A Day In Canyon Country

I don’t recall wanting to hang out with my own parents when I was 20 but my daughter has a great relationship with us and suggested we do something on Sunday of Labor Day Weekend 2013.  Matt & I, along with Corinne and her boyfriend Travis hoped to take a horse-drawn wagon tour down Pine Creek Gorge near Wellsboro.  My sister and her family had taken this tour a few years ago and had a good time. We learned when we got there that the wagon tour was called off (I suggest you make reservations!) so we decided to enjoy the parks instead.  We visited Leonard Harrison SP first and Matt was impressed as I was with the upgrades since we visited in the late 1980’s.  We hiked a short trail to an overlook before visiting the Grand Canyon Lookout Tower which was moved from Valley Forge years ago.  Note the three people in the tower and me on the ground below.  Are you seeing a trend here?

We had driven by a trail head for the Pine Creek Rail Trail on our way up to Leonard Harrison so we parked here at Darling Run and walked along the trail for a mile or more.  I really enjoyed the trail although we did not get into the gorge before turning back to the car.  Matt liked the trail so well he returned the following weekend and rode his bicycle 22 miles.  I find it difficult to visit the Pine Creek Gorge without visiting both parks and against Corinne’s protests, I drove to the other side of the canyon to Colton Point SP.  Travis had never been to either park so he was happy with everywhere we took him.  Upon leaving the gorge area I drove along Marsh Creek Road which parallels the Pine Creek Rail Trail from Wellsboro Junction and remembered another place I wanted to check out in the Tioga Forest but kept it to myself for another day trip in the future.

Tour #11 – Solitary Travel and Some Old Familiar Places

Labor Day weekend 2013 and again I had a four-day weekend and could not plan a trip due to a previous commitment.  Out came the map to see what I may have missed close by and I left Friday morning alone for PA State Park Tour #9.

Since I was driving through my old stomping grounds, a visit to Marie Antoinette Lookout on Route 6 was a must to test out my new camera.  When I arrived the fog was still lifting from the river valley below and the view was better than I had remembered it to be.  My father took us to this site many times a year on our Sunday afternoon drives and I still recall when Route 6 went directly past the lookout and between the narrow rock cuts.  The beautiful stonework has been refurbished within the past five years and was extremely well done.  If you’re a local Marie Antoinette Lookout is nice but the real thrill of excitement comes at Wyalusing Rocks just east of here along Route 6.  There was a group of motorcyclists just preparing to leave when I arrived and a few other people still on the rocks but by the time I left I was alone on these ledges high above the Susquehanna River.

I had my GPS programmed for “least use of highways” and allowed her voice to guide me through places I have never been to a park north of Wilkes-Barre named for a little girl who was kidnapped from her home by Delaware Indians in 1778.  She spent her first night in captivity under a rock ledge in what is now Frances Slocum State Park.  It was a beautiful day with sunshine, blue sky and large white clouds and the views around the lake were spectacular.  I did not know the man and his son in my photos but I liked the contrast of their red clothing with the background.  I began a short hike to the rock ledge and before I reached the area, my camera battery died.  Rather than walk back to the car, I completed the hike sans camera, returned to my car for my older camera then hiked the loop in the opposite direction.

For years I have used a Canon Powershot S3 6.0 Mp 12x zoom and can’t say enough good things about it.  It uses AA batteries and takes great photos.  The only drawback is its size – a great camera to wear around your neck but at times it can be too bulky.  I began to have problems with the camera during Tour #7.  Sometimes when I use the zoom, the camera immediately shuts off.  In July I decided to buy myself a Nikon camera.  I plan to keep my Canon and continue to use it and will be interested in comparing the two.  My father was extremely interested in photography.  When we were growing up he always had his camera (or two) wherever we went, his favorite media begin slide photography.  I still remember sitting in front of the large projection screen, viewing his pictures or home movies.  He would have loved the digital age as I do.  You know immediately if you “got the shot”, there’s no cost to develop so you can take thousands of photos (and maybe get a few good ones!), and let us not forget we can easily use software on our personal computers to make our photos better.  It took me a while to get accustomed to the smaller size of my new Nikon Coolpix S9500 (18Mp 22x zoom) but I am very happy with it and am sure I have not even skimmed the surface of its capabilities.  That said we all need to have reliable back-ups of our digital photos.  I recently lost a relatively new external hard drive that contained the only copies of all my digital photos for approximately 10 years.  The verdict on the drive is not yet in so I can only hope.

