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8.27.2017

18 Must-See PA Autumn Destinations

The view from Loyalsock State Forest's High Knob Overlook at sunset
It is time to start planning some autumn adventures! Since our last fall article, we have added a few more places that you have to check out during the fall. We have visited places all across the state during autumn, and these are some of our favorites. Whether you open your door and look outside, or if you go to your local state park, you are sure to see some beauty. The following are just a few of our absolute favorite places to check out in autumn, thanks to their exceptional beauty. 
1) Fallingwater, Mill Run, PA, Fayette County
Fallingwater: One of the most famous houses in the world
This world renowned Frank Lloyd Wright architectural wonder is absolutely stunning to see in autumn. The stark beauty of Fallingwater and the falls that it was built over are highlighted with the spectacular colors of the fall trees. We highly recommend going on a tour of the grounds and the building. For more information on visiting, check out their website at www.fallingwater.org
2) Knoebels Amusement Resort, Elysburg, PA, Northumberland and Columbia County
Knoebels is always our favorite place to visit within the state. The fantastic coasters, classic rides, and overall atmosphere of the park are heightened by the crisp autumn air and vivid fall colors. The park, along with Columbia and Montour Counties, also holds a Covered Bridge Festival on October 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th, where the local covered bridges are celebrated, including the ones located within the amusement park. The park also has Phoenix Phall Phunfest on October 7th as a kickoff to the Halloween season, with craft vendors, celebrations, a bonfire in their campground, and more.  This kicks off the park's Hallo-Fun Weekends, October 13 – 15, 20 – 22, 27 – 29. We highly recommend taking in America's largest free admission, traditional amusement park as a part of your fall activities. For more information about visiting the park, check out our article and also visit www.knoebels.com
3) Big Pocono State Park, Tannersville, PA, Monroe County
The view from Big Pocono State Park, at the top of Camelback Mountain Ski Area and Resort
There are a ton of fun sightseeing opportunities and activities going on in the Pocono region of the state. One of my favorite places to check out is Big Pocono State Park, high atop Camelback Mountain Ski Area and Resort. This overlook gives you a wide expanse of view over the Poconos, and to as far out as New Jersey and New York. There are also a ton of different activities to do at Camelback, including an alpine roller coaster, zip lining, and more. There are also a plethora of different places to see throughout the Poconos
4) Strasburg Railroad, Strasburg, PA, Lancaster County
One of the four pristine early 20th century steam locomotives of  the Strasburg Railroad.
Hard work ethic is what makes Pennsylvania what it is. At no place is this more evident in the state than riding through Amish Country on the Strasburg Railroad in the fall. Amish farmers are tending to harvesting the crops they have worked so hard to tend to throughout the year. Around the area, you will find freshly baked goods and harvested crops. 
The ride through Amish Country
The railroad itself is also the result of very hard work. The Strasburg Railroad is part of a collaborative effort to preserve a historic short line railroad and to fully restore equipment from the golden age of railroading. Thanks to these efforts, there is a fine fleet of pristine locomotives, passenger cars, cabooses, and more, that are restored with full accuracy to their original specifications. My parents brought me here when I was little and visiting the railroad brings about great family memories that I've held on to ever since. Going back, I appreciate more and more how amazing this railroad is. This is an awesome place to visit at any time of the year, but especially during the autumn months. For more information on visiting, check out www.strasburgrailroad.com
A pumpkin patch next to the railroad.
5) The Elk Rut, Various Locations around Benezette, PA, Elk County
If the call of the wild beckons, Elk Country in the PA Great Outdoors Region in Benezette, PA is where you want to go. Autumn is the time of the rut, when the Elk practice their mating rituals. You will see male suitors duke it out, grunt, stomp, and lock antlers and compete while their potential mate watches. It is a spectacular sight. Couple that with the fall colors, especially at the nearby Marion Brooks Reserve with its amazing grove of birches, and the rest of the attractions in the PA Great Outdoors Region, and you have a terrific place to go in the fall, in addition to the nearby Kinzua Bridge. This region is perfect. 
6) and 7) Worlds End State Park and Loyalsock State Forest, Sullivan County
The views afforded at Worlds End State Park and the Loyalsock State Forest in the autumn are nothing short of incredible. The colors make the trees almost appear as if they are on fire. It is incredible to see. Loyalsock Canyon Vista in Worlds End State Park and the High Knob Overlook in the adjacent Loyalsock State Forest, are stunning places to take in these fall views.
View from High Knob Overlook at sunset
View from the Loyalsock Canyon Vista at Worlds End State Park
The views at these vistas in their autumn splendor are absolutely breathtaking.

