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11.28.2015

Knapp's Covered Bridge, Towanda, PA, Bradford County

The Knapp's Covered Bridge in Bradford County near Towanda, PA is stunning. Said to be the tallest covered bridge in the state, it dates back to 1860. This is a pretty remarkable bridge, and the only covered bridge left in Bradford County. This bridge is in a tranquil setting, not even near any paved roads. This covered bridge is unlike any other that I have seen in the state, and they have gone to great pains to keep this bridge in top shape. Definitely check this out if you are in the area. This Burr Truss bridge is also known as Luther's Mills Bridge and Brown's Creek Covered Bridge. It measures in at 95 feet long and is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Coordinates: 41.7858° N, 76.5534° W

The bridge is located roughly an hour north of the many waterfalls within Rickett's Glen State Park and the many state forests and game lands with waterfalls and other beauty. The Endless Mountains region is beautiful.

11.11.2015

Soldiers and Sailors Memorial, Pittsburgh, PA

In honor and thanks to the veterans, today we are visiting Pittsburgh's Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum. It was built from 1908-1910 as a memorial to the dwindling ranks of Civil War veterans. Today this building  stands as a beautiful and enduring symbol of gratitude to the current, past, and lost members of the Armed Forces. Estimates say that roughly 2.9 million individuals have died or been seriously injured within American war efforts. This landmark memorializes the efforts of all and is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Inside and outside of the memorial, relics spanning from the Civil War to today are exhibited, including this World War II Steam Torpedo. The front area of the memorial consists of a relaxing park area that serves as a fitting memorial. The park area offers a quite area to relax in the middle of the University of Pittsburgh campus. On beautiful spring days you see people outside studying and relaxing, and in the winter you see people sledding down the gentle slope in the park.
For those of you who are fans of Silence of the Lambs, the memorial served as the setting of a courthouse. I will not serve up a spoiler alert for the movie even though I am sure you have seen it.
The view of Pitt Campus from the park area. The brick pathway seen here is known as "Matthew Ridgeway Blvd" in honor of the Pittsburgh native who was a hero in World War II and the Korean War. Within the museum, over six hundred heroes with high honors are recognized.
The bell from the USS Pittsburgh, a Bethlehem Shipbuilding Ship that was built at the Bethlehem Steel plant in Quincy, Massachusetts. It served in both World War II and in naval expeditions across the world in the early 1950s. It was mothballed for a short period before it was decommissioned, sold, and scrapped. The ship met near disaster in World War II, when it was hit in a typhoon. It was severely damaged, yet miraculously no shipmen were lost and they were able to get the ship back for repairs. 
One of the most visible artifacts is this replica of a Civil War era canon, facing southwards. It is hard to imagine Oakland without the Cathedral of Learning, but the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial predates it.
The original intentions of the builders of the memorial have endured for over a century. Not too long after the memorial was completed, America's historic isolationism would end with the intervention in World War I. The look and role of the Armed Forces changed rapidly after this memorial was built, but the mission of this place as a living memorial, a place where the contributions of veterans are honored, and culture is centered, lives on. The memorial has a beautiful 2300 seat auditorium that has hosted concerts, including several with Bruce Springsteen. Nelson Mandela spoke at the memorial in 1991. President Obama, then as a senator, spoke at the memorial in 2008. This place is a true gem and a testament to the America that our nation's veterans have fought for. Through all of the struggles of our veterans, this memorial has served as a thriving and integral cultural center for the community. 


11.09.2015

Breakneck Falls, McConnells Mill State Park

Today we take a look at Breakneck Falls at McConnells Mill State Park. This is definitely an interesting set of falls. My favorite aspect of them is shown in the first photo, the top tier of the falls, with this whirlpool action as it heads down the rock trough. 
If you wondered why this was called Breakneck Falls, I stand to guess that this is probably it. This is one abrupt ravine that the cascade waterfall appears to even struggle navigating. The gorge appears to be roughly 40 feet tall, with a series of three falls that are up to 15 feet tall. 

The abruptness of the ravine, coupled with the natural boulder outcroppings, make this an especially treacherous set of falls to check out. I love hiking and finding ways to the bottom of gorges and I will have to look into this one more to find a safe way down. I witnessed someone take a spill as they were attempting the climb out of this gorge and I opted to observe it from the top instead. A number of people were down at the bottom though. In the autumn of 2014, a woman fell and died at this waterfall. Be extremely careful when exploring this set of falls. Rappelling is prohibited here as well. In the vicinity of Breakneck and Kildoo Falls, be sure to stick to the designated trails, because these gorges are especially treacherous. 
 The lowermost of the three falls that make up Breakneck Falls.
 There is nothing like the smell of the woods right after the leaves have fallen. This is an especially relaxing spot.
 I love the huge boulders throughout the area
Here is Breakneck Bridge. It was built in the 1954. Due to the dangers of washouts and erosion in regards to the roads leading up to the bridge, the bridge was closed to vehicular traffic in 1979. Prior to the construction of this bridge, a covered bridge was located on this spot. The covered bridge was removed and replaced after a deadly truck accident in this seemingly cursed location. 
 The view from the top of the bridge into the gorge.
You can see the issues that they have dealt with in keeping the road together. I am glad they have been able to shore the bridge up enough to handle pedestrian traffic.
 The view down the right-of-way of the abandoned section of Breakneck Bridge Road
 The view from the start of the abandoned section of Breakneck Bridge Road
Our next stop will be at the Cleland Rock Scenic Vista!