After I completed Frances Slocum Trail a second time I checked out the rest of the park.  There is a beautiful swimming pool that was unfortunately not open due to no lifeguard for the day.   I left the park and headed west toward my next stop using my GPS to guide me.  When I passed a Lackawanna State Forest sign, I found a place to turn around and went back to take my photo.  I had never entered Ricketts Glen State Park from the bottom of the glen before so it was a treat to stop here and see the last of the twenty-two named waterfalls in the glen.  At the top of the park I drove through the day use area parking to see how many people were out enjoying the day (quite a few) and was not surprised to find the park office closed for the day.  When I tell people about my travels to state parks I am sometimes asked which my favorite is.  I can never give a concise answer because I have many favorites for different reasons.  Ricketts Glen is the park most others name as their favorite.  It gets placed on my must-see list, along with a few others I have seen (and probably many I have yet to see.)

From Ricketts Glen to home is a very familiar route as most of it is the same road to Worlds End and through my hometown of Towanda.  After stopping to harvest some wild catnip in an old familiar place I surprised my mother with a short visit before returning home with forty-eight parks check off my list.

Hike to Sand Run Falls

My friend Diane has wanted to go for a hike since she bought herself a nice walking stick last fall and in July 2013 we agreed to hike a 7.5 mile loop as described in a book I own. We left early in the morning and drove through a lot of low clouds and rain before getting to the trailhead for Sand Run Falls Trail in the Tioga State Forest near Arnot.  The trail took us to Sand Run Falls over rocky terrain with exposed roots and wet areas.   Our shoes and socks were soaked by the time we got to the falls due to the morning rain.  Sand Run Falls is on the Mid-State trail and is a beautiful waterfall with really nice, camp sites for hikers.   It is well worth the three mile hike to reach this spot.  After leaving the falls we back tracked a little to join a cross country ski trail the rest of the way. This part of the trail was covered with knee-high grasses and not well-described in the book but the blue blazes were obvious so we trudged on along a deer fence forever and felt we had accomplished something BIG when we finally reached my VW.  If I ever return I will stick to walking to the falls and back and avoid the blue-blazed ski trail (unless I am on my skis.)

Tour #8 – Touring Center State

Matt must have enjoyed our weekend in Elk Country because he agreed to go away for another two night mini-vacation.  We left home on the morning of July 4th, 2013 after having been to see Dave Matthews Band the night before more than two hours away (in the opposite direction.)  We had a room reserved at The Nature Inn at Bald Eagle State Park and would be touring a few other parks in the region while there.  We arrived at the Inn prior to check-in time but thankfully our room was ready.  Matt was equally impressed as I had been on my first visit as this is really a beautiful LEED Certified building in a gorgeous setting and an outstanding place to stay.  After we settled in we changed into hiking clothes and drove around the end of the lake to the other part of the park to hike a loop trail that was printed as being 4.5 miles long.  It was a really hot, humid summer afternoon and we were glad to be in the woods for the majority of the hike.  The trail passes the eagle nesting area in two locations and is clearly marked with warning signs.  We heard an eagle and I saw it take flight from a tree branch but my view was not clear.  On this trip the eagles were no longer in their nesting phase.  We finally finished the hike after what seemed like much longer than 4.5 miles only to find the trail loop printed as 5.5 miles in another location.

