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Sunday, June 24, 2018

HOME AWAY FROM HOME, Pt. 2 (DOWN TO THE RIVER)

In 1754, frustrated with the tediously slow progress of his men as they hacked their way westward through the Appalachian Mountains to capture Fort Duquesne (present day Pittsburgh), Colonel George Washington broke off from the main group and, along with a handful of men, began exploring the Youghiogheny River as a possible water route through the mountains.  The group made it as far as present day Ohiopyle, Pennsylvania where, legend has it, Colonel Washington stood on a rock overlooking a 40 foot waterfall and decided to abandon the plan when he came to the realization that the rapids of the Youghiogheny would not be a viable means of transporting men and artillery westward.  It's this very waterfall, and system of rapids, that makes the Youghiogheny River the focal point of any visit to Ohiopyle State Park.


My son, Alex, and I standing on the west bank of the Youghiogheny River...possibly the same rock that George Washington stood on in 1754. -- June 20, 2018

My parents first brought me to Ohiopyle State Park when I was a child.  Now it's become the place that my son, Alex, and I have chosen for our annual "guys camping trip."  Alex and I both look forward to our yearly excursion to Ohiopyle.  We treat ourselves to a week of nature, a week of adventure, and a week of bonding.  This year, Alex's best bud, Devin, came along with us...he is, after all, part of the family.  We were also blessed by visits from my college roommate, Chris "Rainman" Lowe, and my partner in crime at NMS, Mike Graham.  On any given day that we are camping at Ohiopyle...no matter what activity we choose to do:  hiking, rafting, exploring, or mountain biking...the river is the center piece of it all.  

Alex took this pic of me on our last day at Ohiopyle.  The Youghiogheny River was running incredibly high from the torrential rains that hit the area last week. -- June 22, 2018

Our agenda for the week was simple...fun and adventure (with a relaxation and good food added in for good measure).   I brought my mountain bike with me again this year.  I really got the itch to explore more of the park after I mountain biked there last summer for the first time in nearly ten years.  On this trip, I managed two rides...the first was on the Great Allegheny Passage...an incredibly scenic ride for people of all skill levels.   My second ride of the week was a mud-fest ride for the ages which included Sugarloaf, McCune, and Baughman Trails.  We also managed to hike a lot more this year.  On Wednesday, Mike Graham joined Alex, Devin, and I as we explored and hiked Beech Trail.  We also explored the Ferncliff Penninsula which led us to the west bank of the Youghiogheny River and right to the big waterfall.  But, it's the white water rafting that we all look forward to the most.   I  first took Alex white water rafting in 2010 and it's become one of our favorite thinigs to do together.  This particular trip was probably my favorite ever...the river was high and fast, our guide was excellent, and the weather was beautiful...which made for a very exciting experience.

On the first evening in Ohiopyle, I snuck out for a ride on the Great Allegheny Passage...one of the most visually stimulating and scenic trails you can ride a bike on. -- June 18, 2018

One of the high points of the week is our rafting trip on the Youghiogheny River.  George Washington might have had better luck on this river if he had Cliff from White Water Adventures as his guide. Left to right:  Devin Seiger, Alex Raymond, Chris Lowe, Dave Raymond, and Cliff the White Water Guide. -- June 19, 2018

After an afternoon of white water rafting, we took a hike down through Cucumber Falls.   My son, Alex Raymond, exploring the Cucumber Falls area. -- June 19, 2018

Cucumber Falls in Ohiopyle State Park. -- June 19, 2018

Exploring BEHIND Cucumber Falls.  Left to Right:  Dave Raymond, Chris Lowe, Mike Graham, Alex Raymond, and Devin Seiger. -- June 19, 2018

The trail at Cucumber Falls leads down to the river.  It's one of our favorite spots to skip rocks and just hand out.  Left to Right:  Alex Raymond, Dave Raymond, Devin Seiger, Chris Lowe, and Mike Graham. -- June 19, 2018

A hot and humid, but beautiful, hike on Beech Trail in Ohiopyle State Park.  Left to Right:  Alex Raymond, Devin Seiger, Mike Graham, and Dave Raymond.  -- June 20, 2018

Having fun while hiking Beech Trail in Ohiopyle State Park.  Left to Right:  Mike Graham, Alex Raymond, David Raymond, and Devin Seiger. -- June 20, 2018

After hiking Beech Trail, we explored the Ferncliff Penninsula.  The trail leads you down the west bank of the Youghiogheny River and to the big waterfall.  You can see the main observation decks on the other side of the river. -- June 20, 2018

