible to bicycle along the dam road; and to hike just a few of the miles of trails within the park.

We made it back before the rain (which came down for a while as we were trying to do a little pack-and-stow, and also to shower) and well before our collective departure for dinner at about 5P. Through texts, we discovered that the fix of JB & Martha’s RV took longer than expected, and they would miss the dinner. But all of the remaining group of us, plus three of Jack’s cousins and their spouses gathered to enjoy some beverages and a meal together. It was quite a fun evening. One or two stories of the young cousins misbehaving at the homes of the generation now gone were told with laughs and fondness.


The following day was our departure to Douthat State Park in VA, and so we hit the hay and arose early to get a jump on a very long day’s drive. Happily, the drive was uneventful, except for several stops for construction projects throughout MD, WV, and VA – at one of which, Jack saw a bear cross the road in his rearview, but I missed it, it went by so fast. The only items of note from the windshield viewfinder were the Seneca Cliffs in West Virginia.


Had a late set-up in site #14 in the Whispering Pines section of the Douthat State Park, and enjoyed a short confab with Kerry, Gloria, Diane, Ken and Barley Boy (JB and Martha finally finished up the RV repairs and were spending the night in Winchester, VA, having another sublime experience camping in a second WalMart parking lot as they sorted the dashboard warning light issue – we discovered marginal cell service at Douthat, allowing texts about RV repair updates, and [obviously] an upload of this post, albeit a very slow upload, indeed). Our “quick” dinner was mostly leftovers, but included fresh-baked rolls (risen during the drive) with our pasta and dinner remains from Haywood’s On the Green. 

Hungry as I was, who could eat all that? It’s Haywood’s meatloaf special: a buttered piece of toast in rich brown gravy, topped with 2 2-inch slabs of delicious meatloaf, topped with a generous scoop of mashed potatoes topped with more gravy; corn, and a side of grilled mushrooms and onions. No wonder there were significant leftovers, right?

Lakawanna State Park, Pennsylvania 

We got a late-ish start, but departed Shenandoah River State Park on Sept. 27 with JB & Martha (the other two RV-ers had left by 10A). Almost immediately, as we trundled through Front Royal, we lost JB & Martha in their Class C dragging a dolly with a Prius. 

Saw an adult bald eagle perched in a snag near the interstate as we headed through MD on Rt. 81 N, just before entering PA. Of course, I didn’t have my camera handy enough to snap a pic. There was tons and tons of construction zones along the route of our very long day.

We stopped off Interstate 81 near Harrisburg, PA at a Panera’s for lunch (around 1P) and as we finished, we got a phone call from Gloria, who reported JB & Martha were looking for our cell numbers because they’d experienced some strange dashboard warning lights since the day before. 

The backstory on that: en route to Shenandoah River SP, they had been squeezed between two semis and a couple of vehicles when someone hit their breaks or did something unexpected, and JB had to really hit his own breaks which locked up and skidded, but everything that was supposed to work did, even the breaking system on the Prius dolly, so they were able to avoid disaster. After that incident, they pulled over to the side of the road to get their nerves back on level and take visual inventory of their situation. When they got back into the RV, the yellow lights were illuminated on the dash.It took them a while to find the Operator’s Manual for the Class C to see if there was a problem if they continued, their thought being that, since all appeared well and their breaks were still working as expected that the yellow lights would cease at some point.

The Owner’s Manual, however, urged them to seek a dealer to double-check and re-set the lights indicating the ABS and Anti-Skid and a couple of other safety measures were okay. So they had pulled over in a rest stop and made some phone calls, but no one had gotten back to them by the time they called us and we stopped by the rest area to check up on them.

After some discussion, they still felt that their ability to stop the vehicle was not compromised, and that if they took it easy, they could carry on. So instead of waiting for a call back (which incidentally never came) while sitting, they thought to carry on to Lakawanna State Park (PA) with us, and wait for the call while gently moving down the road.

All went well, and we all made it to Lakawanna in good shape, if a considerable time later than we’d expected. Ken and Diane had been shuttled off to a dog-friendly part of the camping area, while we were next door to Kerry & Gloria (ours was site 28, a lovely woodsy spot with a path through the woods to the main road in front of the lake); and JB and Martha had the third site down, in which they were unable to get level. They moved the next morning, slightly farther along.

Site 28

Any of you who remember our Cooperstown (or several other trips) of last year, know that we dearly love Lakawanna State Park. It is really a great location, if the sites are a bit of a leveling challenge. Getting there, you roll through lovely agricultural country with barns + silos, stone houses, well-kept fences, and just an amazing, rolling countryside.

