Posted in photography, travel

Tuesday Tour: in the loop

I am keeping you in the loop today on our Tuesday Tour – the Ashtabula Covered Bridges Trail or the “Covered Bridge Loop” in Ashtabula County, Ohio.

Last week, I showcased the first four covered bridges that Papa and I visited last summer on a self-guided driving tour. This week, enjoy the photos of the next four we viewed as we ambled down country roads – sometimes gravel covered – connecting historic, older spans with more recently erected ones.

Crossing the Ashtabula River in Monroe Township, the Root Road Covered Bridge looks the part of an old historic bridge. The two-span structure was originally erected in 1868 and has shown some wear and tear even though it was rehabilitated in 1982-83 when girders and a center concrete pier were added, and the 114-foot-long bridge was raised 18 inches. Driving through the Town lattice design, you can imagine the history this timeworn bridge has experienced. It certainly can’t lay claim to the prettiest covered bridge, but it deserves recognition for being one of the oldest still drivable spans in Ashtabula County.

Next, we found a newer bridge, State Road Covered Bridge, erected in this century in 1983. It was the first covered bridge designed and built by Ashtabula County Engineer John Smolen, Jr. and you will hear a little bit more about him in next week’s post. Assembled using 97,000 feet of southern pine and oak, the span features Town lattice construction and a four-foot-high window that extends the length (152 feet) of the bridge. We found this covered bridge, crossing Conneaut Creek in Monroe Township, lovely and more picturesque than the previous one. This site offers a parking area and public access to Conneaut Creek. Originally, an earlier covered bridge, built by two gentlemen named Ira Benton and David Niles for $100, stood there from 1831-1898.  

It’s interesting to note that Conneaut Creek is actually the longest river in eastern Ashtabula County, and our driving tour took us to two more covered bridges crossing this waterway. Middle Road Covered Bridge was the next stop. Erected in 1868, it is a single span Howe truss design and is 136 feet long. Located about three miles south of downtown Conneaut, this historic bridge is in good shape having been reconstructed in 1984 when volunteers and some college students aided in its rebuilding. Again, I find it sad that people have chosen to deface this historic site with graffiti as you can see in the photo below.

The last bridge on today’s tour, but not the last in the driving loop (four more to be highlighted in next week’s Tuesday Tour), is Creek Road Covered Bridge. We arrived at this 125-foot-long Town lattice designed span just shortly after lunchtime and were delighted to find a place to park, no people in sight, and a restful park bench, where we peacefully ate our picnic lunch, overlooking Conneaut Creek. Sitting 25 feet above the creek, this bridge became one of my favorites on this trip. The original date of construction is not known, but the bridge was renovated extensively in 1994.

The soothing and tranquil spot provided a pleasurable break on our driving tour while we soaked up sunshine, heard birds serenading us with song, and listened to the gentle rippling of the creek. When we take time to just pause and observe the world around us, we find blessings, even at a covered bridge.

I hope you join me again next Tuesday to see the last four covered bridges out of the dozen we visited in the state next door. And I hope the serenity of these quaint bridges encourage you to look at the amazing sights in the world about you.

“Bridges become frames for looking at the world around us.” ~ Bruce Jackson

© 2021

Posted in Life, photography, Spring

Words for Wednesday: finally spring

All I can say is…finally!

After April snowfalls, a roller coaster of fluctuating temperatures, frosty mornings and bone-chilling nights, I think it’s safe to say spring has finally arrived in my neck of the woods.

If you’ve been a long-time reader of Mama’s Empty Nest, you’ll know that I sign off my posts with a quotation. It’s my thing. I love quotes. I keep them. I write them down and stash them away in a notebook.

And now, my thing is Spring. And for those of you living in the northern hemisphere of this orb we call earth, I want to encourage and inspire you to embrace the renewal of life we see in the erupting season of Spring.

We’ve all had a long season of winter’s oppression. It’s time to rejoice and break free from its grip.

