I left the beautiful Hocking Hills of Ohio with Ohiopyle State Park of Pennsylvania on my radar. Much of the day’s journey, as usual, was by way of windy country roads. If there’s one certainty about taking the road less traveled in a big motorhome, it’s that you have to stay alert at all times. Both hands on the wheel and eyes on the road. That, quick reflexes and the breaking package I added to my tow car gave one young buck (as in deer) a second lease on life that particular morning, when he darted out of the woods right into the path of my motorhome. I am quite sure that he escaped death by mere inches, and that my heart did not stop racing for another twenty miles down the road.
The campground in Ohiopyle State Park is quite large, and since it was mid-week I literally had a whole section of it to myself for a few days. As soon as I was settled into my campsite I loaded up the girls and we set out to explore the area. The tiny little town of Ohiopyle, which sits right along the Youghiogheny River, is literally surrounded on all sides by the state park.
From there I crossed a bridge and found a place to park the car and we hiked along the river to the best vista we could reach. When the trail came to an end we continued over large rocks, often having to put my camera down to climb them, and then lift the girls off of or back up onto the biggest rocks along the shoreline. It was a lot of work for a relatively short hike, and I was amazed to discover just how well these two can cling to a rock when they don’t want to let go! “Trust me.” I would coo as I grabbed ahold and plucked them from the ledges above me. Such sports, these dogs!
After we got as far as we could go and back again, we crossed to the other side and took a much more leisurely stroll along the riverbank for a different view of the rapids and falls.
After a long day of driving and hiking (and dog lifting) we stopped at one of the local haunts for a beer, burger and live tunes on the patio. More accurately, I got the burger and beer while the girls got fresh water in the collapsible bowl I keep in my backpack, a chunk each of my burger, and a lot of attention from the locals. Again… mid-week, so “town” was pretty quiet, but we enjoyed it just the same. On the way back to the campground we hopped out for one more short hike down to Cucumber Falls, which reminded me a lot of some of the falls in Hocking Hills, Ohio.
As much as I enjoyed the natural beauty of the area, the real highlight and reason for being here, was seeing Fallingwater, one of the most famous of Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural designs. I remembered reading about this home, which is built right into the surrounding hillside directly over the top of a flowing stream and waterfall, but it wasn’t until years later that I decided I must see it!
I was sitting in the NYC offices of Rizzoli (publishers of my book, The Dogs of Central Park) waiting for a meeting with my editor when one book on their shelves caught my eye. Fallingwater- Frank Lloyd Wright’s Romance with Nature. How alluring! Those of you who know me, or have been following my journey for awhile probably understand how strongly I feel that LIFE should be a romance with nature, and it should include the dance… and the union… and the celebration!
The story on this amazing place is extremely interesting, but far too long for me to share here. I would highly encourage a look at their website, Fallingwater.org, and if you ever find yourself heading toward Pennsylvania it would be worth putting a visit on your itinerary! The grounds are lovely, and the tour of the home is well done and very informative. A special thank you their Museum Programs Assistant, Clinton Piper, for the complimentary ticket and for personally coming out to greet me during my visit.
Interior shots are not allowed during the tour, but I did get a few shots while enjoying the surrounding landscape. (My images from Fallingwater are used with permission of Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.)
From Ohiopyle I headed to Hanover, Pennsylvania, where I left “The Beast” for some service work and dropped down to Waterford, Virginia for another visit with my dear friends Bonnie and Scott. Some of you may recall my visit with them last October, when I was fortunate to find a big barn to squeeze my motorhome in, safe from the ravages of Hurricane Sandy. The girls and I always feel right at home at their place! What’s not to love about good friends and dogs and cats and horses!!
After a long weekend in Waterford we drove back north to Hanover, picked up The Beast, and headed east to French Creek State Park. I knew nothing of this park before I arrived, and picked it for it’s location more than anything. I had plans of dropping into Delaware while there since it was one of the few states I had not yet visited on my journey, AND… it gave me an opportunity to meet yet another fellow blogger, Michelle Wire of Dust and Wanderlust, who I’d gotten to know only on a virtual level, but knew instinctively that we would share a strong connection when we met.
