Monday, November 24, 2014

Snow and Scenery on the LHT

Snow and Scenery on the LHT

Red patiently waiting for me to click the shutter
(pictures will enlarge when clicked)
                Early… very early on Saturday morning as I took the dog for his walk after I returned from work, I looked up in the sky just as a meteor encountered our planet’s atmosphere.  I watched as it flared up and then disappeared under the constellation of Orion.  I knew that it was going to be a good day!

                Returning home I went to bed for a nap before I got up for our 6AM departure time.  I watched the sky lightened up and the brightest stars disappear as I took Red for a walk before I loaded him into the back of the car.  The clouds reflected the rising sun as it got closer to the horizon.  Ann Marie and I were near New Stanton before we finally saw it shining above the hills.                

                The game plan was to park at the Pa. State Game Commission parking lot on Maple Summit Road, about 11 miles away from Ohiopyle. (“as the trail goes”)   We were going to head south towards the start of the Laurel Highlands Trail.  Starting out at mile 11.2 we would go until we got to the overlooks at mile 7.6.  The trail has markers at each mile to let us know where we were, starting at Ohiopyle and ending up near Johnstown at mile 70.

                As we got closer to our parking spot we saw more and more cars parked along the sides of the roads.  The hunters were out in force, the parking lots in the game lands all had cars in them.  We weren’t too concerned, we would be on a known trail and we had our orange safety vests and hat.

                There was snow on the ground but there were also plenty of spots where the leaves were showing through.  The trail itself was covered and we could see the footprints of what we assumed were two hunters who had used the path before us.  After a mile or so the path was covered with unbroken snow.  The temperatures were in the 30’s but we weren’t cold.  I had brought gloves but never put them on.
Ann Marie heading into some rock outcrops
The Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail is littered with rock outcrops.  We passed one a short distance in that was covered with icicles and had a spring flowing over its edge.  A bit later we threaded in between rocks and climbed over a few as the path took us past a nice variety of landscapes.
Red and I crossing Little Glade Run
We crossed Little Glade Run on a bridge made from a split log.  Ice dangled in the stream hanging off tree limbs that perched above the water.  We saw 2 hunters off a bit in the woods.  We waved and continued on.  I’m sure they saw us, Red’s barking made sure of it.

Coming to the first overlook we stopped for a quick reconnaissance of the rocks. A couple things kept us from climbing up them to see the view, one of which was leaving the dog behind.  The rocks are filled with passageways and steps to make them easy climbs, a great place to explore!  The second overlook wasn’t far away so we continued on.  The wind got a bit stronger here as we walked along the edge of the valley causing us to zip up our jackets.

Looking into the Youghiogheny River valley
                It didn’t seem to take us long to get to the second overlook where we tied the dog to a tree and then went out onto the rocks to view the valley below us.  We could just see the river with Sugar Loaf Knob sitting prominently above it.   The geography was colored in different shades of grey and blue, making it look like a painting.
AMB knows how to pack a lunch!
I gave Red a bowl of food as Ann Marie unpacked our lunch.  We had a couple nice ham and cheese sandwiches on sour dough bread.  A couple Oreos and a bottle of wine!  We sat with our backs to the view with our hoods pulled up to keep warm.  Red stood on a rock and watched us eat.

                Sort of makes you wonder doesn’t it?  Walk 3 ½ miles through the snow to sit on cold rocks to eat our lunch on a cold day.  Not only that but to sit with our backs against the view!   Sounds rather silly, but you know what?  We enjoyed every minute of it!

                One of the things I enjoy about hiking is the sounds.  They can be so refreshing.  Our hike was mostly quiet.  We heard the crunch of the snow as we walked.  There were some birds chirping here and there and there was an occasional, far off in the distance, sounds of trains.  Their whistles sounding as they passed through Ohiopyle and then the rumble of the engines passing far below us in the valley sounded almost magical.
Going through more boulders
                We didn’t stay at the overlook long.  We recapped the wine bottle and packed our trash and headed back.  It wasn’t long before we were unzipping our jackets as we warmed up again.

                As so many hikes go, the final mile seemed to be the longest.  We ran into a mild rain but it didn’t cause us any problems.  Between that and the warming temperatures the snow was disappearing from the trail. 
On our way home, coming down off the hill
                Back home we found out that we had missed a freezing rain.  We had avoided the icy roads and the resulting accidents, in fact we didn’t even know it had happened.

