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Monday, July 1, 2019

BIG KID ADVENTURES

Last summer, Robin and I took our nieces, Jackie and Sophie...along with our nephew, Isaac, camping in Ohiopyle State Park.  The trip was geared to doing kid oriented activities...but we could tell that Jackie, who was twelve at the time, would soon be ready to move onto to some bigger kid adventures...white water rafting, waterfall exploring, and hiking...the kind that stuff that Alex and I do on our yearly camping trips together.  So, a promise was made to Jackie that, come next summer, she could join Alex and I on our yearly adventures.

Alex, Jackie, and David Raymond on an adventure to Jonathan Run Falls -- June 20, 2019

All good adventures start with going out for breakfast...so, after Alex, Jackie, and I had the gear packed and left my father's house...we headed to the Bedford Diner to get our day started.  Fully aware that we couldn't check into our campsite at Ohiopyle until 3PM, I planned on a few small excursions on the way...basically bringing out the full history teacher nerd in me!  Our first stop wasn't planned.  I have memories of my parents stopping, with my brother and I, at the S.S. Grand View Point Hotel that straddled the side of Mount Ararat west of Shellsburg, Pennsylvania.  We called it the "Ship Hotel" and I can specifically remember the sign on the side of the building which bragged that, from this point, you could "See 3 States and 7 Counties."  Mom and Dad would let my brother and I view the  surrounding area through the binoculars anchored to the deck of the "ship."  The Grand View Point Hotel burned down in the Fall of 2001 and all that was left for Alex, Jackie, and I to see (besides a few pieces of the foundation covered in roadside vegetation) was the blue Mount Ararat elevation sign.


Our trip began with breakfast at the Bedford Dinner. -- June 17, 2019

Exploring the remains of the S. S. Grand View Point Hotel.  -- June 17, 2019

Post card of the S. S. Grand View Point Hotel

The second detour, on our round-a-bout route to Ohiopyle was to see the now constructed (but still not operational) Tower of Voices at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville.  Last year, Alex, Devin, and I visited the memorial...but the Tower of Voices was not yet built.  The tower is 93 feet tall (in honor of American Airlines Fight 93) and contains 40 wind chimes constructed of polished aluminum tubes (representing the 40 passengers on Flight 93 who lost their lives on September 11, 2001.  We didn't plan on stopping here...but I couldn't pass up the opportunity to show the memorial to my niece and pay respects for all those who lost their lives on that tragic day.


The Tower of Voices at the Flight 93 Memorial in Shanksville, PA . -- June 17, 2019


Tower of Voices -- June 17, 2019


The next stop along the route to Pennsylvania's  Laurel Highlands, and Ohiopyle State Park, was Fort Ligonier.  In 1979, my mother and father brought my brother and I to Fort Ligonier.  I remember being there...but that's it.  The history nerd in me really, really wanted to come back and see this French and Indian War era fortification along Forbes Road.  Not only were the reconstructed fortifications fun to explore...but the museum attached to it was very interesting...and pretty hands on.  The three of us enjoyed about two hours of 18th century nerdiness!


Fort Ligonier  -- June 17

My brother, Jake, and I with our dad at Fort Ligonier. -- 1979



The interior of Fort Ligonier in Ligonier, PA. -- June 17, 2019


Jackie Raymond checking out the small swivel gun at Fort Ligonier. -- June 17, 2019

Jackie and Alex Raymond playing dress up (1750s style) at Fort Ligonier. -- June 17, 2019

Hanging out in the headquarters of General John Forbes, drinking coffee, and planning a route to Fort Duquesne. -- June 17, 2019

Guarding the gates at Fort Ligonier.  Alex, David, and Jackie Raymond --June 17, 2019

By 3PM, we had finally arrived at our cabin in the Kentuck Campgrounds at Ohiopyle State Park.  All camping trips start with getting the truck unloaded...organizing the cabin and sleeping arrangements...collecting firewood...and then ultimately, relaxing for the evening by the fire.  Alex's dinner of choice on the first night of camping is hamburgers, bacon, and potatoes (wrapped in foil and cooked directly in the campfire).  I was worried that Jackie would be bored...that the sitting around and relaxing by the fire part of camping wouldn't be her thing...but she was perfectly content to enjoy the piece and quiet while watching the flames dance around the logs in the fire ring.


