Ohiopyle High

Posted November 14, 2021 – Narrated by Carmen
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Stepping into the leafy green hillside forest, serenaded by the journey songs of creeks, rivers and streams, our senses tingled with Shangri-La Syndrome – the feeling of awakening into a dream.

Standing before the Old World grandeur of the river corridor we indulged our eyes and retraced our steps over the last few days. How did we land on this scenic perch in the Alleghenies? Magic portal? Transporter? Time travel?

Alas, no.

Twas beer that led us here.

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Youghiogheny River

Two days earlier, under a dense shroud of fog fit for any horror film, we pulled out onto Skyline Drive at Shenandoah National Park.

Skyline Drive – Shenandoah National Park

The peasouper held thick for the sixty-mile drive north to Middletown, Virginia. The going was slow with many pull-offs to wait for the fog to clear. By mid-afternoon we pulled into a charming Shenandoah Valley herb farm. That evening, we enjoyed the hospitality of Backroom Brewery, a warm and rustic (Hipster, as the kids say) boutique brewery.

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Backroom Brewery where we took on a shaggy hitchhiker – Herb, the herb

Bidding farewell to our hosts, we set out after the morning rush and drove for ninety-five miles – crossing borders …

hopping rivers and tracks …

gamboling through a pleasant rest stop …

and espying villages and pastoral scenery …

before reaching our evening destination, 1812 Brewery in the Berkley Springs countryside. There, we indulged in some bucolic revelry before falling into a sluggardly doze in a quiet pasture.

The following morning we woke thinking about special lunch plans. We splashed our faces with water, spruced up and drove about twenty-five miles …

along The Lincoln Highway to the gothically spooky and historic Jean Bonnet Tavern in Bedford, Pennsylvania where we met up with our wonderful San Diego Friends, Cathy Moore and Tom Gehring.

Plenty of space for a big rig at in the parking lot of Jean Bonnet Tavern

From Bedford, we drove seventy-five miles into Laurel Highlands where we had our

Holy Ohiopyle moment!

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Established in the 70’s after the closing of a railroad, this stunning Pennsylvania park is only fifty-five miles southeast of Pittsburg in The Laurel Highlands.

Fondly called Pittsburgh’s Backyard, this expansive region centers on Laurel Hill and Chestnut Ridge of the Allegheny Mountains.

Okay, they call them mountains, but Mount Davis, the highest peak in Pennsylvania, is only 3,213 feet. But underestimating this craggy hill country would be a mistake. Imagine the Badlands of the West blanketed in thick East coast growth. The hills might be short but they are excessively steep – especially for a rig our size. So we carefully planned our entry into the area accordingly.

At a time when they said a squirrel could travel from the East coast to the Mississippi without ever touching the ground, The Allegheny Front, posed the first obstruction to westward expansion. Even today, there are few roads and highways in these parts, and the small town vibe and can-do culture is a proud and secure legacy.

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Ohiopyle State Park

If 20,500 acres of green with a river or two running though it is good enough for ya, then Ohiopyle State Park is the place to stay. Reservations can be made online through Reserve America.

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Our woodland home for eleven days at Ohiopyle State Park

The cozy town of Ohiopyle (population 56), is less than a mile walk or bike ride. From our campsite we had safe interior access to the town, the river, hiking trails, and the bike trail.

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Walking and bike path to the GAP bridge crossing to town

The town enhanced our stay. There isn’t a supermarket in Ohiopyle, but we found the essentials at Falls Market.

Scrumptious sandwiches made from freshly baked bread at Ohiopyle Bakery and Sandwich Shop are the perfect hiking lunch …

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… and Falls City Pub‘s fresh greens, and tasty salmon rolls with craft brew soothed our aching butts after a 30-mile bike ride.

And, what luck!

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We arrived just in time for the annual Beer and Gear Brew Festival sponsored by Wilderness Voyageurs.

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This festival was our first group event since the pandemic began.

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We couldn’t think of a better way to end that dark time. Beautiful people, happy faces, and craft beer!

The Great Allegheny Passage

Most of our time was spent on The GAP.

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Crusin’ The GAP on our foldable, light-weight Dolphin eBikes. Yes, they look cool, but we love them because they handle well and the battery allows us to go out on all day rides.
(On sale for $130 off until December 25, 2021)
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This world-class traffic-free rail-trail between Cumberland, Maryland and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania gave us a deeper knowledge and appreciation of the history, unique biodiversity, geography and beauty of Ohiopyle.

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The 150-mile continuous rail trial with a warm Americana over-the-river-and-through-the woods vibe lured us in.