The first morning at the Inn we enjoyed the breakfast buffet before leaving for our park tour.  All the parks we were visiting that day are in the Rothrock State Forest which we entered somewhere near State College.  I wanted to stop at an overlook on this road but, as usual, I had someone on my bumper so could not signal in time and had to miss it.  When we took the photo with the Rothrock State Forest sign it was on a rather dangerous hill and it was safer for me to sit on the “Leaving” side than it was on the “Entering” side.  Whipple Dam State Park was the first park for the day.  It was a gorgeous day and this park was a beautiful place to spend some time.  There were not a lot of people in the park and those there were quiet.  In a pavilion on the far side of the lake was a woman tutoring a young girl.  She told us they went there every day in the summer and pointed out a swallows nest in the rafters of the pavilion they were using that day.  The park was so idyllic that morning I hated to leave but my main destination of the day was our next stop.  Greenwood Furnace State Park is a National Historical Landmark and the site of a former iron furnace around the turn of the last century.  After all the trees had been cut down and no more charcoal could be made, the iron industry moved out and years later the CCC moved in and built many of the features in the park today including the dam.  The CCC had a large part in creating many of the state parks I have visited thus far and the quality of their workmanship is proven by the endurance of their contributions.  Matt and I had never seen an iron furnace nor knew how one operated but after viewing the displays in the park office/visitor center and watching a video presentation we were much better informed.  It is really cool that you can stand inside the reconstructed furnace stack.  Within the park are a few original buildings still standing such as the blacksmith’s shop and stone Ironmaster’s mansion which is a remarkable large stone house.  With one last park on my list for the day, we left Greenwood Furnace and got a glimpse of the beautiful dam that was built by the CCC but I did not get a chance to take a photo.  We drove for what seemed like a really long time through the Rothrock State Forest and stopped at the Alan Seeger Natural Area where there is picnic areas and hiking trails available. The next destination, Penn-Roosevelt State Park, was also a Civilian Conservation Corp Camp and the camp S-62-PA is commemorated with a plaque on the back of a remaining stone fireplace.  This is a day-use only park and likely not utilized much any longer.  The dam here is a beautiful center spillway dam but needs repair and the state does not have it in their budget to fix it so the lake is drained.  I was disappointed that we did not find a traditional wooden DCNR sign for the park but at least there was a sign.  This park is in the middle of nowhere and I did not relish having to return for a photo after I’ve visited most of the regional parks.

After leaving Penn-Roosevelt we drove down out of the hills and forest to Bellefonte, PA where my parents had lived in the early 1950’s while my father attended Penn State University for graduate school.  I had found Bonnfatto’s Restaurant online, it was easy to find  so we had our dinner there and were both disappointed we had no room left for their famous homemade ice cream.  I had wanted to drive through the town to locate the house my parents lived in but my passenger had lost his patience with being in the car so instead we drove back the Nature Inn for the night.  I have since discovered that I own photos my father took of the inside and outside of the small stone house they rented so one day I will return with photos in hand as I am told the building still stands.

The second morning at the Nature Inn we again enjoyed a great breakfast buffet then went for a hike around the park similar to the hike I had done on my first visit.  After we checked out we drove to the last park on my list for this tour.  Black Moshannon State Park was a park I had identified years ago as one I really wanted to see, before I even made this goal of mine.  After spending the afternoon there exploring the park, hiking the bog trail then swimming in the tea-colored water, I want to go back again.  One of the oddest things to happen on this tour happened in the Snack Shop while we were waiting for our food.  I was looking at T-shirts and heard Matt speaking to someone.  Now, I’m the one from Pennsylvania, I’m the one who spends so much time in Pennsylvania with all my touring yet HE’S the one who runs into someone he knows when we are in the center of the state!

We left Black Moshannon albeit reluctantly and headed for the Interstate to take us home.  And speaking of Interstate, I hated it and wanted to be driving on forest roads again.  I made it as far as the Jersey Shore exit where I got off and headed north toward Waterville.  For some unexplainable reason I took a route that brought us out far west of where we should have been by the time we got to the northern tier of the state but the drive was notable.  Notable first because I drove past the Tiadaghton SF office and Upper Pine SP where I had visited on Tour #7 earlier this year; second because we took a quick detour so Matt could see the awesome view from Hyner View State Park; notable third because we drove through thick forest state forest land with Sproul to our left and Tiadaghton to our right for miles and miles; notable fourth to the fact that I failed to get gas when we were anywhere near civilization and it was a very tense drive with the gas light on until we finally reached the tiny town of Germania where there is a single gas pump Matt knew about from snowmobiling; and notable due to the fact that we had to drive through & beyond Galeton on the evening of their annual fireworks display.  I did not get pulled over by the Galeton police officer on this trip, much to my relief.

A Weekend in The Wilds

I said I would return to Pennsylvania Elk Country so I chose Fathers Day 2013 weekend to take Matt for a weekend away.  Matt enjoyed the drive, passing by Austin Dam, Sinnemahoning State Park and the Bucktail statue in Driftwood on our way to Elk Country.  I rented a small inexpensive cabin that I was not impressed with at all – it was sufficient and I will leave it at that.  We stayed in Friday night and planned our activities for the next day.  Saturday morning we drove to Parker Dam State Park where we further investigated the park and hiked two different trails.  It was a beautiful time of year; the forest was verdant and the mountain laurel in full bloom.  The park office was open and we got some great, inexpensive T-shirts and some walking stick medallions.  Since SB Elliott State Park is so close we drove to the park and checked it out more thoroughly than I had the month before.

