After a slightly late start, the trip from Winfield to Somerset, PA was relatively easy, though it included a climb to the top of the Alleghenies at Cresson Summit, el. 2030 feet. Not very high but coming from the East it was about a five or six mile climb. We were late starting due to a band of thunderstorms we were waiting to pass early in the morning. They did pass about 10:00 a.m.and we didn't receive any rough weather from it but it did make for a more peaceful drive by waiting until it had passed.
We are staying at Pioneer Park Campground which is a very large park with several different areas about seven miles West of Somerset, PA. We are staying in the somewhat open area so as to get the satellite and have a fairly large 50 amp pull-through with full hookups, so-so WiFi, good Verizon and an easy shot to the satellite.
Saturday we headed out early for a long day touring the the Flight 93 Memorial Chapel, Flight 93 National Memorial, a couple of covered bridges, the Johnstown Flood National Memorial, and the Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site. We had visited the Flight 93 Memorial Chapel
and the precursor to the Flight 93 National Memorial four years ago as we were touring the area. The chapel hadn't changed much except for the garden area of the Flight 93 Crew Memorial, which is just behind the chapel, was much better established.
The same cannot be said for the Flight 93 National Memorial
- everything about it has changed, including how to get to it. It is much more formal and pristine now. We are not sure that is a good thing. The old makeshift memorial and haphazard displays installed by various organizations was, to us, much more powerful as a remembrance. we talked to a ranger there and she said all of the old stuff has been put in storage and a way will be found to display most of it at some point in the future. You can see our 2008 blog entry
if you would like to see how it was then.
We then went just a few miles to visit the Glessner Covered Bridge and the Trostletown Covered Bridge. They were still the same as we had last seen them except I was fortunate enough to see a mule deer doe and her two fawns at the end of the Trostletown this time!
Next was a drive up to near Johnstown, PA for the Johnstown Flood National Memorial
. On May 31, 1889 the dam that created Lake Conemaugh collapsed after being overrun by the rain-swollen lake and ran down the valley destroying everything in its path including the death of over 2,200 men, women and children. They have a 35 minute movie at the visitor center that can be hard to watch but definitely makes you understand just how bad it was.
After that sobering visit, we headed farther Northeast back up the Cresson Summit to visit the Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site
. This was an engineering marvel at the time that connected the East side of the Alleghenies with Pittsburgh and points West. Before this it would take about two weeks of very hard mountain crossing to get across the same area. This was reduced to five days by the Portage. They built 10 inclined plane rail tracks (#6 was at the top as the west side only needed four to get back down while the east side need five to get to the top). Each inclined plane had an engine house containing two steam engines (only one was used and the other a spare) that used a series of gears and pulleys to pull the rail cars containing boats up the side of the mountain or let them down the other side. You will notice that there are two tracks, side by side. They would have one car going down, using its weight to help pull the other one up on the other track. This way the steam engines didn't require as much power. The Portage connected two canal systems that were used to transport freight and passengers. The system was only in operation for twenty years as stronger steam engines were developed that could cross the mountains without using the portage.
Monday we headed out for a couple more historic sites and some more touring of the countryside. Friendship Hill was the home of Albert Gallatin
, an immigrant from Switzerland who eventually held the title of Secretary of Treasury longer than anyone before or since, serving under Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. Ironically, his first office was as a senator from Pennsylvania but he was removed from office on a party line vote because he had not been a U.S. citizen long enough. He was probably one of the most important figures in our history that no one has heard of!
Next it was on to Fort Necessity
where George Washington, as a young Lt. Colonel, suffered a major defeat at the hands of the French. Earlier Washington had attacked a French scouting party and a Mingo chief, Half King, had killed the scout party commander Ensign Joseph Coulon de Villiers de Jumonville. Washington took the blame for the death and the incident is considered to have been the start of the French and Indian War which went global as the Seven Years War.
An interesting side point to this story is that Washington was there to build a road connecting the East to the West over the Alleghenies. This road was eventually to become the first major improved highway in the United States to be built by the federal government. Many parts of it later became US 40 in Southern Pennsylvania and runs by Fort Necessity. It is now named the National Road
Tuesday was a day of thunderstorms as it rained all day with a little hail thrown in for good measure. The ground here is waterlogged by now and the water takes forever to soak in, creating a nice mess around the campsite.
Tomorrow we head for Elkins, WV where we will spend six days touring the area and just doing what we do best, goofing off - we're retired ya know!!