Don’t trust our photos to do this trail justice.

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It’s a sensory experience. On one side the sound of the streams and waterfalls …

and on the other side the flow of the gorgeous Youghiogheny.

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Wooden stairways, intermittently spaced along the trail, provide safe access up and down the steep incline between the GAP trail and the river’s edge.

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Youghiogheny River

Locals call the Youghiogheny “The Yough” [yawk]. It flows year-round. It has miraculously rebounded after suffering devastation from the industrial revolution. The rivers edge was once dotted with coal mines to fuel the steel industry in Pittsburg. But today the Yough is enjoying an environmental rebirth. Though it’s rehabilitation is an on-going struggle, the water quality is suburb. The Yough also runs thick with colonial history and tantalizing drama. Next time, I will bring a book about George Washington and the French and Indian war.

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From the observation deck near the Visitors Center in Ohiopyle, it’s fun to watch whitewater kayakers and rafters contend with the flow. Rafting (depending on the day-to-day weather) is in season every day of the year. The temptation to accept the challenge, grab a paddle and dig into one of the tamer areas of the Yough, soon passed.

Ultimately, we chose (and wisely) to stick to day trips on the GAP and the hiking trails where we can move at our own pace – but, ah, if only we had discovered this place when we were younger.

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Hiking

Cucumber Falls, the thirty-foot cascade in Ohiopyle State Park, is steep but easy access.

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With the handrails and stair steps we didn’t even need hiking poles to reach the base.

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Evidently, that’s a well-kept Instagram secret.

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Meadow Run, is another easy staircase hike. This is one of the top water slides east of the Mississippi.

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Don’t do it Jim!!!

This sandstone rock base with naturally chiseled channels forms a fast moving waterslide with some gnarly curves. This feature is popular with young daredevils …

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who finish the run downstream in a deep pool.

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End of the ride down Meadow Run natural rock slide

The rock floor doubles as the Meadow Run Hiking Trail leading to more scenery either upstream or downstream toward Meadow Run’s confluence with the Youghiogheny River.

Fallingwater

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Driving in toward Ohiopyle State Park we were blindsided by the Fallingwater sign. The double-take almost gave me whiplash. Somehow, in the early stages of our trip-planning, the Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece slipped past us. The Ohiopyle campground, where we had reservations is only a couple of miles from this Unesco World Heritage site.

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Immediately, we called the office to reserve a tour of the house. Sadly (due to covid policy with fewer and smaller sized tour groups), they were booked solid well into the future. So, we made a reservation and bought a pass for a self-guided tour of the grounds.

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The next day a kindly staff member at the entrance explained that we should check in with the office for a last-minute opportunity to tour the interior. If a guest cancels or fails to arrive thirty-minutes prior to the tour, she said, the tickets are then released to other guests.

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So we enjoyed a bite of lunch in the apple orchard …

Took a lovely woodland walk …

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Waited patiently beside the stream …

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Explored the exterior …

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and, presently, we received notification that reservations for two had been released. Within ten minutes, our wonderful and informative guide invited us into the house where photos were permitted.

It isn’t hype. The house is truly breathtaking … inside and out.

There are several Frank Lloyd Wright sites in The Laurel Highlands. We also had the pleasure of visiting …

Kentuck Knob

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For trailer people, we fancy fine architecture. Wally Byam, R. Buckminster Fuller, Frank Lloyd Wright and many other architects of their era did their best to steer the United States away from this current housing crisis and stressed-out grid.

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Kentuck Knob is a take on Wright’s more affordable Usonian houses designed for the average family.

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Like an altar of stone, Kentuck Knob is a reckoning ground – a confrontation with how much recent generations have sacrificed for so little. Why can’t we live more harmoniously with nature? Why do we build such huge poorly constructed and unsustainable homes when our resources are finite?

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The staff at Kentuck Knob did not allow interior photography, but we were invited to explore the outdoor objet d’art collection displayed throughout the woodsy grounds. …

Interesting … but we were more impressed with the shadows cast onto the ground through the laurel canopy and imagined how these light paintings could have inspired Wright’s organic designs.

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Ohiopyle State Park is high on our list of favorite parks in the United States.

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Every feature is centered around the campground location, which also offers cottages and yurts. We didn’t see any hotels, but there were signs in town advertising holiday rentals.

What’s not to love?

Ohiopyle State Park is quiet; minimally commercialized; has a natural recreational river. Nearby, world-class architecture is tucked away in the woods. It’s a cycling paradise; a hiker’s dream; and so many waterfalls and scenic places they can’t even name them all.

