On a sunny Saturday near the end of February, I decided to take advantage of the relatively nice weather and go exploring. I had been doing some research about covered bridges in Pennsylvania, and I was ready to see if I could locate a couple of them and have some fun with the new Nikon camera my daughter had given me for Christmas. I found that there were a few covered bridges around Indiana, so I set off in that general direction. After I had traveled a few miles south of home, the snow was gone and it was good to see the bare ground bathed in sunshine.

I soon discovered that while my GPS might get me to the general vicinity, it couldn’t actually locate the bridges. When I got to Plumville, I spotted several dedicated volunteers of the fire department out washing the fire trucks. I stopped to chat and ask for directions. I was pleased to discover that I was within about four miles of two covered bridges, Trusal Bridge, built in 1870, and Harmon Bridge, built in 1910, neither of which is presently open to traffic. Both of the bridges were barn wood red on the bottom with white trim above. Harmon Bridge still had large clear Christmas lights outlining the entire structure, and I’ll bet that was a sight to see during the holidays. I grabbed the camera, zipped my coat, headed down the path and began shooting from every angle. Such picturesque surroundings, as the small streams cut winding paths through pastureland. The entire area leading to the bridge was enhanced by white rail fencing that was the perfect touch to add contrast to my shots. Even though I was totally engrossed in taking the photos, I still noticed that the wind was quite cold as it whipped around me.

Back in the car to warm up and on to Harmon Bridge, which has an interesting optical illusion effect that makes it appear to be leaning and about to fall over if viewed from an angle, but it appears erect if viewed straight on! I also walked inside the bridge and shot outward from some of the openings, my excitement building as the photos captured the meandering stream as it wound through the countryside. Wow! Such beauty!

Of course I needed a bathroom break about then, and I was currently in the middle of nowhere. I put a search in my GPS to find the nearest Sheetz, which was a few miles away in Indiana. While I was there, I picked up a couple of brochures highlighting area attractions, and after enjoying a pack of peanuts and a cup of coffee, I decided to take advantage of the daylight I had left. I drove for about half an hour until I arrived at the Buttermilk Falls Natural Area. I planned to save the Jimmy Stewart Museum for a future rainy day visit to Indiana.

Buttermilk Falls Natural Area is a 48- acre site, two miles south of Clyde in West Wheatfield Township. It is home to a wide variety of plants and animals, as well as the scenic 45-foot Buttermilk Falls. To access the falls on foot, you follow McFeeley Trail. Remember Mr. McFeeley, the Speedy Delivery guy on Mister Rogers Neighborhood? Well, Fred McFeeley was actually the grandfather of Fred Rogers, and he had a summer estate in this area. He was a wealthy industrialist from Latrobe, Pa., and the property included a large house, horse stables, a three-car garage, several outbuildings, and a swimming area in the creek above the waterfalls. There are only several stone foundations and retaining walls remaining of the property now, but Fred Rogers made many summer visits to his grandfather’s secluded estate when he was a boy. I was excited to read about that connection, as my young children and I were great fans of Mister Rogers Neighborhood and were loyal viewers. I was lucky enough to have met Fred Rogers in person while my baby son was a patient at Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh, and Fred was there visiting some of the children. The man was just as kind and caring in person as he was on his television show!

I followed McFeeley Trail only to the first landing, mainly because it was a steep drop and I wasn’t too sure it would be a lot of fun climbing back up the trail! A waterfall is a thing of beauty any time of year, but in winter, it was especially breathtaking because of all the ice coating everything that the spray touched. I shot dozens of photos of the waterfalls from every angle, and I was having a ball. The climb back to the top wasn’t bad at all, and I had even gotten warmed up in the process.

What a wonderful day this had turned out to be! I have such a passion for photography, and I love the freedom of just taking off in any direction in search of unusual things to explore and enjoy. It’s especially fun to find unexpected photo ops and then search for a safe place to pull off to get just the right shot. I remember risking life and limb hurrying across an extremely busy highway near Lancaster a few years ago, trying to get several shots of a farmer harvesting tobacco. Then I crossed that major highway yet again because I went back to the car to get my telephoto lens, but I got the shots I wanted.

There’s so much about photography that I still have to learn, but I know what I like and I will continue to explore Pennsylvania and other neighboring states in search of those elusive perfect shots.

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Marilyn Secco is a retired teacher and author of the book “Front Porch Tales.” She has 2 children and 5 grandchildren and lives in Kersey with a temperamental cat named Tidder. Contact her at mbsecco@windstream.net

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