So here’s a list of some springtime quotes that I enjoy. May they put a smile on your face and a spring in your step. (See what I did there? 😊 )

“April hath put a spirit of youth in everything.” ~ William Shakespeare

“Spring work is going on with joyful enthusiasm.” ~ John Muir

“Science has never drummed up quite as effective a tranquilizing agent as a sunny spring day.” ~ W. Earl Hall

“The point is that the pleasures of spring are available to everybody, and cost nothing.” ~ George Orwell

“Spring: the music of open windows.” ~ Terri Guillemets

 “The beautiful spring came, and when nature resumes her loveliness, the human soul is apt to revive also.” ~ Harriet Ann Jacobs

“Spring is painted in daffodil yellows, robin egg blues, new grass green and the brightness of hope for a better life.” ~ Toni Sorenson

“Spring will come and so will happiness. Hold on. Life will get warmer.” ~Anita Krizzan

“Life stands before me like an eternal spring with new and brilliant clothes.” ~ Carl Friedrich Gauss

“Spring shows what God can do with a drab and dirty world.” ~ Virgil A. Kraft

And finally, this last quote that I’m signing off with describes me perfectly right now. Perhaps you can identify with it as well.

“Spring won’t let me stay in this house any longer! I must get out and breathe the air deeply again.” ~ Gustav Mahler

© 2021

Posted in day trip, memories, photography, travel

Tuesday Tour: “bula land” bridges

Sometimes you just stumble onto a treasure by happenstance, and when you do, it develops into a memory – one from the past to remember and revisit in the future.

As often happened during this past year of the you know what, Papa and I were once again grateful for a blessing. What makes us feel so blessed? Living in a rural area.

Even though plenty of travel restrictions prevented us from taking more than one vacation or far-away excursions, living where we do enabled us to venture out on road trips by car, partially satisfying our desire for exploring new-to-us places.

We set out one late summer morning in 2020 for such a trip. We ventured to the state next door – Ohio – for a bit of exploring another rural area we hadn’t visited before and where we wouldn’t have to worry much about social distancing and the like.  

The focus of our destination was to locate covered bridges and on our way back home, catch some glimpses of a couple of lighthouses around Lake Erie. Happily, we accomplished both goals, but the covered bridge excursion truly revealed a treasure for us.

Little did we know that the county we chose to visit in the northeast corner of Ohio is considered the covered bridge capital of that state. Nineteen covered bridges, including the longest and shortest in the entire country (USA), are situated in Ashtabula County. The modern Smolen-Gulf Bridge holds the title of being the longest at 613 feet in length and the touted shortest is the 18-foot-long West Liberty Covered Bridge.

Seventeen of those covered spans are operational and open to vehicular traffic year-round. We managed to see a dozen of them in one trip and I decided to highlight those in three parts for my Tuesday Tour. Look for part 2 next week on May 4 with Part 3 posted on May 11.

The treasure we discovered is that visitors can travel on a 67-mile-long driving tour, called the Ashtabula Covered Bridges Trail or the “Covered Bridge Loop,” via country roads to view these unique bridges by using a self-guided driving map. Five types of construction are visible in the historic Ashtabula County covered bridges: Howe truss, Pratt truss, Town lattice truss, Burr arch, and Inverted Haupt truss.

Our first stop was Netcher Road Covered Bridge, which traverses Mill Creek in Jefferson Township. This bridge, at 110 feet long, 22 feet wide, and 14½ feet high, features a single span of timber arches with inverted Haupt walls and is classified as “Neo Victorian” design. However, it is not a relic from the past but instead is one of the newest covered bridges since it was constructed in 1998 and was funded by a state department of transportation grant. Netcher Road bridge is located about two miles east of Jefferson, Ohio.

Bridge #2 on our driving tour was South Denmark Road Covered Bridge, also crossing Mill Creek. At 81 feet in length, this Town lattice style span was built in 1890.  It’s only 2.7 miles away from Netcher Road Bridge, but because of construction/road closure occurring at the time of our visit, we could not view this bridge.

Another newer bridge, erected in 1986 to celebrate Ashtabula County’s 175th anniversary, is the Caine Road Covered Bridge.  With a single span Pratt truss design, this 124-foot-long structure crosses the Ashtabula River in Pierpont Township and is 6.7 miles from the South Denmark Bridge.