11.07.2015

Grindstone Falls, McConnells Mill State Park

This autumn season has truly had one of the longest sustained periods of vivid fall color in memory. There are still a few trees with color left in them, but most of the leaves have fallen after a period of autumn colors lasting for well over a month. I had some time to spare and took the chance to check out one of the last areas of McConnells Mill State Park that I have not explored, Grindstone Run's Grindstone Falls. At roughly 20 feet, and relatively low flow, these are definitely not the most spectacular falls in the area, especially when compared to the nearby Hell's Hollow Falls and the other falls and rapids of the Slippery Rock Creek Gorge in McConnells Mill State Park. Grindstone Falls is roughly 3 miles south of the mill. 
One of the first things that you notice is the heavy iron on the rocks. This spot, as with many around the state park, is surrounded by current and former polluting mineral extraction. This specific spot is surrounded with former mines and strip mines, as well as a current gas well operation. Map source: USGS
Acid mine drainage has been identified as a continual problem along Grindstone Run, a direct tributary of the Slippery Rock Creek. 
 Sideview
 The view from the top is calm enough
 Back to the sideview. The gorge is pretty large, with a pretty rapid descent. A series of small waterfalls/cascades continues down the gorge to Slippery Rock Creek.
A view down into the gorge from only a few dozen yards down stream. The gorge has an elevation change of roughly 200 feet over a relatively short amount of time. There is a steady set of small cascades and falls that continue to the confluence with the Slippery Rock Creek

11.04.2015

Cleland Rock Overlook, McConnells Mill State Park

Today we continue our tour of McConnell's Mill State Park and visit the Cleland Rock Scenic Vista. This overlook is spectacular, looking over 400 feet down into the Slippery Rock Gorge at its deepest point.  The last hints of fall color could be seen in this early November view.
The vista is stunning!
The Slippery Rock Creek, deep within the gorge.
Sunset over Slippery Rock Gorge

11.03.2015

Village of Fredonia, NY: Underground Railroad, WCTU, and Victorian History

Today we take a look at Fredonia and Dunkirk, New York. We start off in the town square of Fredonia. The idea of a vibrant and pristine town square, where the town comes together, is something that always draws me to a town. My favorite movie of all time is Back to the Future, and one of my favorite aspects of the movie is the idealized 1950s and future view to 2015, vision of the a town square, as a vibrant and public center of living. Fredonia, NY's town square is reminiscent of that to me. This giant building is the Fredonia Opera House that dates back to 1891. I will call this Fredonia's version of the clock tower. The town square is a national historic district, known as the Fredonia Commons Historic District. There are approximately 25 buildings located within this historic district, with the majority of them 
 The square is filled with trees, benches, and picnic tables, for people to relax in this small town. The bandstand is really beautiful. 
 There is also a little fountain in the center of town.
The steeple in the background is the Fredonia Baptist Church, one of the most influential church congregations in the history of the United States. The church was built in 1852. The congregation dates all the way back to 1808. Unfortunately, Fredonia Baptist's congregation was forced to sell their building. The spiritual mission lives on with the Family Church of Fredonia.
The church played a fundamental role as a station for the underground railroad, just within the home stretch northwards for the slaves escaping to freedom. 

While the following is a disputed claim, with multiple locations claiming the same thing, the Fredonia Baptist Church is said to be the site that started the formation of the Women's Christian Temperance Union, which, for better or for worse, made huge changes to the nation. They were the group that rallied and had prohibition passed during a time in which alcoholism was at record levels. While their proposed solution, Prohibition, is widely considered to be a failure, the end result was eventually successful with the much higher regulated sale and consumption of alcohol. This ended up reducing alcoholism in the long run from pre-prohibition levels, and from the astronomical heights of alcoholism during Prohibition. Without Prohibition, alcoholism may have ended up being a bigger problem today.
Source: Digital Commonwealth
The less acclaimed, but most important long term achievements of the WCTU, are in the way it gave women a voice with leadership in this country, and, most importantly, they advocated and won women's suffrage. The WCTU advocated for women to gain the most fundamental right that we have in a democracy, the right to vote. Additionally, the organization fought against other issues plaguing the nation such as poverty through advocating that individuals should "have a living wage and an eight hour workday," concepts that have been advanced ever since. Fredonia Baptist Church played a huge role in this fight.
 In a later post we will move on to our journey back to Pittsburgh, along the Lake Erie Seaway Trail from Dunkirk, NY to Erie, PA, and then southwards. In the meantime, I will show you these two bald eagles that stared us down when we arrived in Dunkirk, NY.

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