Anyway, with Ken & Diane (and Barley Boy) up the hill and around the bend, it was difficult to get together for campfires and meals, so during the stay we mostly hung with JB & Martha while Kerry and Glo hung with brother Ken and Diane.

That night, Martha was kind enough to share with everyone some leftover ribs JB had smoked for their house guests before joining us. Gloria added some baked beans to the repast and it was very nice (for us) not to have to cook after a very long day. Everyone except Ken & Diane ate at our picnic table, but we all turned in early.

The following day (Wednesday, Sept. 28) dawned clear and chilly. It was in the middle 40s when we awoke, but the temps rose to the mid-60s by noon. The wind was blowing falling leaves everywhere and it was truly a taste of autumn. 

Jack and I unloaded the bikes and took a lovely tootle around the whole park, using our “take every right turn” method of seeing all the loops and public areas. JB suggested we call this the “bike tour boogie,” based on what he and Martha used to do with their dinghy when they piloted a boat. But for them it was the boat tour boogie. Maybe we should call it the Site Tour Boogie, because we do it mostly to check out the campground and see where the best sites are, and what amenities we can find.

We went into several areas that were closed to camping, up high above the lake, and then carried on down along the lakeside public areas. There are access areas for picnickers, boaters/fisher people, family gatherings, hiking trails, and the water park they were still constructing last year when we were here.

There were many of these dry-laid stone walls scattered around the area.

As we rode, the sky began clouding up, the wind was colder/wetter, and the predicted rain showers appeared to be moving in. We decided to get back to camp, and begin the breakdown process early, so if/when it rained, the awning and stuff would not get wet. I fixed us some sandwiches for lunch while Jack began breaking down camp. Our plan was to leave space in the car for the grill, because we thought we’d be grilling brat-type sausages with onions and peppers on the griddle for dinner.

We went into Clark’s Crossing or South Abingdon Township (not sure if Clark’s Crossing is a part of the Township or what, but our navigation system called it South Abingdon Township) to a Weis grocery store to re-supply and get some firewood. It did begin raining but only for a little while as we went and returned. While in Weis, I found some pre-made, refrigerated pizza dough, so we changed plans and decided to try a pizza in the Omnia Oven. 

The moment we began merely thinking of making a fire, the rain came again. So we retreated for some Camembert on nice crackers while we waited to see what the weather would do. When it stopped again, JB came over and he and Jack started a fire, while I looked for a fire-poking stick. Once it was going pretty well, and we were having some adult beverages, it started raining again. We decided to remove to our respective abodes for our dinners and re-assess once we’d been fed.

The pizza turned out okay, but next time I would pre-bake the crust just a little before putting on the toppings. We tasted a hunk each and found it to be slightly undercooked, so we put it back on the fire for a bit, and our second lumps were quite good indeed. I only used half of the dough, so we’re going to try again within the next day or so.

Ended the evening with JB and Martha ’round the fire (Ken and Diane had already built a fire up at their site by the time we had built ours, so Kerry joined his brother up the hill). We had a final toddy around 9:30 while the last of the wood burned, and then all turned in expecting an early departure in the AM.

October 12 – Ohiopyle & The GAP

Ohiopyle & the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP)

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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.

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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).

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On the GAP, we crossed the Yack almost immediately, headed toward Ohiopyle/Washington DC.

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Topo map of the river, Ohiopyle, the Ferncliff Peninsula, and the surrounding area. #6 is Ferncliff, and you can see the
Topo map of the river, Ohiopyle, the Ferncliff Peninsula, and the surrounding area. #6 is Ferncliff, and you can see the “thumb” the river has carved to make the peninsula. The dotted line (B at the left and D at the right) is the GAP.

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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Penna-NewYork

October 8, 2015
We headed out after the torrential rains and 100-year flooding in Floyd to “The Nawth.” Our original intention was to wagon-train our trailer and two campers of friends up to Cooperstown, NY to visit the Baseball Hall of Fame, on the bucket list of one of the friends.

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Health matters intervened, however, so the one among us who really REALLY wanted to see the Hall of Fame, and his wife, were unable to go. So it ended up being an RV and our Roomba heading from VA on Monday, Oct. 5, to stay at one of my fave places (as of our most recent trip): Pine Grove Furnace State Park in PA.

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In the creek near the Iron Furnace, someone had done a lot of work to balance rocks in the stream.

We found a great little diner called (of course) The Lincoln Diner near the railroad tracks downtown and had a great lunch of sandwiches. Very friendly folks there, too.

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Dinner was salmon on the grill, with delicious cole slaw that Gloria had made, and a wild rice mix — again, enjoyed around the blaze of a fire, all four of us sharing adult beverages and stories.