                The sun hadn’t been with us for long, it disappeared behind thick grey clouds on our first mile.  BUT, we did see as nice sunrise and I saw a nice bright falling star before that! (Red missed it)  The hike turned out great, we saw lots of nice scenery and got a good workout.  My shower felt extra good that evening.  It was a good day and a good hike!
Our route, in and out

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Old Wooden Post

The Old Wooden Post

        It doesn’t look like much, a grey warped piece of wood standing on a bit of a slant.  Cut straight across its top, the grains split and pulled apart.  On its side are a couple rusted and twisted pieces of metal, once new and shiny, nailed across a strand of barbed wire.  The wire is long gone.
        It is an old fence post, situated between a couple tree trunks deep in the woods.  Once it was part of a dividing line, the difference between two men’s property or possibly where cattle roamed and the corn grew.
        Nearby are a couple more posts standing in a line broken by slender trees.  The trunks are growing in line with the posts.  The trees help give an idea to how long these posts have been here.  The trees help hold the line, making it noticeable to those who look hard enough to see it. 
        It isn’t a complete line, more posts are missing than those remaining.  Some are tilted more than others and some are laying on the ground covered with the fallen leaves, just barely visible.  A couple look as straight as the day they were placed there.
       Their skin shows their age.  Grey is the main color tinged here and there with small bits of green moss.  There is no “new” left in them, they could only be called one thing and that is old.
        Age hasn’t really weakened them.  In some ways it has strengthened them.  There is no rot on these posts.  Fractured and split but still strong enough to hold wire if need be.
        They remain standing, patiently enduring the rain and snow and heat of summer.  They watch as the seasons go by, slowly, ever so slowly wearing away.
        They are a little bit of evidence of mans conquering of the Earth, an evidence that is slowly fading into the past.  How much longer will these posts hold this line before they disappear and the facts and the ideas of farmland once being here are completely gone?  I can only guess!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Going for a Cruise with Red

Going for a Cruise with Red


                With Ann Marie off in the wilds of West Virginia I was alone with Red this weekend.  Thinking of a nice long hike on a trail in the forest, I finally settled on the Roaring Run Natural Area located in Forbes State Forest.  I had been there a few times before and I thought it might be a good spot that wasn’t too far away from home.  Being about 60-70 miles away, I should be able to get there within an hour or two.  (Probably 2, knowing my driving)

                Coming home after working an hour of overtime didn’t give me much time for sleep if I was going to make my 6:30 starting time.  Well, sleep got the better of me along with packing my gear and getting dressed for the occasion.  We managed to get out of the house by 8.

(pictures will enlarge when clicked)
                When I took Red for his morning walk, the just past Full Moon was sitting above the western horizon.  I figured that it would soon be gone, this would be the last time I saw it today.  Looking in the opposite direction, the sun was just coming over the eastern horizon, this would be with me for the rest of the day!
                The temperatures were cold enough to deposit frost on my windshield when I left work, so I figured that it would be even colder in the Laurel Highlands so I dressed appropriately.  It is archery season so I brought a couple orange vests and an orange cap along.  Red gave plenty of warning that we were there.  I don’t think we came anywhere near any hunters anyway.  I was comfortable all day long!
                After a quick gas tank fill-up and a stop at a favorite coffee shop, we hit the turnpike.   The sky was mostly blue with contrails crisscrossed the nearly cloudless sky.  When we started into the mountains the sun was shining on the tops of the trees, brightening their reddish-orange leaves, contrasting them against the other grey leafless trees.   It was going to be a great day for a hike.
                We got off the turnpike in Donegal and followed Rt31 to the top of Laurel Hill where we turned onto Fire Tower Road.  There are lots of trails which cross this road including the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail.  I ran into the yellow blazes of the LHHT more than a couple times today.
All that remains of the Mount Hope School
Trees and weeds have taken over
                On the Hillside Trail I came across the remains of the Mt. Hope School where the trail crosses the Nedrow Trail. (Actually it is a gravel road, but it is blazed!)  The remains aren’t much.  Just a few stones high, the foundation of the school is about 15 foot square.  Trees and ferns are growing where kids once learned.
Memorial for the children killed in a sleighing accident
The children’s names
                We went down the Nedrow Trail about a mile to where a memorial was placed to mark where three children lost their lives in a sleigh accident in 1896.  Three families lost children on that day so many years ago.  The memorial looks as if it has recently been re-cemented.  (see note below!)
                We started down the Roaring Run Trail but I didn’t feel real good.  I stopped and did a blood test and with a low reading, I decided to return to the Jeep.  Nothing a few glucose tablets couldn’t cure.

