We are enjoying our short drives from location to location to maximize our adventure days this summer. (Click here to see our short drive in our last post.) We never know what we may be facing driving our 40′ motor home towing our car, so Bill likes to be cautious with the routes he takes. This may not have been the most direct route, but in the mountains, we needed the safest.
The 119 mile drive to Shawnee State Park was uneventful so we made record time, arriving by noon time on May 17, 2018. On the way, we decided to call the office to ask if there had been any cancellations. For the six days we would stay here, we initially booked two sites, our first two days we’d be on an electric only site and then we’d move to a full hook up site. We’ve noticed in most state parks (and many federal parks as well), the weekends are always booked, which means we may have to change sites for our week-long stays. It seems the prime spots in this case, sites with full hook ups are booked on the weekends during “peak” season. We know this is a reality so we’ve learned how to work around it. The weather forecast wasn’t
looking too good so we did hit pay dirt! Yay, there was a cancellation so we were put on a full hook up site for our entire stay. But we would need to stopby the Park Office after we set up to pay a fee of $10 to change to the “upgraded” site, plus pay the few extra dollars – from electric only to full hook up. Not bad.
We are now entering the park – WOW! It looks beautiful. On these short trips, we always plan to get in a hike after we set up. But the diversion to the Park Office delayed us by nearly an hour because someone parked their camper in a way that hindered us getting into the office. Oh well….
Shawnee State Park is 3,983 acres of Pennsylvania’s scenic Ridge and Valley Province. Ten miles west of the historic town of Bedford along US 30, Shawnee has modern recreational facilities that blend into the natural environment. A focal point of the park is the 451-acre Shawnee Lake. (From the State website above.)
We can say it is love at first sight! What a beautiful drive into the State Park and then to the campground. One reason Bill picked it, besides the location, there were 16 miles of hiking trails in the park. We love to walk out our campsite and get in a good hike! As we drove in, Bill commented it seems the states and Federal Government own prime real estate!
Shawnee State Park is named for Shawnee Creek, a stream which flowed through the area and was dammed to create the recreational lake at the park. The creek was named for the Shawnee, a Native American tribe that once lived in many parts of Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Kentucky. They were forced from their lands in Ohio and Kentucky by invading Iroquois, the powerful five-nation confederacy based in western New York. Later the Shawnee were forced west out of Ohio by encroachment by settlers of the Thirteen Colonies.
The area surrounding the park was used as a trade route and military road during the French and Indian War (also known as the Seven Years’ War). General John Forbes built the Forbes Road (which the modern-day U.S. Highway 30 parallels) to send supplies from the ports in Philadelphia and Baltimore to a force of British soldiers under his command as he tried to capture Fort Duquesne from the French in 1758.
The park was authorized by the 1947 Session of the Legislature of Pennsylvania. Construction of the dam began in 1949 and it was completed in 1951, when the park opened to the public.
Initially, we booked site 73 for two days in the electric only campground area. It would have worked OK, but there is nothing like being able to have full hook ups and not move during a 6-day stay. We loved this site, the neighbors were all friendly and we had great satellite and cell phone reception.
Off we went on our first hike. We read the brochure about the hikes in the area and it looked like a decent three+ mile hike around the beautiful lake. Click here to see a map of the beautiful hikes in the park. We hiked on nearly every one.
Ok, so it wasn’t the highest elevation climb but it was a bit of an up and down hike! We were definitely impressed with how beautiful the park was, it was one of the most beautiful to date we have stayed in. We enjoyed the little bit of elevation we found. It did push us at times.
But I was looking for that epic hike! I showed the below picture to the clerk at the Ranger station who checked us in. After telling him this was one of the most beautiful parks we had been in, this was the hike I was looking forward too. You see, I googled the internet for more info on the park on our way there and this image popped up:
He said he didn’t think that picture was taken in this park. That broke my heart. But it made me determine we were going to find an epic hike this summer.
It didn’t take long to discover Blue Knob State Park was not too far away, with higher elevations. The description sounded like what we liked – second highest mountain in Pennsylvania, 18 miles of hiking trails and solitude! It does have a campground but Bill decided our motor home wouldn’t like the climb up to it. But we visited it and ended up hiking here twice. Click here to see the map of the park with the trails. Sadly, it seemed that the best hiking with the potential of that type of view was on the Mountain View Trail – the trail head accessible only by a road that was closed. The over 5 mile trail was rated difficult but we couldn’t see how long of a hike it would be to get to the trail head. There was no active ranger station so we couldn’t ask for help. We took the maps offered at the station and did our best to find another good. We stumbled on the Rock and Ridge Trail head with the found at the Mowry Hollow Picnic Area. It had male and female out-houses and a parking lot.
