Laurel Highlands – Pennsylvania

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We hadn’t initially planned to visit the Laurel Highlands, but we found ourselves in need of an area to stay for two nights that was between Cuyahoga Valley National Park and Shenandoah National Park. The Laurel Highlands region of Pennsylvania was the perfect spot. We stayed at the Quill Haven Bed and Breakfast in Somerset.  We highly recommend staying there — both for comfort and the good location…and the wonderful breakfast — if you ever find yourself in need of a place to stay in the area.

Our day in Somerset County was jam-packed and wonderful. We started our day with a self-made-tour of three covered bridges.  It is worth noting that the first bridge featured, Barronvale Bridge, is the longest covered bridge in Somerset County.  It is also worth noting that you can drive over the last bridge, Lower Humbert Bridge; we took advantage of the opportunity to drive over it, and I photographed Bryan’s car in the bridge.

 Barronvale Bridge


Barronvale Bridge

Barronvale Bridge

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Cuyahoga Valley National Park

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Cuyahoga Valley National Park was the first stop on our trip.  Cuyahoga Valley National Park is located in northeast Ohio and is about half an hour away from Cleveland.  It was originally established as a National Recreation Area in 1974.  It received its National Park designation in 2000.

We did three different hikes during our day at the park.  First on the list was Blue Hen Falls.  Blue Hen Falls was fairly small, about 15 feet tall according to the National Park Service website and is formed by a small stream.  The sandstone shelf that forms the waterfall, however, is picturesque, and the hike to the water fall is short, so it’s worth seeing if you’re visiting the park.  It was especially pretty during October because many of the trees in the area were changing colors.

Blue Hen Falls

Blue Hen Falls

Brandywine Falls was beautiful, though it wasn’t exactly the type of hike we expected.  A well-maintained boardwalk leads to the falls, and a road is visible above the falls (I did my best to take my photographs at an angle that hid the road).  It felt a little more commercialized (and a little less “wild”) than we expected.  In addition to walking to the waterfall, we continued on to complete the entire Brandywine Gorge Trail.  There wasn’t much to see on the trail, and we would recommend just seeing the waterfall and spending your time hiking elsewhere.

Brandywine Falls

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2015 F.A.R.T.

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It’s high time I got my butt in gear and start writing about the F.A.R.T. we went on last year.  The dawning of October was just the kick in the pants that I needed to get started!

You may be thinking to yourself, “Self, what in the world does F.A.R.T. stand for?”  F.A.R.T. = Fall Automobile Road Trip.  We’ve referred to this epic road-trip as the F.A.R.T. so frequently that even our fellow Young Adult Sunday School Class members started calling the trip that, as well.  You may also be wondering what the motivation was for taking a fall road trip.  This trip was truly a combination of things that Bryan and I both really like.  For starters, Bryan loves fall.  Combine that with my life-goal of visiting all of the national parks in the United States (we went to three of them during this trip) and our mutual love for hiking — and you get a trip that was made for both of us.

This trip would have been a total flop without all of the hard work that Bryan put into planning it.  He put a lot of thought into how far we could drive each day and where we would spend each night.  October is a popular time of year for Shenandoah National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and having reservations made months in advance for campsites, lodges, and hotels was crucial.  This itinerary is what helped keep us on track throughout the trip.  Yes, it is in Excel (we’re both engineers, we can’t help it). 🙂

In addition to the itinerary, we also had a good idea of what hikes we were going to do each day.  Prior to the trip, we bought several books (Guide to the Blue Ridge Parkway, Hiking the Blue Ridge Parkway, Hiking Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and Best Easy Day Hikes Shenandoah National Park) to help us narrow down which hikes we wanted to do.

Pre-selecting our hikes helped us to make the most of our time because we weren’t wasting time during the day trying to figure out what we were going to do next.  Here’s a list of all of the hikes that we did.  The ones that are highlighted in green are the hikes that I would wholeheartedly recommend.

The map below shows (more or less) the path we took, though it doesn’t represent the Blue Ridge Parkway very well…I gave up on trying to drag the route marker from the highway to the Blue Ridge Parkway because it wasn’t working very well.

