Airstream Time

Exploring North America in an Airstream

Posts from the ‘State Parks’ category

Scouting Penns Creek and Fishing Creek

Saturday, June 22, 2019

As we packed up at Bumblebee RV Park, Andy came by to say hello with his dog, Charlie. We chatted for a while. This is a nice campground with very nice owners. Since Lisa and Andy work remotely, their WIFI system is great. They have owner’s WIFI, camper’s WIFI and full-timer WIFI, so there is plenty of capacity for everyone. With an excellent shower house, good water and electricity, we are going to miss these conveniences. 

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We drove 4 hours northeast, mostly on 220. Again, it was a beautiful, uncrowded highway through the mountains. We didn’t trust our phone GPS as we turned onto a gravel road 11 miles from Poe Paddy State Park, especially when a sign pointed to Poe Valley State Park. Were we going to the wrong place? Creeping along, we finally came to Poe Valley State Park and a paved road. There were lots of houses and cabins and a lake with a big swimming area. It was cool here in the mountains, about 72 degrees, a great escape from the summer city heat. We were sure we were in the wrong place when we saw a sign for Poe Paddy State Park 3.5 miles ahead. 

Then the narrow road turned back to gravel and followed a gorgeous trout stream – Poe Creek. Finally we arrived at Poe Paddy State Park, happy we weren’t in the wrong place. There was no office, so we stopped and found an information board with a map of the park and campground. We had reserved site #146 for four nights, since we had three streams to fish in this area, and the campground is on one of them – Penns Creek. The sites are huge in this nice park but here are no showers, power or water hookups.

After setting up, we drove to the end of a road and walked along an old railroad bed. This was a logging camp years ago, the train being used to haul lumber. Now it is a beautiful bike/hiking trail along Penns Creek. The river was muddy and flowing pretty fast. Seems to be our trademark when fishing – camped right on the river, but too muddy to fish.

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We have a printer in the Airstream that we use to print fishing licenses on the internet, but there was just one problem – no WIFI and no cell service. With our cell booster, we got one bar of service, but it was not enough to get on the internet. As we started to drive out of the parking lot, a warden drove up. I rolled down the window and asked if they sold fishing licenses at the Poe Valley Park office. No, he said as he got out of his brown truck and came up to the window. “You have to go to Milheim hardware store over the mountain”. Of course we know nothing about where we were. He could quickly see we were going to get lost, so he pulled out a map showing us where to go. He also told us they stock “the heck out of Poe Creek”. Then he showed us where Fishing Creek was and where to fish it. Turns out he is a school teacher, teaching physical education and history, and works as a warden part time. He was a fit guy with a big, easy smile. He was wearing a bullet-proof vest and a tool belt with a pistol, flashlight and other gear. I asked if we were in a rough neighborhood, and he just laughed. Why he took so much time with us, I don’t know, but he said, “Look, I’m headed home in that direction. I have to make a quick stop to check people at the boat launch, but you can follow me”. What lucky people we were to find a guy like this! His name is David Martin. Pennsylvania is lucky to have a guy like this.

After a quick stop at the boat launch, David brought us a copy of the rules and regulations with a list of all the trout streams – Geez! Then he takes a right on a gravel road going up the mountain. It’s a narrow road with a fair amount of traffic. You have to hug the edge to pass other cars and trucks. Tom stopped to pick up a big chain someone lost in the middle of the road. As he was picking it up, he looked back and yelled, “SLOWDOWN!” I hadn’t even noticed the car behind me that had obviously skidded to a stop. It was Saturday and everyone was out. At the bottom of the mountain we turned right to follow Penns Creek into Coburn, where he stopped at The Feathered Hook Fly Shop. They didn’t sell licenses, but a nice young man inside brought us two printed maps of the roads, towns and streams on it. Milheim was only 2 miles down the road.

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Seeing we were in good shape now, David said he was going home to take his wife out to dinner. We thanked him profusely and went into the fly shop. This is quite a fly shop with everything in it. The wall is lined with fishing boots in every size! I looked around while Kelly talked to Tess. She said the trout can see better than you think in cloudy water, but the time to fish is late in the evening. Apparently there is a hatch at that time. Memories flashed back to the Columbia River with our guide, Rod, out of Castlegar, BC, when there was a huge mayfly hatch from 6:00 until dark. He had said there was no real sense in going out until then, since the fish waited to gorge on big mayflies. 

