Days of Autumn, Pt. 2

A few weekends ago, my brother Eric and I traveled to Mifflinburg, PA, to sing at a friend’s wedding with some of the ensemble he had organized last year while teaching there. I joined him on the trip because he needed another soprano at the wedding, not necessarily because I knew lots of people there, so I was pleasantly surprised to reconnect with some great friends. That was fun 🙂

Here are some iPhone photos from the road.

'The hills are aflame...'

‘The hills are aflame…’

Driving through the Bald Eagle State Forest, which has amazed me twice with its seasonal beauty.

We drove through the Bald Eagle State Forest, which has amazed me twice now with its seasonal beauty. The other time was a solo trip in the middle of February during a snowstorm. Had my parents known about the terrible conditions, they would have been a lot more nervous! But, I was very aware of my surroundings, and still think back with happy memories.

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Beauty Whizzing By.

Abstract journeying stories.

Abstract journeying stories.

The gems of the Eastern Pennsylvania mountains.

The gems of the Eastern Pennsylvania mountains.

We had spare time in the afternoon after the wedding, so a group of Eric’s former co-teachers from last year went on a hike, and invited me to join them. We hiked up a hill through the woods, through a clearing, and back into the woods, before we came upon the end of the trail at an outlook with a chain-link fence ensuring our safety.

Through the field...

Through the clearing…

I don't think I've ever been this close to one of these before.

I don’t think I’ve ever been this close to one of these massive electrical structures before!

A giantess dress form.

My friend Sharon calls them ‘giantess dress forms.

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Then we walked down the road to a cemetery and rested. If you look really closely on that mountainside, you can see a bald spot. That was the overlook.

The view outside the fence was amazing.

The view outside the fence was amazing.

Then we found a precipice to stand on. Y'know, the view was better.

Then we found a precipice to stand on. Y’know, the view was better.

A 'bunch' of happiness.

A ‘bunch’ of happiness.

Then we crossed a creek on a suspension bridge.

Then we crossed a creek on a suspension bridge.

I was so used to picking wildflowers that day, that at the end of the hike, when we got back to our cars, I didn't think twice about crossing the road to pick this one. Except there was a house really close by, and I realized my foolishness right away. Oops.

I was so used to picking wildflowers that day, that at the end of the hike, when we got back to our cars, I didn’t think twice about crossing the road to pick this one. Except there was a house really close by, and I realized my foolishness right away. Oops.

A beautiful Mifflinburg sunset.

A beautiful Mifflinburg sunset.

And then the day ended and soon we were on our way home again, through those lovely mountains.

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The Shenandoah Valley

In June, I spent a week in the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia. I was attending Shenandoah Christian Music Camp, and having the time of my life, but when I wasn’t in classes or practicing music, I was driving to and from Camp, enjoying the gorgeous scenery all around me. The rich farmland and historical heritage of the area combined with the everlasting hills on every side add up to a sumptuous feast for the eyes.

My sweet host, Martha, recommended this spot to me when I asked about the countryside. “If you’re willing to take some dirt roads, then you’d like this little bridge over a Muddy Creek on Onyx Hill Road.” After giving me verbal directions, she entrusted me with a big map of the area, and I climbed into my car with two of my sweet housemates to go explore the country.

Most of the following photos were taken that afternoon, with Rebecca and Renita (my housemates) very graciously and patiently putting up with my frequent stops, and choosing our directions at Stop signs. “Where now?” I’d ask. “Um, left,” they’d say, picking the most favorable direction based purely on how it felt to us in our hearts.

Enjoy the following photographs!

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The Weekend that held Pittsburgh

The other weekend, I had the privilege of spending a day in Pittsburgh with some of my best friends. It was that weekend when the snowstorm of the year hit and Walnut Creek Cheese was only open form 10-2. (That is how you know it was bad. They were open for four hours on a Saturday.) We met early in the morning, and slowly made our way to the big city of our dreams. The roads were terrible and we were very relieved to find a parking spot and stretch our legs. The snow was falling gently when we arrived, and it lasted the whole day, freezing our toes and making the world beautiful and magical. ‘Wouldn’t it be amazing if it snowed while we were in Pittsburgh?’ was the heartfelt comment with which we all agreed as we first planned this trip. God must have heard that, and he blessed us with the very beauty we timidly craved.

Our first stop was the Strip, a street of ethnic grocery stores and shops of clothing, spices, and all kinds of other fun stuff. First of all, and most importantly, we bought Barbara’s favorite loaf of bread which was to sustain us till supper. Focaccia bread was new to me, but I found it yummy, and it was enjoyed by us all day long. Next was a tea and coffee shop, where I bought tea for half the price at Teavana. I was pretty happy with that. Then there was the pottery shop, Indian clothing shop, and the unending, unfriendly chocolate store, followed by the candy, material, biscotti, and Greek grocery store. We returned to our snow-covered chariot loaded with bags, frozen limbs and unbounded happiness.

About four miles across town we then drove to the Cathedral of Learning. Oh, the unmentionable, embarrassing moments along that route! Setting foot in the Cathedral immediately felt reverent. Vaulted ceilings, echoing corridors, and enormous rooms housing students silently bending their heads over their textbooks. We went to the 36th floor by elevator, and at the top we met a young man who had evidently just run the 36 flights of stairs. I don’t think that was a very good idea, judging from his moans and strange postures. After enjoying the view awhile, we descended via the elevator and wandered around outside until we decided what we wanted to do next.

Phipps Conservatory. This is where Pittsburghers go when they get tired of the pavement, fumes, steel of the city. Enter a world of green, flowers, and design. Entrance was $15, and we explored for about an hour, enjoying orchids, bonsais, spices, and tunneling walkways lined with nature’s beauty.

After this we were starving, so we retraced our steps to a Greek hole-in-the-wall restaurant we’d seen at the beginning of our trip. I think it was called Ephesus Grill? It was very sparsely furnished, with no decorations or music. They had an interesting system of ordering and pick up, but it looked like they did mostly take out and delivery orders. My three companions were wildly successful in their dinner choices, but I utterly failed. I managed to eat less than half of my ‘meal’ before we discreetly dumped it into the trash can while laughing loudly (to hide the loud ‘thunk’ it made at the bottom).

Then we headed to Station Square, which you can see as you enter Pittsburgh from the 376. It was utterly deserted, thanks to the weather. We went up the Duquesne Incline, and our enchantment was made complete at the top, where the city lights put on their best show for us, sparkling and twinkling. It was positively gorgeous to see the city from that height, and we fell irretrievably in love right there. At least I did.

It was a beautiful, well-spent day. Onto the pictures!

Focaccia Bread:

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Prestogeorge Coffee and Tea:

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Buying our new favorite mugs:

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Mon ami and I in front of Mon Aimee Chocolat:

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Scarves for 5 bucks??

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A grown up fabric store:

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Inside the Cathedral of Learning:

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Outside the Cathedral of Learning:

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Tiny orchids behind glass:

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“Look!…”

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…It’s a Truffula Tree!”

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Natural beauty:

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Pittsburgh at night:

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I wonder how many of my readers have explored Pittsburgh…I’m definitely going back someday.