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Just another gorgeous stream somewhere in Ohiopyle

It’s an Ohiopyle of fun!

Five months later and we’re still riding this Ohiopyle High. We may never get over it. Hey Pittsburgh, when can we play in your backyard again, and bring all of our friends … and their friends. And our dog. And our friend’s dogs … ?

If you want to see our exact route, click here.

*photos in this post (unless otherwise noted) were taken and copyrighted by Living In Beauty.


31 thoughts on “Ohiopyle High

    1. Hey Julie Ann!

      Whether you day trip or ride for days camping along the way, you can’t go wrong on The Gap. Even when it rained on us, we didn’t care. There’s always a little town nearby to freshen up and scrape the mud off the bikes. Every day on a bike is a good day.

      Thanks so much for being with us!

      Safe and Happy Travels!

      Carmen@LIB

  1. Falling Water … you lucky kids! What a beautiful trip —- heading there in Sept and will retrace some of your steps.

    1. Hey Lori Ann!

      I know … when it works, the LIB luck is crow about! Oh my, the scenery in Autumn will be spectacular. Enjoy it for us!!!

      Safe and Happy Travels!

      Carmen@LIB

  2. Loved every bit of this post (except the beer—wine and whiskey are my drinks of choice 😉). The waterfall video montage was a perfectly orchestrated meditation—and two FLW homes*, to boot?—Fabulous!

    *If you ever get to Grand Rapids, MI, there are two beautiful FLW homes in Heritage Hill (a National Historic District). The one at the corner of Logan and Madison is owned by Steelcase Corp. and can be toured. The second one, two blocks away at the corner of Logan and College, is privately owned and not open for tours—but it’s still wonderful seeing it from the outside, surrounded by the beautifully restored historic neighborhood.

    1. Hey Carol!

      Funny you should mention whiskey. History and booze/Boose and history are a natural pairing and the Whiskey Rebellion began in these here hills. A fun way to learn and experience that era might be The Whiskey Rebellion Tour. We’re hoping to return someday and jump on the trail.

      https://whiskeyrebelliontrail.com/the-rebellion-greater-pittsburgh-region/

      We missed Grand Rapids this year, but those houses are now pinned onto our wish list. Thank you!

      Jim’s so happy you liked his video montage. I think he’s really good at capturing beautiful moments.

      So wonderful to have follower who share! There’s plenty to go around.

      Safe and Happy Travels!

      Carmen@LIB

  3. Beautiful story and photos! I was concerned about getting in Ohiopyle with our 30’. What size trailer do you have?

    1. Thank you for being with us, Susan!

      Great question!

      We have a 30′ Airstream (under 5 tons) and we pull with a Ram 2500 Cumins 4×4.

      IMPORTANT NOTE: If you are driving any motorhome larger than a Class B or pulling any rig heavier than a teardrop, we recommend these directions: http://www.fay-west.com/ohiopyle/guide/directions.php

      In fact, this is so important I will go back and edit the directions into the text of the blog.

      Thank you you so much for being with us!

      Safe and Happy Travels!

      Carmen@LIB

  4. Another great blog, thanks for sharing your adventures with us. I am always impressed with the not-so-common spots the 2 of you discover. We have been to Pittsburgh on a couple of occasions and will now take the bikes along to extend our discovery options.
    Always enjoy reading, a highlight. Safe travels. John Bloemendal

    1. We are delighted to have you with us, John.

      Pittsburgh is a great town and we would like to do some urban camping there but haven’t been able to find any campgrounds – public or private close enough to the city. Hotels are out of the questions because we have orthopedic problems (from twenty years of selling books) and need to sleep in our own bed.

      Thank you for the encouragement. Sharing what we find is almost as fun as the hunt.

      Safe and Happy Travels!

      Carmen@LIB

  5. Wish I knew you were going through Berkeley Springs. There is a very cool restaurant there you would have liked called Ravenwood. Only two tables! Very intimate. After dinner the owner sings and plays her guitar and she is quite good. Great food and fun. Made a couple of trips back in my youth to Ohiopyle for white water rafting with friends from work on the Yough (we called it the Yuck). Sue and I went there maybe 3 or 4 times when we were dating and after we got married. We tent camped on those trips but I think we were at private campgrounds with the group we were with, not the park. We spent an anniversary once in a cabin in the area and visited Falling Waters and I think two other Frank Lloyd Wright houses. I’m pretty sure Kentuck Knob was one of them. I’m so glad you lucked out and got to go on the house tour. It is such a beautiful, restful place. As always, great pics, great story, and great fun to follow your travels!