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Tess is quite the fisherwoman, having fished her way across the United States recently. We told here we had fished our way across Canada in 2013, so we traded favorite trout streams. Her favorite is Penns Creek. She told us what to use, so we bought $40 worth of flies. With the hundreds of flies we have, why do we never have the right ones? We could tell she knows what she is talking about and later decided to see if she could guide us, but she was booked up. Too bad. It would have been fun and educational to fish with her.

Using the map they had printed for us, we headed over to see what Fishing Creek looked like, and maybe get in a little fishing. The trouble was the map listed route numbers, but the road signs were in street names. We found Fishing Creek in Lamar, but couldn’t find the right way to the area Tom had told us to fish. We stopped to ask a gentleman sitting with his wife in the shade of their garage. He told us which way to go, but we still couldn’t find it. We were embarrassed when we passed by him three more times. I was ready to give it all up, and I was ready for a drink when Kelly talked to a young man at a gas station. With fresh directions, we finally got on the right track. 

As we headed up Fishing Creek, once again it was muddy. We passed two seasoned fishermen walking up the road. They looked tired and grumpy, but I slowed down and asked how they did. One said, “We’d have done better at the water treatment plant. At least we’d have caught something brown!” That’s what I needed, a good laugh. I guess there are brown trout in this stream. 

After cruising the stream a while, we headed back home. It was 6:00 and we were tired, but the decision for tomorrow was easy. Everything was muddy except Poe Creek near our camp, and Tom said it was well-stocked.

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Houses of Natchez

I spent the afternoon driving, but mostly walking around Natchez. One neighborhood along the cliff overlooking the Mississippi was most impressive. It’s only a guess, but I suspect the city codes for historic homes might stop some people from buying. Next door to some incredibly beautiful homes are once-beautiful homes that are in disrepair. There are also intermixed modest homes that are often quite pretty. Blocks away, I found a modest neighborhood that looked like Elvis’ birthplace. Rhett was right. This is a very cool town, rich in heritage and history, and I didn’t even get started on the cuisine. Next time 😊

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Loved my campsite at Natchez State Park.

Natchez Trace Emerald Mound

Like the Grand Village, this is a sacred and impressive site of the Mississipians beginning about 1300. Mound building was practiced for thousands of years. It was a place of ceremonies, trade among nations all the way to Indiana, and games. Here they placed stickball with only their hands. They still return every year for ceremonies.

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Driving back up the Trace from Natchez, I wanted to see Mount Locust, one of the hostelries along the Trace. It is the only one that remains. The framework of the house is sassafras, and was found to be in almost perfect condition. The interior trim and walls were poplar; the exterior siding cypress. From “Guide to The Natchez Trace” by F. Lynne Bachleda. Unfortunately it was not open. I visited some other sites along the way, a beautiful cemetery on the Trace, the remains of Elisabeth Female Academy (1818-1845) and Loess Bluff, an ancient wind-blown cliff.

I went back to Natchez, visiting St. Mary’s Cathedral and the Natchez National Cemetery that my tour guide recommended. Walking along the boardwalk, there are three impressive homes standing above the Mississippi.

Natchez, Mississippi

My friend, Rhett Riplinger, told me Natchez is a great and interesting town, so I spent a couple of days exploring. Still I left a lot undone. I walked around downtown and along the riverwalk. Then I saw a little horse and carriage with a man standing beside it in front of the old train station. I hustled over just in time. Within a couple of minutes I realized this guy was going to be a classic, and I started the recording app on my phone. He grew up here, adding a lot of color commentary, but he knew his history…..although some may have been embellished.

There was the ‘Hanging Tree” at the court house and old jail, where paranormal stories abound. There are Clan stories. Bowie’s Tavern has an old bar where Kit Carson inscribed his name. Sam Bowie, born in Kentucky, grew up across the river, gaining fame in the “Sandbar Fight” in the middle of the Mississippi River. He was shot twice and stabbed three times, once in the sternum with a sword cane. With the sword sticking out of his chest, he grabbed his opponent’s shirt, killing him with his large sheath knife.

