Tour #5 – With My Best Travel Companion

About a month after my tour with Diane, my husband Matt and I left home on the two-day PA State Park Tour #5.  The first park we visited this day was Shikellamy State Park along Route 15.  I had visited this park many years ago as a child with my very good friend Katie (who grew up in Elmira) and her mother’s family.  That day we picnicked at the upper park overlooking Northumberland and I remember being fascinated with the charcoal pits where the hot coals were to be placed after cooking.  Those charcoal pits are still there and I have seen them in other parks as well although they don’t hold the same fascination for me any longer.  On this trip we visited the upper park and enjoyed the view on a clear August day.  When we left Shikellamy I had to retrace our path as I had forgotten to get off the highway in Milton on our way down.  Milton State Park is located along the Susquehanna River and is a day-use only park.  I used the bathrooms which were fairly new and in great condition (as is the general condition of every state park bathroom I have used!)

Leaving Milton and heading to our next park was a welcome change in scenery and pace as we got off highways and eventually drove into state forest land.  Sand Bridge State Park is another day-use only park yet proved to be a lovely spot with a babbling brook, lush greenery, a new pavilion and bathrooms.  It seems as though there has been some recent efforts to upgrade most day-use parks’ bathroom facilities.  Not too far from Sand Bridge is Raymond B Winter State Park where we had hoped to camp.  After driving through the camp ground twice, I decided to drive the short distance to Ravensburg and set up camp there.  Along the route to Ravensburg we passed a Bald Eagle State Forest office and snapped a photo.  With only 12 camp sites at Ravensburg, we fully expected to be alone at the camp ground however a group of volunteers was gathering there for a weekend of trail clean-up on the Mid-State Trail.  This was the first time Matt had camped with me in my tent and the excursion would have been non-noteworthy had Matt not disturbed a nest of ground bees while chopping fire wood.  He got stung a number of times but luckily I found one Benadryl in my purse that relieved his pain.

The following morning after packing up we drove from Ravensburg to RB Winter and in between we found McCall’s Dam State Park where there is no park sign and no dam!  We had driven past the park the day before but without a sign of any kind I wasn’t convinced where I was.  Having no sign made it rather difficult to determine where to take the photo of proof and I really ought to leave this park on my list for a future visit with hopes for a sign.  It was a beautiful day when we reached RB Winter and we spent some time investigating the park.  We agreed we would like to return to here in the future with our camper.

The drive from RB Winter to our next park was a long drive over hills and into valleys and through lush state forest land.  By the time we reached Poe Valley State we knew we were running short on time but the beautiful sight of the lake and the new bath house were enough to make us want to linger.  This park is high on a hill far from everything and very peaceful.  Poe Paddy State Park is a few miles from Poe Valley and has a rustic camp ground.  We did nothing more than drive through the park in effort to make it to our last park of the day and have our evening meal.

At Reeds Gap State Park we set up our small grill in the picnic area and made a quick, hot meal to re-energize ourselves.  The map I had (outdated) indicated a swimming pool at Reeds Gap but it had since been removed and the old bathhouse was still standing unused.  We determined the pool must have been old and rather than replace it, the DCNR put the money into upgrading facilities at Poe Valley a few miles away.

When we left Reeds Gap I decided to travel toward State College to come home and we drove through some beautiful farm country.  One town we passed through had the narrowest main road I have ever seen with barely room for a sidewalk between road & house/building.  You could easily imagine the town in the days before the automobile.  We also saw the “dotted roadway” near State College which I found very interesting.  If you’ve never driven near State College these large white dots on the road are meant to keep you at a safe distance from the car ahead of you in this hilly region where it’s difficult to see far ahead and traffic congestion is a real concern during certain hours of the day.

Home with twenty-eight state parks and five state forests checked off my list.

Bald Eagle State Forest 2011-08-11 McCalls Dam 2011-08-12 Milton 2011-08-11 Poe Paddy 2011-08-12 Poe Valley 2011-08-12 RB Winter 2011-08-11 Reeds Gap 2011-08-12 Sand Bridge 2011-08-11 Shikellamy 2011-08-11Matt at Sand Bridge The View from Shikellamy Lookout The marina - Lower Shikellamy SP Northumberland, from Shikellamy Lookout



Tour #4 – Repeats And Further

In mid-July 2011 I planned a tour with my friend, Diane, which included an overnight stay at one park with pet camping as she wanted to bring along her dog.  This was the first tour I planned where I was not the driver so I looked forward to being able to really enjoy the scenery for the entire trip!

