This corner of the Keystone State, nestled in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, boasts lush deep woods, clear streams and rivers, and spectacular vistas. I love this part of the country – except in winter. Connellsville hugs a scenic section of the Youghiogheny River and is steeped in rich history dating back to 1806. Our tour starts with lunch at Canelo’s Mexican Restaurant. Great quesadillas and good guacamole.
Here’s my alma mater.
We stopped at Connellsville Bottling Co., a beer distributor, so I could buy a case of my favorite beer, Penn Dark, made at Pennsylvania Brewery in Pittsburgh. A bit of explanation for my Louisiana readers . . . in Pa., one can’t simply walk into a grocery store, gas station, or pharmacy and buy a six-pack. No, in Pa., if you want to buy beer for home imbibing, you either have to buy it by the case at a distributor, or buy bottles individually at a bar at the going rate. When I lived here, I didn’t think much about it. Just the way it was. After living in a reasonable state for three years, I find the Pa. policy quite inconvenient.
As a testimony to the historical nature of Connellsville, this old train station has been preserved and currently houses an impressive stained glass store. Sadly, the store is going out of business.
One of my favorite things, and one of the things I miss the most, is the biking/hiking trail that runs alongside the river. In Connellsville, it’s called the Yough River Trail, but it’s a segment of the Great Allegheny Passage, a 318 mile long rail trail connecting Pittsburgh and Washington, D. C. I’d like to take this trip sometime in my lifetime. When we lived in Pittsburgh, the trail wasn’t quite complete. But we often rode the trail between Connellsville and Ohiopyle.
In 2008, the folks in Connellsville wanted to spruce up the trail, so they commissioned a few artists to create these beautiful works of art along the trail. The stained glass is significant because glass works play a role in Connellsville’s history.
It’s hard to see in these photos, but atop the paint on these silo-like structures are thousands of pieces of stained glass. Sparkly!
Next stop, the high school stadium and the “Johnny Woodruff tree.” John Woodruff is one of Connellsville’s claims to fame. In 1936 at the Olympics in Germany, this hometown hero won a gold medal in the 800 meter race. Each gold medalist received an oak sapling from the Black Forest, a gift from Germany’s government. John brought the tree home and planted it beside the stadium where he got his start. Today the tree is a historical landmark. I sold John’s fascinating story to Highlight’s For Children in 2008. Text of this article available upon request.
And tomorrow I return to Louisiana!