The fire tower
The little bit of snow from the night before
We stopped to see if the near-by fire tower was open.  Chances are it wasn’t but it was worth a look.  When we got to the top of the hill, a short 10 minute walk, we saw the tower was fenced in and had been commandeered for the telecommunications industry.  Still it was a great day to take a stroll to the top of a hill with the chance of getting a great view.  Instead we saw snow on the leaves and listened to the birds chirping.  The sun was trying hard to remove the little bit of snow that was here.

                Back in the Jeep, we followed Fire Tower Road (and the Fayette and Westmoreland County line) to where it met “real” roads.  Back on the pavement, we took the back roads to New Stanton where we returned to the turnpike and eventually…home.

                Back at home after feeding the dog and unloading the car, we both took a short nap before I did a couple chores and then went to Church.  After that, I stir fried some veggies and chicken for dinner and then fell asleep watching Saturday Night Live.  It was a good day!

(As usual!)

Note - 11/10/14   I found an e-mail from the Chestnut Ridge Historical Society (from 4/11/2008) stating some details about the accident.
On April 11, 2008, I received this information from Dawne Temple. This is what we (The Chestnut Ridge Historical Society) have about this monument: Jan 19, 1896, a sled full of people left Brethren Church held in Nedrow School. A tree fell on them. Daniel A. Sheets killed instantly. He was the driver. Katie Saylor, daughter of Uriah, 15 yrs., died 5 days later. Curtis Baker, s/o Henry, died 7 days later. Also in the sled were: Samuel and wife Neiderhiser, Annie Miller, Joseph Singo's two sons, and two children of Daniel Sheets. Nedrow School is in Donegal Township. Folks in sled, lived Somerset County. Minister at church was Frederick Murray. (A monument is located near where Nedrow School was located with date of accident and three killed on it.)”
So according to this, only 2 of the victims of this accident were children, the 3rd was the driver and the father of two of the passengers in the sleigh.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Falling Into Fall Run Park

Falling Into Fall Run Park


(pictures will enlarge when clicked)
                A short distance away from Rt.8, in Shaler Township, hidden in a deep valley between communities built on top of the hills lays a nice little bit of peace and quiet.  Fall Run Park is the largest park in Glenshaw but still a lot of people aren’t even aware that it’s there.
                After stopping to vote I took Red for a walk in the park.  Not far from my house, we go there often.  He knows where we are going when I turn off of Rt.8 and the noise level of his barking almost always increases.
                I can remember helping to clean this valley when I was in the Boy Scouts back in the late 60’s.  We hauled washing machines, refrigerators and tires out for proper disposal. There were even a couple cars in the valley.  Since then it has been turned into a nice spot to get away from the world for awhile.
                  Today was a great day for a hike.  The sun was shining and the temperatures were warm enough for just a sweatshirt.  The trail here is one mile from one end of the park to the other. It is usually dry and wide.  In the spring and after a rain the trail can get a bit muddy.  In the Summertime the wildflowers tend to take over, crowding the trail.  In the Fall, the colors gravitate towards the earth tones.  There are 12 bridges crossing and re-crossing the stream and near the middle of the park is a 30 foot high waterfall.
                  Today the stream was low and easily forded by foot.  The waterfall had just a small stream flowing over its edge.  The leaves were brown and yellow with bits of worn out green showing up between them.  A few trees with deep reddish copper colored leaves made a nice contrast with the brighter leaves scattered over the trail.   The bottom section of the park is a bit more secluded due to the steep rugged hills.  The upper portion is wider and the hills a lot smaller.  House are more visible at the top end but at no time do they intrude with the quiet and peacefulness of the trail.  In the park, the sounds of the highway are gone and quiet reins.
                There are two entrances to the park, one near Rt.8 and the other at the opposite end of the park.  The lower end has a swing set, a couple basketball hoops and a soccer field and it is dog friendly!  Wildflowers are here almost all year around, in the Spring and Summer they over run the park.  In the Fall, it is the leaves that provide the colors.
               Red and I enjoyed our walk, how could we not?  I’ve been here by myself, brought my daughter here, brought friends, both male and female and brought visitors from other cities here.  Every decade of my life I’ve been here!  While I was carrying junk out of this valley back in the 60’s, wondering what I was doing here…little did I know how many hundreds of times I’d be back to visit it…falling back into Fall Run Park.  Falling back into the park in the Fall…once again!