Loving Fall McCloskey

Gore Tex Days

by patmccloskey

Pennsylvania Foliage

In the last week or so, the foliage has been spectacular here in Western Pa. There has been a lot of comments on how late the changing of the leaves came due to the warm October and climate change in general. However, almost on cue, the leaves around here have changed in a dramatic way. I love the fall and to hike or ride a mountain bike viewing the leaves is a great way to spend some time in the outdoors.

Jill Lake at The Lodge at Glendorn.

,However, as much as we like to enjoy the fall and the changing foliage, there invariably comes the change in the weather where the leaves are brown, the rains come, and in general, a feeling of despondency on the part of a lot of folks who know that the winter is not far behind. We tend to get some pretty nasty weather here when ” the winds of November come early.” Now I am a winter guy and enjoy the snow and cold weather for various reasons, but what to do when it is not quite winter and we are in the “tweener” season here in the Keystone State? We can hunker down and binge on Netflix, or we can make the decision to continue to be active. I tend to focus on the latter as many of you know from my blog.

When it rains in Ireland, the locals refer to it as a “soft day”. That’s a lovely thought isn’t it? A soft day. I can just hear them say it. If you don’t like it, just wait a few minutes and it will change. Back and forth, but it will change. They don’t let it bother them and I tend to think in a similar manner. Especially if you invest in a good rain suit and well………….get out in it. I have several friends who hate the rainy late fall weather here and I constantly tell them that the only way to beat it is to get out in it. My wife and I donned the Gore Tex and got out in the rain for a really visually spectacular hike this weekend. Janet is starting to realize the functionality of a good rain suit and how you can always adhere to the old saying,” there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing choices.” The leaves are still colorful in the rain and when you have finished the hike or whatever outdoor activity you choose, you have the feeling that you got over on something. You beat the bad weather and got some exercise. This is a well beaten mantra of by blog, but I focus on it to give the naysayers some incentive to change their thinking.

Time for the lights.

The time change is coming this weekend too. And instead of spending the next 5 months hibernating in a gym, why not get some lights and ride or hike? Light technology has changed immensely since I first started riding in the dark way back in 1988. Do some research and see the amazing changes that have been made and the increasing lumen capacity and battery life that now exists with lighting technology. The cost has come down significantly.


Wolf Rocks – Laurel Mountain
Top of North Face- Seven Springs, Pa


So I guess the message here , short and sweet, is don’t let the rain, cold, and nasty weather get you down. Take the offensive and get out in it. Invest in some good foul weather gear and some lights. You won’t be disappointed. And if you see my pal Pete and me hosing off our rain suits in the car wash after a ride, don’t laugh. You could have a smile on your face like us. Thanks for reading.


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Route 31 Road Construction

It began May 8 and has a very long way to go!! When you exit the PA Turnpike at Donegal be prepared to experience delays! The project begins just above the turnpike exit and continues down to the turn to Route 711 at Sarnelli’s. In a months time much has been done with much more to come! Please pack your patience and watch out for the workers!


Keystone Balance


Searching for some local artwork for the master bedroom I came across these photos of stone balances and was pleasantly surprised that they were the talent and photographic skills of old ice and rock climbing friend Tim Anderson. Tim had been restricted from the climbing world due to a shoulder injury and found he had this unique talent for stone structures and balance. These balances use unaltered stone, local rock, no glue, and are destroyed once the photo is taken. Some are so delicate of a balance the slightest breeze can knock them over. You may find Tim in one of the many local streams and locals in the Laurel Highlands. He has travelled to festivals all over the world to exhibit his unique talent. Go to his website www.KeystoneBalance.com for more.


Bridge open on the Laurel Highlands Trail

This is a repost of a recent article in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette

Bridge is back on Laurel Highlands trail

Sunday, February 05, 2012
By Shannon M. Nass, Special to the Post-Gazette
Bridge spanning the Pennsylvania Turnpike on  the Laurel Highlands Trail.

