Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Pennsylvania Laurel Highlands

Earlier this fall, we took a three-day trip to the Pennsylvania Laurel Highlands. Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater, a house listed on several of the must-see lists, drew us there. But we quickly found out there was so much to do.

We were very pleased with our accommodations at the Glades Pike Inn in Somerset. The beautiful old building was located amidst cornfields and right next to a large, red barn. The prices ($95 on weekends and $65 on weekdays) are so reasonable compared with many East Coast bed and breakfasts. Our room was amply sized, with a couch, fireplace, bathroom and overhead fan. We had enough room for River’s crib, plus plenty of space to move around. The helpful and knowledgeable owner not only made delicious and plentiful breakfasts, she will pick up you and your bicycle/kayak/raft for a modest fee, allowing guests to bike or paddle in one direction only.

In addition to the Glades Pike Inn, there is a wide selection of lodging in the area, from resorts to hotels to B&Bs to motels to a variety of campgrounds.

Fallingwater was as beautiful as it’s said to be (see separate post on visiting with children). Another Frank Lloyd Wright home, Kentuck Knob, is nearby, but we didn’t have time to visit.

My favorite part of the trip was our 30 mile ride down the Allegheny Passage. The Passage goes from Pittsburgh, PA to Cumberland, MA and seems like it would be a great ride to travel the whole trail. We went from Rockwood, PA to Frostburg, MD and that was an enjoyable daytrip. The path is packed gravel and is mostly flat. On our part of the trail, the last seven miles were downhill.

Bikers pass a variety of rural scenery and ride across the Eastern Continental Divide. Most interesting are the several tunnels one passes through. One of them was so long and so dark I grew dizzy on my bike and had to walk it through.

Hiking is plentiful in the area. We took some pleasant short treks in the Laurel Highlands State Park. The hemlock trail provides a view of a rare hemlock grove and another trail takes you to a pretty waterfall.

The September 11th memorial field is nearby, as is a third Frank Lloyd Wright house. We want to return for the rafting and water sports available in Ohiopyle. Best of all, the people are very friendly and welcoming and prices moderate. It’s a very enjoyable place to spend some time.

Other than the great breakfasts at our inn, we didn’t find the food to be quite as exciting as the attractions (although the sweet corn sold fresh from the fields is out of this world). A farm next door to the Glades Pike Inn sells grass-fed ground beef for a bargain $1.99 a pound, as well as other meats from their farm. In season, farmers sell delicious corn and other produce along the roads. The River’s Edge has a beautiful location along the river and delicious food (try the sweet potato fries), but service is poor and it can be packed even mid-afternoon. If you want one of the prime tables overlooking the river, you’ll definitely want a reservation. A reservation would probably be a good idea in any case.

Overall, we loved our visit to the Laurel Highlands. I’d love to go back for more hiking and biking, rafting and skiing.