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12.21.2016

Buttermilk Falls North, Cowanshannock Trail, Armstrong County

Just north of Kittanning, the Cowanshannock Creek reaches the Allegheny River. This creek is a great place for all sorts of recreation. The creek is a major tributary to the Allegheny River and it flows from Indiana County and into Armstrong County. At its mouth is a great little boat launch, probably one of the best I have seen along this area of the river. Launching a boat into a flowing river can sometimes be a tricky proposition. The mouth of the Cowanshannock serves as a nice little harbor of sorts for boat launching. What drew me to the creek was the fabled Buttermilk Falls. While I would not necessarily qualify the "falls" as a waterfall, I highly recommend visiting this place to see what is rated as Class IV rapids. I would not recommend rafting or kayaking this section without some experience, and without having scouted the area first, because there are a ton of obstructions and things caught up in the creek bed, in addition to giant boulders. This is a place you want to scout before doing anything on the water. A nice trail runs along the creek from an old rail line and for me, that is what made this worth a visit.
Coordinates to Parking Area: 40.849568, -79.507758

Bernard C. Snyder Picnic Area, Cowanshannock Trail, Canfield Holmes Sanctuary
The mouth of the Cowanshannock, a great boat launch into the Allegheny River, a great picnic spot, and a fun hiking destination

Some relics just up from the mouth of the the Cowanshannock. Any ideas one what these were a part of? 
Whatever these relics are, they have sat in abandonment for several decades, considering how mature these trees are that have grown through them.
The head of the Cowanshannock Trail. This was built upon old railroad grade, though this must have definitely been a pretty tough grade for a train to traverse, likely leading to its closure in the first place.

The view down to the Cowanshannock Creek
Down to creek level. This is a stunning waterway, right in line with other whitewater creeks like the Slippery Rock Creek through McConnells Mill State Park. Simply beautiful. 
The giant boulders are awesome
I love these trees that have funky growth patterns. This tree looks like one of those old trail marking trees that were trained to grow in a different manner, to help guide people along a trail, similar to blazes on a tree, or rock cairns. I wonder why this tree has such a funky growth pattern. 
You can see that there are some really awesome rapids through this section of the creek.
You can see how challenging this area of rapids would be to traverse though. I would not recommend attempting this section unless you are very experienced and have surveyed the creek area first. 
Back up on the climb of the trail. Here is a large bend within the creek. 

A nice little waterfall runs down the side of the gorge. As far as I am aware of, this is a set of unnamed falls.
I really love this set of falls, even though they were not the namesake falls
Slowing it down a bit!
Back down to the creek. The further you go up the creek, the more intense the rapids become. I can't believe how this area of creek seems to be often overlooked. Stunning scenery. Be sure to head to this place in Armstrong County if you would like a nice hike along a whitewater creek that is roughly two miles round trip. 

12.18.2016

Banks Covered Bridge and Neshannock Creek Adventures, Lawrence and Mercer Counties

Today we visit the Banks Covered Bridge in Lawrence County. This bridge is located just 20 minutes northeast of the stunning McConnell's Mill Covered Bridge, and it often gets overlooked. It is very beautiful. For those of you who are fans of the West Wing TV show, this area doubled as rural Indiana in the season premier of the fourth season of the show, where President Bartlett (Martin Sheen) kicked off his reelection campaign. A nearby farm was used as a set for a campaign trail speech, and the covered bridge was actually featured in the show. 
Coordinates: 41.090556, -80.286111
Banks Covered Bridge - Built in 1889 and located southeast of New Wilmington, PA
This Burr Arch-Truss bridge measures in at 121 feet long and it crosses the Neshannock Creek, an excellent trout stream that is also has a set of Class II rapids for those who love kayaking and rafting. 

Just across the way is the Neshannock Falls Road concrete arch bridge. This dates back to 1913 and something about it really caught my eye. As I have gained an appreciation for bridges, I will often stop to check out ones that are out of the ordinary. 

Here is a small set of falls on a tributary into Neshannock Creek.

The Neshannock Gorge is pretty and starts right around the covered bridge. This is a pretty rugged section of creek. Here are some foundations from what I believe was an old furnace that was located along this section of the gorge, but it could also be the remnants of a mill. Both were heavily present within this area. That was my hypothesis. With some research, I have found that this site was the location of the Neshannock (Powers) Furnace, and a later dam and mill. The furnace was built in 1852 and is said to have lasted for 10-12 years. 
Venturing along Neshannock Creek, you are sure to see some pretty views


They even have some access areas for kayakers, fisherman, and people who just want to relax by the creek for a little bit.