    1. Steve!

      Did we mess up? Do you live in Berkeley Springs?

      Sometimes we lose track of the details.

      Please, if you ever suspect we’re heading in your direction – and the timing is right – then by all means let us know. We would go WAY off our path to meet up with YOU!!!

      Is this the Ravenwood you speak of: https://ravenwoodpub.com ?

      It looks like our kind of place. We have pinned it onto our map for future reference.

      We still haven’t seen Nova Scotia and Quebec City so we plan to pass through the upper part of Shenandoah Valley again. Maybe we can meet up then.

      The Yuck. That’s funny. The educational kiosks on the trail left out that detail 😀 From everything I’ve read it was pretty awful until things began to turn around in the early 70’s. Same thing for San Diego Bay – for decades most locals wouldn’t eat the fish that came from it, but now, ka-millions of $$$ later, it’s made a comeback too.

      Yes. We lucked out with Fallingwater. Some things are just meant to be. <3

      Okay, enjoy the Autumn color for us. Jumping in dry leaves is Pico's favorite thing and we missed it this year.

      Safe and Happy Travels!

      Carmen@LIB

      1. Ha ha, no, we don’t live in Berkeley Springs. We used to have a house in West Virginia, but it was near Martinsburg and we don’t own that house anymore. No, we were staying at Cacapon WV State Park just outside of Berkeley Springs this past September. We stayed in the lodge there (they just expanded it) and then a cabin while the Airstream Factory Service Center was working on our trailer. We had to move out of the trailer for a couple of weeks so they could fix our floor and the front end separation. While staying at Cacapon we ate at the Ravenwood. Yes, I believe that link is the same place. You need to have reservations there since there are only a couple of tables. We now live in Arizona and are back home for the Winter. We’ll venture out occasionally with the Arizona Airstream Club until we hit the road again, probably the end of April. We’ll be heading east this Spring to attend my 50th High School reunion in Virginia in June. Can’t believe I’m that flippin’ old! Anyway, if you guys pass through Arizona in the next 5 months let us know. Would be great to get together! White Tank Regional Park is near us and a great place to camp.

  6. Love following your journey. I biked Cumberland to Pittsburgh this fall. Would have loved to have seen you on the trail.

    1. Whoa, Congratulations Carolyn! It would have been great to meet up on the GAP! We’re jealous. It’s been a while since we’ve done a long bike tour. Pico grows impatient after an hour or two, so we leave him at home (in Beauty) when we go for longer rides. We need a dog sitter ;-D

      Thank you so much for the encouragement. It’s a pleasure to have you on board!

      Safe and Happy Travels!

      Carmen@LIB

  7. “For trailer people, we fancy fine architecture.” HA! Me tooooo!!! I love it all, and those stunning Wright homes are just brilliant. Would love to see them myself sometime, but for now, your lovely photos and descriptions will have to suffice.

    I tell you – I always love your posts because I feel like I am right there with you. Happy travels!

  8. Hey Laura!

    Your posts make me feel the same way and the lively writing makes me feel like you are beside me walking me through the journey. I need to dig into your last year entires again and review the details because we’re planning some west coast adventures. For now, it looks like we will be having a long cozy holiday season in San Diego. We’re in Yuma tonight and will make the plunge into the old hometown tomorrow.

    BTW: Looks like we almost bumped into each other on The Sticker Quest Tour … doing the same thing ;-D

    Safe and Happy Travels! and hugs for Thor …

    Carmen@LIB

  9. Cool community and region. And the GAP trail is a gem. Great vision by someone in saving the old WM RR right-of-way for the trail.

    1. Hey Greg!

      Absolutely! I felt like I needed to thank a trailblazer for doing that. Brilliant land-use project. There will be more beautiful projects like this in the future as a result of climate change and managed retreat from eco-sensitive areas. Some of the most beautiful land in the world will be designated for park use – a dark cloud silver lining thing.

      Thanks for being with us!

      Safe and Happy Travels!

      Carmen@LIB

  10. Beautiful! Well done! Exciting! Y’all have done it again and I loved every delightful moment, thank you friends! Jim, I wanted to close my eyes, listen, relax and envision myself at your waterfalls…. but I didn’t want to miss a thing so… lol…I watched it first and listened to it next!! We love you guys, traveling mercy prayers sent your way and we would love to see you in San Diego, just give a holler!!!

