Virginia Trip 2021 | Day 3 | OH to PA | Ohio State Capitol | Friendship Hill | Fort Necessity | Ohiopyle State Park
After our first eventful night of camping, we packed up quickly and hit the road headed East. We had a few national park sites that we wanted to visit, but were still at least 5 hours away. Curtis quickly attempted a letterbox, but was unsuccessful and ran into stinging nettles. With that, we were quite ready to leave Ohio.
We resumed our drive on US-36, doing a quick drive by for the courthouse in Urbana. Then we jogged down to I-70 for our drive across Ohio, West Virginia and into Pennsylvania. Since we were driving through Columbus in the early morning hours, we decided to stop to see the Ohio state capitol building. We spent about 45 minutes walking around, letting Charlotte take her time to sniff everything, then went on our way. As far as capitols go…it isn’t the worst, but we’ve seen better.
Overall the drive went well, and it wasn’t until West Virginia that we came to slowed traffic due to road construction. But we made it past that, and finally entered Pennsylvania. We went South on I-79 around Washington, then finally left the interstate and took PA-21 to Masontown and PA-122 South to our first National Park site of the trip: Friendship Hill National Historic Site.
Friendship Hill is a site preserving the house and estate of Albert Gallatin, who was the Secretary of the Treasury when Jefferson and Madison were presidents. He’s best remembered for the Louisiana Purchase and funding Lewis and Clark’s expedition. At this site, you can tour his house and hike around the trails. Curtis went to see the house and get our cancellation stamps while Charlotte and I waited outside and enjoyed the views of the Monongahela River. While we were waiting, a park ranger came out and gave Charlotte her first ever Bark Ranger tag. I’m not sure if all national park sites offer these, but it sounds like something she should start collecting! When Curtis was finished, we went for a two mile hike down to the river and looping back to the parking lot. The weather was hot and humid, but thankfully the whole trail was shaded. We ended up spending 2 hours at this park.
We then continued on our way to Fort Necessity National Battlefield, 30 minutes East of Friendship Hill. Once again Curtis went to check out the visitor center while Char and I waited, then when we confirmed that Charlotte could walk the grounds, we took the interpretive trail to the fort, stopping to read signs along the way.
Fort Necessity marks the beginning of the French and Indian War and the expansion of European Civilization into the Ohio River Valley. For context, Gallatin’s home at Friendship Hill, while rural when first built in 1789, was still marginally connected to the world. But in 1754, it was the wilderness. Then, the French and English competed for control of North America, with the English controlling the Eastern Seaboard through large colonies and settlers and the French controlling the St. Lawerence and Mississippi waterways through traders and military outposts. But both empires laid claim to the vast Ohio River Valley.
In order to solidify this claim, both empires sent out military expeditions to claim the forks of the Ohio (where the Monongahela and Alleghany Rivers meet in Downtown Pittsburgh). The Virginians (whose territory extended from sea to sea) sent a force under the command of the 21 year old Lieutenant Colonel Washington to enforce the land claim and oust the French from Fort Duquesne at the forks. As they cut a road through the Alleghany Mountains, they encountered a small Canadien force which they engaged and routed. Knowing he would be counterattacked by the remainder of the troops at Fort Duquesne, Washington built a fort called Necessity and on the 3rd of July, 1754 the French assaulted the stockade. Outnumbered almost 3:1, Washington and the Virginians made a valiant stand. The French commander, knowing that Washington could never succeed, called for a surrender on rather generous terms, which Washington readily accepted. The garrison was able to leave the fort and return to Virginia.
While a battle of very little strategic consequence, Fort Necessity sparked a World War that would ultimately result in British hegemony in Canada and the rest of North America. The road that Washington carved through the forest would be widened a year later by Major General Braddock, who would be later buried under the road, on his ill fated expedition to take Fort Duquesne. The road would then be expanded more and more until it would become the National Road opening the Ohio River to settlement and trade, and ultimately would becomes today’s US-40.
Finally, it was time to head to our campsite. We drove to Ohiopyle State Park and managed to find our reserved site in the large and spread out campground. We had a walk-in site which wasn’t too far from the small parking lot, and was also right next to a trailhead. After setting up our tent and making couscous for dinner, we went for a short walk through the woods to the Youghiogheny River, the Great Alleghany Passage (a rail trail connecting Pittsburgh to Cumberland, MD on the Potomac and C&O Canal) and town of Ohiopyle. We enjoyed walking over the big bridges and watching the river run over the rapids. Supposedly this section of the Youghiogheny is the ‘best’ (or maybe just busiest) whitewater rapids East of the Mississippi. As the sun set over the Alleghany Ridges, we made our way back to our tent and settled in for the night.
Curtis had been extra cautious in setting up the tent tonight because of our experience the night before in Ohio, in case the small chance of rain that night amounted to anything more. It did rain a little, but the tree canopy kept us dry overnight. While there were a lot of people in the campground, there weren’t many others in the walk-in sites, and we couldn’t even see anyone from where we were. We settled in for what seemed to be a peaceful night in the woods…. Until we were awoken in the middle of the night by the sound of a GIANT TREE CRACKING and FALLING somewhere in the woods nearby. It was a terrifying sound to wake up to — though we don’t know for sure how big or near it was, because coming out of a deep sleep made it sound bigger and closer than it likely was. It took me a while to fall back asleep after that!