 Outdoor enthusiasts who traverse the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail are  hiking, skiing and snowmobiling for joy. They are celebrating the Jan. 28  completion of a new bridge that spans the Pennsylvania Turnpike and rejoins the  70-mile trail stretching along Laurel Mountain from the Youghiogheny River at  Ohiopyle to the Conemaugh Gorge near Johnstown.

Terry Brady, deputy press secretary for the Department of Conservation and  Natural Resources (DCNR), said the bridge has been long-awaited and much  anticipated by those who traverse the trail.

“They love it,” he said. “It’s a very, very popular trail … through the  heart of some of our prettiest of state park and state forest land in that  area.”

The bridge project was awarded last March and totaled nearly $1.3 million for  work on the 10-foot-wide, 184-foot-long span.

The previous structure had been built in 1970 but was closed in late 2009 and  dismantled after an inspection found conditions that could endanger hikers and  snowmobilers using the bridge, as well as commuters passing beneath.

“It was in really bad shape both for the users of the bridge and passersby on  the turnpike,” Brady said. “It was starting to literally fall apart.”

The new bridge, located midway between the turnpike’s Somerset and Donegal  interchanges between mileposts 36 and 37, reconnects various trail systems in  the Laurel Highlands and facilitates foot traffic as well as snowmobilers and  cross-country skiers.

Bicycles and horses remain prohibited from the trail. Brady said all-terrain  vehicles also are not allowed on the bridge.

“What it won’t allow to cross — the way it’s designed — is ATVs,” said  Brady. “The trail is off-limits to ATVs, and we don’t want ATVs using [the  bridge].”

To ensure their exclusion, Brady said the bridge was designed with a  step-down ledge that prevents them from crossing.

With through passage again possible, Brady said he hopes the bridge, which is  owned by the Bureau of State Parks, will encourage more people to get out and  use the trail.

“That trail is just incredible,” he said. “The idea is just to get people  out, especially during nice weather.”

First published on February 5, 2012 at 12:00  am

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/12036/1207911-140.stm#ixzz1lXcHaqOX


Laurel Highlands CLI Newsletter Vol 3 No 7


Imgrund to lead bureau
Lauren Imgrund was recently selected to head the Bureau of Recreation and Conservation at DCNR.

Lauren has helped to steer the Laurel Highlands CLI since its inception as DCNR’s “lead internal partner” and she also served as coordinator of all seven CLI’s across the state.

While we will miss her hands-on leadership in the Laurel Highlands CLI, she will continue to support our efforts as burea director and we are confident that she will do an outstanding job.
PEC is proud to be the lead external partner in the CLI. Please see PEC at:


Follow-up Links
DCNR’s CLI page.
PEC’s Laurel Highlands CLI page.
Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau.

Laurel Highlands CLI
Vol. 3 No. 7

Conservation Coalition Conference Nov. 7
A broad-ranging program will be featured in the third conference of the Laurel Highlands Conservation Coalition from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Nov. 7, at Powdermill Nature Reserve, 1847 Route 381, near Rector.

The coalition was created last year by grass-roots conservation and environmental groups in Fayette, Westmoreland, Somerset and Cambria Counties to support funding for conservation efforts, provide information about key issues and to network.
Conference presentations
The Conservation Coalition conference will have four featured presentations.

At 9:30 a.m., John Wenzel, Director for Biodiversity and Ecosystems at Powdermill, will exlain Powdermill’s traditional research on birds and its explanding mission into areas such as biodiversity.

At 10:45 a.m., Davitt Woodwell, vice president of the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, will provide a broad update on the Marcellus industry and issues, including the status of a proposed impact fee.

At 12:45 p.m., Dr. Tim Kelsey, professor of Agricultural Economics at Penn State University, will talk about the values of open space and conservation, including ways of assessing land-use options.

