Clarion River

After a long day of exploration, my friend and I came off the trail at Cook Forest State Park still not ready to head home. So we took a little drive and found a gorgeous area to pull over and admire the water.

Clarion River is a popular spot for kayaks, canoes, inner tubes and all manner of things that float. I searched the shore for pretty rocks and made friends with some ducks while my friend waded out for a little river yoga.

Her yoga.

My duck.

To each her own. We both were happy in the moment.

There’s a place where you can rent your equipment or just take your own. There’s also a place where you can get ice cream – in case you need to know!

Read about our hike at Cook Forest State Park here!

Stepping Into The Hobbit At Cook Forrest

The quiet was so deep that their feet seemed to thump along while all the trees leaned over them and listen. J.R.R. Tolkien

Stepping into the Forest Cathedral Natural Area at Cook Forest State Park feels a little like stepping into a Tolkien novel. Quotes from The Hobbit come to mind.

This is one of the largest old growth forests of white pine and eastern hemlock in the eastern United States. Many of these trees are over 200 feet tall and are too big to wrap your arms around. These trees likely date to the era of William Penn, the first governor of Pennsylvania.

The trails here are wide and well maintained and meander through the hills. This is a place where fairies play and where you might spot a unicorn or two if your eyes were just a bit quicker. I wish these trees could talk. Some look like they are poised to pull up root and walk away.

These trees look like two old friends sitting together on a boulder. They appear to be holding hands.

This place exists because a lumber baron named Anthony Cook saw value in this incredible forest, reserving the best of it for conservation purposes. He also convinced others to join his cause, starting an important era of conservation in Pennsylvania. By the time of Cook’s death in 1891, two-thirds of Pennsylvania’s forests had already been cut so it is hard to place a value on Cook’s work.

His is an important and lasting legacy.

This place is gorgeous. The very idea that it exists because of the forward thinking of someone long ago is awe inspiring. Here’s to the future.


I am tired. Mentally and physically tired.

This is partly of my own doing since I have been out adventuring as much as possible in recent weeks. I stayed home Saturday to clean my house and did too much in a single day. Yesterday, I volunteered for Patriot Day, dragging myself home tired and sore after a day of physical labor.

So, yeah, I have been asking for it.

I continue experiencing symptoms associated with my thyroid and suspect that some of my trouble is related to this ongoing issue. But I try not to think about that as I’m actually sick of life revolving around the whims of this obnoxious little gland. I would make a terrible hypochondriac given how I prefer to just ignore an issue than dwell on it.

So, here I am. Thinking that this needs to be a quiet week. Hoping that this will be a quiet week.

I badly want to go back to this place pictured above. It’s a trail in Cook Forest State Park in Pennsylvania. It’s incredibly peaceful, stunning in its beauty. Restorative.

Luckily, I have plenty of forest nearby where I hope to go this week to mend my mind and soul. I believe in the healing power of solitude in wilderness. If I can walk without cringing tonight, I plan to be out on the trail amidst the trees and birds and meandering streams. At least for a while.

Sometimes we need to simply give ourselves a break and do the thing that gives us peace.

Breakfast at Bakn

The Pittsburgh neighborhood of Carnegie boasts the cutest local restaurant called Bakn.

Their logo is a little carton pig. It’s used in the wall art, menu and all through the restaurant. Nichola laughed as we discussed what an unorthodox choice this place was for a plant based eater. While they don’t have much on the menu for a vegan eater, there were a few vegetarian choices. This worked great because I’m not super strict, especially when I travel.

I was perfectly happy with my hot cakes, a real treat that I like to indulge in while traveling.

They are Food Network endorsed with good reason. My breakfast was tasty and there was plenty of it. even the menu is fun to read here.

In the neighborhood? Hungry? Just enjoy dreaming over a good restaurant menu? Here you go!

Tomorrow we leave Pittsburgh and move on to other topics. Hope to see you back then!

Life In Miniature: Railroad and Village at Carnegie Science Center

Model train 2

My Pittsburgh pal Nichola knows her city inside and out. She also knows my tastes and put together a fabulous weekend of surprises at every turn – none more delightful than the Miniature Railroad and Village at the Carnegie Science Center.

This exhibit portrays the Pittsburgh area through the years from the 1880s through the 1930s. There are horse drawn vehicles, automobiles, airplanes and trains. There are thousands of fans in the stands at Forbes Field, thousands of trees, countless houses and buildings and even an amusement park complete with animated rides. In fact, the animations here are unbelievable.

The above picture shows their depiction of Frank Lloyd Wright’s landmark Falling Water. The photo below shows some of the biplanes found at a miniature airfield. The light in this picture is a little odd because the lighting in the room changes every few minutes, simulating sunrise to sunset to nightime and back to daylight allowing visitors to appreciate the stunning details in the daylight but also the magnificent glow of the night lighting as well.

model train planes

I loved the scene depicted below. It shows downtown Pittsburgh, the Monongahela Incline, some of the city’s famed bridges and numerous landmarks important to the city’s story.

model train

Incidentally, all of this started as a holiday display in the home of a Brookville, PA man named Charles Bowdish. That was in 1919. The display has moved a couple of times since then but the public is lucky that it has been at the Carnegie since 1992.

If you find yourself in Pittsburgh, the Carnegie Science Center is a really special place to pass some time. Earlier this week I told you about a Cold War era submarine that is docked here but the museum also has gemstones, robots and countless other fascinating things to look at besides this model railroad and village.

Want to learn more? Click here to read about the model railroad and explore their site further for more great information including how your kids can have a hands-on experience to learn while having fun! 





Pamela’s Diner

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you are aware that I appreciate a good diner. And when I say a good diner, I don’t mean a place that’s shiny and pretty with a menu of locally sourced organic vegetables.

When I say good diner, I’m talking about the kind of place with a counter, a lunch special and waitresses who know how their regulars like their burgers. I’m talking about the kind of place where retirees gather to swap stories over pancakes and where teenagers can grab a quick bite on their way home from school.

With that said, you’re sometimes able to find that magical intersection of polished atmosphere and local hangout with great food. The folks in Pittsburgh are fortunate to have six diners that fit this description. They’re part of a chain called Pamela’s that’s been serving up breakfast since 1980. Each location has it’s own theme and menu so it doesn’t feel at all like a chain and, as I’m typing this, I’m dying to go try another location. But I digress.

My friend Nichola took me to the Mt. Lebanon location during our marathon weekend last fall.

We tried the Hotcakes, Lyonnaise Potatoes and Gail’s Favorite Eggs which are lightly scrambled with cream cheese and scallions. Holy cow – it was good. Yeah – I’ll never make it as a food critic. “Holy cow, it was good” is probably the best I can do. It all was simply delicious and there was a lot of it.

But just as important as the fabulous food is the fabulous atmosphere. I’m not even going to try to describe it. Just have a look here.


Like I said, each location has a different theme. There’s one near the Strip I’d like to visit for its fifties diner motif.

Want to drool over the menus or maybe plan a visit your next time in Pittsburgh? Check out their website! A couple of things to remember though – they only do breakfast and lunch AND they are a cash only operation. Hit the ATM before you go!