The Natchez Indians had settled this site on a high bluff above the “Father of Waters” for 1,000 years before the Europeans came. Probably the “Mississipians” had been there long before. When De Soto came in 1540 with 600-700 armored and mounted soldiers, the Natchez “Sun God”, Quigualtam, had heard how he had treated Indians along his journey. De Soto sent emissaries several times asking for treasures and surrender. On his last attempt, he said he was the father of the Sun and was more powerful than the chief. Quigualtam told him to prove it by drying up the river. When that didn’t happen, the Natchez chased and raided De Soto all the way to the Gulf.

The Mississippi originates in Lake Itasca in Minnesota, traveling 2300 miles to the Gulf, which makes it the third largest watershed in the world. It carries a half million pounds of sediment every day. Over the eons, it is responsible for making what is now south central United States. From “Guide to The Natchez Trace Parkway” by F. Lynne Bachleda. It remains a relatively untamed river.

Samuel Clemens spent a lot of time in Natchez. My tour guide told the story of Clemens being invited to the 1st Presbyterian Church. Before the service, he noticed the Slave Gallery upstairs. He tried to go up there to join them, but couldn’t find the way up. It was said that was one of the inspirations for “Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn”, where the kids fake their death on the river and view their funeral from the rafters. Later he was asked what he thought of heaven and hell. He said he didn’t want to comment because he had friends in both places.

Natchez was a rich town before the Civil War, with river transportation, lumber and cotton being the primary businesses. After the war, times were different. A lot of the shipping business went to New Orleans and Baton Rouge. The transition from slavery and today didn’t always go easily. I visited the Natchez Museum of African American History and Culture. You could spend the rest of your life reading all the books in that museum. I was their only visitor that afternoon, and was given a guided tour that lasted three and a half hours. I was thankful, but exhausted. History is rich here. We discussed recent issues we have had in Charlottesville, or what I call “Statue City”. They said it could have easily happened in Natchez. Diving back to camp, I couldn’t help but think of how terribly the Native Americans fared. Yet we hear little of it today.

Natchez State Park was a great place for me to stay. It was quiet with a good staff and good facilities.

Tahquamenon Falls

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

We explored the lower and upper falls in Tahquamenon Falls State Park, and they are beautiful – like a little Niagara with colors like Pictured Rocks. It rained hard again last night, so the river was rocking. This is a beautiful area you could explore for a long time. There are lots of trails and lots of clear streams to float, but we don’t have a lot of time, and it is supposed to rain hard for the next three days.

Our treat of the day was to go to Brown’s Fish House, famous for freshly caught whitefish. Looking at the small menu, I was torn between yellow perch, walleye or whitefish. The nice waitress said whitefish is fresh and what people come from miles away to get. Whitefish and chips it was, and it was good. With three good-size pieces of fish, it was all I could eat. 

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We drove out to Whitefish Point to see the beach, the lighthouse and bird sanctuary. Walking out on the beach, we came up on a young man with a scope and a computer, drinking his coffee next to a tiny hut. It was a chilly, windy day, but he was there to count birds for the Michigan Audubon Society. Martha walked right up and asked what he was doing. His name was Gary, and for 30 minutes he told us about all the birds that come through here. Birds are his passion, and he knows his stuff. The puddle ducks are all gone now, flying south for the winter. That’s why we didn’t see anything at Seney Wildlife Area. Now the diving ducks were just starting to come in. The plovers have all migrated, and so have the hawks. He said thousands of hawks migrate through here. It is such an important spot because birds will stop here after crossing Lake Superior or resting before crossing when coming back north. It’s a relatively narrow part of the lake, so it’s a good place to cross. Unlike so many places, this point has gained about 150 yards of beach, including a good-sized pond. We thanked Gary for his tremendous enthusiasm and sharing his knowledge with us.

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Walking up the beach, several people were collecting smooth, round rocks that line the shore. I took a couple of pictures of the lighthouse that protects shoals that have wrecked many ships, including the Edmund Fitzgerald. Gordon Lightfoot describes it well in his song, “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”. 