The first time we hiked up to the left as we entered the forest, starting on what looked like a slow ascent. The second time, we went to the right with a steep ascent. Both hikes were great and covered different areas. We also drove up to the top of the park, to see the ski resort. We actually were trying to find another trail head to get to Mountain View Trail for a more challenging hike and for the views. We just couldn’t find it and no one was at the Ski Resort to ask either. But we did get some great photos of the forest environment.
Blue Knob State Park is named for its majestic dome-shaped mountain. At 3,146 feet above sea level, Blue Knob is the second highest mountain in Pennsylvania, only 67 feet shorter than Mount Davis in Somerset County.
Situated on a spur of the Allegheny Front and overlooking the scenic Ridge and Valley Province to the east, Blue Knob has spectacular views. Unique photographic opportunities are available during low humidity weather and with changes of season.
A northeastern view from the second highest point in Pennsylvania can be seen at the Expressway Chairlift on leased park lands operated by the ski resort.
A southeastern view can be enjoyed at the Chappells Field Area across from the campground. Included with this view is a close-up of the western slope of Blue Knob Mountain.
A southern view can be enjoyed at the Willow Spring Picnic Area.
A hike along Mountain View Trail provides a southwestern view along the Appalachian Plateau from the Pavia Overlook.
Argh! We tried to get to each of these views! The weather didn’t cooperate as you can see in the first photo. We also were at the Chappells Field Area across from the campground, but the views were obscured. The campground was pretty high up. We hiked up to it and were glad we didn’t try to bring the motor home.
From All Trails App, our first hike stats and map:
The second time we went back, we were determined to get to the top of the mountain. If we couldn’t hike up, we would at least drive up. We were surprised but shouldn’t have been, that the road was winding round and round – he dreaded meeting a big truck on it. Again, we looked for the trail head where we could get o the Mountain View Trail, but couldn’t find it. But we found a nice view from the top of the mountain.
When we couldn’t find the trail head at the top of the mountain, we went back down to Mowery Picnic Area. We really prefer to start at the bottom of a mountain and climb up – then the hike back down isn’t to hard! The information about this park suggested doing just that as the hikes were all billed as being pretty steep.
We have become very focused on a heart healthy lifestyle – and we’ve learned it is also a cancer preventative lifestyle. We know we all will die of something one day. BUT we don’t want to hasten our demise….So you will see we seem consumed with hiking/exercise. We don’t talk about restaurants or even what we are eating. We basically eat whole and fresh foods, meaning we do a lot of prep in our kitchen. We really enjoy history, museums and gardens in-between.
But most importantly, every Sunday, you will see is attending church or a worship service in a campground. We attended Colonial Hills Baptist Church on the Lincoln Highway (I like the sound of it, it is also known as Route 30), Bedford, PA. We really enjoyed this sweet fellowship. Not only did the Pastor preach from God’s Word, but he is a gifted singer! We’ve had two other pastors who also had this gift so it rounded out the service.
When Bill decided to come to his particular State Park, he had a few other ideas of things to see. When the weather is a bit inclement and we can’t hike, we look for indoor activities. The main thing we had on our list for this area was the 9/11 Flight 93 National Memorial. Not much really impresses our son-in-law, he’s very laid back, but he told us we had to visit this! That was a huge endorsement so off we went on the first day it looked like rain, May 22 and our last day here. Little did we know how big it was and how much was outdoors – although there is a huge indoor visitor center.
The drive there was only a little over 16 miles from our campground and a little under 30 minutes drive time. We have been amazed at how bucolic the views are as we drive on these state and county roads. We learned to use the word, bucolic, when we arrived in Wisconsin. Their “Welcome to Wisconsin” magazine we were given describes Wisconsin as bucolic.
bu·col·ic byo͞oˈkälik adjective relating to the pleasant aspects of the countryside and country life.
It is hard to adequately describe the magnitude and beauty of this memorial. There was a nice display as you entered the visitor area showing the layout of the memorial.