The next stop on our driving tour enticed me even more than previous ones. Sitting in a small park along the south side of Graham Road is the aptly named Graham Road Covered Bridge. Interestingly, this 97-foot Town truss span was re-built from the remains of a damaged bridge that washed downstream during a flood back in 1913. It originally crossed the Ashtabula River in Pierpont Township, but was relocated in 1972 near its original site. Not open to vehicle traffic, a distinguishable aspect of this renovated bridge is the quilt block design painted on its side.

The artwork on the side of a historic covered bridge will remain in my memory and I’ll smile each time I gaze at that photo (at the beginning of this post). Memories of a lovely summer day’s travels and sights are added to yet other special thoughts. That pretty quilt-block design reminds me of my mother, who loved to fashion and create beautiful hand-made quilts.

Memories that last become treasured keepsakes in our minds, don’t they?

“Keep all special thoughts and memories for lifetimes to come. Share these keepsakes with others to inspire hope and build from the past, which can bridge to the future.” ~ Mattie Stepanek

© 2021

Posted in Life, photography, reflections

Over the rainbow, a wonderful world

Storms in life…they come and sometimes often and close together.

Storms have never really frightened me. As a child, I often perched myself on our covered front porch to watch thunderstorms and lightning strikes until my mother, in a distressed voice, called me to quickly get back in the house.

I’ve been known to take walks in the rain. But I also have resorted to safety when thunder clouds rolled in, skies darkened menacingly, and threatening tornado warnings rang out.

Storms from weather patterns fascinate me, but the one thing that causes my heart to sing and puts a huge smile on my face is when suddenly after a storm, an amazing sight appears in the sky overhead – a rainbow.

What is it about a rainbow that just makes us feel good about the world? What is it about spying those colorful spectrums of light that makes my mind automatically begin singing words, written by E.Y. Harburg, who wrote all of the songs for the movie, The Wizard of Oz?

 “Somewhere over the rainbow, skies are blue, and the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true.”

When that melody and those lyrics come to my mind, the Judy Garland version from that movie is not what plays in my head. Instead a version, including lyrics from “What a Wonderful World”, first made famous by Louis Armstrong, sung by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole is my favorite. You can listen to it here.

Rainbows. They make us believe there is light and joy and happiness after a dismal  storm. God mentions rainbows in the Bible, His Holy Word, and the very first one appeared in the first book of Scripture (Genesis) when God sets a rainbow in the sky after the great flood as His promise not to destroy the wicked world again by water.

In other scriptures, the rainbow symbolizes God’s glory and power and the fact that He is a covenant-keeper. In other words, the rainbow demonstrates that His works and His ways are beautiful and good and that God is always with us, He will never forsake us.

That’s the kind of reassurance we need after storms of life batter and beat us down. And they will do so.  Just recalling this past year and the storms of the you know what remind us how detrimental and destructive it has been for so many of our brothers and sisters around the world.

“If you want to enjoy the rainbow, be prepared to endure the storm.” ~ Warren Wendel Wiersbe

But God gives us hope and reassurance that we can persevere.

These thoughts permeated my mind recently as Papa and I were driving back home after a visit to our oldest daughter and son-in-love who live in a different state.

For quite some time, they have been searching for a house to purchase and of course, what transpired in the last year put a halt to that. Daughter’s background is in medical research and amidst lock-downs, restrictions, and upheavals, what’s been happening has occupied the forefront of her mind.

But at last, the timing seemed right and a house to fit their preferences came on the market. When they were able to buy their very first home, Papa and were so happy and excited for them. We couldn’t wait to see their new place in person, so we traveled the seven hours or so to help them clean and prepare it for their move.  

And that’s when it happened. Rain fell as they showed us through their house, but then it stopped, and the sun appeared. We stepped outside onto their front porch so that Mama could snap a photo of them at their new place and we all could not help but see it — a rainbow. Not just a portion of one, but a complete, end-to-end rainbow, as if to say “dreams really do come true.”

But that rainbow meant so much more. It signified a promise that God is with our beloved daughter and son-in-love, that He provides for them, He blesses then, He gives them hope and beauty after a storm.

And He does that for us all – no matter who we are or where we live or what our circumstances may be. He’s there to help us weather life’s storms, its disappointments, and its difficulties when He ask Him for His help and we offer up a gift of gratitude and thanksgiving for His provision and for that wonderful world He gave us.

