Harder Than It Looks

Harder Than it Looks.
by patmccloskey

Janet and I had a nice bicycle ride this weekend up at Lake Arthur. As we sat on a bench and looked at the nice scene you see above, we admired the skill of the sailors who were piloting their sailboats, catamarans, and wind surfers. We observed some folks attempting to wind surf who had elementary skills and after a while, we realized that wind surfing is harder than it looks. Probably not unlike a lot of things with a steep learning curve until you get the hang of it. As my mind drifted in the hot sun and pleasant scenery, I went back to my earlier adventures in life, trying to pilot water craft. Not too successful.

Take whitewater rafting. Now I had always gone on whitewater rafting trips on the Yough and Gauley Rivers around here, but always had been a passenger and did what the guide told us to do. Kind of fun but basically along for the ride. One day, my father in law thought it would be a good idea to do the Youghiogheny River with my mother in law and my wife. He ended up in a raft with some other guys and I had my own raft with my mother in law and Janet. They looked at me skeptically when I said I knew what I was doing and we pushed off and paddled downstream with a look of excitement and wonder as the whitecaps began to lap up against the raft. We were doing fine until we came to the famous Dimple Rock which has been the demise of many canoes and water craft with a tough eddy current up against the rock and a designated route around it outlined by the outfitters at the beginning of the trip. I saw a bent canoe hanging from the rocks on the left bank and knew that we were approaching the challenge. I told my mother in law and my wife to keep paddling and I would try to steer us in the recommended direction of the current. Unfortunately, we zigged where we should have zagged and somehow I managed to get the raft out of the current and basically in the direction we wanted to go. And then the unthinkable for my MIL and my wife. I flipped out of the back of the raft and was on my back floating down “Swimmers Rapids” trying to hail them down. My wife apparently kept paddling with my MIL and then after a while of no response to questions like ” where do we go now?”, they realized that I was not in the raft. Janet screamed at her mom and said, ” He’s not here.” To which the MIL responded” Oh get out, you don’t know what you are talking about.” She then looked back and the two ladies were on their own. After a little while, I managed to float alongside the raft and after a barrage of questions, I said, ” I will see you in a mile at the end of these rapids.” I have no problem swimming but piloting a craft is not my strong suit. We all had a laugh about that one for years.

Another foray in into the world of water craft was when I decided one year that I would like to take up kayaking on the Yough. I took a continuing education class at Pitt with outings in a swimming pool trying to roll the kayak without getting out. A necessary skill when actually kayaking on a river or stream. I never was good at that and on the field trip to the Yough as our final outing, I put on a rain suit to try to keep myself dry. Little did I know that was a worthless endeavor seeing that I was out of the kayak more than I was in it and to make matters worse, the outing was in October and it was snowing on the river. Cold is not the word for it. Something much worse, and I was never so glad to rid myself of that kayak and tell myself that the idea of being a river rat or a granola crunching paddler hanging out in Ohiopyle, Pa was not my fate. My old ski buddy, Mark Singleton, who is now the Executive Director of American Whitewater, would not be proud of me and maybe welcome me back on the river for some lessons and maybe some redemption. But any trip to North Carolina to visit him would be on two knobby tires on trails and not on the river rapids of the south.

I had a few close calls on the water that were not my fault. One was on a boat offshore at Martha’s Vineyard where a friend of my in-laws, piloting the boat, went down into the hold to get some nautical maps I believe, and we were drifting precariously close to a large buoy. I was just about to grab the wheel when the guy came up, screamed, ” Holy S@#$”, and then just avoided what would have been a bad collision seeing that the base of the buoy was made of concrete. I can just see it now, all of us hanging on the buoy waiting for the Coast Guard as the boat would have surely sunk. The second was on the river here on a party boat with a bunch of ex football players. The weight in that boat had us very close to the water surface and I looked at my one friend and said, ” make sure you have your wallet and car keys within reach because when this thing sinks, we need to be ready to swim to shore and have our belongings” Fortunately, we were able to get off the boat before a collision with another boat and a close call with the walls of a lock on the river.

My mind drifted back as Janet said, ” time to go.” As we mounted our bikes, I took a final look at the sailboats, wind surfers, and other pilots of the water and said to myself, ” that is not for me, but it is nice to watch.” I will be a spectator for sure. Thanks for reading but don’t let me dismay you. If you want to try something new, go for it. It would be cool to know how to do it.
patmccloskey | June 8, 2020 at 5:30 pm | Tags: American Whitewater, Youghiogheny River | Categories: Exercise, Humor, kayaking, outdoor activities, outdoor sports, recreation, Uncategorized, White water rafting | URL: https://wp.me/p31Q99-17D
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Thank you Pat for sharing your water memories. Wags


Laurel Hill State Park Summer Fun!

