Bill is from the New Stanton/Greensburg, Pennsylvania area. Sadly, it takes funerals to reconnect with family in our culture today. We all seem to move and it’s not easy to go back – until we grow up. So we returned on May 23, 2018.
After we were married, we lived in Bill’s hometown – for 1 1/2 years. I’m so grateful as it gave me an opportunity to get to know Bill’s parents and extended family. We both come from small families so it is nice to remain close to the few family members we have – and that is not easy since we all live so far apart. But for the funeral of Bill’s Uncle Warren in November 2016….
We drove our car up from Myrtle Beach to attend Uncle Warren’s funeral – our motor home was safe there for a few days. We reconnected with many and it was as if we hadn’t been apart for 40 years! One second cousin has a fifth wheel Recreational Vehicle (RV). They camp in it at Myrtle Beach every summer. So it was easy for us to connect and share adventures! She also said there is some good RV campgrounds in the New Stanton area if we ever decide to bring our motor home. So that started the wheels turning our heads….
Bill carries the responsibility of driving our motor home so I trust him to set our itinerary. Of course, he asks for my input, but the burden is on him to find the areas he is comfortable driving to and in. He never saw much of the USA until we began traveling in 2006. He began watching “On the Road with Charles Kuralt” soon after it aired in 1967. He also liked the biker movie, “Then Comes Bronson.” If you don’t know either one, let’s just say they inspired Bill to want to travel one day. We hoped to travel the USA on our Harley but we don’t like to eat out so that was going to be a problem! And now you know the rest of the story….
Let’s first start with our drive to this area. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard Bill say this is why a diesel is important to have in the mountains! It’s really great for climbing and descending the steep inclines – but using the turnpike helped limit those concerns. And it helped for him to be comfortable driving through the famous Pennsylvania tunnels! He grew up going through all of them. We didn’t mention we drove through three when we drove from Dillsburg to Shawnee State Park: Kittatinny, Blue Mountain (later we will look at that mountain from a distance), Tuscarora tunnels. But those were nothing compared to the Allegheny Mountain Tunnel! It’s just over a mile long. But first the cost of using the turnpike driving a motor home and towing a car:
We arrived at Fox Den Acres on May 23. We intended to stay for two weeks but due to the weather and a few other problems (main one was that Bill hadn’t figured out where we were going next – so many choices), we stayed until June 9, 2018. Let’s talk about the campground.
This is a big rig friendly family owned campground. Most important was the fact it had full hookups and was centrally located to all the things we hoped to do in the area. We didn’t use the amenities but it had a swimming pool that opened over the Memorial Day weekend. There are campfire rings, but not on all the sites. Each site has a picnic table. They fill propane bottles and have ice for sale at the Campground Store. We were pleased with the accommodations but at the end, we had one issue. We were there for 17 days and did laundry probably every day at least once, some days three times. The next to the last day, I washed our sheets then a load of white clothes which included two of my very nice white shirts (one is a golf shirt but I don’t play golf – I love golf clothes) and the other was a new tee-shirt. Both came out rather orange and blotchy. Bill’s white Harley Davidson long sleeve tee and our white towels didn’t turn, but then our tan sheets came out with a slightly orange tint. UGH, the iron on the water. We changed the water filter and it was full of “rust.” So that is one caution…..
We turned at the sign to the office. Usually, there is a big stop sign telling you where to stop. But Bill stopped before going around the office to the sign – good thing. He had an instinct we would need to turn immediately to the left and park down in the first or lower section of the park. It seems there are about four levels – a new and fourth one is just opening. So that is a caution. Otherwise, we would have had to drive around the second level one and then go down hill so to speak.
We will stay here again and will be prepared to change our water filter much sooner! We were close to Bill’s relatives so that made it nice to get together with relatives. We went grocery shopping in Greensburg, which was just a few minutes away. I actually worked in Greensburg when we lived in the area so it was nice to drive back around the town when I needed the post office.
Since we only had a short drive, we set up and then looked for a nearby hike. We use several apps as well as just google, “hikes near me.” We discovered a “Rails to Trails” only a few miles away. It looked like we could get in at least a five or six-mile walk. We parked in a public area, but weren’t sure if it was OK for us or not. And then it was awkward looking for the trail head as it was at a busy traffic intersection. We’re persistent and found it and enjoyed a pleasant walk.
