A Quick Trip Into Nature at Girty’s Woods Near Millvale

When it comes to parks in Pittsburgh, many of the staples have been protected for decades and even generations. But that doesn't mean the work to protect our area green spaces is finished.

Groups like the Allegheny Land Trust are working hard to protect great nature spaces in the region and regularly purchase land to pursue their conservation efforts.

Girty's Woods near Reserve Township and Millvale is one such green space, and the trust purchased 155 acres in just 2021. So, naturally, we decided to pay this somewhat wild park a visit to see what it is all about!

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5 Ways to Get Out on the Three Rivers in Pittsburgh

Not every city can boast of having two rivers. Even fewer cities can boast of having three. Even fewer still can claim that their downtown rests on the confluence of three rivers, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, offers just that.

As such, it should be no surprise that the rivers in Pittsburgh take a prominent stage from skyline views to activities you can experience when in the city.

So in this one, we thought we'd share several of the best ways to get out on the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio Rivers in Pittsburgh!

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The Armstrong Trail Offers 35 Miles on the Allegheny River

The aptly named Armstrong Trail in Armstrong County is a 35-mile rail-trail that runs north to south along the eastern bank of the Allegheny River.

During our first visit, we biked half of the trail (approximately 16 miles one-way out of Ford City) and were able to see many highlights including river views and adjunct river developments like power stations, dams, an iron furnace, and more.

So in this one we wanted to share a bit about what you can see when exploring the Armstrong Trail and also give some tips for making the most out of your ride on this exceptionally flat trail.

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Bradys Run Park – A Lot to See and Do But Plan in Advance

Brady's Run Park is a roughly 2,000-acre park just outside of Beaver Falls that offers a wealth of things to see and experience ranging from active experiences like walking and hiking to other fun options on the lake and nearby.

But while this one is decently sized, those who visit will likely want to do some advanced planning prior to arriving as spotty cell signal and few interconnecting trails make navigating this park slightly tricky.

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Linn Run State Park is a Quick Stop in the Laurel Highlands

Normally when we think of state parks in the Laurel Highlands, we think about them in terms of their massive size. Laurel Hill State Park clocks in at almost 4,000 acres. Forbes State Forest is almost 60,000 acres. Ohiopyle State Park is about 20,000 acres. We could go on.

But some state parks in the area are much, much smaller while still offering a wealth of things to see in a quick visit.

Linn Run is one such state park, and while this one is only 612 acres in size, it makes for a great spot to check out a waterfall after a rain, for a quick hike, renting a cabin for a weekend, or to go fishing if licensed!

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Powdermill Nature Reserve is a Hidden Gem in the Laurel Highlands

One of the fun things about running this site is that we're always discovering new places that were right in front of us but we never noticed. One recent spot we learned about was Powdermill Nature Reserve in Rector, PA (in the heart of the Laurel Highlands), and, naturally, went immediately.

This nature reserve is managed by the Carnegie Museum of Natural History and is designed to monitor the wildlife populations found in western Pennsylvania. But beyond their important work, the facility has a few fairly modest exhibits highlighting the animals of the region, a marsh machine to purify wastewater from the facility, periodic lectures and events, and some shorter hiking trails to check out as well!

So while you may not have a terribly long visit at this one, if you are passing by, it is most certainly worth the stop. So let's jump into what you can see a bit more!

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Touring Birch Creek Farmery Gives an Appreciation for Ethical Farming

As supporters of all things local, it should not be a surprise that we buy our meats and vegetables from area farms as best we can. This includes CSA subscriptions in the summer months, weekly visits to farmer's markets throughout the city, and buying bulk meat orders to fill our deep freezer from time to time as well.

While we are not writing this post to get into the ethical debate on meat-eating outright, we do believe that it is important to know where your meat comes from and that the animals are treated as humanely as possible along the way. By shopping at local farms, we are often able to see all of this first hand!

Naturally, when we started shopping for local meats, Birch Creek Farmery in Burgettstown, PA, quickly came on our radar. It didn't take long after looking at their website to realize that the family who runs the farm have values similar to ours in this regard, and we've become devoted customers ever since (including even visiting the farm for a wine dinner in the past as well).

Cut to a few years later, and the team (now friends) at Birch Creek Farmery invited us out for a proper farm tour to see how they raise their animals. As these tours are open to the public as well, we thought it'd be fun to share a bit more about what the experience is like!

Note: Birch Creek Farmery said that tours can be customized a bit for your interests. Want to spend more time petting and feeding animals? They can do that. Want to learn more of the technical details that go into farming? They can do that too. We opted for a general tour which involved a long walk around the property to see as many animals as possible. Be sure to dress accordingly in long pants and shoes you don't mind getting muddy!

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Take a Stroll Through a Sunflower Maze at Maple Bottom Farm

At this point, it should be no surprise that we love checking out sunflowers near Pittsburgh when they're blooming. They're Angie's favorite flower and one of mine as well. 

So when we heard that there was a sunflower maze at Maple Bottom Farm in the Laurel Highlands, I had to go check it out shortly after it opened for the season.

While you may want to temper your expectations for the maze element of this one, this field checks a lot of boxes for us in that it is quite large, gorgeous, and allows for ample opportunities for photos inside the field itself!

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Schwirian Farm Sunflower Festival is a Must Visit

Our visit to Schwirian Farm for their annual sunflower festival at their farm just outside of Elizabeth, PA, was a few years in the making. 

The reason for this is that prior to 2021, the annual festival was brief- just a day or so (the rest of the season the farm would be closed to the public). As such, it shouldn't be a surprise that we simply missed it by either being out of town or not being on top of tracking when that exact date would be.

But starting in 2021, the festival changed. Instead of being just a single day, it runs for a full week thanks to its incredible popularity (in 2022 the festival runs from July 8th-17th pending bloom and a second bloom likely in October). Since I had this one on my calendar for a full year to ensure I didn't miss it when it came back, we made sure to go on the very first day and were very glad we did.

In this one, we wanted to share a bit more about what you can expect when visiting the Schwirian Farm Sunflower Festival!

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Take a Trip Around Lake Arthur on Preston’s Pearl

Lake Arthur at Moraine State Park is one of our favorite outdoor spots in southwest Pennsylvania. It is hard to ask for more than a beautiful lake with a number of fingers and inlets that just beg being explored.

We've featured many ways you can explore the lake including taking out kayaks from Bear Run Campground, standup paddleboarding with SurfSUP Adventures, and even enjoying Moraine State Park's bike trail which runs along the shoreline. But all of these activities required some degree of effort in order to enjoy. For something a bit more leisurely, the park offers boat tours on the resident pontoon boat from late spring to early fall. 

For many years, guests would enjoy the waters via the resident boat Nautical Nature, but in 2021 the Moraine Preservation Fund launched a new pontoon boat that offers 90-minute sightseeing tours, dinner/brunch cruises, and more.

I was fortunate enough to get out on the water for the ship's inaugural sailing as part of a media preview and share more about what you can expect on this one here!

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