After leaving SB Elliott we headed to the Marion Brooks Natural Area in the Quehanna Wild Area.  I had read about this 975 acres of white birch trees in an almost pure stand but it was amazing to see.  There are no trails but we wandered just inside the area and it was spectacular.  White birch indicates a young forest and eventually, these trees will die out and mixed hardwoods will take their place.  For now, it is an incredible natural wonder.

Next I took Matt to the PA Elk Country Visitors Center and we were excited to see elk grazing so close to the parking area.  The only elk I had seen on my last trip were in the distance.  Inside the visitor’s center I spent more time with the displays than I had previously & enjoyed the gift shop with all the items made in the US.  We ate at the Benezette Hotel and on our way back to our cabin we saw a few elk in the Benezette Campground so we just had to turn around and get some photos.  We see deer all the time where we live but to see these huge animals roaming about like deer was very strange!  It was getting to be shortly before sun down and the elk usually graze at this time of the day so I took Matt to Hicks Run Wildlife Viewing Area where I had stopped briefly in May.  Before even reaching the parking area we saw a bull elk, in full velvet, in a field near the meadow.  I should have turned off my digital zoom and I would have had at least a few good photos!  From the viewing platform we saw a group of deer in the distance but no more elk.

The following morning we returned to the Quehanna Wild Area.  This area has fascinated me since I got my hands on the state forest maps for this region.  The Quehanna Wild Area is a perfect sixteen-sided polygon and the maps show a small octagonal area within marked “restricted.”  On one map, the road leading to this restricted area is named Reactor Road.  Piques one’s curiosity, does it not?  The landscape in Quehanna is unlike any have ever seen and difficult to describe.  This area was once known as Pennsylvania’s desert after the destruction caused by the lumber boom and subsequent wild fires.  At a later date, during the “Atoms for Peace” push, the land was leased by Curtiss Wright Corporation for jet engine & nuclear research (and subjected to a lot of chemical waste.)  We had hopes of hiking to the remains of the Curtiss Wright Corporation buildings & parking lot but found the trail not well marked and decided we needed a more detailed map.  We drove to the barricade on Reactor Road but did not venture any further on foot.  There was a nuclear reactor here and it cost the state millions of dollars to clean it up.   The shape of the wild area is the original fence line for the Curtiss Wright Corporation which was guarded by guard towers.  I spent hours online learning about the history of Quehanna Wild once I returned home.  I now own a detailed map so will return in the future for some hiking trips.

I had promised Matt that we would visit Kinzua Bridge State Park on the way home so we drove through Saint Marys and Johnsonburg (A.K.A. Godfart, but it wasn’t stinky this day) and north on Route 219. Once we got there, Matt was in awe with the damage done to the bridge & trees.  The sky walk has now been completed so he trekked out to the end while I gladly stayed behind and walked around on the viewing decks.

We drove home along Route 6 and I was reminded of our trip on that road in 1999.  There is a once lovely stone building built into the rock cliffs outside of Port Allegany called Lynn Hall that never fails to interest me and one more thing I can (and did) spend hours learning about online.  We stopped at the Black Forest Trading Post because I have always wanted to … a touristy kind of thing.  Matt bought a really high quality Guinness T-shirt as the shop has an Irish section… go figure!

We stopped in Mansfield and had dinner at Yorkholo where Matt sampled some of their brew.  When we were done we still had a considerable amount of daylight left so we drove east on Route 6 to Armenia then up the mountain road to see the wind turbines up close.  I am continually in awe of these giant things whenever I see them and this was the closest I have ever been.  I continued along the road we were on and eventually it turned into the kind of dirt forestry road I have driven so many times.  I turned on my GPS and surprised myself to actually know where I was and where I would come out.  The road became the Fallbrook Road and ends up near Fallbrook Falls in the Tioga State Forest where I had visited in April.  I was anxious to show Matt this cool place but disappointed that there was a group of younger people in a Jeep illegally entering the old park and apparently preparing for a party.  We did walk in and check out the falls but did not linger.