Mountain biking McCune Trail in Ohiopyle State Park. -- June 21,  2018

McCune Trail in Ohiopyle State Park. -- June 21, 2018

The stream behind my bike isn't a stream at all...it's Baughman Trail.  Even the trails became "rivers" after the heavy thunderstorms on Wednesday evening.  -- June 21, 2018

Alex took this pic of me as I came off of Baughman Trail into the town of Ohiopyle.  What an absolute mud-fest of a ride! -- June 21, 2018

Typically, when we camp in Ohiopyle State Park, our mornings and early afternoon are full of adventure...but the evenings are reserved for relaxation, good conversation around the fire,  and amazing camp food.  I'll admit, that as I've gotten older (and after multiple surgeries), it's harder for me to relax in tent.  I now go out of my way to reserve one of the small cabins in the campgrounds on the ridge above the river which offer a lot more comfort and a little bit more peace of mind when the inevitable summer thunderstorm rolls through the area.  The cabin and the campsite literally become our "home away from home" for the week.

Unloading wood for our evening campfire. --  June 21, 2018

One of our favorite campfire meals...beef and potato soup.  -- June 21, 2018

Breakfast consists of some Hungry Jack pancakes...the way my grandpap George Morosky made them for me when I was a kid. -- June 19, 2018

It's not breakfast without bacon and coffee! -- June 19, 2018

A little rain doesn't dampen our spirits at the campside.  We just moved the grill to the porch and continued on! -- June 20, 2018

Evening dinner aound the campfire.  As a thank you, we invited our rafting guide, Cliff, to come have dinner with us. Left to Right:  Chris Lowe, Mike Graham, Alex Raymond, David Raymond, Devin Seiger, and Cliff the White Water Guide. -- June 19, 2018

Packing up at the end of the week is bitter sweet.  I really hate to leave a place that I love so much and I really enjoy the time with my son...but I also miss my home, my bed, and most of all, my wife.  Alex and I have already decided to continue our tradition come back next year at the same time.   I'm so blessed to have a son who has some of the same passions that I have.  I'm even more blessed knowing that he enjoys spending this time with me.  The one thing that made packing up this year a little easier is knowing that, not only will he and I be back next year, but my wife and I will be camping at the same site in less than a week.  So...for at least one more weekend this summer...Ohiopyle State Park will be my "home away from home" one more time.


Alex and David Raymond.  Our last stop in the State Park before heading home...Baughman Rock Overlook provides a brilliant view of Pennsylvania's Laurel Highlands. -- June 22, 2018


Life is a journey...not a destination.




Yep...I stopped at the General Store in Ohiopyle for ice cream before I even finished my mud-fest mountain bike ride.  Still another 3 miles up the ridge to the campsite...but I just couldn't wait! -- June 21, 2018

Here are the GARMIN maps and data from all of our adventures in Ohiopyle State Park last week.  Happy rafting, hiking, biking, and exploring!














Interested in biking or hiking some of the trails featured in this post?  Check out the TRAIL MAPS and TRAIL HEADS tabs on the ALL TRAILS LEAD TO ICE CREAM website.

All of my posts are available at ALL TRAILS LEAD TO ICE CREAM and, if you get the chance, be sure to visit the good folks at YOUR TRUE NATUREPA PARKS and FORESTS FOUNDATION  and WHITE WATER ADVENTURES.

"WRITE SOMETHING WORTH READING OR DO SOMETHING WORTH WRITING..." Ben Franklin

Saturday, June 16, 2018

A PERFECT DAY

The "Month of Gray" (formerly known here in south central Pennsylvania as the month of May) has finally come and gone.  The end of yet another successful school year has ushered in my unofficial start of summer, and along with it, a string of nice weather.  Actually, we've had some amazingly nice weather...low humidity, blue skies, and high temps around 80 degrees.  I couldn't have asked for conditions to be any more perfect for my first summer ride in Michaux State Forest.

