Friday, July 1, 2011

Ohiopyle State Park: Pennsylvania’s Outdoor Mecca

For years, I have heard many great stories and comments about Ohiopyle StatePark in Southwestern Pennsylvania. My friend and I, two moms, packed her minivan with camping and rafting gear, bikes and our kids and off we went seeking outdoor adventures.
     From Washington DC, Ohiopyle is a three hour drive and from Pittsburg, 90 minutes. Ohiopyle is located in the Laurel Highlands of Pennsylvania, an area lush and green, a temperate rainforest with a large tree canopy shading mountain laurel, rhododendron and ferns. Mountain streams fall from steep ravines and feed the Youghiogheny River. The river provides a white water adventure for children on class I and II rapids to thrill seeking adults who kayak or raft class IV and V rapids. Four companies in Ohiopyle provide guided and unguided trips. My daughter couldn’t wait to ride the rapids; however, it wasn’t in the cards. We experienced temps in the 60’s and rain that creates blue lips and shivering children. Not kid (or mommy) fun!
     We established home for three days in the state park: staking tents, spreading out chairs, hanging a hammock and setting-up the stove. Thank goodness for the tarp because it became our togetherness refuge under the raindrops. The girls stuck together in the two-person and my son hung with the moms. Each site provided a bit of privacy from the next and the bathrooms (showers in a separate house) were “not the best I’ve seen but not the worst,” said my daughter.
     Water play, rafting and riding the natural waterslides (video), didn’t make the agenda for the trip due to the weather. Instead, we wore pants and jackets, a great reprieve from the hot, humid temps in DC, to hike, bike, and visit Fallingwater, Frank Lloyd Wright’s incredible, organic architecture home built over Bear Run for the Kauffman family in 1936. This ingenious marvel is the epitome of what outdoor living should be, besides camping of course!
     We hiked and biked the Great Allegheny Passage, a rails trail from Pittsburg to Cumberland, MD. After establishing home and cooking dinner, we took a twilight hike down the ravine to the Passage to walk amongst the fog that enveloped the old railroad bridge above the Youghiogheny. We also biked in search of the many waterfalls on side trails along the Passage. My kids braved a STEEP downhill climb to one with me in nervous tow. Well worth the nervous climb!
     So much to do in Ohiopyle State Park with not enough time. We will be back to raft or kayak, ride the natural water slides, mountain bike, rock climb and some day bike the entire Great Allegheny Passage. This trip created great memories. We look forward to more in Ohiopyle.

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