Traditionally, I am not the outdoorsy type of person. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy the great outdoors, it’s not always my first choice when choosing an activity. One day, as I was trying to find something that would entertain a ten and eleven-year-old, I remembered a trip with my family to Ohiopyle State Park.
It was a vague recollection of the natural water slides and waterfalls, but we set out on our journey never the less. I figured that we could at least spend some time in the car together, maybe stop somewhere and get a bite to eat, and just generally have a random adventure.
Upon arriving to the area, the kids were both intrigued by the name Cucumber Falls. I noticed how hot day was as we exited the car and headed down the path to the falls. Closer to the water, under the shade of the trees, the environment turned much cooler. As we stood alongside the bubbling brook with Cucumber Falls rumbling in the background, both kids looked to me for guidance. I told them to go ahead and explore…and explore they did.
There’s something special about the parental pride you feel as you put aside your fear of injury and watch your children push their own boundaries. I followed them as I watched. They climbed rocks and fallen trees as they worked their way towards the falls. It was fascinating to observe each of them take different paths to the same goal. When we had gone as far as possible, my daughter asked me to take a selfie of the three of us in front of the falls. Then my son, as usual, asked, “Now what?”. Good question, I thought to myself as we worked our way back to the car.
Both kids were drawn to the roaring water of the Ohiopyle as we parked and exited the car. Wandering toward the river’s edge, we walked towards the restrooms and the visitors center. My son grabbed a hiking map and asked if we could go walking on some trails. I had no objection to this idea. So, we set out on our journey.
We had so much fun traversing the trails and different paths. The kids looked at trees, mushrooms, and other vegetation as we simply enjoyed nature. Even though I think we got off course a few times (somewhat intentionally), the trail map was easy to follow. At one point, I asked them if they wanted to turn around and go back or continue forward. They both wanted to continue forward despite the fact I could see they were both getting tired. Fueled by excitement and adrenaline, we kept going.
Upon completion of the trail, we were amazed to realize it had been three hours since we began our trek. We were all starving, so we stopped that Ohiopyle Old Mill General Store for a bite to eat before heading home.
Thirty seconds after starting to drive home, both kids were sound asleep. It afforded me some quiet time to reflect upon our day of adventure. I have come to realize that some days need no planning at all. All you need is one idea and one location. Get out there and explore our world freely and without restriction. Fun is right around the corner and personally, I cannot wait to do it again.
Plan Your Trip…
If visiting Ohiopyle in the Spring or Summer, take plenty of water. While the trees provide ample shade, you are going to expend a lot of energy and sweat more than you think. I recommend getting there early in the day so that you can get in the full experience. Plan to get wet and dirty. Maybe take a swimsuit and try out the natural water slides if weather permits. If you get hungry, the General Store has some excellent food, additional supplies and ice cream. Their fried pickles and club sandwich are some of the best that I have found at an off the beaten path location. Most importantly, remember to relax and enjoy yourself. If you have kids with you, let them be curious.
Photo by Michael Yatsko, Michael Yatsko Photography.