Home again with no new parks to add to the list but a lot of photos, great memories and desire to return.

Hiking at Parker Dam Mountain Laurel at Park Office Mountain Laurel More Mountain Laurel Matt and a Large Fern Birch Trees at Marion Brooks NA Moshannon SF A08_ElkAreaSign A09_YoungBull A10_CampgroundElk A11_ElkBullInVelvet A12_ReactorRoadBarricade A13_Kinzua A14_MattAtKinzua A15_WindTurbines

A Return to My “Home” Park

On Memorial Day 2013 I had nothing to do with a PA State Park close by still on my list.  Having been there many times before, I decided to drive there on an unfamiliar route and along the way snapped some wonderful photos of a red fox and found Easy Street.  Mt Pisgah State Park opened in the late 1970’s and became the state park closest to my childhood home.  My father brought us here in 1979 for a day outing but I cannot orient myself using the photos taken more than thirty years ago.  On this day the weather was nice but I could not help but wish I were in a park with NO cell phone service as I listened to a woman having a very loud and obnoxious argument on the other end of her phone.  There were a lot of people enjoying the park and once the woman left, I enjoyed the peace and serenity.  I have kayaked on Stephen Foster Lake before and on this day there were a number of anglers in boats on the water.  I stayed until sunset and returned home with forty-two parks checked off.

a_FOX EASY STREETa_MtPisgah a_MtPisgah2 a_MtPisgah3 a_MtPisgah4 a_MtPisgah5 a_MtPisgah6 a_MtPisgah7

Tour #7 – Solitary Travel

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!

a1_YellowThroatPatterson 2013_05_24Prouty Place 2013_05_24a4_ProutyIMG_0391 a6_Baylessa7_AustinDamSizerville 2013_05_24IMG_0414 MOD IMG_0417Bucktail 2013_05_24a10_WaysideCCCIMG_0430 moda12_CamCtyCoalIMG_0435Sinnemahoning 2013_05_24IMG_0440 modIMG_0448a13_WildlifeCtrIMG_0450IMG_0454  a15_BucktailElk State Forest 2013_05_24a16_HicksRunPlatformIMG_0456IMG_0458a18_ElkVisitorCtra19_ElkBronzeIMG_0471 modParker Dam 2013_05_24IMG_0477Moshannon State Forest 2013_05_24a20_ParkerDam  IMG_0482                    SB Elliott 2013_05_24Bald Eagle 2013_05_25          a_Bird1  a_BumbleBee a_SwallowTail1 a_SwampOak a_TreeGroup  IMG_0533 IMG_0562 IMG_0579 IMG_0591IMG_0586 IMG_0589 Upper Pine Bottom 2013_05_25a_UPBSP IMG_0595 IMG_0597 IMG_0599

Tour #6 – Four Parks, One Day

After my day in the forest in April 2013 I planned my next tour for Memorial Day weekend to coincide with “A Day In The Life Of A Park” event.  I have a four-day weekend for Memorial Day and this would be my first tour alone.

Before I reached that weekend, Matt had a weekend off and I convinced him to take a day tour with me to a few parks I had scoped out.  I programmed the GPS to “least use of freeways” and headed out toward Binghamton then south.  The drive to the first park seemed to be endless and after looking at the map to see the route we took, I understand why. We passed Elk Mountain Ski Resort and marveled at the slopes in the spring foliage.  Prompton State Park is a small day-use park at Prompton Lake whose dam is operated by the Army Corps of Engineers.  The weather was not so great this day and we saw no one enjoying the park.  From Prompton we drove further over hill and dale to visit Varden Conservation Area, one of the newer parks in the system even though its name does not contain the words “state park.”  From Varden we drove to Archbald Pothole State Park and somewhere along the way drove through an area with A LOT of wind mills on the surrounding hills.  Archbald Pothole, a day use only park, is stunning in May with the azaleas in full bloom and became another park on my “must see” list.

After visiting APSP we drove to through not enough forest land and too much highway and city for me to get to Lackawanna State Park.  We checked out the camp ground and the rest of the park and I was pleased to see a number of people in the park and once again jealous because I have to drive so far to get to a PA park!

After leaving Lackawanna I drove up Route 11 to show Matt the Nicholson Railroad Bridge.  I had visited this site once before on a trip home from the Philadelphia/NJ area many years ago.  On this trip I found there is a very nice park where you can safely park and get out to see the bridge better.  We were fortunate enough to see a train crossing the bridge while there.

