Ski Blue Knob

Went to Blue Knob a couple weeks ago, which some Web site (not mine) says is arguably the second best skiing in the state (first is some place in the Poconos, which isn’t very close to here). Haven’t had much snow this year, the place is out near Altoona, so it was a 2:15 drive (hours and minutes). The place is basically the same as Whistler.

As evidence:

Green circles mean GO!

Top of the hill. This is taken from the parking lot. I mean, the *parking lot*.

Do the tops of these lifts sort of look like the at-at walkers from Empire Strikes Back to anyone else? Maybe it’s just me.

See? From the parking lot.

This elevation is within 50 feet of being the highest point in Pennsylvania. (Srsly. I was surprised there were elevations in PA that were this high.)

This is the interior of the lodge. The sushi chef had the day off, so I stuck with the cheesesteak.

Experts only.

I’ve never actually been to Whistler.

Condescending photo captions aside, this was a very fun day and a great place to go skiing.

  • Unlike Seven Springs (the other PA ski resort I’ve been to), Blue Knob has more and colder snow. By the end of the day nothing had turned to ice.
  • It’s also higher, steeper, and has longer runs.
  • Also, since it’s primarily pulling people from Altoona and not mighty Pittsburgh (let alone Philthadelphia), there aren’t a whole lot of people up on the hill. I.e., there are no lift lines and most runs you have all to yourself.
  • The expert terrain was closer to being expert-like terrain (although a lot of it is on the bottom half of the mountain, where there’s less snow).
  • It isn’t actually green circles as far as the eye can see. The intermediates are fun, fast cruisers. There was only one black diamond-ish run that was worth taking (it’s been a warm, dry winter), but it had fresh snow and fun moguls on it. (With more snow, the black diamonds at the bottom of the hill looked like they’ be a good time.)
  • Relatively speaking, the place is *cheap*. $38 for all day or $32 for a five-hour pass (any five hours, the clock starts when you buy the ticket).
  • It’s cool to be able to park 100 feet away from the top of the hill. No mile-long slogs back to the car at the end of the day. If you decide you want to change from mitts to gloves, I mean, your car is just *right there*. It’s like parking at a bowling alley rather than parking at Disneyland. Maybe I have unusual car-separation anxiety, but it’s nice to be able to see your vehicle every time you get off the lift.
  • Because, seriously, the parking lot is at the top of the hill. That’s how we roll here.

Totally worth the 2.25-hour drive.

bkd

(PS, Curiously, as with Seven Springs, Blue Knob has a situation where there are two different lifts that start in the same place and end in the same place. As with Seven Springs only one of these two lifts was operating.)

(PPS, If you’re curious, here’s a trail map. Only four lifts, two of which are redundant and one of which is about 200 yards long and intended for beginners ONLY. The bottom-to-top lift has a midway station, which would be useful especially if you wanted to focus on the more advanced terrain at the bottom of the hill.)

Tourist Day in Pittsburgh

For Thanksgiving, my brother, his wife, his two kids, and two caged dogs came to visit. The day after Thanksgiving, we did tourist activities. This is the story of those activities.

“Story” is a strong word.

First we drove out to Fort Necessity, the place where George Washington inadvertently started the French and Indian War.

Things I learned there, the veracity of which having not been verified: the French and Indian War precipitated the American Revolution, George Washington accidentally signed a document accepting sole responsibility for assassinating a French officer, his time in the area made Washington a big proponent of the US’s eventual expansion into the Ohio Valley, and most 18th century North American forts aren’t very impressive.

We then stopped at the only restaurant on Highway 40, a Pizza Hut, where there was considerable confusion about what specials were or were not offered. Then we went to Ohiopyle to see the falls:

This is Mr. and Mrs. Telkontar, btw. And the Telkitos. I talked about the falls in a much earlier post in case you feel cheated by lack of additional photos or description.

Then we went to some guy’s house:

I’d never heard of it before moving to Pittsburgh, but it’s apparently the most famous-for-architecture house in the US (Fallingwater, Frank Lloyd Wright). We didn’t have reservations, so we were not allowed inside and were treated like dogs. The waterfalls were nice and the use of stone was kind of cool, but the preponderance of pink concrete was perplexing. Definitely better than the Biltmore Estate, though.

Then we drove back through Ohiopyle and came upon the following waterfall:

It’s named Cucumber Falls due to the prevalence of wild cucumber in the area.

It was starting to get dark, then, so we did what comes naturally to tourists in the Pittsburgh area: ride the Duquesne Incline up to Mt. Washington.

There was probably a good photo there if I could have found something to which to attach my gorilla pod.

And then we went home and debated the relative utility of creche committees.

bkd

 

 

 

Skiing Western Pennsylvania

It was nowhere near as absurd as I thought it would be. Granted, I went to the biggest and best resort Pennsylvania has to offer (Seven Springs, about 55 miles east-southeast of my house), but still: not absurd.

One of the cool things about it was that, while pretty nice, it was unapologetically western Pennsylvania. It wasn’t trying to shoehorn Park City or Stowe into the Laurel Highlands, it was just trying to be what it was. Frex:

  • They have a bowling alley.
  • And a tubing hill.
  • And a skeet-shooting range.

I think I was kind of expecting it to be either run-down (like anything in the Catskills) or just pathetic (two functioning chairlifts and a j-bar). It was neither and the snow (mostly man-made) was pretty good (although I quickly figured out to stay on the run with the snow-making machinery if I wanted to avoid ice).

I’m using a lot of parenthetical statements (like this one).

This being Pennsylvania, the biggest problem they have is lack of elevation change. Per their website, I think the biggest drop is like 750 feet. So basically, by the time you get your pole straps on you’re at the bottom of the hill.

