Monday, December 10, 2018

McConnells Mill State Park

June 2018 wrapped up with a short stop in Mercer, Pennsylvania. We were due in Johnstown, PA by July 4th, and it just so happens we have friends who live in the Mercer and Grove City area, which was right on the way. We only stayed three days, but had a very nice visit and got a nice introduction to a very beautiful part of the state of Pennsylvania. Our friends took us on a 30-mile scenic drive to the McConnells Mill State Park, located in Perry and Slippery Rock Townships in Lawrence County. Just getting there was half the fun, as we drove through bucolic country roads, over rivers and creeks, and through landscape dotted with farmhouses, meadows, and groves of trees.

McConnells Mills features a deep scenic gorge with a restored watermill and a covered bridge, accessible by a roadway that winds between looming boulders on the hillside. This park was chosen by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources as one of the “25 Must-See Pennsylvania State Parks”, and it’s not hard to see why. The site was originally opened as a gristmill in 1852, and by 1875 the waterwheel and grindstones were replaced with water turbines and rolling mills, making McConnells Mill one of the first rolling mills in the country. The mill processed oats, corn, buckwheat, and wheat until it was closed in 1928. 

Today, hiking, rock climbing, and white water boating are popular in the park. We spent a nice morning walking on some of the many trails, and learning a lot about the history of the area from our friends. 

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Rocky Mountain National Park

For most of the summer of 2018 we were traveling at a rapid clip, staying only 3-4 days in most places, as we worked our way east to be in Pennsylvania in time for the Summerfest vegan conference held over the 4th of July weekend. We planned our stays around National Parks and other places of interest to take advantage of our stops, and did our best to take in as much as we could in the time allotted. At the tail end of June we made our second visit to the Rocky Mountain National Park. We were here three years ago in July of 2015 for a short one-day visit, and agreed then we would return to see more of this gorgeous park.

This time around we set aside one full day to spend at the National Park, about 30-miles from the RV Park where we stayed in Loveland, Colorado. Driving into the park was going to take at least an hour, by the looks of the long line of cars waiting to get in, so we parked at the Visitors Center outside the main gate, and took off on foot. The day was sunny and warm, filled with blue skies, puffy white clouds, and gentle breezes. We took our time hiking up to a trail that led into the park, and across a beautiful meadow filled with brilliant wildflowers, colorful butterflies, chirping birds and busy bugs, interesting spiderwebs, and looming mountains with the last traces of winter snow still lingering. Surprisingly, we even came across cactus in bloom. Once again, I am reminded how lucky we are to have access to the wonder of our National Parks, and feel so fortunate that along the way this country made it a priority to preserve our natural environments.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area

After leaving Alpine, and still working our way through the month of June, our next stop was Green River, Wyoming. Only about 200 miles south and east of Alpine, it made for a short and pleasant travel day. The highlight of our stay in Green River was visiting the Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area. Located in the northeast corner of Utah and southwest corner of Wyoming, the area covers 207,363 acres of scenic landscape and wilderness. The recreation centerpiece, though, is the 91 miles long Flaming Gorge Reservoir, with the Green River and Flaming Gorge Dam coming in a close second. Made of spectacular red canyon walls and green forests, with the river carving blue ribbons throughout, this was one of the most spectacular example of natural beauty I’ve seen anywhere. It’s amazing what 3 billion years of mountain building, river carving, and basin formation can do!