Before we left PA we stopped for some beer for me, at just about the only type of place PA allows folks to buy beer any longer — a specialty shop. They actually had some good craft beers, and I looked again for the “Fresh Squeezed IPA” from a brewery in Oregon (Deschutes). This beer has been highly recommended to me by a longtime friend in VA, and I thank you for that, Julia, because it is quite good. Yes, I found it at last, after striking out on my search during our last adventure to the northern climes. The only downside is I had to buy an entire case without having tried it. But between Julia’s advice and the enthusiastic recommendations of the two fellows running the beer store, I felt I was on solid ground jumping into the deep end and hauling a case of bottled beer around with us. I have not been disappointed!

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Headed from Pine Grove Furnace to Glimmerglass State Park in New York next, which is a glorious campground near Cooperstown. Glimmerglass is at one end of Otsego Lake and CT is at the other. The whole place is quite picturesque.

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Again, because of a later arrival, we had spaghetti that Gloria thawed for our meal, built a fire, and enjoyed beverages.

Next day, we all hopped into the car to see Cooperstown and send our Hall of Fame friend some photos. We all decided, however, that we’d save our actual visit to the HoF until all health issues are past and our friends can accompany us. It really will be much more interesting when there’s an enthusiast among us.

First stop was at the lakeside, where we read the following plaque:
“This part of Cooperstown has long been one of the most used access points to Otsego Lake for residents and visitors alike. When the first commercially successful steamboat company opened on Otsego Lake in 1871, this area developed as a pleasure ground. By 1894, ten private and public steamers were operating on the lake from this dock area. In 1902, part of the site was opened as a village park. Soon after the steamers stopped running in 1935, the village park achieved its present size. Today, docks still provide slips for local people’s boats, and a ramp allows boats on trailers to launch.
“The sidewheeler, ‘Natty Bumppo,’ named for James fenimore Cooper’s main character of the Leatherstocking Tales, first plied Otsego Lake in the summer of 1871. The original ‘Natty’ burned in 1872, but was quickly replaced by a second ‘Natty’ in 1873. The steamers linked the railhead at Richfield Springs with Cooperstown, allowing tourists to travel the last seven miles of their journey by water. Most camps along the lake had docks from which the campers could flag the boat to stop.

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“Launching of ‘Mohican,’ 1905: The ‘Mohican,’ launched in 1905, was named for Cooper’s Leatherstocking Tale, The Last of the Mohicans. Able to carry 400 passengers, her maiden voyage from this park was a festive affair. ‘Mohican’ closed the steamboat era on Otsego Lake in 1935 when she was taken out of service.
“The village of Cooperstown acquired the park in 1901 and opened a new pavilion in 1902. By 1937, the boat livery and the steamboats were gone. The village demolished the pavilion and landscaped the park, giving it a more formal look with circular paths, lawns, and an open bandstand.”

Cooperstown is a simply beautiful downtown, and you don’t need to be a baseball fan to really enjoy the place. Certainly, most every business is baseball-centered, but the storefronts are lovely and the amenities are vast. We counted at least five ice cream stores, a couple of coffee houses, at least one bakery, and many interesting offshoot businesses along with the (often tongue-in-cheek) baseball paraphernalia stores. There’s evan a minor league stadium right in the downtown area.

This will be a totally lovely place to tootle around on a bicycle. The surrounding residential streets are full of B&Bs, small hotels, and renovated historic homes that are truly beautiful. You can tell this is a place that has been here a long time, occupied by folks who love it here.

I took so many photos, I’ll just arrange them into a gallery so you can pick and choose which ones you care to see.

We took a short jaunt out of town to hit a craft brewery that had been recommended to us by cycling friends: Ommegang Brewery just outside of Cooperstown. It serves food, so we headed there for lunch. Great place, very good beers, and a delicious lunch. I highly recommend a visit to my beer enthusiast friends.

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Upon our return to Glimmerglass we wanted to get some exercise, and the ranger who checked us in had recommended a walk down to the lake and into the woods. She had also recommended a visit to an historic home perched on the side of the hill, but we elected not to pay the entrance fee to go inside. So we put on our hiking shoes and walked from our campsites to see the oldest covered bridge (no longer in service) in America, and then to the lake front and into the woods for a walk along a fire road for about a mile or so. The weather held to its glorious setting and we had a very fine time, indeed.

We shifted our dinner efforts from Kerry and Gloria’s setting to ours, as Jack grilled asparagus and pork loin for our shared dinner. I built the fire and we sat around it after dinner until the embers glowed red and all was quiet in the campground.