I mean, not *quite*, but almost. I timed it once: 55 seconds top-to-bottom. And that’s with the clock starting at the time my butt got off the chair at the top to the time it again made chair contact at the bottom. Although that also kind of speaks to how not-overcrowded the lift was.

It also sort of speaks to the kind of runs they have there — almost everything there is a bombing run. There are a couple of runs that are meant to be mogul fields, but with no new snow for a couple of days, these areas were icy and no fun to ski (for me).  The bombing runs were pretty good bombing runs, though, with maybe an inch or so of soft stuff on top and enough small bumps and military crests to keep it interesting (for 55 seconds).

Only a Sith deals in absolutes.

The weather was also good — sunny and mid-20′s, cold enough to prevent the formation of slush, warm enough that you didn’t wish you were dead when going up the lift. Kind of a long walk from the parking lot to the lifts (there’s a shuttle bus you can take instead). Bowling alley, yeah, and like six restaurants. I don’t know. Is there any other relevant information anyone wants to have? Even though this was the biggest, most expensive resort in the area, when you take rentals and gas money into consideration, the price becomes comparable. When you also factor in that, short though the hills might be, it has more terrain than other places — yeah.

Right: if (questions) then {ask;}.

bkd

Ohiopyle State Park

What adventure! It’s a state park, it’s in “southwestern Pennsylvania”, not real far from Uniontown, real close to Falling Water and some other Frank Lloyd Wright house I’d never heard of — which would basically be all of them other than “Falling Water”, which I’ve only heard of because it’s in all the Pittsburgh tourism collateral. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Ohiopyle is a state park because it has a river (the Youghiogheny), some waterfalls, hiking trails, part of the rails-to-trails bike route from Pgh to DC, and a small “town” whose economy appears based on selling convenience store items and renting bicycles.

I didn’t take a photo of the town. My bad.

Sometimes kayakers go over these. Just not when I’m there.

I dunno. It was kind of pretty and all. I probably should have gone there this last weekend rather than three weeks ago, might have had good leaf color or something. Went on a sort of hike while I was there, which took me to two other waterfalls, but they were mostly dry and therefore unimpressive.

Western Pennsylvania looks like this a lot. It’s not exactly breathtaking, I mean, not like the Sierras or Cascades or Southern Utah or whatever. OTOH, it makes up for quality with sheer volume. I don’t mean that backhandedly. It’s pretty cool that everything is valleys and rivers and lakes and trees here. Tons and tons of valleysriverslakestrees.

Anyway,

bkd

Keystone Lake, Pennsylvania (Fishing Sort Of)

This was a few weeks ago. Decided I should go fishing. Decided that, no matter what, I wasn’t going to rent a boat or buy live bait or lures that I didn’t already own. Decided I didn’t want to drive very far and that the lake should be small. I guess I needed criteria.

Drove to Keystone Lake, which is east of the Burgh, past Murrysville. The lake looked like this:

There was a spot on the map of the lake that indicated that it was the place where you were supposed to fish from the shore. I did that for two hours, but nothing happened. I tried six or seven different lures.

It’s kind of stupid probably. I have no idea whether lures work in that lake. No one else was fishing there. I never run into people who fish anywhere anyway. The only people I met who fish were the landscapers who cleaned up my yard, but they just go down to the Mon and fish using potato buds soaked in vodka and/or (cheap) maple syrup or something, which is arguably the only “lure” I’ve ever heard of that’s less appetizing than using leeches. Leaches? Either way.

Next time, I’ll rent a boat and buy worms. <sigh> I might end up having to buy a sit-on-top kayak, too. I’m guessing re-sale on those can’t be all bad.

Endut.

bkd

Fort Necessity and George Washington

“Fort Necessity” is arguably the answer to the question of “Where did George Washington become George Washington?” No one ever asks that, but maybe they should. Definitely they should.

It’s where George Washington sort of took over from aristocratic old-school British General Edward Braddock in the French and Indian War. Supposedly Washington also sort of helped spark the war by leading an attack on a different French fort. And at some point Washington decided he needed to build a fort or else his guys would be unprotected from the French (ergo: “Fort Necessity”), and so this happened:

Soldiers were smaller back then — to them, this was palatial.

The pathway for tourists was not original to the fort. I’m not convinced these are the original earthworks, either. “Unprepossessing” was the word that kept coming to mind.

I mean, if you were to claim that the French and Indian War is the event that precipitated the American Revolution and  that George Washington’s sort of chicken move on the position of a nation that his wasn’t at war with yet was indeed the start of the French and Indian War, then this is a really important historical location. Anyway. Valley Forge and Bunker Hill better name recognition; that’s tough to fight. Plus there’s nothing to see here.

The fort lies along US 40, aka “The National Highway”. This was a highway originally dreamed up by George Washington, who, as I learned at Mt. Vernon, is responsible for everything good in the world. That Pat Sajack movie at Mt. Vernon really made me dislike George Washington, who apparently looked like a 50-year-old when he was 30. Different trip to Virginia though. Highway was meant to connect stuff east of the Alleghenies to stuff west of them (i.e., The Ohio Valley). I think that just because he started the French and Indian War, ol’ G-Dub had to make out like the Ohio Valley was super-important.

I probably like George Washington. That movie at Mt. Vernon really sucked though. Whatever. There’s an old tavern that’s on the same parks service site as the fort.

I didn’t go on the tour, so I don’t know if this tavern’s actually important. The highway was sort of important in that it actually got built whereas the canal system never quite made it. Not long after they finished the highway, though, the railroads made it obsolete. Except that now if you want to drive from Pittsburgh to Richmond, it’s useful again. Everything’s cyclical.

bkd