In 2009, I cycled 335 miles of off-road trail along the Great Allegheny Passage and the C&O Canal from Pittsburgh to Washington DC. Along the way, one of many scenic spots was Ohiopyle, PA, and I remember telling my co-rider, "I need to come back here one day". So, lo and behold, as I was mapping my way East from Ann Arbor, Ohiopyle was indeed the halfway point. Coincidence? I think not.
This little town was called "ohiopehhla" by area Native Americans, a reference to the frothy waters of the Youghiogheny River that passes through it. In 1753, George Washington traveled through the area to talk to the French, then returned a year later with soldiers, and so began the French and Indian War. While the early settlers were farmers and hunters, the building of roads and railroads in the 1800s brought industries like lumbering, tanneries, salt mining and coal mining. The railroads also brought tourists to see the waterfalls and to stay at the resorts along the river. With the advent of the auto, tourism declined, buildings were removed, and the natural beauty of the area regenerated.
Conservation of the land began in 1948, as one woman, Lillian McCahan, began writing letters to protect Ferncliff Peninsula from clear-cutting. She eventually convinced a seasonal resident, Edgar Kaufmann (owner of nearby Fallingwater, Frank Lloyd Wright's masterpiece) to purchase the land, which he then donated to the Conservancy. Today, the State Park is over 20,000 acres, and is an outdoor recreation mecca for whitewater boating, fly-fishing, hiking, cycling, and x-c skiing.
While it is busy on the weekend, tourism is focused on outdoor activity, and weekdays are slow and peaceful. The town of Ohiopyle has about 20 main buildings with a small residential area, and two churches. According to a park ranger, the town's population in the winter is 50-something. This was a great spot to begin my return to the homestead, to see the eclipse, and to enjoy the great outdoors.
I'm in my final days in Ann Arbor with dental work, and farewells to my writing and cycling groups behind me. Touring time has also come to an end as I spend my last few days meeting deadlines, pondering fall travel, and getting the Element packed and ready to point eastward.
A Memorable Option
With a few places still on my "to see" list last week, I made a choice to visit the small town of Chelsea, Michigan. While many folks would visit to see the Purple Rose Theater, founded by "hometown" actor, Jeff Daniels; I had my own agenda.
Growing up, my mother always made us breakfast, and one of my favorites (which I'll be enjoying soon) is corn pancakes. While she may have "doctored up" the batter, the pancake mix began with Jiffy corn muffin mix, and the end result was a fluffy, crisp-edged stack of pancakes soaked in butter and syrup. So, there was no resisting a visit to Chelsea Milling Company to tour the plant responsible for this lifetime of deliciousness. Founded in the 1800s as a traditional flour mill, the company continues as a family-run business, with more than 300 employees, who appear to be pretty happy. Chelsea Milling doesn't spend any money on advertising, but they do invest well in their workers. There are now 19 Jiffy mixes, but the corn muffin brand accounts for 90% of production -- 1.5 million boxes a day! Sometimes it's the little things, like the memorable Jiffy box, that matter.
On Saturday I roll into Ohiopyle State Park in PA, where I'll be off the grid for five nights, and in the woods for the solar eclipse.
Cyclist, writer, teacher, avid reader, bike/ped advocate, nomad, pie lover