from Michaux to Fallingwater

On my final morning in the Michaux State Forest, I woke up at 5:40 am (not my normal habit at all) to ride some trails before it got too deathly hot for Hops in Foxy. I had not heeded well the warnings about the trails in this park, so I spent some time bush-whacking and hike-a-biking, and didn’t have the excellent time I maybe could have had; but it was still really good to be on the bike again.

It was a hard ride for me, too – it’s been weeks since I’ve been on the bike – and when I got done and was trying to make myself breakfast, I dropped an egg. A huge, lovely, brown egg from an Amish farm, on the floor of the van, where it broke. I was so distraught and fumbling and bonking that I immediately dropped a second egg on top of it. (This one was only cracked and leaking, so I totally used it.) And Hops wouldn’t even help me clean up! It’s like he’s not a real dog at all.

Breakfast mishaps aside, we had a nice final day in Michaux before heading west.

I had a ticket early the next morning (for the sake of Hops in the van, again) to tour Fallingwater, one of the most famous Frank Lloyd Wright-designed homes, in Mill Run, PA. It was an interesting experience; my review is mixed (of the house and of the tour), but I’m certainly glad I did it. The grounds are lovely: an expanse of dense green, lush and moist, with birdsong and a fat happy chipmunk in the strawberries. My impression is that they are definitely trying to pack tour guests in as quickly as possible: each tour group can be only so big, because we have to fit in small rooms and the tour guide has to keep an eye on us (no touching! no pictures!), and groups are right on top of each other, so that we overhear each other and wait for each group to leave a room so we can enter it. This made me feel a bit like cattle, but I understand they need the revenue. Our tour guide was very clear that Frank Lloyd Wright was the end-all genius of the world – he did no wrong. And as you may have figured out by now, I’m a little skeptical of unqualified praise. I think it might have been interesting to hear what we can learn from Wright’s small mistakes, that sort of thing. This is a mild quibble, though. I know he was a groundbreaker and this house is still very special, nearly 90 years on. And I guess you don’t get to be a guide at Fallingwater without admiring the man.

The home is breathtaking, and indeed – in line with Wright’s concept of ‘organic architecture’ – fits beautifully into its landscape. I really appreciated the places where the rock of the hillside formed the home’s floor, and some of the window designs were clever, and the stairs that lead down and into the creek below seem a real treat. I’m impressed, for sure. On the other hand, Wright’s penchant for low ceilings is a dealbreaker for me. Pops, beware: if you ever want to come tour here, you won’t be able to stand upright in a number of the rooms. No, literally. Some ceilings are just 6’4″ high. (One guest asked about this, and our tour guide explained that Wright got it ‘right,’ that he built this house to ‘human scale.’ This is what I mean by being a bit hero-worshippy for my tastes.) Some rooms were quite small; hallways and doorways exceptionally so; low ceilings don’t help. This is a stunningly beautiful place, and I admire it very much, but I don’t think I’d want to live there (nor was I invited, so no worries).

We were not allowed to tour the kitchen, perhaps because it was designed to be ‘utilitarian’ (no frills) because “the Kaufmanns would never see it” – only the staff used the kitchen, silly. Staff quarters (above the eight-car carport, attached to the guest house) were designed in line with the rest of the property, so at least staff lived in spaces as lovely as the Kaufmanns did.

It was a treat to see the furnishings and art, too – including a couple of Picassos and Diego Riveras.

I’m going to share just one picture that I took – we were only allowed shots from outside the house, and there are lots of lovely pictures available at the website, above…

Despite my critiques, I’m really glad I saw this landmark.

slowly across Pennsylvania

I feel like I’ve been getting worse at posting regularly. And at taking pictures. I’m sorry! I don’t know what to say, except that I will try harder.

After leaving the horse farm, I spent another day in Lancaster, the city: visited a very nice dog park (good tip, Daina!) and a brewery. The next day we hit the dog park again on our way to Gettysburg.

I felt a little mixed about Gettysburg. I don’t get excited for war and guns the way some people do. We need to know our history – even, or especially, the unpleasant parts – and I don’t hesitate at the civil rights parts, which can certainly be hard to look at. But the wars, those I don’t like to revisit. And the Civil War bothers me more than most, maybe because it’s still such a wrongfully romanticized cause in the south? I don’t know. At any rate, I did slow down in Gettysburg for a cursory tour – felt I couldn’t do less than that. Hops and Foxy and I drove the auto tour of the National Military Park (almost all of it), though we didn’t stop and get out at every stop.

On the way out of town, we stopped to see the Sachs Covered Bridge, which was used in the Battle of Gettysburg by both sides, we are told. Wikipedia further informs me that it is therefore “severely haunted.” I didn’t see anything unusual, though. Just a couple of locals fishing in Marsh Creek.

From Gettysburg, we headed on to Michaux State Forest, another (like Redden in Delaware) where camping is free! This location was not quite so lovely as Redden – no picnic tables, no toilets in the immediate vicinity – they had me park on a gravel lot with nothing special to recommend it. BUT, just two miles or so down the road was a lovely park area with covered picnic tables and pit toilets. So we spent our days there and our nights on the gravel lot, and I was quite grateful for these accommodations, at the right price.

Hops and I spent a few days at Michaux. I met a friend for lunch one day, and I’m so sorry I didn’t get a picture (bad blogger) with Megan, who I know from grad school. It was so nice to catch up! Otherwise, we just hung out in Michaux. My camp was just a mile or so from the Appalachian Trail, so we enjoyed some hiking – about eight miles in all, although some of that repeat mileage. I also enjoyed meeting various hikers – I didn’t meet anyone doing a proper through-hike, but several section hikers – and the folks performing “trail magic” by setting up to feed the hikers on the weekend. I got to see one of the shelters. Of course I did a little fantasizing about a big backpack of my own someday, but for now I think I’ll stick with Foxy.

We’ll be taking off soon, but this has been another fine respite. It’s always nice to slow down and stay a while, when we find a nice spot. Cheers, y’all.