“Gratitude is the real treasure God wants us to find, because it isn’t the pot of gold but the rainbow that colors our world.” ~ Richelle E. Goodrich

© 2021

Posted in photography, travel

Tuesday Tour: The Bridges of Somerset County

Each time I view photos of the covered bridges I highlight today in this Tuesday Tour, a certain title of a book and movie come to my mind.

You see, these structures are three out of 10 remaining covered bridges in Somerset County, Pennsylvania. And each time I think “the bridges of Somerset County,” my mind leaps to a book written in the 90’s, one that became a popular movie in the same decade, The Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller.

“First you must have the images, then come the words.” ~ Robert James Waller, The Bridges of Madison County

The story involves star-crossed lovers: a professional photographer, who travels to Madison County, Iowa to take photos of famous covered bridges there for National Geographic, and a lonely farmer’s wife. I can honestly say I didn’t care much for either the book or the movie (which starred Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep), but for some reason, that title sticks in my mind.

So here are some of the bridges – not of Madison County, but of southern Somerset County – which we visited by happenstance last summer. In the midst of the you know what, Papa and I needed a get-away, so one Saturday we embarked on a day trip out into nature, one where we wouldn’t encounter a lot of people.

After arriving at the 20,500-acre Ohiopyle State Park, which serves as a gateway into the Laurel Highlands, we hoped to enjoy a view of Ohiopyle Falls, a 20-foot waterfall on the Youghiogheny (pronounced YOK-i-gay-nee) River.

But the place was crazy busy with people who had the same idea, so we nixed that,  shelving it for a week-day another time when it might be less crowded. After finding a quiet spot for a picnic lunch, we meandered down country roads and wound up in Somerset County in search of three covered bridges that all cross the same ribbon of water, Laurel Hill Creek.

The first one we encountered was the Lower Humbert Covered Bridge, near Confluence, PA, about a 25-minute drive from Ohiopyle. Also called the Faidley Covered Bridge, it’s located at an intersection of Humbert and Covered Bridge Roads in Lower Turkeyfoot Township.

At 126. 5 feet in length, 12.3 feet in width, and 8 feet high, the double span bridge was constructed in 1891, using Burr arch truss and King-post design. Maintained by the county, Lower Humbert was rehabilitated 100 years later in 1991 when two steel beams were added in order to support vehicular traffic and a concrete pier, encased in stone, near the bridge’s mid-way point was also included.

Today, this covered bridge, is in good condition and we enjoyed driving through it. Research revealed that it was not the only covered bridge that existed in that area in the past. One called the Upper Humbert Bridge, which also had a King-post design, once stood about one mile upstream from the Lower Humbert. Unfortunately, an arsonist destroyed that bridge in 1969 and it was not rebuilt. 

We next found King’s Covered Bridge, also located in Middlecreek Township just off Route 653 about 12 miles southwest of Somerset.  We appreciated the fact that there were ample parking spaces in a park-like setting so sightseers can walk through the bridge, which is not open to vehicular traffic, and that a picnic pavilion is adjacent to it. The site is owned and maintained by the township.

The date this 127-foot long and 12-foot-wide bridge was constructed is not certain. At one time, King’s Bridge was believed to have been built in 1802, but that conflicts with the fact that covered bridges were not erected in that area until the late 1800’s. Research on covered bridges indicates that the first confirmed American covered bridge was bult in 1805 in Philadelphia, PA across the Schuylkill River.

So more than likely, a bridge (not covered) may have been erected there in 1802 but was replaced by King’s Covered Bridge using multiple King-post trusses. Then in 1906, the bridge was rebuilt using Burr arch trusses.

After being bypassed in the 1930’s by a modern, steel bridge, King’s Covered Bridge fell into disrepair and actually was used as a livestock barn for several decades, Thankfully, it was rehabilitated in 2008.

It is beautiful from the outside. However, what disturbed me most about this link to the past was, after waiting for a couple of bicyclers to pass through the bridge (photo at beginning of this post), we walked inside to find its interior walls covered in spray-painted graffiti. What a shame.

King’s Covered Bridge is not far from the ski resort areas of Seven Springs and Hidden Valley. It’s also a short distance from Cole Run Falls, which is a popular set of waterfalls.