We were happy with this great Rails to Trails nearby – maybe 10 minute drive for the days we weren’t able to go hiking. Bill was looking at his home state with fresh eyes. He actually became excited once we decided to spend the first part of summer here. The weather was cooler so perfect for hiking. But a little cooler than we hoped as we had to start using the heater at night but the air conditioner in the day! That actually made it nice as we were never bothered by bugs. They are usually a problem in the warm summers.
Bill is committed to aggressive walks if not hikes to his heart health. That is great with me. My knees now love the extra workouts! While I’m on the hunt for the epic mountain top view, Bill wanted to see water falls. We aimed for all the waterfalls we could while in got in a lot of great hikes. We went to two state parks while in the area, Linn Run once and twice to Ohiopyle. Linn Run seemed the closest so we went there first. Bill actually discovered Pinterest and went for all the Pennsylvania pins with waterfalls. Click on the blue for a hyperlink to the official State Park site:
LINN RUN STATE PARK
The varied topography and mixed hardwood and evergreen forest make the 612-acre Linn Run State Park a scenic place for picnicking, hiking, and cabin rentals.
Grove and Rock runs join to make Linn Run, an excellent trout stream. A lovely waterfall, Adam Falls, is a scenic spot nearby the picnic area.”
It took is about 2 1/2 hours to climb up and around this mountain. It was just over 4 miles and we climbed up about 823′ in elevation. I use a few apps and they don’t always agree! It was a good work out but we felt we had a little more in us for the hike to the waterfall:
After all of that, I wanted more details about this park. So good ol’ wikipedia had the best information:
The area in and surrounding Linn Run State Park is now a thriving second-growth forest. One hundred years ago it was generally described as a “waste land”. The ridges of the Laurel Mountains had once been covered with old-growth forest. These forests were clear-cut during the lumber era that swept over most of the mountains and forests of Pennsylvania during the mid-to-late 19th century and very early 20th century. The lumberman stripped the mountains and took the logs to the sawmill where they were cut into lumber. Smaller logs were used to reinforce the mine shafts of the many coal mines throughout southwestern Pennsylvania and West Virginia. The bark of the hemlock tree was used as a source of tannin at the tanneries of the area. The only thing the lumbermen left behind was the treetops. These tree tops were left to dry. The passing steam locomotives of the Pittsburgh, Westmoreland and Somerset Railroad would ignite this dry brush causing massive wildfires that swept through the mountains and valleys. In 1909, after the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania had purchased the land from the lumberman, Forester John R. Williams reported,
“I should say that fully three-fifths (60%) of the reserve had been burned since the lumbering was done. The fires did great damage to the young growth. Some places were covered with nothing but ferns and blackberry bushes.”
Scars from these fires can still be seen today in the Linn Runn vicinity.
Most of the wildlife in the area was devastated due to the destruction of their habitat or over hunting. White-tailed deer were imported from Michigan and New York to reestablish what had once been a thriving population of deer. These deer were released throughout Pennsylvania. The current population of deer in Pennsylvania are descended from the original stock that was introduced in 1910 after the lumberman had moved out of the area.”
I’m so thankful these forests have been restored and set aside as State Parks and State Forests. One thing we learned was that most of the state parks were nestled in and around state forests and game lands. We enjoyed our day here but the next three great hikes were all at Ohiopyle State Park. But first, we decided to go on a few tourist excursions.
When Bill and I were first married, we lived in this area for a year and a half. We have a number of great memories. We attended many Pirate Games at Three Rivers Stadium and we went downtown Pittsburgh at Christmas and we visited the Carnegie-Mellon Museum. Our grandsons are crazy about dinosaurs – so even though they weren’t with us, we wanted to go back and revisit the Museum of Natural History. They are constantly updating it….more or less. Bill’s cousin, Ruth Ann, went with us. She, too, had visited it years ago. It was fun sharing our memories of our favorite exhibits. We were only around her late husband a few times. We were like-minded in so many areas, we are sad we didn’t spend more time together and learn more about him. But we learned more about him here. He was a history teacher and his favorite topic within history were the ancient Egyptian times. He was an excellent teacher (the student comments at his passing showed a great reverence for him) and he used very creative methods to teach. I had a fantastic history teacher that fostered my love for the topic-and Tom sounded like that kind of teacher. Ruth Ann shared a lot about his methods while we were in the Ancient Egyptian Exhibits – which here displayed in a way to make it an outstanding history lesson of the times.
