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.

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