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Lyrics

The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down

Of the big lake they called ‘gitche gumee’

The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead

When the skies of November turn gloomy

With a load of iron ore twenty-six thousand tons more

Than the Edmund Fitzgerald weighed empty

That good ship and crew was a bone to be chewed

When the gales of November came early

The ship was the pride of the American side

Coming back from some mill in Wisconsin

As the big freighters go, it was bigger than most

With a crew and good captain well seasoned

Concluding some terms with a couple of steel firms

When they left fully loaded for Cleveland

And later that night when the ship’s bell rang

Could it be the north wind they’d been feelin’?

The wind in the wires made a tattle-tale sound

And a wave broke over the railing

And every man knew, as the captain did too,

T’was the witch of November come stealin’

The dawn came late and the breakfast had to wait

When the gales of November came slashin’

When afternoon came it was freezin’ rain

In the face of a hurricane west wind

When suppertime came, the old cook came on deck sayin’

Fellas, it’s too rough to feed ya

At seven pm a main hatchway caved in, he said

Fellas, it’s been good t’know ya

The captain wired in he had water comin’ in

And the good ship and crew was in peril

And later that night when his lights went outta sight

Came the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

Does any one know where the love of God goes

When the waves turn the minutes to hours?

The searches all say they’d have made Whitefish Bay

If they’d put fifteen more miles behind her

They might have split up or they might have capsized

They may have broke deep and took water

And all that remains is the faces and the names

Of the wives and the sons and the daughters

Lake Huron rolls, superior sings

In the rooms of her ice-water mansion

Old Michigan steams like a young man’s dreams

The islands and bays are for sportsmen

And farther below Lake Ontario

Takes in what Lake Erie can send her

And the iron boats go as the mariners all know

With the gales of November remembered

In a musty old hall in Detroit they prayed,

In the maritime sailors’ cathedral

The church bell chimed till it rang twenty-nine times

For each man on the Edmund Fitzgerald

The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down

Of the big lake they call ‘gitche gumee’

Superior, they said, never gives up her dead

When the gales of November come early

Songwriters: Gordon Lightfoot

The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc

Rain! Petoskey, Michigan

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

We woke up to HEAVY rains, thunder and lightning. Like a small hurricane, the winds blew hard. I was worried a tree or big limb would fall on the Airstream. It was predicted to last all day, so we read most of the morning. By noon it let up, so we drove into Petosky and went to the library. Certainly one of the nicest libraries I have been in, the nice lady at the desk told us it is more quiet on the second floor. With comfortable tables, chairs and lounge chairs, we picked a good spot to catch up on the blog. 45 minutes later I was done. We headed across the street to an old church that now served as Crooked Tree Arts Center and checked out all the work, most of which was for sale. 

By then the sun had come out and it was warming up, so we decided to go to Bear River Valley Recreation Area, where the river had been turned into a 1.5 mile white water section. You’d better know what you are doing to run this one. Of course it was rocking from that torrential rain last night. By the time we had walked up the trail for a while, we started peeling layers off. From the 49 degree start of the day, it got up to 75 and sunny.

On our way back to Petoskey State Park, we stopped to look at the incredibly pretty houses overlooking the bay. I hadn’t walked very far when a gentleman, out for his walk, asked me how I was doing. The next thing you know we were walking together, talking about Petoskey. He said he has been coming here for 76 years, his parents bringing the family from the time he was born. He went on to jobs bringing distressed companies back to life, living in many places including Florida and 8 years in Hawaii. He said this is the best place he has very been, and I believe it as it is gorgeous. He told me we should buy a cottage here. Then he gave me recommendations of where to eat and places to go, among them Pictured Rocks and Harbor Springs. We said goodbye. A couple he knew came up the other side of the street, and he went over to talk to them. He must be the mayor of Petoskey. 