8) and 9) Marie Antoinette Overlook and Wyalusing Rocks, Route 6 in Bradford County
Similar to the last two, these overlooks are within a few miles of each other. It is also easy to make a beeline 45 minutes northeast from Worlds End to hit these two overlooks. The history at both of these spots is extremely fascinating, and well worth checking out. 
The Marie Antoinette Overlook looks out over a stunning bend in the Susquehanna River. French Azilum, a place that was rumored to be an exile point for the ill-fated French Queen. In the fall, the colors in this area are extraordinary.
Just a little bit east of Marie Antoinette Overlook, is the Wyalusing Rocks Overlook, looking over an even tighter bend in the Susquehanna River. This place has been a historic spot for many generations of history in North America and is well worth checking out.  
 10) Schenley Park, Pittsburgh, PA, Allegheny County
If you live in Pittsburgh, a great place to go spend a weeknight or afternoon is at Schenley Park. As one of our nation's largest urban wooded areas, you are bound to find beautiful colors at every corner of the park and throughout the CCC, Great Depression era, infrastructure throughout the park. 
 11) Route 40 Overlook, Hopwood, PA Fayette County
The Route 40 Overlook in Hopwood, deep in the Laurel Highlands and near Ohiopyle State Park, Fallingwater, and Laurel Caverns. This overlook looks over a deep crevasse and Uniontown. The colors are especially vivid at this spot, in addition to Ohiopyle State Park
 12) Wine Country, North East, PA, Erie County
Fresh grapes? Need I say more? Between the cool colors, the smell of harvested grapes lingering through the air, and the always awesome views of Lake Erie, North East, PA is an awesome place to sit and relax. Be sure to check out the dozens of wineries and vineyards up and down the shores of Lake Erie.
There is nothing like fresh grapes!
 13) Tunnelview Park, New Alexandria, PA, Westmoreland County
Tunnelview Park, Indiana County
Tunnelview Park is home to multiple generations of canal and rail history, with three transportation related tunnels, and accompanying bridges. This is a spectacular and often overlooked spot, deep in the Loyalhanna Gorge. Read more about this awesome place from this article about an autumn visit and one from a winter visit. 
 14) Mingo Creek Park, Finleyville, PA, Washington County
Mingo Creek Park in Washington County is a place that takes its covered bridges seriously. They have two beautiful covered bridges, including one that was moved and saved from demolition. The autumn colors are especially vibrant in this location. For more information on visiting, check out our article on this awesome place. 
 15) Renziehausen Park Rose Garden and Arboretum, McKeesport, PA, Allegheny County

The Renzie Park Rose Garden in McKeesport is the result of decades of hard work by community members through the Garden Club of McKeesport. The fall roses, coupled with the colors of the trees of the arboretum, make this an exceptional site to take in the sights of autumn.
  16) Nockamixon State Park, Near Quakertown, PA, Bucks County
There is nothing quite like the feeling of crisp autumn air when you are out on the water. Lake Nockamixon at Nockamixon State Park is an awesome place to go during the fall months for these reasons. Additionally, the leaves seem to get exceptionally colorful in this location. Horseback riding, hiking, boating, sail boating, and more await visitors to this awesome state park. Nearby, you can also check out the funky Ringing Rocks County Park, home to an exceptional geologic wonder. For more information on visiting, check out our article on Nockamixon. 
17) Forbes State Forest and Linn Run State Park, Westmoreland and Somerset Counties
This area has some incredible hikes and views. It is well worth checking out in the autumn. Here is a guide of the area around Linn Run State Park. 

18) Right outside your door! 
Autumn is stunning in PA, so get outt there and appreciate it!

This list is far from all encompassing, but these are places you should plan to see at least once during the fall months. Have a great time!

