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6.10.2018

Cole Run Falls Revisited: Laurel Highlands, Somerset County

We have probably visited Cole Run Falls at least four or five times, including on this other visit. It is a great place to go if you are driving in the area and have about half an hour to spare riding on the gravel and dirt roads of Forbes State Forest and walking down to the falls. For western PA, a place with relatively few waterfalls compared to Northeastern PA, let alone large ones, this is certainly a larger waterfall. Overall, this is a small to medium size waterfall that is very picturesque. It goes into a small gorge that is filled with hemlocks, moutain laurel, and other flora. Its creek leads into nice trout pools, including Blue Hole, and others, and several covered bridges, the Barronvale and Kings Covered Bridges, are located nearby, in addition to Seven Springs Mountain Resort. 
I would rate the hike somewhere between easy and moderate. It is very short, though once you head down the gorge, there are some spots that require a little maneuvering and have some slick mud that you will need to pay attention to. If you head down into the gorge, I recommend you err on the side of caution and put on some hiking boots with a decent tread, just to be safe.
Here is the view from the top. About 15 feet back from the top of the falls, there is a nice little pool that you can dip your feet into.
A little overexposed. This is a fun set of falls to experiment with your camera settings at, for there is variable lighting and lots of ways for you to compose your shots.
That's better!
A shot that is "rooted" in beauty! A large tree root helped to naturally frame this photo.
As I said earlier, this gorge gives you so many chances to come up with unique compositions with your shots.
Immediately following the falls, there are a number of little falls.
Depending upon my mood for the day, I like to switch up the speed at which I shoot the falls. I often prefer stop motion shots like this, but the lighting was not as conducive to it. Overall though, we highly recommend checking out Cole Run Falls if you are in this area of the Laurel Highlands. You will certainly not regret it. Be sure to also check out the nearby Barronvale and Kings Covered Bridges and Seven Springs Mountain Resort.

Finding it is easy, for it is already listed within Google Maps, but here are the coordinates:
Coordinates to the parking area are: 
39.973007, -79.284217

6.03.2018

Wholey's: Awesome Fish Market & More in PGH's Strip District

There are several places that come to mind as Pittsburgh staples when it comes to family owned institutions for specialty foods. The first is the Pennsylvania Macaroni Company for the finest and freshest Italian market specialties. The second is Wholey's. This is the place to go in Pittsburgh to get the freshest fish, meats, vegetables, and one of the finest fish sandwiches in the city. Upon entering Wholey's you are greeted with display cases of pretty much any kind of fish that you can think of. 
Wholey's has been a staple for people to visit in the Pittsburgh region since 1912.
The cafe part of the market has fantastic food, including some of the finest fish sandwiches in Pittsburgh, Lobster Mac and Cheese (which is pictured here), Lobster Bisque, and more. The prices are also extremely affordable.
As soon as you walk in, you are greeted with what is on special for the week. It is not unusual to see squids, flounder, and more.
Lobster tails galore!
The fish area at Wholey's.
Live trout

Lobsters
Their meat selection is fantastic as well. Their bacon is absolutely top notch.

Along with their bottled soda collection, featuring Natrona Bottling Company's Red Ribbon Bottled Sodas
Wholey's is quintessentially Pittsburgh and you have to check it out. For more information on hours, location, and how to visit, check out their website at www.wholey.com


