Tag Archives: State Parks

Pennsylvania’s Lincolnway

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Nearly a decade before the much celebrated route 66 was commissioned, the first cross country automobile route, “The Lincolnway”, was developed.  This cross country route from New York to San Francisco, first labelled in 1913, roughly follows what would later become U.S. highway 30 through much of the country.  Although less songs and movies have been written about “The Lincolnway”, it is just as historic.

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Accessing the Lincolnway in Pennsylvania is quite easy.  In fact, from the Southeast, it can be accessed without even exiting the highway.  In a town called Breezewood, PA, all Interstate 70 traffic comes to a grinding halt.  In order to continue on I-70 westbound, one must make a right hand turn, followed by a left hand turn, and enter the Pennsylvania Turnpike, where I-70 shares with I-76 for about 86 miles.  This is the only place I know where interstate highway traffic must actually come to a stop at a traffic light.  In many other places, following an interstate highway requires exiting and merging onto different roads, but I don’t know anywhere else where traffic lights are actually part of the main interstate highway route.  As a result of every I-70 traveler having to stop here, Breezewood is mainly just a bunch of gas stations (truck stops) and hotels.

The road that motorists encounter when I-70 comes to a halt is actually the Lincolnway, U.S. highway 30.  Since I have some extra time on my journey, and some level of disdain for the Pennsylvania Turnpike, I decide to follow the Lincolnway through much of Pennsylvania and check out some of the sights along the way.

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After bypassing the larger towns of Everett and Bedford, I make my first stop at a place called Shawnee State Park, roughly 5 miles west of Bedford.  I have always been kind of impressed with Pennsylvania’s State Park System.  I do not ever recall being asked to pay to enter a state park here, which is quite common in other states, and most of these state parks are well kept, even having recycling bins at some places.  The parking area here, less than mile off the Lincolnway, looks like the kind of place where one can relax, do a little hiking, and have a nice picnic.  After less than ten minutes of walking I discovered something truly amazing!

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Lake Shawnee actually reminded me of what I would consider one of my dream vacations.  One of the things I would love to do most is get somewhere between 8-14 fun, energetic people and go to a cabin or campground near a lake just like this one.  It would involve boating, swimming, beach volleyball, a little bit or partying, and some hiking, all of which seem readily available at this place.  In addition, this state park is well out of the way of most major cities, and the lake area is also out of the way of any parking lots, which would make for a true escape from day-to-day life.

It was already closed for the season by the time I arrived, but I could imagine this place in summer, with people swimming, boating, and just relaxing.  Well, not relaxing the way many of us think of it.  I will refer to it as “relaxation for the active”.  For those of us that would not necessarily enjoy a full day of just sitting around and watching T.V., this would be our version of relaxing and getting away from it all.  For people with very fast paced lives and/or high intensity goals like training for a marathon, it would still represent a slow-down of sorts, and I would still consider it a way of recharging.


A few miles farther west, the Lincolnway enters a section of Pennsylvania referred to as the “Laurel Highlands”.  I am not sure if this is an official region, or some kind of a tourism marketing strategy.  There was a section of brochures dedicated to this part of the state at the Pennsylvania Welcome Center.  Upon entering the Laurel Highlands, the highway actually ascends up a fairly steep slope, going from basically sea level to periodic summits between 2600 and 2900 feet in elevation.

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One of the main points of interest in this region is the United Flight 93 memorial near Stoystown, PA.  On September 11, 2001, terrorists hijacked this plane as part of a four plane attack on the United States.  Two of the planes were flown into the World Trade Center, and one was flown into the Pentagon.  This flight was headed for the Capitol Building (most likely) when the passengers and crew on this flight mounted a plan to retake the plane.  Their plan caused enough confusion to prevent a fourth strike that day, and the plane instead crashed in an empty field in Southwestern Pennsylvania.  All of these passengers, as well as the flight crew, lost their lives that day.  All 40 of them are buried and memorialized on this site.  I don’t know the names of these people, nor will I ever.  But they are people who truly embodied the word courage, and made an unexpected sacrifice for their country.  In a strange way I felt their presence here as people who have earned, and deserve all of our respect.  I would never had thought of this had I not traveled through this area, but I am really glad that someone decided to put up a memorial to these 40 heroes of recent American history.