We LOVE Laurel Hill State Park! Here are a few of their offerings for this month! Easy to get to from either resort! Call if you have questions, 814-352-8649

  • July 8 Hemlock Hike 4 to 5pm
  • July 8 Moonlight Paddle 9 to 11pm
  • July 12 & 26 Wednesday on the Water 6 to 7:30pm
  • July 15 Bat Facts 8to 9pm
  • July 22 Learn to Kayak 10am to noon & 1 to 3pm
  • July 22 Wild Teas 7 to 8pm
  • July 29 Beginner Bowmanship 9am to 11
  • July 29 Wildflower Walk 7 to 8pm




Best Fall? Laurel Highlands or Vermont?


Below a blog post by biker, skier Pat McCloskey.

My friend Helen Durfee always said that the fall season in Western Pa is just as nice as Vermont, just a little less dramatic. She grew up in the Laurel Highlands and lived the first part of her married life in Vermont. I agree that Vermont and New England are famous for “leaf peeping” but I have to say that this particular fall here in Western Pa. has been spectacular.

I have been treated to some amazing days of mountain biking and hiking this fall where I have taken the time to enjoy the color of the leaves. I have taken the time to “savor” the days like a fine steak or fresh seafood. I try to take little bites and enjoy the flavor. Like my commute to work on Squaw Run Road. I don’t go the fastest route to work but rather the scenic roads to enjoy the changes in the leaves each day. This year the changes have been remarkable.

Another contributing factor to my enjoyment of Fall 2016 has been the app that was suggested to me by my friend Eric Durfee( Helen’s husband and native Vermonter). It is called ProHDX and can be downloaded on your I-Phone. This particular app allows you to shoot a photo and really get the focus and colors sharply so that the end result is an I-Phone photo that looks particularly good compared to most. I am not a real good photographer and the only camera I have is on my I-Phone. But I have really enjoyed using this app and the convenience of the I-Phone on a ride or a hike can yield some spectacularly sharp images.

The one nice thing about a hike or taking in the view from a mountain bike is that you can avoid all of the cars packed with “leaf peepers” and enjoy the quiet transformation of the season in the woods of Western Pennsylvania. Many past seasons have been rushed with race pace rides looking at nothing other than the persons backside in front of me. Games, practices, kid’s activities take a lot of time and effort for many of us. But as you age and the seasons of rushing to activities wane, it is a great practice to slow down, take in the seasons, and enjoy the flames of the maple leaves, the golden colors of the oak trees and even the pale shading of the ferns on the forest floor. In my old backpacking days, I did take the time to hike and enjoy the fall in the Laurel Highlands. But in the many years since, those times had been replaced by soccer games, basketball games and general activities with my wife and son. Now I have a college student who does his own thing, and my wife and I are trying to slow down and enjoy what God provides for us by way of a natural display of color.

So, I guess the message here is to savor your experiences. The yearly season change where the warm days try to hang on into Indian Summer, create some spectacular viewing if you take the time to enjoy the days. You don’t have to go to the mountains to enjoy the scene. Just look out your window, your windshield, or take a walk in the neighborhood. Smell that fall aroma of leaves. See the tannin of the leaves change the creek colors. Notice the difference. Slow down. Thanks for reading.


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.


Laurel Mountain scheduled to open

Excerpts from recent article in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review.

“Finally, Laurel Mountain will be open this year for skiing. It’s finally going to happen — that’s been the feeling around here,” Buchan said.

The resort atop Laurel Mountain, along Westmoreland’s border with Somerset County, closed at the end of the 2004-05 ski season. Seven Springs signed a 10-year lease with the state in 2008 to operate the Laurel Mountain slopes.

On Friday, workers were making progress on the ski lodge after the resort was infused with $6.5 million from the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

Buchan said the upgrades include a modern ski lift, significant improvements to the trails, snow-making equipment and nearly double the snow-making capacity from a new pond with a 27 million-gallon capacity.

Ligonier Construction Co. in Laughlintown was awarded the $5.158 million general construction contract. Merit Electrical Group in Oakmont received a $369,800 contract.


