Prior to my leaving for Tour #7 we had a death in my husband’s family with the memorial services planned for Saturday of Memorial Day 2013 weekend so my trip had to be cut short. Saturday was “A Day in the Life of a Park” event and I had hoped to spend the entire day with my camera after a long day of touring on Friday.
I left home early in the morning on Friday to get to the Lindley Post Office as it opened in order to mail the NYS EMS exam materials from the course I had proctored the evening before. I hit Route 15 about 9:15 and drove through low clouds, misty rain and cool temperatures to Route 6 then proceeded westward. As I turned off Route 6 in Sweden Valley, the sun suddenly broke through the clouds and bathed the wet landscape in a warm glow. It didn’t last long but it lifted my spirit.
My first stop of the day was Patterson State Park and I was happy to find the sign has been replaced. So happy, in fact, that I bounced out the VW to trek across the lawn toward the sign before remembering to change my shoes thus my shoes AND socks were soaked. My next stop , Prouty Place State Park is another small park with rustic camping. I sat next to the stream here and changed into dry socks and shoes, placing my wet socks on the car’s dashboard in hopes they may dry. Leaving Prouty Place, I detoured to visit the remains of Austin Dam in Austin, PA. This place had been written up in Mountain Home Magazine last year as they celebrated an anniversary and I wanted to see it. The dam and the remains of the Bayless Paper Mill are both interesting places worth a boondoggle!
After turning in the wrong direction and having an argument with my GPS, I finally made my way to Sizerville State Park where I visited the Nature Center, got a free box of Grape Nuts and ate a snack. The camp ground was beginning to fill up even though the forecast for the entire weekend did not call for warm weather. After being extirpated in the state, a pair of beavers was reintroduced in Pennsylvania near this park in 1917 and beavers are still found in the area. After leaving Sinnemahoning I drove through Bucktail State Park Natural Area where I was fortunate to find a sign next to a safe pull-off where I could snap the photo. In the photo I am kneeling in attempt to cover some graffiti on the guiderail. In Emporium I stopped at the Elk State Forest office and gathered some park & forest maps I was missing. After leaving Emporium I stopped at beautiful Wayside CCC Memorial picnic area then later at an interesting coal display outside the Little Museum of Cameron County. I enjoy traveling alone as I can stop when I feel like it, turn around whenever I miss something I don’t want to and I don’t have to worry about pleasing anyone but myself (no one heavy sighing in the passenger seat when I pull off the road unexpectedly is nice too!)
My next stop was Sinnemahoning State Park and I entered the park near the George B Stevenson dam. Some time prior to this trip it dawned on me that I had seen a lot of dam parks so I’ve been keeping a log as to who built the dam, who owns & operates the dam and any historical significance of the dam. Sinnemahoning has a gorgeous Wildlife Center where I was surprised to learn that the Monarch butterflies flock to this valley every fall and coat the trees with their orange & black prior to their long flight to Mexico. I walked around a bit near the park office and discovered evidence of a recent wedding. It seems like weddings in PA state parks are the thing to do! On my way toward my next park I drove through Driftwood and stopped to look at the statue commemorating the Pennsylvania Bucktails.
When I entered Pennsylvania’s Elk Country I stopped at Hicks Run Wildlife viewing area but saw no elk or any other wildlife for that matter. Sun set was about two hours away but I hadn’t time to wait – this stop was not on my list and I was losing daylight. Regardless of the timing issue, I drove up to the PA Elk Country Visitor Center and once there, I knew I would have to return to this area with Matt – there was just too much to see and do in the short amount of time left in the day. From the Elk Visitor Center, Parker Dam State Park was a short drive and in the Moshannon State Forest. Multiple tornadoes tore through this region of the state in 1985 and the interpretive displays near the octagonal CCC cabin are very interesting. The CCC Museum near the dam was closed, much to my disappointment. Again, I wanted to linger here longer but nightfall was approaching but I had miles to go before I sleep…
Simon B Elliott State Park is a few miles from Parker Dam and not far from I80. When I stopped at SB Elliott I had very little day light remaining but enough to drive through the small camp ground and around the day use area. By the time I hit I80 a few minutes later I had to turn on my headlights. I stopped at the very next exit to grab a quick bite in a drive-through then got back onto I80 heading east. I had a room waiting for me at my last park of the day and the only park in the system with a bed and breakfast.
The sign for Bald Eagle State Park was easy to miss in the dark and I ended up driving the length of Foster Joseph Sayers Lake before phoning the Nature Inn for directions (and to assure them I was on my way) and turning around. After unloading the VW and carting all my stuff into the Inn, I was anxious to relax. And again, I knew I had to return to this beautiful place for one night would surely never be enough. The building is LEED Certified Green and I could write an entire journal about the Nature Inn at Bald Eagle and everything I liked. The following morning I enjoyed a great breakfast buffet before taking a hike. It was cold and I wore a wool jacket over a sweater & long sleeved shirt! It was a gorgeous morning and a vast difference from the overcast, rainy day before. When I returned from my hike it was time to check out so I loaded the VW and just before leaving an Inn employee helped me to spot the nesting bald eagles across the lake. I hit the road once again with only one more stop before coming home.
I had missed Upper Pine Bottom State Park on Tour #4 and this trip offered the perfect opportunity to add this park to my ever-growing list. Before reaching this small day-use park I stopped at the Tiadaghton Forest Office in Waterville and was blown away with their interpretive displays, their building and the view of Pine Creek Gorge it offers. My main reason for stopping was to use the toilet so all this was an added bonus! Just up the hill from the forest office is Upper Pine Bottom, bringing my total number of parks to forty-one. I drove through Little Pine SP and was fortunate to see more nesting eagles. Further up Route 287 in English Center is a very interesting bridge that I was asked to answer questions pertaining to by a State Highway Department worker on one side of the bridge and I got out on the other side to take photos. By the time I reached home I had just enough time to unload the car, shower & dress quickly for the memorial service. Tour done!