After a good night’s rest and a work filled morning the girls and I hopped in the car for a road trip to Doylestown to meet Michelle. She greeted me in the driveway with a smile and a hug, and soon after we loaded into her jeep (dogs and all) and spent the afternoon touring around this lovely and historical area. Our conversation flowed so easily, and with such enthusiasm, that I forgot to take pictures of many of the landmarks she was pointing out as we drove!
Our stops included Fonthill Castle/Mercer Museum, and Washington Crossing Historic Park, and a late lunch/early dinner right on the river in New Hope. I received a text from her later saying, “It was so nice to meet a woman who I respect and admire, and who turned out to be FUN too!” Interestingly, those were my thoughts almost word for word during my drive back to the campground that night. Thank you Michelle, for a wonderful afternoon in the Pennsylvania countryside. I look forward to seeing you again one day!
At this point on my journey I had been through 44 of the 48 continental United States. One of the few that was missing, and the tiniest on the map, was Delaware. I was far too close while traveling through Pennsylvania not to get there, so I planned a side trip in “Zippy” (my tow car) that would take me south into Delaware, west into Maryland and back north over the Chesapeake-Delaware canal at Chesapeake City, and through the beautiful countryside of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania on the way back to the campground.
I loaded up the girls and my gear and headed out for my 170 mile journey relatively early in the morning, excited to explore another unfamiliar part of the country. My first planned stop was right along the Delaware River in New Castle, which unbeknownst to me, was THE place to be for “Separation Day” every June 8th! (Yes… I’m that far behind on blogging. I drove into New Castle on June 8th!) The entire town looked very quaint and festive, and I’m sure it would have been a fun place to spend the day had I planned for it, but as it was… with no place to park and a lot of miles ahead of me… I regretfully found my way back out of town without stopping.
The next waypoint on my map was Delaware City, another quaint little town on the Delaware River. Here I was able to hike with the girls all along the waterway and harbor area. There was not a lot of activity (everyone was in New Castle I guessed) but we enjoyed the laid-back atmosphere and quite roadways.
From there we traveled a bit farther down the river, then made our way west to the tiny little town of Galena, Maryland where we headed north along Hwy 213.
I enjoyed having lunch right across the river in the shot above, on a marina patio where the girls were welcome to join me. On the way over I spied a big old barn from the bridge, but found no easy access for a shot once I got to the other side. After lunch I searched out and found a gravel drive under the bridge, and when it ended I hiked through the brambles for the best shot I could get without “knowingly” trespassing. On the way back to my car I noticed an accessible stairway up one of the “footings” on the bridge. Although clearly not a “public place”, there were no signs forbidding entry, so I couldn’t resist climbing the stairs to see what I might see.
There were lots of old barns and big farms and long abandoned houses along the way, and I enjoyed the freedom stop when I chose to, often times having to make a quick u-turn to do so. This is rarely an option while driving a monster size motorhome with a tow car attached. (Although I’m guessing I find a way to make it happen far more than most.)
Lancaster County had been on my “bucket list” of places to see for many years, and without doubt it’s the embedded image of “Amish Country” that drew me to this place. Some might wonder why, and I actually posed this very question to myself as I traveled through the countryside headed in that direction. It’s the romantic notion I guess, of a simpler time.
When I think of the Amish lifestyle I’m reminded of the pre-turn of the century way of life. A time before materialism and consumerism changed our society, and long before technology complicated our lives.
If you have not read the post I wrote titled The Fork in the Road, I would highly encourage you to do so. I believe it’s one of my most enlightening (and “introspective”) writings to date, and explains [in brief] what compelled me to change my life so dramatically.
Interestingly, I had charming visions of the images I would capture in the Amish countryside… plain clothed people riding horse and buggy, long-sleeved and bearded farmers toiling on the land, children in home stitched clothing playing simple front yard games. I saw all of that and more, but not once did I turn my camera in the direction of the people. In the long run, after witnessing a sense of purity about their lives, I regarded their privacy with far more importance than the imagines I’d been romanticizing all these years.