Alex, David, and Jackie Raymond.  Site 196 in Ohiopyle State Park. -- June 17, 2019

Okay...here we go!  First full day of camping and we headed out for, what Jackie had been waiting over a year for, our white water trip down the Youghiogheny River!  There was a whole crew of us this year...my step-daughter, Mia, made the journey from Carlisle, PA just to raft with us...my good friend, Chris Keller (along with his three kids, Claudia, Trevor, and Dylan) had come to Ohiopyle to camp for a few days and raft...and of course, Devin Seiger was along.  He drove up separately from Alex, Jackie, and I in his super cool new Jeep.  Big kid adventures begin with big kid meals...Hungry Jack pancakes, black coffee, and bacon.  Once everyone had their fill we headed down to town for our trip down the river.


Every rafting trip has to be preceded with a good breakfast of Hungry Jack pancakes, bacon, and coffee! -- June 18, 2019

Alex, Devin, and Jackie enjoying morning breakfast before rafting. -- June 18, 2019

White Water Adventures in Ohiopyle has treated me so well over the past few years.  The staff has been great and the guides have been excellent.  Alex, Devin, Mia, and I have done this a number of times...but with Jackie along I made extra certain that she payed attention to the guides safety talk and instructions. Within a few minutes were were paddling our way down (North actually, the Youghiogheny flows North) the River.  The river was flowing a little high...which made the rapids especially fun.  Jackie has a look of pure excitement and joy on her face in every single photograph I have of her going down the river.  Alex, Devin, Mia, and Jackie were able to participate in a little extra curricular activities during our lunch brake and jump off some rocks into the river.  The only nervous part for me was when Jackie was popped out of the raft...she kept her head about her and I was able to pull her back into the boat.  It was a great day to be on the river.


Pre-White Water Rafting pic (minus Chris Keller...he was the one with the camera) -- June 18, 2019

This looks a little more treacherous than it actually was!  We got some serious style points for this one. -- June 18, 2019

David Raymond, Jackie Raymond, Mia Arnold-Scott, Devin Seiger, and Alex Raymond -- June 18, 2019

One of the best rafting guides ever, Smiles, was along for our trip down the Yough. -- June 18, 2019

Chris, Claudia, Trevor, and Dylan Keller on the Youghiogheny. -- June 18, 2019

Jackie earned her rafting hoodie after her first white water adventure. -- June 18, 2019

Post rafting dinner at the campsite with Alex, Devin, Jackie, and the Keller family -- June 18, 2019

Some of the big kid actives are a little more low key.  We spend a lot of our time walking around Ohiopyle...visiting the bakery and just hanging out by the river.  Alex and Devin took Jackie to the natural water slide for a little bit...but the water was too high for them to use it.
Most of our evenings were spent hanging out at the campsite and eating good food...beef soup, smores, mountain pies, sausages, and burgers. There was even a "cousin watermelon eating contest" between Alex and Jackie.  I think Jackie, with watermelon juice dripping off of her shins, gets the trophy this year.

Hanging out in the town of Ohiopyle, Pennsylvania.  Not sure why Jackie didn't want a hug from her Uncle Dave. -- June 19, 2019

Jackie Raymond relaxing and taking in the peaceful setting of the Youghigheny River flowing through Ohiopyle, PA. -- June 20, 2019

Cousins, Jackie and Alex Raymond, having a watermelon eating contest at the campsite.  Jackie won! -- June 20, 2019

Last summer, Alex, Devin, and I had planned on hiking Jonathan Run trail...a part of the State Park that I had never been too...but last year's torrential rains not  only washed out the trail, but annihilated the wooded bridges that cross over Jonathan Run creek.  This year, with the trail finally reopened, we made our way down the side of the mountain...hoping to see the incredible waterfalls that are near the bottom of the ridge.  The trail was open, but none of us were ready for the constant mud that made up the trail most of the way down.  For a while, we tried to avoid it but that was impossible.  It was easier to trek ankle deep through the soft mud than it was to slip and slide around it. 