Then the rain began — the first less-than-stellar weather we’d experienced since leaving home. Heck, tomorrow is a travel day, so it might as well rain. Happily, before hitting the hay tonight, Jack and I had taken down and stowed the awning and the footprint, and all the stuff that normally sits under the awning before the rain began, at about 2AM.

Next stop: Little Pine State Park in PA, another new spot we will be able to check off our State Parks list.

Back in the USA

Thursday, Sept. 10 & Friday Sept. 11
There’s actually not much to say about our long drive south. We went through customs without a hitch, and it rained the whole day.

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We took a one-nighter at a great campground called (oddly) Rip Van Winkle near Saugerties, NY, in the Catskills. It’s an enormous campground with lots of seasonal RVs permanently installed. There are tons and tons of things to do there, especially for kids.

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We arrived in the rain and set up (but didn’t un-hitch) in the rain. The best thing about Rip Van Winkle? There’s a pizza place nearby and THEY DELIVER to the campground! After the long drive, we opted for delivery to our campsite instead of re-heated pasta (again). It was very cool and the pizza was sublime.

We were parked under a tree, and the leaves were catching the rain that came in waves, and then depositing (what sounded like) enormous drops onto Roomba’s roof at varying intervals. It was so loud and inconsistent, that we both had to put in ear plugs just to sleep. We couldn’t even use the roof vent for “white noise” because of the rain.

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In the morning, the rain had stopped, but everything was coated with forest duff splashed up from the ground by the rain. So we rinsed everything that had been on the ground so we wouldn’t unduly filth-up our trunk. Drove out at about 8:30 with the aim to get breakfast on the road.

The tourist season is definitely not over up here — the leaves of the maple trees are just beginning to turn and every community is preparing for leaf peeper season, and pumpkins and Hallowe’en.

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Two very lovely communities we drove through and want to recommend for future visits are Stone Ridge NY, off the Rt. 209; and Waverly, PA, near Lakawanna State Park (our next stop).

Lakawanna is a great campground, as you’ve heard before from me. It’s quiet and there are lots of trees between sites, and if you’re a kayaker, canoeist, or fisher person, it’s a great place for activities. Not much in the way of cycling options except right around the camping areas, but we like it anyway.

We got a great, deep site with electric and water (but didn’t hook up the water) and the fire ring is well off-pad, downhill in the woods.

Our set-up is for two days, so we have the awning out, the grill and camp kitchen set up, and even put out my “firefly” LED lights. Home sweet home for the next couple of days.

The weather stayed brilliant, but we needed to get some supplies so we drove into the ‘burbs of Scranton and found an excellent wine store, plus a Weis grocery store. You might have noticed we’ve not cycled since Cape Breton, and that’s a shame. But our arrival/departure timing and the weather have prevented us from bothering to take the bikes off the Roomba rack.

Provisioned, we returned to the campsite (#28) and began dinner and a fire. Ate ‘burgers with fresh tomato, potatoes au gratin, and fresh corn. As we sat by the fire afterwards, at around 8:30P, an unexpected visitor showed up: a small skunk with a startlingly white tail came strolling out of the woods to check things out. As if it owned the place.

It probably does.

It nosed around the fire ring as we sat still as stones (Jack was keeping his flashlight trained on it, which didn’t seem to bother it at all). It appeared to finish with us and headed up to Roomba, and nosed around the grill area a bit, then under the trailer, then back down the small hill to us again.

This second foray, I really thought it was going to come and sniff our very feet and I knew I wouldn’t be able to stay still for that adventure. But it thought better of that plan, and headed back to the trailer, but then veered off and went into the woods, proceeding to another campsite.

I couldn’t get any photos for fear the flash would scare it into spraying, and it was full dark so the flash-less pix didn’t show anything but blurrs.

We left the fire, which still probably had 45 minutes to an hour of good burning to watch, and retreated to the safety of our nook in the trailer. Just in case our stripey neighbor decided to return, we didn’t want to be trapped outside again.

I honestly regret leaving that beautiful fire.

image

We listened to some music read some books, and then hit the hay, hoping our striped friend would not return or feel the need to spray anything nearby.

Pine Grove Furnace State Park, PA (Pt. 2)

Monday, May 11

Again, the forecast was for lousy weather developing in the afternoon, so we wanted to see what that Cumberland Valley Rail Trail was like, which we had heard of for the first time when we were at the Visitors Center, before the rain came.

So on Monday, May 11, we loaded the bikes on the car and headed to Newville, PA, along Rt. 233 from the park. Navigated moderately easily to the Trail Head, and were mightily impressed with the quality of the facilities and the surface of the trail. We read on a map that the trail is planned to head north from Newville toward Carlisle, but that is a future plan and it’s not open to the public yet.