We attended church both Sundays we were here. Our first Sunday, we attended Grace Baptist Church in Greensburg, PA. We usually introduce ourselves as “travelers” when we are greeted and noticed to be “visitors.” And then the next question we are almost always asked is where are we from. It dawned on me that Bill was born in Greensburg so it was fun to say he was from right here! We really enjoyed the service but decided to return to Irwin and attended Calvary Baptist Church the next Sunday since we had a family picnic there right afterwards. When we were asked where we were from, this time we said he grew up right there in Irwin!
Memorial Day: Bill has wanted to visit some of Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural wonders. We almost saw one in Wisconsin but to us the price was out of sight at $75 a person (or thereabouts). Falling Waters has been on his must see list if we ever made it back here. So off we went with Bill’s cousin. She was the main reason we came back. Her husband passed away this winter. We wanted to come be here for her but the weather was minus 9 degrees when Bill was talking to her. We were barely managing the cold as we were in Jacksonville at the time and it was 32 degrees there. She told us to please not come, she knew we couldn’t survive. So we said we would come see her this summer – and now you know why we decided on Pennsylvania. What a blessing it turned out to be.
We bought our tickets on-line. It was a holiday, Memorial Day, but it was not overly crowded. There were a lot of choices as to which date and time to take a guided tour. The cost was $30 per person. The cost was well-worth it as we hope this iconic treasure continues to be preserved. There was plenty of parking and then you follow the signs to the Visitor Center. We arrived early so had about 30 minute wait for our tour. There was a museum store and cafe to take advantage of you had a long wait. We decided to enjoy a nature walk around the grounds while we waited. I had my walking tracker on. The total miles while we were there, from the parking lot, the nature walk and the tour was about 2 1/2 miles.
The owners of Falling Waters were the Kaufmans, husband and wife team who were founders of the Kaufman Department stores based out of Pittsburgh. Bill’s family shopped there for decades and I did during the two years I lived in the area. There were a wonderful philanthropic family and apparently outstanding employers. They opened up their property, it had cabins, for the employees to use as a vacation destination at a minimal cost. Now I understand why all the employees were so helpful and Kaufman’s was such a wonderful place to shop – coming from a non-shopper! I’ve never been a good shopper and now being a minimalist, I am even worse now.
From the official website, which has more details about this amazing family:
The Kaufmanns’ unique path as a family, which led them to the community of Bear Run, Pennsylvania, and eventually the architect Frank Lloyd Wright, would lay the foundation for Fallingwater—one of the greatest architectural triumphs of the 20th century.
Edgar Jonas Kaufmann (1855-1955) was the patriarch of a prominent Pittsburgh family known for their distinctive sense of style and taste. A highly respected business man and owner of Kaufmann’s Department Store, Edgar and his wife Liliane traveled in international circles and sought out the company of artists, architects, and other creative souls throughout their lives. Their only child, Edgar Kaufmann, jr. (the lowercase “jr.” was his preferred abbreviation) was an equally sensitive and artistic man who would become the catalyst for his father’s relationship with Frank Lloyd Wright.”
We really enjoyed the tour and highly recommend this as a must see activity if you are in the area! We would recommend comfortable shoes for the tour and you must be able to walk up and down steps as well as stand for 20 minutes at a time while each room/location was explained in detail. I think that was recommended on the website in preparing for your tour. There wasn’t any seating until near the end of the tour which took a little over an hour.
We really maximized our time here, but we will just have to continue into another post. So stay turned for where Bill nearly died in white water rapids as a teen and where we came across two epic hikes!
So I concluded there is nothing better than to be happy and enjoy ourselves as long as we can. And people should eat (healthy – my note) and drink (plenty of water – also my note) and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God. Ecclesiastes 3:12-13 NLT