Just a few minutes away from King’s Bridge, we located another covered bridge, which I think is my favorite of the three.  (Maybe because there were old-fashioned roses and daisies in bloom beside it.) Barronvale Covered Bridge, the longest of the 10 remaining covered bridges of Somerset County at 162 feet in length, is also known as Barron’s Mill Bridge.

This nearly 14-foot wide, two-span Burr truss structure is not open to vehicular traffic and can be found in Middlecreek Township in a beautiful setting. It is in very good condition, but it is privately owned so visitors need to be respectful of that. Sightseers can park and walk through the bridge though.

A placard at the bridge details its history, stating that a miller named Peter Kooser petitioned county commissioners in 1828 to build a bridge near his gristmill for his patrons. By 1830, Barronvale’s construction was completed by builder Cassimer Cramer at a cost of $300.

In 1845, the two-span bridge needed repairs to strengthen it so heavy Burr arches were installed, which allegedly cost the county $750. Repaired again in 1907, stone supports, which came from a nearby quarry, were installed.

All three of these historic covered bridges were placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. They serve as reminders to the past and are worthwhile remembering and visiting.

“The heart never forgets, never gives up, the territory marked off for those who came before.” ~ Robert James Waller, The Bridges of Madison County

© 2021

Posted in photography, travel

Tuesday Tour: a link to the past

I embarked on a quest quite a long time ago: to visit as many of our 50 states in the United States of America as I could.  I‘m pleased to account that, so far, I’ve visited 40 with 10 more to check off the list.

I suspect I acquired this desire from my father, who loved to travel and enjoyed poring over a Rand McNally road atlas of America just imagining all the trips he could encounter. He managed a number of those with my mother, but after she passed away, his zeal to journey too far from home waned. But he still studied those road maps.

For the last year, the you know what slapped the kibosh on our own travels, which is why I’m looking back over places we’ve visited in the past including the covered bridges featured on my Tuesday Tour.

A few years ago, Papa and I traveled to the New England states on two separate trips to check them off my to-do list. Our first trip took us to parts of New York state we had never visited before and then on into Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut.

On our second excursion to New England in the summer of 2018, we ventured into Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. And it was in Vermont that I discovered I liked photographing covered bridges, although with our packed itinerary, we only visited two that we happened upon while on our way to other sightseeing stops.

The first covered bridge that caught my eye was West Dummerston Covered Bridge which we passed on our way from Brattleboro to Weston.  Papa graciously turned the car around and drove back to the site so I could jump out of the car to snap photos.

This historic covered bridge, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973, is named the longest entirely covered bridge, at 280 feet long, in the state of Vermont. And we just happened upon it by chance.

Spanning the West River in a small town named Dummerston, Windham County, the bridge, which stands on stone abutments and a central stone pier, features two spans, flush vertical boards on its sides, wooden clapboard ends, and a corrugated metal roof.  The interesting feature, I think, of this one-lane bridge is its side walls which have diamond-shaped openings in them admitting light inside.

I found this one so picturesque, we drove through it twice and I took multiple photos of it. In my research later, I learned that it is the only known surviving architectural example of a renowned master bridge builder named Caleb Lamson, who constructed it in 1872.

Back on the road again, we stumbled upon another covered bridge on our way to Woodstock, Vermont that same day in Taftsville. This wooden bridge is one of the oldest remaining covered bridges in not only the state of Vermont but also in the United States as it was constructed in 1836.

Located along US Route 4 in Windsor County and spanning the Ottauquechee (pronounced (AWT-ah-KWEE-chee) River, the Taftsville Covered Bridge is 189 feet long and 20 feet wide (with a roadway of 16 feet) and was designed with kingpost trusses with arches on a central pier.

Prior to 1836, three bridges once stood in that spot but were destroyed by floods. A local resident, Solomon Emmons III, was then contracted to build the timber-framed bridge that still stands today and is used for vehicular traffic. The bridge was so busy, we only drove through it and I only managed photos from inside our vehicle. The photo at the beginning of this post is from inside the Taftsville Covered Bridge.

Having stood the test of time, the Taftsville Covered Bridge is one of over 100 covered bridges still existing in the state of Vermont, where at one time there were more than 600 such structures.

