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Ohiopyle State Park
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mini location map2021-04-16
15 by photographer avatarroaminghiker
photographer avatar
Ohiopyle State ParkLaurel Highlands, PA
Laurel Highlands, PA
Hiking avatar Apr 16 2021
Hiking9.46 Miles 2,230 AEG
Hiking9.46 Miles
2,230 ft AEG
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
With both my wife and I vaccinated, we ventured away from New York, not far, just to Rostraver outside Pittsburgh, to visit my wife’s parents, both of them also vaccinated. We enjoyed the time with her parents, relaxing, a long awaited get together to talk and catch up after not being able to visit for many months.

Hiking was also on the agenda (for Cindy and I not her parents). But the weather didn’t get the memo, so conditions were less than optimal, temperatures cool to cold, a misty drizzle often present, breezy, with skies overcast much of the time. Cindy valued relaxing inside to catch up with her parents, but I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to hike, in this case through Ohiopyle State Park (which Cindy, having grown up in the area, had already explored). So off I went. Now, the park sits along a sharp U-bend in the Youghiogheny River, with the U-bend creating a rich biodiverse enclave, and with the hard rock underneath leading to multiple cascades and rapids. I hiked two sections, first the Ferncliff Loop through the enclave inside the U-bend, and then the Cucumber Falls Trail along the outside of the U-bend.

Ohiopyle looks to be wildly popular – parking existed for hundreds of visitors, if not a good thousand. Bike rental shops, dining establishments, a large visitor center, a collection of built-up observation decks (to easily view a set of major rapids without hiking effort), picnic tables, and other visitor attractions, filled the nexus of the park near the U-bend. But - thankfully in my eyes - not on the day I visited. The cool, misty weather, with the overcast, plus my early morning start, on a weekday, while school in session, kept essentially everyone away. And for me, this solitude served as a blessing. I enjoyed nature unobstructed and unhindered. The birds chirped nicely. Tall stands of hardwoods graced the landscaped in all directions, interspersed with hemlock evergreens. The rapids kicked up a mist, and the resulting humidity triggered mossy growth on the base of the trees, plus those that have fallen. And in a signature of the park, the whoosh and roar of the rapids filtered through the forest at every turn.

Both trails I traversed allowed close up views of rapids, as the trails dipped at strategic spots down to the river. And the rapids did not disappoint. The brightness of the whitewater rush of the river over the rocks, the rush sometimes smooth and sinuous, sometimes tumultuous and chaotic, contrasted nicely with the deep hues of the rocks and the gentle green and yellow of the budding trees, to create a pleasant and rich palette of color and light. Gorgeous.

And also the sense of geologic time. The waters of the Youghiogheny have flowed over the hard rocks underneath for eons, with the rocks giving ground only slowly and reluctantly, weathering and eroding but haltingly, while the river, never impatient, flowed incessantly in its pounding rage against the rock. We might then get a picture that the two, river and rock, stand and have stood, in battle. But but upon reflection, we could consider them to be in unison, the rock supporting the river, but giving way as needed to let the river always find a path to flow between the hills, and thus allow the river to maintain its place and service its function in the balance of nature.
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