5.20.2018

Cassandra Overlook: World-Class Railroad Overlook in Cambria County

The Cassandra Overlook is a place that is renowned in railfan circles, providing a stunning overlook of a straight-away section of the old Pennsylvania Railroad Main Line. We have traveled up and down the mainline, and this location sticks out as being one of the few true purely straight right-of-ways that are open to view throughout the entire old PRR Main Line/Norfolk Southern Pittsburgh Line. This provides some highly sought after sight lines and should be a stop for anyone who is into rail fanning, or simply in the area that has visited Horseshoe Curve, the Galitzin Tunnels, and the myriad of other rail fanning opportunities in the area. This spot is located in Cambria County, halfway between Altoona and Johnstown. 
The straightaway shows just over a mile of straight track. On our last visit we relaxed with some folding chairs for about two hours, soaking in some sun and taking in the endless parade of trains. In the time we were there, probably a dozen other people showed up, from places as far as North Carolina and New York. This is a highly sought after spot for rail fans, and rightfully so. With the straightaway views of over a mile on one side, and a slight curve on the other, this is an exciting place to sightsee.
Heading in both directions, you see the trains with multiple locomotives as they ascend and descend the challenging grades up and down the Alleghenies. You will often see multiple helper locomotives heading back and forth to join with approaching freight trains getting ready to make the climb.
On the other side of this old bridge, we can see the curve heading out of this straightaway. It is extra exciting to see a second train approach from the other direction.
Here you can see the dipping in and out of the clouds, which provides dramatic views as you look out over the mile of track.

An eastbound train transporting cars from somewhere in the midwest.

A lone helper locomotive 


A view of the bridge. It was built as a single lane automobile bridge, but was closed to traffic back in 1936. Since then, the bridge has attracted people who want to check out the breathtaking views from this spot.

A view from a chillier day.
A picnic area is located at the overlook, along with this old bridge, which is an absolutely excellent place to watch the trains. You can tune into the dispatch radio and find out what action is coming next. Be sure to check out this awesome spot. It is located a short distance from other awesome rail spots, including the famous Horseshoe CurveGallitzin TunnelsBennington CurveJohnstown, and more.

5.13.2018

Brownsville: First Metal Arch Bridge in the US and a Borough on the Rise

The last time we were to Brownsville was a number of years ago. At that point it looked like a post-apocalyptic ghost town. When the industry fled the area, so did many of the people, leaving all of the giant business buildings decrepit and collapsing. We went back to the borough recently and were pretty shocked at the transformation progress. While there is still lots of work to be done, many of the buildings that were beyond repair have been demolished, opening up green space, and the salvageable buildings are either being used for nice grassroots businesses, or in the process of getting reused. A town square has opened up, with green space and a amphitheater for performances, right in front of the town's greatest contribution to the country and possibly the world, the proof of viability of using iron in bridge building.
The first building we will look at is the Union Station. While this building remains in limbo, my hopes are that this building gets rehabilitated into something beneficial for the community. 




The bridge still has some obstruction from overgrowth and some old foundations, but until recently, the bridge was largely surrounded with a number of abandoned buildings. These have since been demolished, and soon all of their foundations will be taken out, opening up views of this historic bridge once again. 

Many of the surviving buildings are in the process of being restored. 

This nicely manicured spot was home to decrepit buildings that have been torn down and replaced with a nice parklet, complete with an amphitheater and gardens, with the historic bridge located next door.
The bridge was widened at some point, and this pony truss section was added, being old enough to be considered historic as well.
Here is the iron arch construction that makes this bridge so meaningful. The bridge was built by the Army Corps of Engineers and intended to see the viability in creating iron bridges. With this bridge dating back to 1839, it was really ahead of its time.
The adjacent concrete arch rail bridge is pretty impressive to me as well, in addition to the bridge crossing the Mon River. At one point, Brownsville was actually larger than Pittsburgh and it was a major boatbuilding center, with more than 700 steamers being built in Brownsville and Bridgeport. 
A look towards the impressive concrete arch bridge that carries the railroad.
The foundation of a building that once obstructed Dunlap's Creek Bridge. I am not sure if there are plans to remove the foundation.
An old Monongahela Railway caboose sitting at the old rail yard for that line in South Brownsville/Bridgeport. Judging by this photo from 1992, when the caboose was painted in the Mon Railway Colors it appears that this is what paint looks like after it has been sitting for this long.

A beautiful mural

The downtown area has some really charming buildings, including the WPA era Post Office, and the Library.
Brownsville is a borough on the rise. The work they have done to open up viewing access to the historic Dunlap's Creek Bridge, and the overall downtown area, is extremely impressive. It is really a night and day difference in this place from just a few years ago. We definitely recommend checking it out if you are in the area. 

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