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I resumed taking pictures of the lovely homes, but didn’t make it down to Bay Street where the biggest houses are. Martha had made it down and around two blocks before we met again. We decided to go to Petoskey Brewing Company for dinner. A good burger and fries complemented the porters we ordered. A group of 10 guys were seated next to us. I couldn’t help but listen in as one guy told the story of deer hunting when a wolf killed a deer right in front of his deer stand. After all that rain, it turned out to be a pretty good day. 

Hike Brown Bridge Quiet Area

Monday, October 1, 2018

After being on the road for 7 days, it was time to do laundry, so we went to Eastfield Laundry on 8th Street. With good machines, a nice attendant and WIFI, it made our job easy. We had a Reese hitch bolt come out and needed to get that fixed as well. Having replaced it twice myself, I was ready to drill through the box frame and put a bolt in one side, a lock washer and nut on the other, but Martha wanted to take to an Airstream place we saw driving in. I called Airstream of Northern Michigan. A salesman named Greg put me through to Joe, the service manager. Thinking I just needed the right bolt or slightly bigger bolt, he said to come at 2:00. 

We finished up with the laundry, put it away, had some lunch, hooked up and checked out. The Airstream place is called Nature & Me R.V. Greg directed me to service where I met Joe Hooch. We went out to check out the problem, and he called Alan to take a look. These are tapped screws that go in one side of the boxed frame, and Alan said it didn’t work too well. Now they put a brass rivet nut into the hole, acting like a rivet when you tighten the bolt. He noted that the second bolt on that bracket was also stripping, which I knew. Really you should remove both brackets and put in rivet nuts and new bolts. They were busy with winterizing, other jobs and a couple of other travelers like us, so we agreed to come back tomorrow. Joe was very apologetic, but I fully understood. I could see they were very busy. 

We checked back into Traverse City State Park where the staff was really into decorating for Halloween. Arms, hands and legs hung on signs and tried to come out of the ground. Ghosts hung from a fence, and a huge spider scared me in the bathroom. Martha found a hike called Brown Bridge Quiet Area along the Boardman River. It was good to get out and get some exercise. We parked at area #1 and read the sign. Must be getting old, but we couldn’t read the tiny symbols on the little signs. Oh well, you couldn’t get lost in a place like this. Following a ridge line, we headed east toward #2 through the woods. We could barely see the river winding below us. It is an old lakebed that has been drained. Our plan was to walk to a loop to the river at the far end of the lake, turn around and come back for 4.2mi, getting back for cocktail hour

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Those little blue triangles have numbers in them

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When we finally reached the river, I was so happy to see this beautiful river and take some pictures, we took a wrong turn and crossed the river over a bridge. There were side trails in a lot of places, especially along the river where people fish or just walk along it. Then that little sign was so small and hard to read. We didn’t realize what we had done until we got to marker #6. Finally I took a picture of the map with my phone and expanded it so we could see the tiny numbers. Well it wouldn’t be that much further, and it was much prettier following the river. It would be a great float through here although a bit chilly today. I wondered at the map whether there was another bridge at the other end of the old lake. By the time we had walked 8 miles and crossed the dam, we arrived at the bridgeless Boardman. I certainly wasn’t walking back, but Martha was hesitant to walk across. It was supposed to start raining any time and the sky looked like it. The river is shallow at that point, 2-3ft, and not running too hard, but it was a cool, cloudy 50 degrees, and I had on blue jeans, cotton socks and hiking shoes. We held hands and walked across, up the hill to the road and back to the truck. We shed the wet shoes and socks. Martha’s hiking pants dried quickly, but jeans won’t dry for a very long time. Fortunately it was only a 20-minute drive back to the campground. A hot shower felt good.

North to Traverse City

Sunday, September 30, 2018

We went up to the Visitor’s Center in Sleeping Bear Dunes. There were nice displays and a movie telling the history of the area. Sleeping Bear is a great park. We left a lot undone, but we had a great visit. There are many pleasant streams to float, a great bike trail, lots of hiking trails and miles of beaches. A through-hike in this park would be great.

Hooking up, we headed north on Rt. 22 to Traverse City.  After some trouble leveling the trailer in soft sand at Traverse City State Park Campground, we went downtown to cruise the shops and get Martha some warmer clothes. She found some gloves, hats, sweat pants, but couldn’t find the shirt she wanted. We found the world’s best Mommers hand-made ice cream at Peppercorn, a kitchen shop.