8.20.2017

West Newton Bridge, West Newton, PA, Westmoreland County

The West Newton Bridge is a stunning iron truss bridge crossing the Youghiogheny River. This town, a town along the Great Allegheny Passage Rail Trail from Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C. is a cool town that reminds you of a small mountain town. The bridge carries state Route 136 and survived the removal of many other similar bridges, including the similar recent removal of the nearby century old Donora-Webster Bridge.
West Newton Bridge - Built in 1907 and rehabilitated in 1984, located in West Newton, PA, Westmoreland County
The simple star adornment at the end is a pretty neat decoration. 
Each truss is approximately 160 feet long and this bridge creates a beautiful entry into this small town, and a stunning centerpiece. As this type of bridge continues to dwindle, I hope that the state continues to preserve this beauty.

8.13.2017

Exploring Nature & History Around PGH's Schenley Park

Today we explore Junction Hollow and lower Schenley Park in the area of Panther Hollow Lake. This nondescript area is the junction of some of Pittsburgh's most prestigious centers of learning, the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University, the main branch of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, and the Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History. The hollow is home to a small neighborhood, the P&W Subdivision Rail Line, and the Bellefield Boiler Plant, a building that sends heating and cooling to many buildings of the surrounding institutions. The boiler plant gained fame on its own in Michael Chabon's novel, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, where the plant is known as the "Cloud Factory," for the great amount of steam that it emits during the winter months. For this article, Brit opted to use my camera, so these are all her photos.

Some context to the location of the spot, at the quiet nexus of the University of Pittsburgh, the Carnegie Library and Museums, and Carnegie Mellon University. This is the first time we stopped in this spot, and it is pretty neat to see.
"Time to move!"

"It's time for me to fly!"
Now we head over to Schenley Park Panther Hollow Lake. This pond is fed by Phipps Run and Panther Hollow Run, and it is almost unrecognizable from what it was a few years ago. The pond gets easily choked up with tree limbs, sediment, and more, from storm runoff. In the last few years, a basin was erected at the head of the pond, just beyond its walls, which catches the runoff junk, and leaves the pond in decent shape as a wetland habitat, complete with lilly pads, cattails, and more. It is a quiet respite from the city down here. Mature woodlands surround the area of Panther Hollow Lake, along with connections to the trail networks located throughout the park.
Chipmunks are funny to watch
The forests throughout Schenley Park are impressive. One cannot help but look up and be amazed by the beauty. Of the four major Pittsburgh City Parks, Schenley, Frick, Highland, and Riverview, 373,000 trees were counted in 2010. 
Look for a minute and you will see a blue dragonfly hovering over the one leaf.
Panther Hollow Bridge showing through the trees. This impressive bridge dates back to 1897 and its main span measures in at 360 feet, with a complete bridge length at 620 feet. It is a near twin to the nearby Schenley Bridge.

A rabbit hanging out in the grass near the gutter that protects Panther Hollow Lake from storm runoff junk. 
A good bit of the infrastructure throughout the park dates back to the Great Depression New Deal programs that were instituted by President Franklin Roosevelt. More than a dozen of these bridges were constructed throughout the park, making this place a favorite for hikers, runners, and people just looking to take a walk to get away from it all. To think that this infrastructure is still thriving and functional, nearly 80 years after they were built to employ people that were struggling during the Great Depression, is incredible. 
    

I am not one for selfies, or to have photos taken of me, so it is funny seeing the way I look when I am exploring.

    
Some beautiful wildflowers in bloom.
The little stream had lots of little frogs jumping around in it.
Here is the Tufa Bridge. It dates back to 1908 and was built using tufa, a white, porous, cryptocrystalline calcium carbonate, which is formed as piled-up mineral deposits formed beneath the water's surface (thanks PGH Bridges) and it is really beautiful. If you look closely at the stone, you can see tiny coral like tubes and straws and nodules.

More frogs!

Heading back to Panther Hollow Lake
This shot shows quite a bit of wetland vegetation, the most obvious signs of how the work to stabilize the habitat of the pond is paying off. 
Schenley Park, and the area around it, are a ton of fun to explore and we highly recommend it. Exploring Schenley Park is a quintessential part of being a Pittsburgher, and one of the easiest ways to connect with nature and history within the city. Be sure to check out!

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