The Visitor’s Shelter was nestled in behind the first wall. It not only contained artifacts from the crash site, but it really honored the heroes on this flight as well as memorialized that day, September 11, 2001. We have visited a lot of memorials, such as the WWII Memorial (we actually took Bill’s mom – an Army Lt. Nurse, and then another time, took my dad, a WWII Bombardier), the Vietnam War Memorial, the Korean War memorial, all in Washington, DC. These honored not only those who gave their lives, but all who fought during these wars. Bill commented, this memorial honored all who died – but they weren’t in a war. Again, sobering.
When you visit, you have a choice to walk down to the actual crash site and memorial wall, or to drive. It was labeled a “hike” as it was about 2 1/2 miles – you know we “hiked” it. I used my “Map My Walk” tracker and determined it had 146′ elevation. Again, that was a sobering walk as the images of that day and the details of what the “heroes” went through once they realized they had been hijacked. Some of them were able to communicate using cell phones and Airfones with loved ones and they were told about the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. They had approximately 35 minutes from the minute they knew they were hijacked until the crash. I can’t imagine. Click here for the timeline that details all the phone calls as well as official transmissions once it was determined the four airplanes had been hijacked. Two crashed into the Twin Towers in New York City (we visited there around December 15, 2001) and one crashed into the Pentagon. Since we lived not too far from it, we also drove by that crash site.
I didn’t take a photo of it, but there was also a poster of the initial makeshift memorial that was created soon after the crash – by family members who were allowed to visit the site. It was so heart wrenching. If you have been here before, it’s important to know it has been changing. From the official website,
The first phase of the Memorial which includes the Memorial Plaza, Wall of Names, and Entrance Road was dedicated on September 10, 2011, just before the 10th Anniversary of September 11th. The next phase of the Memorial (the Visitor Center, Learning Center, and Walkway to the Memorial Plaza) was dedicated on September 10, 2015. The Tower of Voices is currently in development.” (my note: It will be completed and dedicated on September 12, 2018.)
Since we were there on his birthday, he was born in 1970, I thought we should honor his memory with his brief biography. He was a remarkable young man and a loss not only to his family but to our country. A wall inside the Visitor’s center had all their biographies and pictures posted. That was actually my favorite part. Being there on one of their birthdays was meaningful.
Hometown: San Francisco, California
Occupation: Owner, The Bingham Group
Reason for travel: Business, and to participate in a friend’s wedding
Mark Bingham was establishing a new office on the east coast for his California-based public relations firm. The successful and adventuresome executive traveled frequently for both work and pleasure. A former rugby champion at the University of California, Berkeley, Bingham was a valued teammate on the San Francisco Fog, a gay rugby football club. On the morning of September 11, Bingham overslept and nearly missed his flight; he was the last passenger to board. During the hijacking, he phoned his mother reporting that his plane had been hijacked by men who said they had a bomb. In addition to his mother, Bingham was survived by his father and stepmother.
The Official Park website also has a list of brief biographies of crew and passengers. It can be accessed here.
Hemlock Grove and Impact Site
At the edge of the field is what remains of a hemlock grove damaged by the crash of Flight 93. A gap is visible where the damaged trees were removed. At the base of the grove is a boulder which marks the general location of the impact site. The FBI excavated the site and the crater was later filled in at the direction of the coroner.”
I will admit, tears were flowing as I was inside the Visitor Shelter (interesting name) reliving that day. I was so privileged to work for the FBI and was put to work as many of us were who were near the crash sites – for 30 days – no days off and 12 hour shifts. We had an important job to do and mine was helping with the overseas investigations due to my assignment at the time. I was working in the International Training Unit and we had liaison with our overseas Legal Attachés. How do you ever forget that day, especially when you were involved in the investigations?
For Bill, he said it was really an important history lesson for him as he wasn’t really following the investigation and all that transpired after September 11. He was affected and like all Americans, he wanted to do something and we did. At the time, Mayor Rudy Giuliani pleaded with us Americans: “If you want to help New York, please come visit. We are open for business.” One December 15, 2001, we took our daughter there for a three-day visit, staying in the DoubleTree Hotel in Times Square. We saw a play, Christmas shopped and toured Central Park in a horse and carriage. Never forgetting why we were there – to help the city heal in some small way. It was a visit we will ever forget.
Stones are good monuments and how appropriate there is a boulder to mark the spot. We don’t worship the stone but it is a reminder, a memorial. Let us never forget….
And Joshua wrote these words in the book of the law of God; and he took a large stone and set it up there under the oak that was by the sanctuary of the LORD. Joshua 24:26