Next up was the Peninsula Drive to the light house, stopping at one of the many roadside fruit stands and bought Honey Crisp apples and plums. Beautiful farms growing grapes, fruit trees and vegetables are on both sides of the road. I have never seen apple trees trimmed to grow like grape vines. The road follows a ridge, so you see Lake Michigan on both sides. Heading back down on the west coastal side, we passed a little restaurant, the Boathouse, right on the water. After some discussion, we turned around and went back for dinner. The prices and cuisine are suited for yacht and wealthy homeowners, but it was excellent.  Driving back down the coast as the sun set, it was fun looking at the beautiful houses. With side roads going everywhere, there is much to explore here. When Ed and Diego and I were here last summer, Diego ran a marathon out this road for a beautiful run. 

Back in camp, Martha was happy to have TV reception. She watched her “Buff Boys” (NCIS LA) as I fell asleep.

Bike Greater Allegheny Passage

Thursday, June 21, 2018

After a night of very heavy rain, we waited until 10:00 to start biking. In the meantime I had to go see the slide, a natural shoot on Meadow Run. It is the most popular place in the park where you can slide down the river on the rocks. You are going to get bumped up on the rocks though, and our river guide recommended wearing a helmet. There is one spot where you could really bang your head, and you’re going pretty fast. I wasn’t brave enough the first day, and I sure wouldn’t do it now.

We then biked the rails-to-trails that runs all the way through the park, following the river. We started at the train station, going east, 10 miles out and 10 back. The “Yough” (Youghiogheny River) was raging. There was so much rain that every 50 yards was a waterfall. With puddles and muddy spots, you were going to get dirty, but once we got over it, we just went on. Not far from Confluence we saw two rafts filled with people hanging onto a tree. I was amazed there were people on the river. A half mile further up, there was a raft stuck in a hydraulic. It looked like it was tied up there, but it was just the churning water holding it in place, bobbing up and down.

When we got to the put-in spot, a raft group was getting instructions for their trip. I went up and reported the hydraulic hole. They said they would check it out and call the raft company. Apparently everyone got dumped out of that raft, or got out when they couldn’t exit the hydraulic. That’s why the two rafts we had seen were overfilled. We headed back down the trail and passed them. As far as I know, no one was hurt. I thought is was pretty crazy to risk being on that river that day, and the middle section is much calmer than the lower with Class II-III rapids normally. 50 miles south is the Upper Youghiogheny with Class V rapids, which is world-class kayaking. 

We had a nice lunch at the Ohiopyle Bakery and Sandwich Shoppe. Their breads are great. Then we biked west for an hour before returning tired. This is one of the best state parks I have ever been in. If you like outdoor adventures, you can’t ask for more. It is beautiful, unspoiled despite many visitors. The campground was nice, with plenty of room. 

Hike Kentuck Trail/Visit Kentuck Knob

We hiked Kentuck Trail in Ohiopyle State Park – about 4.5 miles after the rains stopped. It was cool, but very humid, and we were the first ones on the trail, so we got all the spider webs. The river is the main attraction of the park, but there are 20,500 acres of beautiful forest and small streams. Behind Kentuck Knob Picnic Area is a beautiful overlook of the little town, the river and surrounding mountains. Hiking in the woods requires a reward for me to enjoy it. It could be along a trout stream, beautiful overlooks, exceptional trees (like the Redwoods), wildlife sightings or a variety of flowers and mushrooms. Our reward today was good exercise and a beautiful vista. 

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Just a mile from the campground is Kentuck Knob, a home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright for the Hagen family. A smaller home than Falling Waters, it sits on a high hill overlooking Ohiopyle and the Youghiogheny Valley. It is built into the hill in hexagonal and triangular forms using native sandstone with a copper roof. It is a very cool house in a beautiful setting, and it has held up well over the years. The Hagen family made their money making Hagen ice cream, which is sold in the visitor’s center.

We just made it back before the rains came again, and it rained hard all night. I was going to float the middle Youghiogheny Friday, but might be a bit too much now.