We’re trying to squeeze every last drop out of summer, and this weekend we found ourselves adventuring around the Youghiogheny River and back to my hometown of Cumberland, MD to do some climbing with our new friend Todd. You can grade a successful RV weekend by getting her uncovered before Friday’s sunset and getting it buttoned back up by Sunday’s sunset. Mission accomplished.
Rafting the Lower Youghiogheny River
Todd’s idea, full props given, we rented a raft and some PPE and decided to tackle the Lower Yough without using a guide. Todd had some previous guiding experience, and I’ve done enough rafting to feel comfortable in autumn water. We were joined by another new friend Kelly, so with girls in the front, boys in the back, we had a well-balanced boat.
The river was at 1.8ft for the day, relatively low. While this reduced the intensity of some of the famous rapids (notably, the fatal Dimple rapid), it also uncovered lots of hidden bumps and lumps along the way; we got stuck several times on barely visible entrapments.
We had a great float, lots of active paddling, and we even got inspired by a guided tour in front of us to disembark for a bit and jump off a boulder somewhere around mile 5, check out the video above for that fun.
The PA State Park system offers a shuttle from Bruner Run Takeout up to the Old Mitchell Parking Lot, where we dropped off a return vehicle, so it was relatively easy to run the full trip! The best place for technical details of rapids, ratings, and maps can be found on the American Whitewater website. Also, I dug up this DCNR one-sheeter that might be handy to take with you!
Climbing at Locust Grove
Yep. We somehow wound up back in Cumberland for the second weekend in a row. After the rafting trip, Todd, Rachel and I decided that we haven’t had enough fun yet, so after grabbing a burger at the infamous Falls Market and some great campfire conversation during a night at Kentuck Knob Campground, we woke up refreshed and ready for some climbing.
Rachel and I are relatively new to outdoor climbing, but Todd (who is an expert ascender) was meeting up with a group of friends at Locust Grove in Cumberland and invited us along for some training.
We started off with a high but simple ascent on the backside of the Green Wall, which took us up about 100′. Our new buddy Jeff Kimmel soloed and rigged the anchor for us first. Gotta give Jeff ample thanks; he spent hours with us, giving us some solid coaching, a few dirty jokes, and plenty of belaying. When I got to the top of the outcropping, I looked to the horizon to see my old valley where I grew up. I had driven on Rt. 40 thousands of times, but this is the first time I’ve seen this perspective. The way down was just as fun; we rigged a two-stage rappel down the 100′ vertical face. This was Rachel’s first time rappelling, and she kicked ass too.
After the first climb, I was getting juiced up for something tougher, so Jeff rigged up the Bee Sting. It was a vertical crack climb, maybe a 5.6, 5.7? I successfully made it up, and Rachel made a good stab too. Probably the most dangerous part was the rigging itself; the path up to the top of the climb is precarious. Use caution if you go explorin’ here.
Again, I have to give many props to Todd, Jeff, and his crew for their coaching. The more time I spend outdoor climbing, the thirstier I get for more, and their mentorship is a welcome way to jump in the deep end.
Camping and Logistics
On Friday night, we were already running past dark, so we were just looking for an easy campground to plug-in, charge the Jayco, and unwind a bit. So, we pulled in to Benner’s Meadow Run. Benner’s is decidedly a family campground; not quite our style. Sandwiched between other campers 20 feet away, we’d have gotten more isolation if we had just kept the RV at the storage facility. The staff was very friendly, and I’m sure family campers enjoy the amenities like the pool and mini-golf, but just not the kind of place I prefer to park for the night. I’d much rather be isolated.
Saturday, we returned to good ol’ Ohiopyle State Park (the Kentuck Knob Campground). We had camped there earlier in the year, with some mixed opinions about the campground. The rangers at this park just always seem to give us a hard time. The last time we were there, we had a brassy, militant ranger come up unannounced, flashlight blasting us in the eyes, telling us to quiet down and poor out our beer (rules are rules, and drinking in PA state parks is illegal).
We didn’t get hassled too much on this trip (other than our strange encounter with the staff at the ranger station) but I’m feeling a void in the campground… ‘market’, I guess? As an RV owner, you usually have three choices:
- Private campground, usually packed like sardines next to a swimming pool and arcade.
- State park, monitored like a hawk, with strictly enforced policies.
- Boondocking, easy out west and in national forests/parks, but in eastern states, practically impractical.
There are, of course, exceptions and creative solutions to all of this, but the point is, it’s hard to be a weekend vagabonder on the east cost.
Still, we crammed an unbelievable amount of fun in to 48 hours. Southwestern PA, and the surrounding regions, has a unique blend of geography that is challenging to traverse and contains lots of hidden adventures. If you are ever in the area looking for fun, look me up and count us in!