Today is one of those days that I pray no one sees my kitchen table. Instead of fall garland and pumpkins placed precisely in the perfect spot, an eclectic smorgasbord is scattered from end to end.
Peppers ready to be canned or frozen are piled on one end. The other end is a pile of straws, tape and scissors. The peppers are easy to explain this time of year, but the tangled office supplies are another matter.
Right in the center, where a fall centerpiece once presided, is an intricate bridge built out of plastic straws. The bridge is the result of curiosity and a desire to create. A recent hike, meant for enjoying foliage, led us to a beautifully designed covered bridge. My kids were inspired to recreate the bridge using straws and tape.
The McConnells Mill covered bridge is located in McConnells Mill State Park in Lawrence County, Pennsylvania. The strikingly red bridge was built 1874 using the Howe truss design. The diagonal wooden braces, a signature design feature, can still be seen painted white inside the bridge.
Historically, the covered bridge has also been called “the kissing bridge.” Maybe visitors passing through the bridge are admiring the truss design or maybe they are feeding heat to the local lore. My lips are sealed on the subject.
Spanning Slippery Rock Creek Gorge, the bridge enables access to McConnells Mill and creates a picturesque setting especially in the fall. Nearby sugar maples accentuate the red bridge and reflect on the water of Slippery Rock Creek. The color palette also includes bronze, russet, and golden yellow as a variety of deciduous tree species line the creek.
Longer, cooler nights are partly responsible for the impressive display of color. Chlorophyll, carotenoids, and anthocyanins are a pack of pigment types that also cause the change in the color of leaves in the fall. Chlorophyll reflects green in spring and summer; the decreasing amount and then absence of chlorophyll in the fall allows red, orange and yellow shades of carotenoids and anthocyanins to be seen.
While hiking and admiring the brilliant colors, we had several discussions about what makes fall foliage brighter one year than another. When my children were truly interested in the reason, and my husband and I couldn’t agree, I had to research.
Adequate precipitation in the growing season, turning to dry weather in late summer to early fall, followed by plenty of sunny days and cool nights in fall is the best scenario for a dramatic leaf display. This seemed to be true in 2020 for our area in northeast Ohio.
Great for hiking
According to the website alltrails.com, McConnells Mill State Park is ranked third in the entire state of Pennsylvania for having the best hiking trails. We can heartily attest to the great hiking found in the park. Scenic vistas, wooden steps and boards, waterfalls, boulders and a glacial gorge are a part of the interesting trails in the park.
Impressively, there are trails for all levels of hiking. Visitors can choose to take a short one mile hike or even drive over the covered bridge to park near McConnells Mill. The most challenging trail is the Slippery Rock Gorge Trail, which is 15 miles in length.
The 7.5 mile out and back trail is characteristically difficult due to exposed roots, boulders, and steep inclines. The trail is a part of the much larger North Country Trail which spans eight states from Vermont to South Dakota for a total of 4,600 miles.
Currently, more items are being brought to my kitchen table to test the strength of the Howe Truss design bridge. Books, mugs, even shoes are stacked on top demonstrating the strength and durability of the design.
McConnells Mill covered bridge has been standing for almost a century and a half. It is a striking symbol of ingenuity, a characteristic that made our area and country thrive. Nestled in nature with many areas to explore, McConnells Mill State Park is a spectacular destination for families and hikers not only in the fall, but any season of the year.
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