Tag Archives: Laurel Highlands

Enjoying the beauty of Ohiopyle

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On day 2 of our two-day anniversary getaway we headed over to Ohiopyle State Park. Despite finding myself in this area of Pennsylvania every summer for girls camp, I never made it over to Ohiopyle.

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This weekend getaway gave Toby and I a perfect opportunity to visit this beautiful park and see what the hype was all about.

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It didn’t disappoint!

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This diverse park offered beautiful biking trails,

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Breathtaking waterfalls,

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Natural waterslides,

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Rocky crevices to explore,

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And stunning vistas.

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It was a beautiful park!

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It was a perfect day to soak up the beauty of the Laurel Highlands and enjoying some one-on-one time with my favorite person. Happy anniversary, my love. The last 23 years have been quite the adventure…

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Here’s to 23 more!

 

Celebrating 23 Years!

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This year Toby and I are celebrating 23 years of marriage.

Our original anniversary plans were killed by Covid-19 when the Alaskan cruise we had been planning for years was canceled. It turns out this year isn’t the year for a big celebration, but we couldn’t let the weekend pass by without celebrating 23 years of marriage in some way. Never has the need to get away and just be us been greater than this year. We have dealt with un-precedented amount of struggle in 2020 and Toby and I were both wanting to run away for a bit. Last weekend we decided that we would keep our anniversary getaway short, local, and safe by heading 90 minutes away to the Laurel Highlands for a few days.

Many of the local sites and attractions were still shut down, but this area of Pennsylvania offers an abundance of beautiful state parks and outdoor fun, so it was the perfect place to get away.

We stayed at the Log Cabin Inn and Suites. This motel boasts log cabin themed rooms with rustic charm, which made us feel like we were vacationing in the mountains.

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It also offered the added perk of being connected to Living Treasures Animal Park (Donegal).

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We love Living Treasures Animal Park in New Castle, Pennsylvania, but had never visited this location…and it was one of the few attractions in the area that was open!

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All overnight guests receive 1/2 off the cost of admission so we headed over there on Saturday to explore and enjoy the animals.

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This Living Treasures location isn’t quite as big as the one near us but it offered a wide variety of animals to observe and/or feed.

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We had so much fun interacting with all the critters that clambered near the fence, eager to be fed.

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It was a photographic feast.

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We especially loved all the baby animals!

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Can you spot the baby turkeys hovering near mom?

It was a zoo filled with prolific breeders!

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Babies, babies…everywhere.

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Day 1: Living Treasures Animal Park…

Day 2: Ohiopyle State Park!

More Camp Fun!!

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This past week was spent in the Laurel Highlands of Pennsylvania, as the girls and I attended Young Women camp with our church. As illogical as it may sound, spending this past week with 100 teenage girls was just the break I needed from the drama of a certain 10-year-old boy at home. 🙂 Getting away and heading into the woods was the just the boost I needed to recharge my “batteries”, refocus on the bigger picture and spiritually refill my bucket so that I could go back home a better wife and momma. It was wonderful laughing with the girls and other leaders, and stepping away from the distractions of the world for a short time. Camp week was just as Kimberly Rinehart describes:

“Camping is more than just getting away.

It’s the clear blue sky, the song of a bird, the beckoning woods, the wide open spaces.

Camping is greeting the breath of dawn unhindered by the walls of city life and watching the sun set in ribbons of  color as it says “goodnight” to a perfect day.

Camping makes hearts grow lighter and food taste better.

It’s sharing songs around a campfire and gazing up in silence at a star-filled sky.

Camping is more than just getting away. It’s the thing we need to rekindle the spirit of a simpler time, refresh our hearts with nature’s beauty, and remind us that life doesn’t have to be so complicated after all.”

The theme this year was, “Come Unto Christ,” with COME serving as an acronym for the focus words: covenant, obey, minister and endure. Each day there were devotionals, scripture study and focus classes that revolved around the word of the day. As the girls studied, discussed and applied what they learned they gained a deeper understanding of what it means to covenant, obey, minister unto others, and endure to the end, as daughters of God.

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The girls at camp spent their days working as levels and their nights sleeping as levels with their 2 adult leaders. This year Molly was a 3rd year girl (It was her third year at camp) and Gracie was a 5th year girl, which meant she got to serve as a youth leader and help plan classes and devotionals for the 1st year girls she was assigned to. I was there as the leader over the 7th year girls. These are the 18-year-old girls that choose to come back to camp the summer between their senior year and the start of college. The activities that fill the girls’ days vary depending on the level and the certification that is needed for that level. Their days are spent going on hikes, swimming, canoeing, knot tying, building and cooking over fires, identifying constellations, animal tracks, plants, using a compass, etc.

Gracie canoeing.

Gracie canoeing.

In addition to certification activities and spiritual focus classes a large part of the girls’ days are spent serving and ministering to others. Around camp we have a way of acknowledging and rewarding kindness, hard work, selflessness, and Christ-like behaviors. The leaders and youth leaders carry around tokens that are handed out to the girls when they see girls being Christ-like in word and deed. The girls can then take the tokens they earn and spend them at our camp store that is managed and run by the 7th year girls. It is a fun way to encourage and acknowledge all the good choices and kindness we witness while at camp.

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One of the big service projects for the week happened on Wednesday when we weeded and mulched the beachfront area of the state park we were camping at. We spent 4 hours working and with the man power of 100+ girls we were able to spread 10 truckloads of mulch. The park was incredibly grateful for the 380 man hours of service we gave them and the girls were able to experience the blessings of working hard as a team as well as the satisfaction of a job well done! Go girls!!

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After a hot, sweaty morning working with mulch the girls enjoyed some beach time at the lake…

Beautiful girls!

Beautiful girls!

The 7th year girls also headed up additional fun, free-time activities for the girls. These were optional activities that were offered for those who wanted to participate. They were a chance to just have fun, be silly and enjoy girl time. Here are some of the relay games they offered…

The "post it note" race.

The “post it note” race.

The girls having "fat Santa" races with balloons and large sweat suits :)

The girls having “Fat Santa” races with balloons and large sweat suits 🙂

There is so much good that comes from Young Women camp for these girls: They are spiritually fed, they are able to escape the distractions and pressures of the world for a while, they are able to learn new skills, be silly with each other, serve others, become more Christ-like…but one of the greatest blessings that come from escaping into the woods for a week are the friendships that grow from that shared experience. Not only among the girls but among the leaders as well. What a joy it is to stand in the darkness of the camp commons and hear the giggles of girls, coming from the cabins, as they talk, laugh, share and bond with each other.

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Molly and Miss Rosie

Molly and Miss Rosie

 On Saturday we arrived home tired, stinky and sore. Physically I was drained, but emotionally and spiritually I was recharged and filled to capacity. Heading into the woods for  week with 100 teenage girls and leaders was just what I needed. 🙂 I am so grateful for the amazing, inspired leaders that made the “magic” happen. What a joy-filled week it was!!