For almost all of this stretch of the Lincolnway, the towns I go through are really quite small.  In fact, they are smaller than I expected.  Finding even your basic road trip mainstays like McDonalds and Subway was quite difficult.  One could also see some remnants of the pre-interstate days on this road much the same way they could see these remnants traveling route 66.  Some of these motel signs even contained some outdated advertisements, such as “Color TV”.  I have a DvD series at home about route 66, which discusses all of the famous stop-off places along that route.  I wonder if anything similar has been done for the Lincolnway.

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On the other side of the main summits in the Laurel Highlands, I stop at one of the State Parks, a place called Linn Run State Park.  This one, several miles off the Lincolnway, is quite different.  It is far more of a rustic fishing and hiking state park, with some really beautiful fall colors at this time.  The main odd thing I saw here were little homes, most likely people’s second homes, inside the park.  I did not know State Parks allowed people to build homes in them, but apparently this one does.

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Continuing west on U.S 30 the drive got a little bit frustrating.  Just past the town of Ligonier, the road opens up into a multi-lane highway, but it does not take long for the road to become suburban in nature, with lots of traffic lights, shopping malls, etc.  Traveling roads like this does take significantly more time than traveling on an interstate.  This is why nearly everybody that travels long distances across the country takes almost exclusively interstate highways.  However, I have noticed today, traveling along the interstate does often mean missing some great places along the way, and I truly enjoyed having the time to take this route.  On the interstate, travel is quite monotonous.  Every exit seems to largely have the same places, the same gas stations, the same fast food, etc.  This is especially true of roads like the Pennsylvania Turnpike, where exits can be over 20 miles apart in places, and most of the eating/fueling is done at rest stops, which are designed to all look the same.  Travel on state and U.S. highways, and one can see what makes each town unique, and see spots that they cannot see anywhere else.  This is why I enjoy traveling on roads like this when not in a hurry.


My final stop-off was somewhat of a disappointment.  In the travel guide I picked up at the Pennsylvania Welcome Center, I saw an advertisement for a Big Mac Museum.  I immediately thought it was a neat concept.  I wondered how much material there would be about one single sandwich, but was intrigued by the idea of a museum dedicated to one sandwich.  However, this museum was not really a museum.  It was just a McDonalds with a giant plastic Big Mac and Big Mac related newspaper clippings behind some glass thrown periodically throughout the restaurant as decorations.  It is really no more special than the “Rock N Roll McDonalds”, and if this can be considered a “museum”, than every single Five Guys can be thought of as a museum to their burgers.

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Knowing that the Lincolway was about to go through even more suburbia and then downtown Pittsburgh, I decided to finally hop on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.  I got on at exit 76 and followed it the final 76 miles to the Ohio border.  This cost me $4.80 in tolls, which reminded me of another reason I dislike traveling on this road.  However, more important than the price of toll roads is the opportunities provided by other roads.  By traveling the Lincolnway across part of Pennsylvania, I got to see some magnificent state parks, some interesting towns where I could picture the day to day lives of people much different from me, and part of our nation’s history.

Golden Gate Canyon State Park


Only half an hour outside of Golden, Colorado, Golden Gate Canyon State Park represents one of the easiest hiking places to get to from the Denver metropolitan area.  It is definitely a lot shorter of a drive then Rocky Mountain National Park, but is probably a little bit longer than The Flatirons in Boulder.  My visit to this park was not in peak season, on the 19th of October, but it was on a weekend.  Based on what I saw today, it appears that this park is significantly less crowded than both Rocky Mountain National Park and the Flatirons, and therefore may represent a more tranquil alternative to those two destinations for day hikes.