At the time we visited Vermont, I hadn’t yet developed an interest in seeing more covered bridges, but now, I’d love to travel back to New England – preferably in the fall to be awestruck by the colorful foliage – and visit more of these charming reminders of days gone by.

A link to the past – that’s what these quaint and picturesque bridges symbolize to me. They take me back in time to an era when life was simpler. And I think we need to remember our past in order to secure a better future. Not make the same mistakes, learn from history not erase it, and use that knowledge today.

“Today is the bridge between the past, regarding which we unconditionally accept that
everything has occurred according to God’s plan, and a future where we place our unconditional trust in God’s omnipotence and His benevolent design for our lives.”
~ Jonathan Lockwood Huie

© 2021

Posted in Life, photography, travel

Tuesday Tour: to safely cross

It may seem like a silly question, but why does one cross a bridge? Drum roll please….to get to the other side. Much like the chicken who crossed the road.

But there’s more to it. One crosses a bridge also to arrive on the other side in a safe manner, especially when the river, stream, or other waterway that’s being traversed is dangerous.

Years ago, back in my career days, I worked as a newspaper reporter/editor for a twice daily newspaper in a southwestern state. When my co-workers learned I was from the keystone state of Pennsylvania, I found myself answering some silly questions like “What exactly is a Nittany Lion?” and “Is there really a place called Slippery Rock?”

The city editor, a college sports fan, teased me mercilessly about two Pennsylvania institutions of higher learning:  Penn State University and its mascot, the Nittany Lion, and Slippery Rock College (now Slippery Rock University). Those schools amused him to no end and he was a bit disappointed that I hadn’t attended either college but instead graduated from another university.

He just couldn’t imagine why a college was named Slippery Rock or as he called it, Slimy Pebbles. Well, for one reason only – the college is located in the town of Slippery Rock and there actually is a Slippery Rock Creek, named thusly because the rocks in the creek were exactly that – slippery.

Today on our Tuesday Tour, come along with me to an historic, wooden, covered bridge that crosses over Slippery Rock Creek in Slippery Rock Township, near Portersville in Lawrence County, Pennsylvania. Papa and I visited this landmark on a day trip back in August 2013.

You’ll find McConnells Mill Covered Bridge located in a state park by the same name, McConnells Mill, named for Thomas McConnell who purchased a gristmill for grinding grains – corn, oats, wheat, and buckwheat – back in 1875.  The first mill on this site beside Slippery Rock Creek was constructed by Daniel Kennedy in 1852. After fire destroyed the mill, he rebuilt it in 1868.

In 1874, McConnells Mill Covered Bridge was erected on stone foundations over the slippery rocks of the creek to transport shipments to and from the nearby mill. However, while the gristmill once was an important part of the surrounding community, it closed in 1928.

The old mill and property surrounding it, including the bridge, was transferred to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy to be preserved in the 1940’s. Eventually, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania acquired ownership and the area became a state park dedicated in 1957.

Both the mill and the covered bridge are well-known historic landmarks in the Slippery Rock Creek Gorge, also in McConnell’s Mills State Park. If you visit this scenic park, you can explore both sides of the gorge, view Slippery Rock Creek as it gushes through the ravine or whitewater kayak on it, go climbing and rappelling, or hike on trails, one being a pretty steep, challenging six-mile hike that’s part of the North Country National Scenic Trail.

For those who prefer safer outings, you can visit the two man-made sites: tour the old gristmill and drive through the quaint covered bridge.

McConnell’s Mills Covered Bridge is one of only four Howe truss designed bridges still in existence in Pennsylvania. To understand a Howe truss form of bridge construction, you can read this.

This bridge is also the longest, at 101 feet, of the four which had not been rebuilt, but it was repaired and revitalized in 1957, when steel girders were added to give better support.  Several years ago, the historic bridge sustained damage from a fierce storm, but  refurbishment, costing over $100,000 with many replacement pieces made by hand, restored it. Reportedly, some original bridge lumber is over 140 years old.

An interesting fact is that covered bridges were not prominent in Lawrence County, unlike the rest of the state’s counties. It is speculated that only five covered bridges were ever built in that particular county and McConnells Mill is one of two that remain today. The other one, Banks Covered Bridge, stands near Volant, Pennsylvania (a small, picturesque town that is an antique and specialty shop haven).