Overall, this is a pretty quiet area that seems to be often overlooked. Nearby there are a number of other cool things to check out including the Wendell August Forge, Springfield FallsDaffin's Chocolate Kingdom, Harlansburg Train Station Museum, and more. This is an area to spend a laid back day or weekend in. Nearby Seven Sisters Bed and Breakfast is a great place to spend the night in the area. 
Covered Bridge Coordinates:
41.090556, -80.286111

12.14.2016

Pennsylvania Macaroni Company: Family Italian Market: Strip District, Pittsburgh

The Pennsylvania Macaroni Company in the Strip District neighborhood of Pittsburgh is a local and family institution. This Italian market was founded by the Sunseri Family all the way back in 1902 as brothers making handmade pasta. The organization has constantly grown ever since, and now they have the makings for every kind of Italian dish that you can think of. As soon as you walk in, you are greeted with the aroma of barrels of fresh herbs that are purchased by the scoopful. If you are looking for anything to make Italian food from scratch, Penn Mac, as it is affectionately referred to by Pittsburghers, is the place to go.
Barrels full of spices!
If you turn left as you walk in, you head into the cheese room, a market area that has every cheese you can think of. As you continue into the building, you will find many different kinds of olive oil, available fresh from the keg. They offer bottles, or you can bring your own, to fill and use with all of your cooking, and all at a relatively affordable price. They also carry fresh produce and provide local restaurants and markets with food service supplies. Penn Mac is a place that you need to check out if you are visiting the city. If you live in the city, this is a place that you need to frequent if you want to prepare the freshest and most delicious meals.


For more information on this awesome place, check out their website at https://www.pennmac.com

12.11.2016

Leechburg Lights: The Ultimate Home Lights Display, Leechburg, PA Armstrong County

The majority of us put a few strands of lights up. I have always been one to go a little overboard with lights, but Clyde at Leechburg Lights takes it to a level never seen before in the history of mankind. 


Clyde has a playlist of dozens of songs on a dedicated FM radio channel, that are specifically paired with his light display. Clyde's display is epic to say the least, and mesmerizing to watch. We spent a long time watching his creation and we highly recommend that you go out of your way to do the same. He also has a Halloween display that we will DEFINITELY have to check out sometime. 

12.07.2016

A Postcard View of Historic Hersheypark Stadium, Hershey, PA

This weekend's PIAA, Pennsylvania State High School Championship games take place in Hersheypark Stadium. This east versus west championship is always a special time of the year in the state. The fruits of the efforts and dreams of many high school student football athletes are played out every year in these games. Hersheypark Stadium is the historic venue for these title games and taking in some December football in this venue is exhilarating and breathtaking. The following championship games will be played this weekend:
1A: Bishop Guilfoyle Vs Clairton
2A Southern Columbia Vs Steel Valley
3A Middletown Vs Beaver Falls
4A Imhotep Vs Cathedral Prep
5A Archbishop Wood Vs. Harrisburg
6A St. Joe's Prep Vs Pittsburgh Central Catholic
Postcard from my personal collection
Here is a postcard view of a venue that was the last building completed during Milton Hershey's Great Building Campaign of the 1930s. In the depths of the Great Depression, Milton wanted to reinvest the fortunes of his company into creating employment for workers during the desperate times of the Depression. These projects included the Hotel Hershey, Hershey Gardens, Hersheypark Arena, and more. Countless high school football state championship games, concerts, and more, in addition to holding a birthday bash for President Dwight Eisenhower in 1953, have been held at the stadium. This was one of the last major projects that Milton would get to see in his vision of a model company town before his death just six years later. This is a special venue and awesome place to take in an event. If you go for a game, be sure to go visit Hershey's Chocolate World and take in Hersheypark's Christmas Candy Lane.  

12.06.2016

Bells Mills Covered Bridge, West Newton, PA, Westmoreland County

Today we look at Bells Mills Covered Bridge in West Newton, PA, Westmoreland County. This is the one of the rare remaining covered bridges in Westmoreland County.
Coordinates: 40.21917, -79.71028 
Bells Mills Covered Bridge - Built in 1850 and located in West Newton, PA, Westmoreland County

Bells Mills Bridge is in perfect condition. They do a great job keeping it up, and it just looks spectacular.

It was a rainy day when we visited.
The bridge was built with the Burr Arch-Truss building style and it measures in at 107 feet long. This bridge is easily one of the best maintained in the state. Spectacular bridge. 
Not many covered bridges have I-Beam height blockers. While kind of an eyesore, I still wish every covered bridge has something like this, so the bridge is protected from oversized vehicles crossing. It is a good way to ensure that the structure remains intact, especially on a heavily used bridge like this one. 
This bridge crosses the Little Sewickley Creek
This is a really stunning bridge that is definitely worth a visit. 

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