Yesterday, we visited the east side of the park, parking in the first parking lot in the state park off of Crawford Gulch Rd.  At this parking lot, our elevation was just short of 7,800 feet.  I have to admit, I was a little bit apprehensive about doing a hike this high in elevation well into October.  Last spring I came to the conclusion that the in-between seasons, when it is not warm enough to for activities at high elevations, but not quite ski season, are the best times of year to explore areas at lower elevations.  But, I knew that it was going to be a warmer day in Colorado, with southwest winds, and highs in the 60s in Denver, which would mean temperatures could be tolerable at this elevation.

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Upon exiting the car, I immediately noticed two potential hazards.  One was the wind, which was quite strong that day, and made the temperatures, near 50 at the time, seem quite a bit chillier.  It did not help that our hike’s destination was a place called “windy peak”.  I kept thinking to myself, if it is this windy at the trailhead, I am in for an unpleasant summit.  Second was the fact that hunting is permitted in pretty much the entire area where we would be hiking.  Most likely, this is one of those irrational fears that we all seems to have.  It’s kind of like all of those posts we see that indicate that more children get injured by trampolines and swimming pools than by strangers, yet, most parents seem way more afraid of their kids talking to strangers than using their backyard trampolines and swimming pools unsupervised.  But, for some reason I did get a little nervous when I saw this sign.  Luckily, I was able to put this out of mind pretty quickly.  We would only see one group of hunters on this hike, and they seemed like they knew what they were doing.

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On this hike, we dealt with the remnants of two recent weather events.  First was the major flooding event last month.   In fact, one of the roads to the trailhead was washed out by this flood and closed.  We had to park right by the main road, and hike a little extra to get to the trail.  This was no big deal, and based on this, we could see why repairing this road would be a relatively low priority for the State of Colorado (compared with, say U.S. highways 34 and 36 near Estes Park).  We also had to traverse through some snowy areas.  Friday morning, Denver actually received it’s first snow of the year (which seems really early to me).  There was more snow in the mountains, and parts of the trail, especially those in the shadowy areas, and near our highest elevations, were snowpacked.  The snowpack, however, did not exceed 6″, where it would start to make the hike tougher and eventually impassible.  It did, however, make some downhill stretches a bit slippery and more hazardous than normal.

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Somewhere between 1/2 and 2/3 of the way up, we saw a couple of neat rock formations, like this one, and decided to go off trail and take a few side excursions.  This mostly meant physically climbing up the rock, and then rejoining the trail the next place we see it.  It’s the kind of thing I periodically do with hikes that are not going to completely exhaust me (like a “14er”) to add a little extra spice to the experience.  Upon completion of the second of these side excursions, I saw the tall peaks in the distance for the first time.  These peaks, which I would later be able to identify as Mt. Evans, Mt. Bierstadt, Gray’s and Torrey’s Peaks, showed up in the southwest sky.

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The end part of the hike involved traversing through a fairly uniformly snowpacked and fairly dense forest.  We arrived at Windy Peak, whose elevation is just shy of 9,100 ft.  The views from windy peak are pretty spectacular, but, as promised, it was quite windy here, and quite chilly.  It was definitely windier than it was at the trailhead, and this hike seemed to follow the similar pattern of the summit being significantly windier than even places a mere 50-100 feet down the mountain.  Due to the conditions, we did not remain at Windy Peak too long.  Basically, we remained there long enough to eat a cliff bar without feeling like we were rushing through it, and to take a few pictures.


On the way down the mountain, we actually noticed significant snowmelt.  In fact, the road to the park was icy in the morning, but clear in the afternoon.  We also came to the conclusion that Golden Gate Canyon State Park is one of the best signed hiking destinations we had ever been to.  Every trail junction has signs like these, with a complete map of the park, and arrows pointing to where to go.  I’d say getting lost at Golden Gate Canyon State Park is next to impossible!

Colorado is full of places to explore.  In fact, as a relative newcomer, it is somewhat overwhelming.  I think I am finally well versed on all of the skiing options in the state, and I am getting a handle on all of the whitewater places.  But, hiking, climbing, and bicycling, it seems like can be done almost anywhere.  And nearly every trail area seems to have trails varying from easy to very difficult like this one.  How any Coloradan chooses where to go on a particular day remains a mystery to me