The section we rode, however, was a 9+ mile stretch south from Newville to Shippensburg. We discovered in short order that the pavement part of the Newville trail head ended, but after that it was packed cinders, much like the New River Trail and we were having a blast. There were some informational markers along the way — some were about geology and culture of the Cumberland Valley, and some were Civil War markers about the build-up to the Battle of Gettysburg. 

This was an up-and-back, so Jack figured he could see the Civil War markers on the way back. 
Once in Shippensburg, we asked a lady with a youngster and a stroller where we might eat, and she directed us to a pizza place in town, near the college.

After a few false starts, we found Polly & Stone’s, a great place serving both pizza and burritos, and ate healthily of meat burritos and some replenishing bottled juice. AND they offered free wi-fi. Nice to discover that Pat had not, in fact, had to put the rooster in the stewpot (yet).

When it was all said and done, we covered another 22 miles, with nearly 2 hours of riding time and about 1.5 hours of stopped time. It was a totally glorious ride altogether. While Jack reported to dally on our way back to Newville, reading the markers, I wanted to head straight back and get some real training in, so I told him I’d see him at the end. It’s nice to have a traffic-less, flat, good footing training ground for sprints.

Both of our competitive spirits took ahold of the handlebars, however, and even though I was trying to speed right along, he managed to catch me from behind twice. Had to take a bit of a cool-down pedal at the end of the final sprint to the Newville Trail Head. Good fun.

Tuesday, May 12

Our last full day at PG Furnace SP, and we first stopped at the Appalachian Trail Museum, a cornerstone of the area. Since I mentioned the Museum earlier, I won’t dwell. Other than to again highly recommend a visit.

Then we rode around some of the park, not really expecting too much, but stumbling into the Cumberland Co. Hiker-Biker trail, a 2-mile run that takes in some of the AT, two fishing/swimming/boating lakes, and a lovely stream. The lakes are Laurel Lake and Fuller Lake and one (probably the second, larger, Fuller Lake) has a great dam where fisher-people were hard at work plying the waters. Both lakes have sandy swim-beaches, and there were many day-users out and about, including a few school-bus-fulls of kiddos doing nature things.
(photo of swim beach)

The part of the Hiker-Biker Trail that follows the AT is closed to vehicle traffic.   

 But keeping on we hit a paved road, with signage indicating that all should share the road as it’s used by vehicles, hikers, and bikers alike. It was a very nice ramble down to a highway, and we turned around and rode back, headed to the historic furnace itself. But before the creek narrowed to near-nothing, back at the park entrance, we saw this scene of mid-water rock-balancing. It was a pretty cool “sculpture” find serendipitously. 

  
Then we hit the historic furnace and the info there.

This is what it looked like when in operation:  
This is what it looks like now:   

    So it was a much more involved and complicated structure, once upon a time.  

When railroad-building (I think this is what it said) was happening, it made most sense to have the iron furnace local, rather than shipping in the iron — plus they wanted to have the smelting of the iron done close to the deposits of iron ore.

Anyway, what they’d do is follow the design of furnaces used 400 years earlier than the 19th century: A thick stone furnace shaped like a flat-topped pyramid was constructed, to convert minerals to metal.

At the top of the “pyramid” workers dumped alternating layers of charcoal fuel, iron ore, and limestone flux into the heart of the furnace. As the charcoal burned, air was forced into the furnace from the outside (a water wheel pumped bellows that blew air through a pipe and into the bottom of the fire), and this was able to raise the temperatures to 2,600 – 3.000 F.

This burning created several byproducts: carbon gasses escaped from the chimney; molten iron sank to the bottom; and impurities (slag) floated atop the liquified metal.

Workers would draw off the useless slag and isolate it away from the iron; meanwhile guttermen channelled the iron into castings in the floor, connected to one another so the iron would flow into all channels — these were called “pigs.” (Thus pig-iron?)

Typically, wooden buildings and machinery surrounded the furnace made of rock, firebrick, and sand and clay for insulation along the chimney. Funny, how wooden buildings were built next to high burn temperature activities — the parts that survive, of course, are the stone furnaces themselves.

Here’s a cutaway photo of the furnace — hope you can read the parts at the right.
   

Found the whole thing fascinating. This we wound up our adventures in PG Furnace SP. Definitely more to see and do here — many “bike friendly” road tours outlined on the maps here, and there’s lots of beautiful countryside to see. Hope we can come back some time.

Used the afternoon to do some pre-packing for the re-hitch and depart tomorrow. Destination: Bear Creek State Park in Virginia. 

And I hope there’s at least cell service if not wi-fi . . .