Today, you can tour the historic 19th century mill and drive through the bridge, which is open for vehicular traffic. McConnells Mill Bridge was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.

No doubt this bridge was built to provide safe crossing from one side of a rushing, slippery creek to another. Perhaps we need to take a bit of inspiration from this old bridge. To avoid being swept away down slippery slopes into a rapid torrent of turbulent waters, we need to begin building bridges of respect and understanding instead of tearing others down.

“Bridges are built not to cross over it but it is built to lift you to the other side safely.” ~ Edwin Lawrence

© 2021

Posted in Good Friday, Life, photography

What’s so good about this Friday?

Today is Good Friday. A day near the end of Holy Week or Passion Week, the time we believers in Christ contemplate the last week of our Savior’s life here on earth.

Good Friday. What’s good about a day when a most beloved teacher, healer, miracle worker, and lover of every human’s soul was put to death in a most agonizingly, excruciatingly painful way – crucifixion?

What’s good about a Savior who was fully man and fully God being wrongfully accused, arrested, tried and sentenced to die like a common criminal, scourged, beaten, mocked, spit on, denied and forsaken?

What’s good about His followers, who first-hand witnessed His kindness, love, and hope and called Him their Messiah, watching Him suffer for hours while nailed on a Roman cross at a place called Golgotha, meaning “The Place of the Skull”?

Wasn’t Good Friday really the worst day ever? The day someone named Jesus Christ, just hailed joyfully and triumphantly a few days before, ceased to exist in human form?

So why in the world do we Christians call this day Good Friday? It’s a day seemingly full of sorrow, isn’t it? Scripture tells us even Jesus Himself cried out on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34)

As Jesus suffered on that cross, He absorbed all the sins – the wrongdoings we all commit which separate us from the utmost holiness of God – of this earthly world for all time. Jesus felt the agonizing abyss of being isolated from the most holy God while He was burdened with all of our wicked transgressions, mine, yours, everyone’s, on that simple wooden cross. And He did so willingly because of His immeasurable love for every one of us.

For a reason.

“I am wholly deserving of all the consequences that I will in fact never receive simply because God unashamedly stepped in front of me on the cross, unflinchingly spread His arms so as to completely shield me from the retribution that was mine to bear, and repeatedly took the blows. And I stand entirely unwounded, utterly lost in the fact that the while His body was pummeled and bloodied to death by that which was meant for me and me alone, I have not a scratch.” ~ Craig D. Lounsbrough

On that Good Friday for three hours, darkness descended across the land, the sun stopped shining, and the curtain between the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place in the Jewish temple suddenly was rent in two. That alone was shocking and unsettling. What was so good about that?

Finally, as He breathed His last, Jesus spoke, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” (Luke 24:46). And in finality, He also uttered these words, “It is finished.” (John 19:30)

It is finished. Good Friday was finished. That day like no other, a day full of agony and sorrow, finally concluded.

But here’s the thing. It wasn’t the end!

When Jesus declared “It is finished,” He meant His mission here on earth, the reason God the Father sent His son here was completed. Mission accomplished. For one simple reason – to save mankind’s souls. To offer us The Only Way to God. When Jesus died on that old rugged cross, He gave us the greatest gift we can ever receive – salvation.

“The cross was two pieces of dead wood; and a helpless, unresisting Man was nailed to it; yet it was mightier than the world, and triumphed, and will ever triumph over it.~Augustus William Hare

The truth of salvation did not end on that bleak Friday we now call good. What was so good about it? It’s not the end of the story! Jesus Christ’s life, with His broken body and His blood spilling out, did not end on that cross.

In just three days after His earthly death and burial in a tomb sealed with a huge boulder, He arose from the dead. Alive once more, He defeated the power of death. His resurrection is what we celebrate joyfully on Easter Sunday.

One version of the Bible called The Message puts it this way: “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him.” ~ John 3:16-18

When we choose to believe in Christ and follow Him, we receive the free gift of everlasting life. Someday we will pass from this earthly life but we will live again in Heaven forever with our Savior and Lord.

And that is what makes Good Friday good.

