My annual vacation, ever since I rediscovered the outdoors, is spent outside. Past years included bike tours from Pittsburgh to DC, a ride through Delaware and Maryland, a whirlwind tour in western PA, and hiking and biking trips to Ohio. This year’s promised to be the oddest of all, as it not only included my first two backpacking trips, but also the launch of the new version of A Taste For The Woods, my first public speech, and my first lengthy radio interview. I’d be meeting old friends and many new ones, and visiting places I’ve been before as well as discovering new wonders.

The challenges began before my trip started. I had to postpone my trip a day because of work I needed to do at home. Then at the last minute the friend I was going to meet for the sole planned bike ride on vacation had to cancel. Since I had no other rides planned, for the first time I left the bike in the garage.

Eventually I headed out across the state, going towards my first night destination of Ligonier. My friend Judy and her husband would put me up, and she would help me plan meals for the backpacking trips. But first I had to get there.

Google Maps provided a clear route to Ligonier, and an optimistic timeline to get there. However, its perplexing to be driving for seemingly an hour on Route 30 and not come across a single sign advising you how distant the town is. PA roads are notoriously generous with such distance markers, but none of them mentioned Ligonier. I feared that in fact the town didn’t exist, that it had only materialized once a century – Ligadoon, in other words. But as my car hurtled over the ridges into the Laurel Highlands I saw the town before me, and my first stop, Fort Ligonier.

At the moment the guns of Fort Ligonier overlook Route 30, but in the 175os the fort was an important stop on the Forbes Road, the main supply line into western Pennsylvania. Fort Ligonier is privately run, and well funded – the museum is a wonderful place to spend an hour looking over the exhibits and learning about the worldwide Seven Year’s War, more commonly and incorrectly called the “French and Indian War.” The grounds of the fort remind me of Valley Forge, except this is a single fort, not a massive encampment.


I had to meet my hosts, so my visit was short. However, I’d toured the fort and museum at length in 2010 and 2012. I hope to go back sometime and witness one of the regularly scheduled historical reenactments. Fort Ligonier’s website is