Home after dinner in Vestal with thirty-three parks checked off the list to date.

Elk MtnPrompton 2013-05-18IMG_0318Varden 2013-05-18IMG_0320Archbald Pothole 2013-05-18    Archbald Pothole 1 Archbald Pothole 3  IMG_0323 IMG_0324 IMG_0328 Lackawanna 2013-05-18IMG_0350  Lackawanna Kayaker Tunkhannock Viaduct With Train IMG_0360

An Invitation To The Forest

I began 2013 with a promise to myself to see more parks in the year to come.  I joined the Pennsylvania Parks and Forest Foundation after receiving their email newsletters years and purchasing the PA State Parks & Forests Passport book.

My first foray into the forest was in mid-April and not a time I would normally be compelled to visit a park or even less so, the forest.  The reason was for “A Day In The Life Of A Forest” event set forth by the PA Parks & Forest Foundation.  The date chosen was close to the birth date of Joseph Rothrock, Pennsylvania’s Father of Forestry.

I selected Tioga State Forest as it is the closest Pennsylvania State Forest to my home.  I had previously visited the forest unplanned last fall with Diane and attempted to locate Fallbrook Falls and/or County Bridge Park. Without my directions and map, we went elsewhere and found a beautiful swimming hole the locals call Pirate Rock near Blossburg.

This day in April I visited County Bridge Park first and it happened to be the opening day of trout season in Pennsylvania so the anglers were out.  There were even a few campers in the camp ground although it was still quite cold at night and not very warm during the day! The Tioga River originates up here on this hill near County Bridge.  Down river further, toward Blossburg you can still see the orange effects of the acid drainage caused by the long gone coal industry.

From County Bridge I found Fallbrook Falls and the remains of its bygone picnic park.  There was a town named for the falls long ago during the Blossburg coal era.  The railway from here to Corning  was named Fallbrook RR; the railroad’s roundhouse area became the former Fallbrook Plant owned by Corning Incorporated (Corning Glassworks) and now a park covers the area, Fallbrook Park.  I am told you can easily find coal in the Fallbrook Falls area but this day the water was rushing and I had no desire to wander too far off the trail alone.  Instead I wandered back beyond what appeared to be an old pavilion foundation and further into the woods.  The large stone cooking stove I photographed was an odd find – I am not sure if I was in the forest or on private land but it is reminiscent to other CCC-built stone fireplaces I have seen.

Being out in the forest was a wonderful way to re-energize my spirit after the long winter and something I should remind myself to do every year.

CountyBridgeAngler with Trout IMG_0084Catkin  IMG_0202Hole in a Tree   Hemlock Cliffhangers Reflections Furnace

One Park, One Day

Life has a way of changing and in April of 2012 I received a phone call that turned into a full time job.  I had not worked full time in almost ten years and was certainly ready to get back but had not been able to find anything suitable & full time.  Working comes with its pros (income) and cons (loss of personal time) and I had a difficult time achieving a good balance for a while.  For this reason I did not do any multi-park tours in 2012.

In early August I invited my friend Diane to visit a park below the Binghamton area and not a long drive from home.  We visited Salt Springs State Park and spent the hot summer day hiking and otherwise investigating the park.  The park is adjacent to 300 acres owned by the Friends of Salt Springs State Park who operate the camp ground & cabins and a small museum and gift shop in the historic house on the property.

Upon arriving at the park it was clear that a wedding was about to start, making this the second state park wedding I have seen (and both with Diane.) The wedding party had photos taken in the stream, creating a lovely backdrop.

Hiking the stream proved to be a bit more difficult than we were up for but we walked along a lovely trail that included some boardwalk through forest and found Penny Rock which is really cool but neither of us had any pennies.

And in case you are wondering: Yes, there is a spring that bubbles salt water at the park, I tasted it just to be sure!  This day we watched while a man performed an experiment for his young son by capturing & igniting the methane that bubbles out of the salt spring – taking the opportunity to learn from nature – VERY cool! The history of the spring is also very interesting but you’ll have to visit the park (or DCNR web site) to learn more.

Salt Springs 2012-08-04 a_SaltSPring2 a_SaltSpring3 a_SaltSpring4 IMG_0345 IMG_0353 Modified