On our first Michaux ride of the summer, Tim and I headed to my favorite vista to catch the amazing view of the forest below. -- June 12, 2018

Tim's bike (you can also see mine leaning on the rock in the distance) resting along the trail a few feet away from the vista.  The mountain laurel, Pennsylvania's State Flower, is in full bloom on the left of the trail. -- June 12, 2018

A perfect day for a ride in Michaux State Forest. -- June 12, 2018

Enjoying the cool waters of Tom's Run near the end of my ride. -- June 12, 2018

Tim Sindlinger riding in Michaux State Forest. -- June 12,  2018

Tim Sindlinger riding a super cool section of trail near Michaux Road. -- June 12, 2018

A lot of thought was put into deciding where, in Michaux, Tim and I would ride this week.  We ultimately decided that the best way to initiate ourselves into the summer mountain biking season was to make the climb up the my favorite vista and soak in the beauty of the forest below.  From there, Tim and I just began to make things up as we went.  We explored parts of Buck Ridge Trail, pedaled a little bit of fire road, and zipped through some super cool single track that carved it's way through the forest landscape.  Tim and I wrapped up our day with a descent down the ridge and a stream crossing through Tom's Run.  A day of beautiful weather, beautiful scenery, good company, a whole lof of Vitamin N...yep, our first summer ride proved to be just about perfect in so many ways.


My summer kicked off with a trip to Mesa, Arizona to see my nieces and my nephew.  We managed to get out one evening for pizza and ice cream.  Left to right:  Isaac Raymond, Sophie Raymond, Jackie Raymond, & Uncle Dave.   -- June 9, 2018

Life is a journey...not a destination.



David A. Raymond -- June 16, 2018


While in Arizona, I managed to bust out my brother's old Cannondale (circa 1990) for a 10 mile desert ride.  Gotta love the 90+ degree heat at 6:15 AM!  -- June 10, 2018

Here are the GARMIN maps and data from my first Michaux ride of the summer and my desert ride in Arizona.  Happy riding!




 Interested in biking or hiking some of the trails featured in this post?  Check out the TRAIL MAPS and TRAIL HEADS tabs on the ALL TRAILS LEAD TO ICE CREAM website. 

All of my posts are available at ALL TRAILS LEAD TO ICE CREAM and, if you get the chance, be sure to visit the good folks at YOURTRUENATURE.COM and PA PARKS and FORESTS FOUNDATION.

"WRITE SOMETHING WORTH READING OR DO SOMETHING WORTH WRITING..." Ben Franklin

Saturday, June 2, 2018

HOME AWAY FROM HOME, Pt. 1 (STILL THE SAME)

My parents first took my brother and I camping in 1981.  The preparation involved for our family camping trips was a sight to see.  Dad had a 1976 Subaru, in which he and my mom seemingly packed half of our household belongings.  On those first camping trips, my mom and dad really made sure that our campsite would literally be a "home away from home."  On the Coleman grill (while listening to her Neil Diamond tapes), my mom made pancakes for breakfast and dinners that consisted of meals such as spaghetti and beef stew.  It was like we were at home...but in some ways better.  It was on these trips, at the age of 7, that I was introduced to campfire food...hot dogs roasted over the fire, smores, and my all-time favorite, mountain pies.

My mother, Kathy Raymond, preparing dinner for us at Rocky Gap State Park. -- 1981

Left to right:  My father, Dave Raymond, me (age 7), and my younger brother, Jacob at Rocky Gap State Park. -- 1981

Our family continued to camp at Rocky Gap State Park, located in the mountains of western Maryland, for the next 8 years (ending in 1989 when they began to conflict with the busy high school sport schedules that Jake and I had).  As I child, I didn't view camping as a relaxing event....actually, just the opposite.  The days were filled with activities that I enjoyed with family, and, as we got a little older, the friends that mom and dad permitted us to invite to come camping with us for the weekend.  I remember fishing of the docks, swimming in Lake Habeeb, riding bikes, and canoeing with my parents.  Fun times...and great memories.


Camping cousins.  Left to right:  David Raymond (age 11),  Joshua Rendulic, Jacob Raymond, & Lucas Rendulic -- October 1984

 Canoeing with my Uncle, cousins, and father on Lake Habeeb in Rocky Gap State Park.  (Left to Right:  Uncle Ed Rendulic, Joshua Rendulic, Lucas Rendulic, David Raymond, and Dave Raymond) -- October 13, 1984

My father, Dave Raymond, at Rocky Gap State Park. -- August 1985

That's me...age 11...hanging out at our campsite. -- August 1985

Sitting around the campfire with my childhood bud, Reese Smith (left). -- July 1985

My mom making us dinner.  I'd bet money that my boom box on the right side of the pic is playing Neil Diamond's Hot August Night album! -- July 1986

I guess, by 1988, I had reached my moody teenage years (so sorry mom & dad).  Wish I still had those blue Chuck Taylors!  -- August 1988

