By Bob Batz, Jr., Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

On a Saturday evening in late April, we drove northeast on scenic state Route 981, angling up through the Laurel Highlands and the heart of Western Pennsylvania spring.

The leafless purple ridges on the horizon gave border to the browns and tans and the early greens of the fields. The sun came and went, sometimes spotlighting an abandoned grocery... a car for sale ... Revolutionary War-era headstones ... a herd of goats. We crossed under train trestles and over gurgling runs, stopped and took a hard right in downtown Pleasant Unity, and sped up beside Arnold Palmer Regional Airport as we came into Latrobe. In the distance, the red-orange bricks of the Saint Vincent College Basilica glowed in the slanting evening light as if they had been made, by monks more than a century ago, for this very night.

We took another hard right on the bright-lit highway that is Route 30 and climbed higher into the mountains, steadily rising along the foaming waters of Loyalhanna Creek and watching for the turnoff to Darlington, a creekside cluster of fishing cabins, a 130-year-old church and other old frame structures, until we came to our destination:

The Darlington Inn.

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