Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Just a standard weekend in the Laurel Highlands

Last weekend, DB~ and I used a gift card we received as a Christmas gift (cough, back in 2009, cough) to Polymath Park in the Laurel Highlands. What is Polymath? Well, I'm not sure of the "polymath" part, but the place is set in the forest and is composed of 3 separate houses, one of which was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright (Duncan House). The other two houses (Balter and Blum) were designed by apprentices of FLW. We stayed for one night in the Blum house.

We drove up early on Saturday and got to the general area around 10 a.m. I say "general area" because we couldn't find this place for at least 15 minutes. We were looking for a side road called Dillon, but the problem was that there was no sign marking the road or a directional Polymath Park sign pointing to the right (like there was in the opposite direction pointing to the left once we doubled back).

Then once we got to the place, we followed the sign to the Blum house, but it was locked. There isn't a check-in place, so we drove to the Duncan house just to verify no one was working there, either. DB~ called the number on the website and Heather answered. She was surprised when we told her we were at the Blum house, because apparently the gate into Polymath was supposed to be closed and we drove right through the open gate. Heather blamed it on a group of Chinese people from Hong Kong that had a "language barrier".

We were the only people scheduled to be in the 3 bedroom Blum house that night, but our room wouldn't be ready until 2:30, so DB~ and I decided to see what the area had to offer. She had never been to Seven Springs, which surprised me, but I knew she was more of a Hidden Valley girl.

After we wandered around the ski shop and checked out a bunch of ski and snowboard apparel that we would never buy, we went into the main lodge to see if anything was cracking. As soon as we walked in, there were a large group of people clustered around the entrance to one of the convention halls. Most of them had blue T-shirts on with lanyards, so we knew it was some type of conference. As we continued to walk through the hallway of the lodge, we saw more and more people with their blue shirts that said Start to Live! on them.

"When we sit down, we should Google..." I started to say.
"I'm already on it," DB~ replied as she furiously was thumbing away at her iPhone.

By the time we bought our hot chocolate, we found out that Start to Live is a Narcotics drug rehab group that stresses positive thinking during the recovery phase for users. So for the next 20 minutes, she and I were deciding what type of drug each person was addicted to and what their back story was. We saw a lot of boyfriend-girlfriend types and wondered if they were both ex-users or if one was supporting the other. There were packs of young 20-something guys, older women, older men, people both black and white. We couldn't imagine what it would be like if we were staying the night at Seven Springs, instead of Polymath. Would the bar be packed or empty?

After that experience, we headed down the road to a little bar/restaurant called Black Diamond Pub. It was good, nothing spectacular. Once we left there, we did a couple of multi-caches in Laurel State Park. By the time we did those, we were able to check in at Blum House. The house was unlocked and our key was waiting in the foyer, delivered by Heather. We started to joke that Heather would be our server at Polymath's restaurant (Treetops) later that night...until we needed a chirping battery looked at and our eventual chef (in his chef outfit) came over to replace the battery. I've have a separate post about our excellent dinner at Treetops.

Neither of us had ever heard of Polymath before. Of course we knew about Fallingwater and I have checked out Kentuck Knob in the past, but I wondered how many Pittsburghers know about Polymath.

It's pretty expensive and I'm not sure it's entirely worth it. The house is in Frank Lloyd Wright's Usonian style. The Blum house is a low-slung ranch, with a single sloped roof. The center piece of the house is a large dry-stack massive fireplace that really throws out the heat. The bedrooms were nice enough, although we weren't sure how it would have been if all the bedrooms were occupied. There was a nice sitting room that we couldn't fully enjoy because it wasn't heated. The house had a large amount of glass full-length windows, which was great for us to enjoy the views of the forest and mountains in the distance.

However, the decor was very dated and seemed like cheap 1960's stuff. The bathroom was very dark in color scheme and the water from the shower head smelled like rotten eggs, indicating the presence of sulfur dioxide in the system somewhere. The rate for the Blum house was $250/night regularly and for the Duncan House it would be $350/night. We didn't pay full-rate, as we had a gift certificate, but I don't think I would pay that rate normally.

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