Family Fun at our Local State Parks Feb 19-21

Family Fun at our Local State Parks Feb 19-21

If you are looking for something different to do consider visiting Laurel Hill, Laurel Ridge, or Kooser State Parks over the weekend of the 19th to the 21st! Activities may include horse drawn sleigh rides, hillbilly curling, sled dog demonstrations, live music, snowman/snow sculpture contest, and outhouse dash, guided cross-country skiing and snowshoeing (equipment available), sledding under the lights and more! 814-445-7725


Lifestyles Map in Information Tab

Laurel Highlands Living has a activities and life style mapping feature on the activities page in the Information Tab. This map uses google maps for its backdrop and adds local dining, activities, entertainment, and attractions. The default map opens with these amenities already loaded, but users can expand the map to included information about schools, zip codes, shopping, and much more. Any vendor who would like to be on this map and is not can enter their information on www.Factual.com, the source for the activities information.
[spatialmatch_map id=1 width=100% height=650]


Laurel Highlands Conservation Newsletter

The latest edition of the Laurel Highlands Conservation Landscape Initiative Newsletter talks about Governor Tom Corbett’s paddle through Conemaugh Gap, the bidding for the new visitors center in Ohiopyle, the proposed Amtrack Station in Rockwood and more. Here is the link to the Newsletter.  CLICK HERE


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 Trail Bridge to open in January

This is a repost of a recent Daily American Article
VICKI ROCK Daily American Staff Writer

Two years ago the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail Bridge was closed because an inspection found major structural deficiencies.

The old bridge, built in 1970, was demolished. Now a replacement bridge is scheduled to be opened to recreational use on Jan. 6. A dedication ceremony will be scheduled for the spring.

The bridge spans the Pennsylvania Turnpike between the Somerset and Donegal interchanges. It connects the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail, a 70-mile corridor running north and south through state parklands and the Forbes State Forest. The Bureau of State Parks owns the bridge.

“The removal of the old bridge cut the Laurel Highlands trail in half,” said Mike Mumau, Laurel Hill State Park complex manager. “It also cut the multi-use trail system in Forbes State Forest — about 120 miles of connected trails — in half.”

People who use snowmobiles or mountain bikes could only use half of the trail. There was a six-mile detour for hikers on township roads and forestry roads.

Mosites Construction Co. of Pittsburgh was awarded the contract of $1,297,060.  It was funded by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. The final work to be done includes installation of a protective cage over the bridge, installation of right of way fencing and trail gates and the final seeding and landscaping.

“People miss the bridge,” Mumau said. “It is arguably the most vital trail connection in Pennsylvania. It is a major link between the hiking trail and the multi-use systems that allow hiking, snowmobiling and equestrian use. It’s one of the main bridges in the system.”

Because the bridge was demolished, that gave park managers a chance to re-evaluate their plans, and they will now allow equestrians on the new larger, wider bridge in addition to hikers, mountain bikers and snowmobilers.

“It makes sense to work with our sister bureau, forestry, because mountain bikers and equestrians use the Forbes State Forest trails on both sides of the bridge,” he said. “Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail is still for foot traffic only. The signage directs people to the multi-use trails.”

Ed Callahan, district forester, Forbes State Forest, said there are some adventurous people who use the entire 120-mile Forbes trail system, which is near Route 30.

“When people want a long ride, this is it,” he said. “I know the snowmobilers especially will be glad to hear the bridge is opening. Not having a bridge cut the trail in half. This is a big deal for us.”

Another problem for the Forbes system was that the old bridge was too narrow for the snow grooming equipment to cross. The new bridge is wide enough.

“It is a nice, stunning bridge,” Mumau said. “Mosites Construction has done an outstanding job on this project and we are very pleased with it. This project moved very quickly. We’re excited it’s being opened for recreational groups. We look forward to it being in place for many years to come.”


Copyright © 2011, Daily American




DCNR funds Laurel Highlands Hiking trail bridge

DCNR has found funding internally to build a new bridge for the Lauren Highlands Hiking Trail over the Pennsylvania Turnpike. the bridge crosses the Turnpike between the Donegal and Somerset exits. With the bridge down hikers had to take about a 6 mile detour and the bridge is essential for connecting the northern and southern sections of the snowmobile system.
The old bridge was removed earlier this year when it was found to be structurally deficient. The new bridge, projected to cost more than $1 million, is in the final stages of design. Construction is expected to happen in 2011.
DCNR has also allocated $6.5 million to renovate Laurel Mountain Ski Resort but the work will not be done in time for skiing this winter. Seven Springs has an agreement to operate the resort in Laurel Mountain State Park.
More on these events as we get updates.


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!


All information deemed reliable but not guaranteed. Copyright 2019.

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