“Good Friday is a day of sorrow mingled with joy. It is a time to grieve over the sin of man and to meditate and rejoice upon God’s love in giving His only Son for the redemption of sin.” ~ David Katski

© 2021

Posted in Easter, photography

We do this in remembrance

For those of us who are believers in Christ, this is a most sacred week – a week from one Sunday until the next – Holy Week.

We remember…

Our Savior, fully God and fully man, rode into the city of Jerusalem on a day we call Palm Sunday to shouts of “Hosanna!” and palm branches waved in His honor. He was hailed as King.

“A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of Him and those that followed shouted, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’ “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ‘Hosanna in the highest heaven!” When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, ‘Who is this?’ “ ~ Matthew 21:8-10

We remember…

Jesus shook the city up with his teachings and religious leaders did not like the way people followed and listened to Him. As the week continued, there were those who sought to get rid of Him in any way possible. And one of His own would betray Him.

“Then the chief priests and the elders of the people assembled in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, and they plotted to arrest Jesus in some sly way and kill him.” ~ Matthew 26: 3-4

We remember…

On this day called Maundy Thursday, Jesus gathered His disciples together for the Passover meal in an upper room. While they ate, He told them of things to come and gave them instructions to use bread and wine as symbols to remember Him.

“And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way, after the supper He took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.’ “ ~ Luke 22:18-20

As Christians, we follow those instructions by taking communion – breaking the bread which symbolized His broken body on a rugged wooden cross and drinking the cup, which symbolized His blood spilled out as He suffered and died taking all of our transgressions upon Himself to provide salvation for each one of us.

We remember... the worst would come on Friday and yet the very best occurred on Sunday – Easter Sunday, Resurrection Day.

We remember...with gratitude beyond measure and a fierce love for our Savior.

“If we but paused for a moment to consider attentively what takes place in this Sacrament, I am sure that the thought of Christ’s love for us would transform the coldness of our hearts into a fire of love and gratitude.” – St. Angela of Foligno

© 2021

Posted in Life, photography, travel

Tuesday Tour: a bridge to serve

Located in many communities, throughout not just America but internationally as well, are groups of people whose motto is “We Serve.”

I’m referring to a non-political, service organization known as the Lions Club. I have a bit of knowledge about the good and beneficial projects these clubs perform because Papa once belonged to a Lions Club and even served as King Lion (President) of a local chapter.

So how does the Lions Club pertain in any way to my Tuesday Tour of covered bridges? Read on please.

Venturing around some country roads in Pennsylvania’s Somerset County back in the summer of 2012, Papa, our oldest daughter, and I discovered the Trostletown Covered Bridge, one of only two surviving multiple kingpost bridges in that county.

The three-span structure features three pairs of kingpost trusses with queenposts and is covered with half-height plank siding and an asbestos shingled gable roof.  Located in Quemahoning Township near Stoystown, this historic bridge was built over Stonycreek River near property that once was owned by Daniel Trostle’s mill. 

Conflicting dates appear concerning the year of its construction. Some indicate Trostletown Bridge, also known as Kantner Bridge, was erected in 1845 by an unknown builder. Other research shows the bridge being built later in 1873.

However old it is, this 104-foot long and 12-foot, 8-inch wide covered bridge is one of 10 in Somerset County, still stands in its original location on original cut stone abutments and stone and mortar piers, and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. 

By the 20th century, the bridge had become time-worn and deteriorated, but in 1965, the Stoystown Lions Club stepped up to the plate to restore and preserve it. The bridge now stands in the Stoystown Lions Club Park and is privately owned by the club. 

Because of the ongoing preservation of the bridge, Trostletown Covered Bridge, which was re-dedicated in 1993, is in good condition but is now only used for pedestrian traffic.

Since our visit back in 2012, a new attraction has been added to the bridge. Visitors can view a restored conestoga (covered) wagon parked inside this interesting piece of history.

Thanks to the Lions Club extending their hands of service, Trostletown Covered Bridge remains a link to Pennsylvania’s past.

We could all take a lesson from the Lions Club by building our own bridges, lending a hand to others in service, and providing a link from one person to another for a better world.

“Build a bridge by extending your hand.” ~ Ken Poirot

© 2021