Posted November 14, 2021 – Narrated by Carmen
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?
Twas beer that led us here.
Two days earlier, under a dense shroud of fog fit for any horror film, we pulled out onto Skyline Drive at 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.
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.
From Bedford, we drove seventy-five miles into Laurel Highlands where we had our
Holy Ohiopyle moment!
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.
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.
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.
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 …
… 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!
We arrived just in time for the annual Beer and Gear Brew Festival sponsored by Wilderness Voyageurs.
This festival was our first group event since the pandemic began.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Cucumber Falls, the thirty-foot cascade in Ohiopyle State Park, is steep but easy access.
With the handrails and stair steps we didn’t even need hiking poles to reach the base.
Evidently, that’s a well-kept Instagram secret.
Meadow Run, is another easy staircase hike. This is one of the top water slides east of the Mississippi.
This sandstone rock base with naturally chiseled channels forms a fast moving waterslide with some gnarly curves. This feature is popular with young daredevils …
who finish the run downstream in a deep pool.
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.
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.
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.
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.
So we enjoyed a bite of lunch in the apple orchard …
Took a lovely woodland walk …
Waited patiently beside the stream …
Explored the exterior …
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 …
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.
Kentuck Knob is a take on Wright’s more affordable Usonian houses designed for the average family.
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?
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.
Ohiopyle State Park is high on our list of favorite parks in the United States.
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.
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.