    1. Hey Margie!

      Sorry to be so late responding. We were traveling yesterday. Hey Gal, you know where we are!? So funny! Remember that area where we rode our bikes and kinda got lost and it got dark and we spent our last nickel calling your Dad to ask him to come pick up? Well, a new campground is there now!

      Come on. Or, if you can’t wait a couple months and we will be up there. We’re planning to camp in your neighborhood again and have a visit.

      I love you!!!

      xoxo,

      Carmen

  11. You two find the most amazing places on your travels. Ohiopyle certainly has everything a good base should have, with the right mix of nature, culture, activities, and gastronomy! Looks like the perfect spot for some summer R&R!

    1. Hey Liesbet!

      I failed to mention how great the weather is there. Some days were cool with a drizzle but never hot – and the nights were just the right kind of cool for open windows. I hear there is a southern exodus of new home buyers in The Laurel Highlands seeking a cooler summer climate.

      How delightful to hear from you! Where you are wintering?

      Safe and Happy Travels!

      Carmen@LIB

      1. Still heading to Baja California for a few months. We are in Tucson now and it has been upper eighties all weekend and week. Crazy hot for the time of year. We might work somewhere for a month before crossing the border. The inflation is killing us, especially on grocery items and fuel.

        1. Yes, gas in Cali is over $5! That was a bit of shock when we drove in yesterday.

          Darn, we could have met you in Tucson. We spent time in Mesa cleaning, repairing and detailing the rig.

          Mexico is a good idea.

          Safe travels

          xoxo

  12. Glad to see you enjoyed your visit to the Laurel Highlands. We’re frequent visitors to the area for family reunions at our daughter-in-law’s mother farmhouse about 10 miles from Ohiopyle. We’re fans of FLW and have visited both Falingwater and Kentuck Knob as well as other example of his architecture around the country. If you find yourself in Wisconsin, TLiesin is a great tour. I’m glad you provided the directions for the “other” route to the park. I drove up the mountain to dump the tanks in our motorhome and was white knuckled up and down. If you didn’t get to visit the 9/11 National Monument on this visit you should pin it for a future visit. It’s beautiful now that it has been transformed from an abandoned strip mine to a national memorial. The museum and memorial are moving reminders of that day in our history. Safe travels.

    1. Hey Vince!

      How fortunate for you to have a foot in the door in Laurel Highlands. It’s the kind of place where I think I could put up with the winters to live there.

      We overnighted at a Harvest Host in The Driftless region near Talesin! We loved the drive-through and wished we could have stayed for a while – one of our regrets about covid is the necessity for trip-planning. Before the pandemic we could stop and change plans on a dime. Next time in The Driftless we will be sure to visit Talesin.

      Yes, the correct directions should be written on the palm of every campers hands! We went down the “other” route and encountered a family of six or on bikes (with two very young one on their own tiny bikes) riding down toward Cucumber Falls in the middle of the road!!! Imagine contending with that situation while trying to go up and no place to turn around!

      We knew about the 911 Monument, but with so many drizzly days, we decided to use the fair weather days we had for the bike trail. Obviously, we need to go back to Laurel Highlands and – next time we will plan to stay longer.

      Great to hear from you, Vince!

      Safe and Happy Travels!

      Carmen@LIB

  13. Falling Waters! So glad you were able to get a tour. We found the last standing Frank Lloyd Wright hotel in Mason City, Iowa. Had no clue it was there! I saw a sign for a FLW house and called to book a tour and they told me of the hotel. So booked a tour there as well. LOVED it! First FLW I’ve seen in person.

    https://www.stoneycreekhotels.com/hotel/travel/masoncity-parkinn/

    And that state park, and surrounding area looks amazing. But, not 43′ motorhome friendly. Thank you for all the pics and links!

    1. Brenda!

      Well, we blew it. We could have visited the hotel when we were in DeMoines. To be sure I will pass on this valuable advice to our dear Followers when I write that upcoming post.

      We may have pushed the limits of Ohiopyle SP with our fully-loaded, full-timing 30′ Airstream – so that may be a wise decision to leave your trailer at home and stay in a cabin or yurt.

      I failed to mention how nice the showers are at the State Park. Like the water falls all around they had a generous flow and they had a FLW full window view – kind of felt like an outdoor shower. Very cool.

      Thanks so much for sharing!

      Safe and Happy Travels!

      Carmen@LIB

  14. Wow, you find the most interesting places to visit. I plan to refer back to your travels when my time for extended trips comes.

    1. Hey Dean!

      May your travel time come sooner than later and when it comes, please share.

      Safe and Happy Travels!

      Carmen@LIB

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