In 2013, my wife, Robin, and I, revived the tradition of returning to Rocky Gap.  It's our Memorial Day get away.  It's a time for us to relax and recharge.  It's also a time for us to hike and enjoy the nature that we are immersed in.  This year Robin and I took an amazing  hike around Lake Habeeb and then down into the gorge that is below the lake's spillway.  As evident in the name...Lakeside Loop traces the entire perimeter of Lake Habeeb.  In it's entirety, Lakeside Loop is a five-ish mile hike that is marked incredibly well with orange blazes. The two mile section of Lakeside Loop that Robin and I hiked was lined with blooming mountain laurel and ample evidence of local wildlife. 


Hiking Lakeside Loop at Rocky Gap with Robin. -- May 26, 2018

Blooming mountain laurel in Rocky Gap State Park. -- May 26, 2018

Evidence of beavers near Lake Habeeb.  These stumps were near Lakeside Trails at Rocky Gap. -- May 26, 2018

Lake Habeeb as seen from the edge of Lakeside Loop. -- May 26, 2018

Lakeside Loop is marked with signs and orange blazes on the trees. -- May 26, 2018

Ultimately, the goal for the day was to take Robin to the spillway beneath the dam...which, if you didn't know any better, you'd think was a natural waterfall. The rocky trail leading into the gorge is easily accessed from a Shortcut Trail that runs up the ridge, away from the lake, and perpendicular to Lakeside Loop. It's about as visually simulating of a hike as you can imagine...rocks of all sizes, streams, and the distant sound of water crashing.  Making your way to the spillway requires you to leave the marked trail, head towards the sound of the crashing water, and climb over a few boulders.  It's only about 100 yards off the main trail and a nice addition to the hike.

Pausing beneath the Lake Habeeb spillway after hiking into the gorge at Rocky Gap State Park. -- May 26, 2018

The spillway beneath the dam at Lake Habeeb. -- May 26, 2018




The gorge beneath the Lake Habeeb spillway at Rocky Gap. -- May 26, 2018

The trail leading to (and out) of the gorge is steep and rocky...but very beautiful!  It's marked well with white blazes. -- May 26, 2018

Robin and I had a first on our trip to Rocky Gap this year.  As we wrapped up our hike...we decided to check out how much it would be to rent a canoe for a short time the next day.  My first canoeing experience was here, at Rocky Gap, with my parents.  I can remember going out with my parents and my brother.  There were also a few occasions when my Aunt Rosanne, Uncle Ed, and my cousins Josh and Luke would camp with us.  I specifically remember canoeing with them.  As for canoeing with Robin...it was a lot of fun.  I pretty much had a smile on my face the whole time as we traced very trails we hiked the previous day, paddled to the dam, and then back.  A few rain drops hit us along the way...but that just added to the experience.


Canoeing with Robin on Lake Habeeb. -- May 27, 2018

To me, the most amazing thing about Rocky Gap State Park is how, after all these years, it's still the same.  Everything is recognizable...the beach, the lake, the campsites, and the camp store are just as I remember them.  Sure...there are a few changes here and there...but the park that I remember as a child is the one I see when Robin and I return each year.  
This is why I love Rocky Gap State Park...and why Robin and I return each year.


The best new tradition that Robin and I started at Rocky Gap is inviting my father and Mary Jane to have dinner with us while we are camping.  I'm glad I can repay the experience to my dad...we have a lot of good memories here. Left to right:  Mary Jane, Robin, David, Dave (dad) Raymond. -- May 27, 2018


Life is a journey...not a destination.





One of the most awesome changes to Rocky Gap is the snack shop located between the camp store and the beach.  They serve ice cream and milkshakes.  My favorite way to wrap up an afternoon of hiking. -- May 26, 2018

Here is the GARMIN map and data from our days of hiking and canoeing at Rocky Gap State Park.

Happy hiking...Happy paddling!







Interested in hiking some of the trails featured in this post?  Check out the TRAIL MAPS and TRAIL HEADS tabs on the ALL TRAILS LEAD TO ICE CREAM website.   

All of my posts are available at ALL TRAILS LEAD TO ICE CREAM and, if you get the chance, be sure to visit the good folks at YOURTRUENATURE.COMHIGH PEAKS HIKING, and PA PARKS and FORESTS FOUNDATION.

"WRITE SOMETHING WORTH READING OR DO SOMETHING WORTH WRITING..." Ben Franklin