We loaded up Bryan’s car and hit the road for what would be a road trip of epic proportions.

Trunk

Backseat 

Odometer (Beginning of F.A.R.T.)

F.A.R.T. By the Numbers
4,085 photos taken
3,756 miles driven
62.1 miles hiked
44 state license plates spotted (plus D.C.)
14 states visited
13 days traveled
3 national parks explored (plus all 469 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway)
1 1950/1960s-style family photo taken
1 Treeing Walker Coonhound rescued

1950/1960s-Style Family Photograph

“Preserve your memories, keep them well,
what you forget you can never retell.”
-Louisa May Alcott

Château de Chaumont – Part 2

The is the second post in my series of posts about Chateau de Chaumont.  The first post focused on the outside of the chateau, and this post features photographs from the stables.

The stables at Chateau de Chaumont were designed by Paul-Ernest Sanson and were built in 1877.  At the time, they were the most modern stables in all of Europe; to me, they even looked modern for today’s standards — they were also beautiful.  The stables were divided into multiple sections — there were stalls for “half-blood” horses (carriage horses), saddle horses (full-blood horses), and ponies.  There was also a small, indoor riding arena where horses could be worked on lunge lines.  The Chateau de Chaumont website has a ton of information on the stables.

This is what the stables look like from the outside, as you approach them from the chateau.

The round “thing” to the right of the photograph below is the indoor arena.

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Château de Chaumont – Part 1

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After we finished up at Château de Chenonceau, we headed over to Château de Chaumont.  At Château de Chaumont, we bought tickets for both the chateau and the International Garden Festival (which is adjacent to the chateau).

Château de Chaumont is located in Chaumont-sur-Loire, a small commune in France’s Loire Valley.  According to Wikipedia, the chateau was founded in the 10th century by Odo I, Count of Blois.  In 1560, the chateau was acquired by Catherine de Medici.  When her husband, Henry II died, Catherine made her husband’s mistress, Diane de Portiers, give her Chateau de Chenonceau in exchange Chateau de Chaumont.  In 1840 the French Ministry of Culture classified Chaumont as a historical monument.  Marie-Charlotte Say purchased the chateau in 1875.  She restored the chateau and planted gardens, and her husband commissioned the stables.  The donated Chateau de Chaumont to the French government in 1938.

I’m planning on creating several posts with photographs from Chateau de Chaumont.  This post will feature photographs from the outside of the chateau.  A second post will feature photographs of the chateau’s beautiful stables.  A third post will feature photographs from the International Garden Festival (that one may actually require two posts).

The buildings that we passed as we made our way to the chateau were lovely!  This building, covered in beautiful, red and white roses, caught my eye.

The grounds around the chateau were beautifully landscaped.  I was particularly excited to see these entirely white foxglove.  I planted one foxglove in my garden a few years ago, and it did well that year, but it never came back.

The photograph below was taken just outside of the chateau — you can see part of the chateau on the left-side of the picture.

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Château de Chenonceau – Part 2

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Château de Chenonceau was the first chateau that we visited during our time in the Loire Valley.  If you’re planning a trip to the Loire Valley and are trying to decide how many chateau to plan on seeing, I recommend planning to spend about half a day at each chateau.  We could have easily spent longer than half a day at Chateau de Chenonceau (the inside is still furnished, and the grounds are lovely), but we really wanted to have ample time to see Château de Chaumont and the International Garden Festival that day, as well.

I took so many pictures during our time at Chateau de Chenonceau.  I won’t be able to include all of them in one blog post, so I’m splitting it into three parts.  This one will include pictures from the inside of the chateau.  The first post includes photographs from the outside of the chateau, Diane’s garden, and Catherine’s garden; it also includes more information on the history of the chateau.  The third post will focus on the grounds, and a fourth post will include photographs of some of the beautiful flower arrangements from inside of the chateau, as well as photographs of paintings of Chateau de Chenonceau.

Immediately when you enter the chateau, there is a small chapel on the left.


Chapel in Chateau de Chenonceau


Chapel in Chateau de Chenonceau

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