Crossing one of the wooded bridges on Jonathan Run Trail. -- June 20, 2019

I'd like to say that only a small section of Jonathan Run looked like this...but, if I had to guess, I'd say about 60% of our hike down Jonathan Run was a mud fest! Alex and Jackie Raymond -- June 20, 2019



Devin, Alex, and Jackie on Jonathan Run Trail. -- June 20, 2019


Cousins comparing how muddy they got!  -- June 20, 2019

I captured this pic of Jonathan Run was taken from the middle of the creek.  After a while, no one cared how wet or muddy their feet were!  -- June 20, 2019

Jonathan Run Trail parallels Jonathan Run creek from the top of the ridge down to the Great Allegheny Passage.  There were spots that were we could cross into the creek, skip some rocks, and wash some of the mud from our shoes.  I had expected the trail to lead directly to the waterfalls...but that wasn't the case.  In order to get down to the secluded Jonathan Run falls the four of us had to descend down a muddy and rooty embankment.  There was an super handy rope tied to the trees so that hikers could easily climb in and out of the area.  This added a really cool, and completely unexpected, element to our hike.  What we found was absolutely beautiful and picturesque.  Well worth our sloppy march through the mud!


The descent down to the main falls of Jonathan Run is pretty steep.  Luckily, there was a rope tied to the trees to help people get in and out of the area. -- June 20, 2019

Jonathan Run Falls -- June 20, 2019



Jonathan Run Falls in Ohiopyle State Park. -- June 20, 2019


Devin Seiger, Alex, Jackie, and David Raymond at Jonathan Run Falls. -- June 20, 2019

During the times when Alex, Jackie, and Devin were out doing some of their own exploring...I managed to get out and some of my own on my mountain bike.  Last year, I explored trails in the Sugarloaf area east of the town of Ohiopyle.  This year, I stayed closer to to the campgrounds so that I could do all of my riding without needing Alex or Devin to pick me up anywhere.  I spent most of my time mountain biking on, and around, Great Gorge Trail or on the Great Allegheny Passage.  Great Gorge was super cool...leading directly out of the Kentuck Campgrounds, descending down towards the Great Allegheny Passage, and then turning and riding the ridge overlooking the Youghiogheny River...eventually leading to Cucumber Falls.  From there I rode back into the town, hopped onto the Great Allegheny Passage, and was able to ride directly back to the campgrounds.  I super fun (and convenient) ride.

My Stumpjumper leaning against a trail sign in Ohiopyle State Park. -- June 19, 2019



I thought this section of the Great Allegheny Passage was beautiful. -- June 17, 2019


Taking a moment on the bridge that passes over the Great Gorge on the Great Allegheny Passage. -- June 17, 2019



The bridge on the Great Allegheny Passage passing over the Youghiogheny River. -- June 17, 2019


The Great Allegheny Passage -- June 17, 2019

David Raymond on Great Gorge Trail in Ohiopyle State Park. -- June 19, 2019

Great Gorge Trail in Ohiopyle State Park. -- June 19, 2019

There are some traditions from my childhood that have gone by the wayside...but I'm glad this one has not.  My grandparents brought my parents to Ohiopyle, my parents brought my brother and I to Ohiopyle, and every year I bring my son...and now my niece.  All vacations seem to fly by...but it always amazes me how quickly the time passes when I go camping in Ohiopyle.   On Monday, with the whole week ahead of us, we sit by the fire and think of all the adventures we have planned, and then, before you know it, it's Friday morning and we're packing up the site and heading home.  Only for few weeks, though...then I'll be back again with my wife, Robin, and with Alex.  I'm sure there will be at least a few adventures planned.


Halfway though our trip we had a pretty serious glitch when we lost the brakes in my old Silverado.  Fortunately, we were able to get the vehicle stopped and pulled over along side of the road.  A special shout out to E Q Muffler and Auto Center for fixing the break lines on my old Silverado in such short notice...to White Water Adventures for giving me a lift the 15 miles into Uniontown, Pennsylvania to pick up the truck...and to Devin for hauling us around the rest of the weekend in his jeep! You all are great! -- June 21, 2019


Life is a journey...not a destination.



David A. Raymond -- July 1, 2019


A little post-mountain biking snack.  One of our favorite things at Ohiopyle are the cream filled cookies that we get at the Ohiopyle Bakery.  Love the big comfy chairs out back!  -- June 19, 2019


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