Sunday, October 30, 2022

Youghiogheny River Trail

The River Trail is a 27 mile segment of the Great Allegheny Passage which travels 150 miles along the abandoned rail bed of the Western Maryland Railway and joins the C&O Canal Towpath to make a continuous 334 mile well maintained, crushed gravel trail  all the way from Pittsburgh, Pa to Washington, DC.

We went about three miles before turning around but the River Trail is so pretty that we'll surely make more trips on it in the future. We parked at Cedar Creek Park in the lot at Pavilion 12 and went north. The river flows north at this point so for an easier return trip go south instead. The trail is wide, smooth, and almost level with shade and occasional views of the river.

Some of the lots are large enough for any vehicle. Trail  40.17656, -79.76968

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Smog Museum

The wire mills and the zinc works which lined the west side of the  Monongahela River were the reason for the existence of Donora, Pa, a small city of fewer than 15,000 people. Everyone worked in the mills or knew someone who did so it was easy to ignore the smells and soot that coated everything with a fine dust especially since the wind usually blew to the east away from the city. The farmers on the other side of the river complained for years about the pollution from the zinc works that was ruining their crops, livestock, and health. The owners of the zinc works claimed it was economically unfeasible to fix the problems.
Then in 1948 disaster stuck Donora. In October an air inversion that lasted for five days trapped pollution in the Donora valley. The haze was so dense that people couldn't see well enough to walk along the sidewalks. Twenty died and at least 5000 had symptoms caused by the pollution. The inversion finally lifted after a rain storm. An investigation by the federal government led to the first national air pollution conference and more involvement by the government to protect the environment and people's health.
The Smog Museum tells the history of Donora and has a lot of information on the inversion. It's curated poorly and could use a complete overhaul. The main exhibits are front page news stories with tiny print which is hard to read and get a good grasp of the events over the five days of the inversion. There are also exhibits about local celebrities, displays of donated items, and wonderful black and white photographs.
The zinc works closed in 1957 and the wire mills closed 10 years later. The city is suffering economically with empty storefronts and streets but there is one bright spot. In the early 1900s Donora Wire and Steel built company housing for their white collar workers using pre-formed and poured concrete, a process developed by Thomas Edison.  Eighty houses were built on the hills above Donora (out of the smog range, of course!) and they are in excellent condition today. The museum occasionally conducts walking tours or you can drive along the streets as we did.

The museum is accessible.

Parking is available on the street. The streets in Cement City are narrow and steep. Caution should be used if driving a large RV. Museum  40.17776, -79.85637

Saturday, October 22, 2022

West Virginia Botanic Garden

Tibbs Run Reservoir supplied clean drinking water to Morgantown, West Virginia from 1912 until 1969 when upgrades in the water system meant the small pond was no longer needed. Locals came to have fun fishing, swimming, and picnicking until city drained the pond in 1980. The land has been leased to the garden, which is a work in progress, since1999.  Most of the planned gardens are located in a small area near the lower parking lot. The rest of the garden has been left natural - a mixed deciduous, hemlock, and rhododendron forest; and wetlands created when the pond was drained.