At 2:15, Michelle Chapkis of Women for a Healthy Environment, wil talk about potential health impacts of various environmental issues, including Marcellus shale.

There will also be a brief presentation on the economic impacts of State Parks in the Laurel Highlands and Statewide, as well as a wrap-up discusion for feedback from participants at 3:15 p.m.

Directions to Powermill
Powdermill Nature Reserve is centrally located within the Laurel Highlands along Route 381 between Route 30 and Route 31.

From the intersection of Route 30 and Route 711 in Ligonier, take route 711 south 3.3 miles to the Rector/Darlington intersection; see signs for Powdermill and Linn Run State Park. Turn left toward Rector and go 1 mile. At the bottom of the hill, before going over the bridge, turn right onto Route 381 South. Follow Route 381 South for 3.3 miles to the Nature Reserve headquarters.

From the PA Turnpike exit in Donegal, take Route 31 east for 2.7 miles. Turn left onto Route 381 North. Follow Route 381 North for 6.4 miles to the Nature Reserve headquarters.

Information on Powdermill: http://www.carnegiemnh.org/visit/index.html.

Conference registration
The cost for the Laurel Highlands Conservation Coalition conference will be $20, which will cover lunch, morning coffee, and water and soda for breaks. Registration deadline will be Saturday, Oct. 29.
Registration information will be included in an e-mail that will be sent soon and posted at www.pecpa.org/Laurel_Highlands/.

Stony whitewater progress
Stonycreek River whitewater releases planned next summer cleared a big hurdle when recent tests showed very little vibration of a valve stem inside the dam.

Cambria Somerset Authority, owner of the Quemahoning Lake, completed $59,000 in repairs to a 100-year old valve stem that assists with the release of water from a new valve.

The valve now can release up to 500 cubic feet of water per second, which boaters say will create outstanding whitewater conditions in the Stony.
Fun Events
Links to information on many of these and other events are located on the web site of Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau at http://www.laurelhighlands.org/Event:

Autumnfest at Seven Springs Mountain Resort, HallowBoo! at Idlewild, Haunted Hayloft Rides, Haunted Hollow and similar events, Oct. 22-23.

Haunted History Hayride, Bushy Run Battlefield, Oct. 22.

Halloween at the Johnstown Children’s Discovery Center, Oct. 23.

Third annual Yough Defense Fund Fundraiser will be held Nov. 17 at Falls City Pub in Ohiopyle; watch for details.


Fall Foliage Peak is Here NOW in the Laurel Highlands PA

Repost from the Somerset Daily American.
Article written by Ralph Couey

7:10 p.m. EDT, October 14, 2011
After 11 long months of waiting, October, my favorite month, has finally arrived.

I’ve written a lot about my love of autumn, maybe too much. But I can’t help myself. I love forests, but when the chlorophyll is withdrawn from the leaves and their natural colors reveal themselves, a dormant part of myself comes alive.

It is the month I actually make time to spend in the woods, camera in hand, or winding along the roads through these mountains trying to capture forever these all-too-ephemeral days.

We are so very fortunate to be in an area that rarely disappoints us leaf hunters. Vermont and New Hampshire may boast and brag, but the Laurel Highlands is truly a fall foliage paradise.

We live in what is called “Fall Zone 2” a…well…tree-shaped area of Pennsylvania. The roots and trunk start in the east in Pike, Monroe, and Northampton counties and runs west as far as Centre County where it “branches” northwest to Erie and southwest to Fulton, engulfing the rest of the western half of Pennsylvania. As far as I can determine according to several authoritative websites, the peak of these counties should arrive this weekend.

The warm summer and abundant (in some cases over-abundant) rainfall, along with the prompt arrival of cool weather has provided the set-up for what I’m told should be one of the most spectacular years in recent memory.

The great thing about living in the Laurel Highlands is that you don’t have to go far at all for spectacular vistas. For some, all that will be required is a glance outside the kitchen window.

