The Mighty Youghiogheny at Ohiopyle

The scene as we drove to Uniontown, Pennsylvania, on Friday was almost too perfect to be true. The mountains, the clear blue sky, and the open road was the perfect beginning to what I was anticipating to be an adrenaline-pumping trip down the Youghiogheny. I was on my way to go whitewater rafting for the first time.

Ohiopyle is the very small town which the Youghiogheny river runs through, but full of life, small shops, bakeries, and shirtless guys. Our trip started out with the typical briefing and signing of the waiver that rids the rafting company from liability for any injuries or death… that’s when you know you’re about to have some fun. After we received our life-jackets and helmets, 48 of us piled into a bus and we were on our way to the river.

The guides from Ohiopyle Trading Post rafting company were all very personable, fun but cautious when taking six rafts full of first- and second-time rafters out on class three and four rapids. I give them a lot of credit for what they do. One woman on board sprained her ankle, and staff immediately responded with the correct medical attention – and at this point we weren’t even in the water yet.

As the first couple of small rapids came and went, I said to my guide, “Jeremiah, I’m ready for something exciting to happen.” He just laughed and waited. “Be careful what you wish for,” Bryan said to me. The next thing I know we were met with a rapid that shook us all. Water came splashing up all over us while we braced ourselves for another impact – it was then that I knew the fun was just beginning.

Numerous rapids were named for different reasons. At Cucumber Rapid, for instance, Cucumber Falls run directly into the river, and seeing the falls is a must. School House Rock is so named because if you get caught sideways on it, you’ll be taught a lesson or two. And with a name like Dimple Rapid, I thought that we would encounter something that we would just float right over and not even know it. Well, I was wrong. It was one of the biggest rapids on the river and it sure did feel like it. All throughout was the exhilarating feeling of floating down the river with the sounds and the splashing of water, hearing everyone laughing and having a good time, all in beautiful forested surroundings.

Before I knew it, we reached calmer waters and were able to get out to swim, and, if you dared, jump off a rock that was at least three stories high. “It can’t get much better than this,” I thought.

I later found out that if you were to follow Dimple Creek (the creek that runs into Dimple Rapid) all the way up, you would run right into Frank Lloyd Wright’s Falling Waters house. Where I have also been, but that trip is for a later issue. We ended our rafting trip a little bumped, bruised, and sore, but with another great experience.

After we returned to the hotel, rested and regained our strength, we surprisingly found a gay establishment, Club 231. After exploring the area and meeting some residents, I expected a small dive with entertaining locals. This place lived up to just that – a small bar with people that were out just trying to have a good time. Nyki was tending the bar and was very kind to us throughout the night. She also knows how to make a great Long-Island. Club 231 has a kitchen and serves bar food, which I don’t see very often in gay establishments. There was a $5 cover that I didn’t think was necessary and I didn’t like the fact that smoking was allowed inside. The lingering smell of cigarette smoke on my clothes was not appealing. But it’s a fun little dive bar with great music and videos. If you’re lucky, they just might play all of the songs that you requested on the jukebox (which has a huge selection). I was glad that I could come out and support a small gay bar in a town where being gay probably isn’t as accepted as other places that I have been. I left Ohiopyle and Uniontown feeling exhausted and excited at the thought of a trip to take on class VI rapids, but happy to be coming home to Baltimore to prepare for my camping trip next weekend in Lost River, West Virginia.

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