I’ve found a few favorite places to go to absorb Fall’s karma. One of my favorites is the drive (or ride for us motorcyclists) along Route 381 from US 30 running south past Ohiopyle to the National Pike, US 40. Another favorite is the heavily forested Route 31 between Bakersville and Laurelville. For a short jaunt, I take Trent Road south from Route 31, through Laurel Hill State Park, to the Copper Kettle Highway/County Line Road past Seven Springs to Champion.

Another great drive is Route 271 from Westmont over Laurel Mountain to Ligonier, then going west on 30 through the Loyalhanna Gorge. It’s so pretty, I have to do it twice. Mt. Davis Road around High Point Lake provides some beautiful vistas as does Route 56 through the Conemaugh River Gorge northwest of Johnstown. There’s also US 219 from Somerset through Berlin and Meyersdale, leading to the Maryland border.

Route 30, the Lincoln Highway, is highly recommended, essentially running from the Loyalhanna Gorge all the way to Gettysburg. An area I found last year is along Old Forbes Road, starting just east of Stoystown and going to Ridge Road, which takes you back to the Lincoln Highway.

These are few of my favorites, but I’m sure everyone reading this has found their very own autumn nirvana, which is one of the many benefits to living around here. The challenge, of course is to do this safely, ensuring I don’t drive off the road or into the oncoming lane while rubbernecking at the leaves.

You don’t even have to be in a car, for that matter. The Laurel Highlands has an abundance of forest trails, including the 70-mile-long Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail, for both casual strollers and hard-core hikers that will take you through the hills amongst the glowing trees. There, of course, you get to enjoy that unique fall aroma of the leaves, and that soul-satisfying experience of swishing through them while walking along.

I particularly enjoy the two-mile path that leads to the Allegheny Portage Tunnel near Mineral Point. You walk in the darkness of that 900-foot tunnel and suddenly a hillside lit up in reds and golds appears at your feet. It just doesn’t get any better than that.

Words are my tools, my toys, my playground. But even after years of effort, I have been unable to fully articulate the miraculous joy that I feel on an autumn day. The bright sunlight, cool air, and the glorious colors in the trees combine to create in me an inexpressible happiness.

This is a busy time of year, especially for families. But try to find the time in that short span of time when the leaves are peaking to take a drive, take a ride, or take a walk somewhere. It’ll be a memory you’ll treasure forever.

Oh, and don’t forget your camera!


Ohiopyle State Park, PA

The Tribune-Review Local last month had a very interesting article on Ohiopyle’s history and future. We have long loved the natural resources and beauty offered within Ohiopyle State Park. One of our first dates was hiking to Cucumber Falls.

The Park offers a little over 19,000 acres with the main attraction being the Youghiogheny River Gorge. White water enthusiasts from all over the world have taken the challenge of the 14 miles of class I through IV rapids that this river offers. Kayakers, rafters, fishermen, water lovers there is a section of the river just waiting for your visit!

Speaking of visits this park draws 1.5 MILLION visitors every year. According to the Trib article there are ONLY “76 YEAR ROUND REISDENTS” that call Ohiopyle home. If you’ve been following our Blog posts you’ll recall that the Laurel Highlands area is one of seven areas that have been targeted by the state to ensure the natural environment is protected while substantially growing the tourism industry.

Water isn’t the only draw that brings visitors here! There are 79 miles of hiking trails, 13.2 miles of biking trails including being a part of the Great Allegheny Passage and 9.4 miles of horseback riding trails. Let’s not forget that this is a four season recreation facility with hunting, cross-country skiing, sledding, snowmobiling, camping, and wildlife watching.

Infrastructure however,  is in dire need of repair. With the boroughs budget running between 30-35 thousand a year the “to-do list” just keeps growing. Water, sewage, road maintenance are just a few of the projects. Enter DCNR with the targeted tourism growth plan. Fix ups are in the works but will take time. Be forewarned that if you’re coming up on a weekend you may not find parking!


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