After loading Diane’s Rav4 the evening before, we headed out early in the morning with our first stop being Ole Bull State Park once again so I could get the photo.  From Ole Bull we headed south to Kettle Creek State Park, NOT missing the turn this time!  We did not spend any time in either park as I had already visited both on Tour #1 with Matt.  After leaving Kettle Creek we stopped at the Sproul State Forest office to snap a photo and then I felt like I was on a new adventure with only new parks and forests ahead.

Hyner Run State Park was the next stop on our tour.  We drove through the camp ground and stopped in the picnic area to eat lunch and walk the dog.  Hyner Run has a swimming pool and there were a lot of folks using the swimming area on this warm day.  Just above Hyner Run is Hyner View State Park, a must-see park in the system.  I had been told about this park a few years ago by a woman who rides a Harley who had been there on a group bike run.  On a clear day the view is phenomenal.  There was a wedding about ready to begin this day and the wedding party and most of their guests had arrived via Harley Davidson motorcycles.  Hyner View has a similar bronze statue as Leonard Harrison, this one honoring the forest fire fighter (LHSP statue is a CCC worker.)

Leaving Hyner View we drove past the Tiadaghton State Forest office so stopped to take a photo here.  The word Tiadaghton means…  Our next destination was a small park that was inaccessible due to a bridge being out so we headed to the park where we had camping reservations, Little Pine State Park.  Little Pine is near the Pine Creek Rail Trail and Waterville.  My sister’s husband co-owns some property not far from Waterville so I had driven past Little Pine before.  This day we really hadn’t much more time than enough to set up camp, get a bite to eat a restaurant conveniently located just outside the park and build a fire before calling it a night.  The dog, who was brought along because it was thought he would enjoy the outing, really seemed to dislike the camping portion of the tour!

The next morning we left Little Pine and headed to the next park just above I80.  Ravensburg State Park is a small park with two nice picnic pavilions and rustic camping – meaning no electric sites, no showers.  From Ravensburg we were supposed to drive below I80 to our next park.  When the Rav4’s gas light came on in the middle of farm country with no gas station within 30 miles, we turned back to Jersey Shore by which time I had lost my patience with not having control over the decision-making that goes along with being the driver.  We skipped 4-5 parks that were on my list for this tour and instead headed directly to the Williamsport area where we visited Susquehanna State Park.  Located along the Susquehanna River, this park’s highlight is the Hiawatha paddle boat.

From here it was a rather straight shot home up Route 15, with nineteen state parks and four state forests checked off my list.


ImageImageImageImageImageImageThe Hiawatha - Susquehanna State Park Someone would rather be home... Forest Fire Fighter Status - Hyner View Forest district map - Hyner View The view from Hyner View Hyner View Forest Fire Fighter Statue Kettle Creek

Tour #3 – Driver’s Choice

Early in July 2011 Corinne and I had just returned from a few days in the Adirondack region. I like returning home from the Adirondack region about as much as I like returning home from a visit to a Pennsylvania state forest/park.  It was Saturday morning and Corinne was up for a boondoggle so we headed off to the Pine Creek Natural Area and the state parks that overlook the valley below.  She had never seen the gorge so visiting Leonard Harrison State Park was a genuine treat for us both.  I was pleased to find the park much improved from my last visit in the 1980’s.  Leaving the east rim, we drove to the west rim to visit Colton Point State Park which remains rustic and reminiscent of the CCC men who built it.

A public works program created in the 1930’s as a way to ease nation-wide unemployment, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was a cooperative effort between the Departments of War, Agriculture, Interior and Labor.  At the height of the program there were 136 CCC camps in Pennsylvania – 96 on State Forest lands.  The number of camps was second only to California with 155 camps.  Beyond a doubt, this was the most beneficial, most enduring public works program ever created in the US.

This was about as far as Corinne was anticipating travelling that day but I convinced her that the next park was “just a few miles away.”  We eventually reached Lyman Run State Park which had its dam rebuilt just a few years earlier.  Even though she kept telling me the GPS said to turn around and go home, I insisted we continue through the Susquehannock State Forest to Cherry Springs State Park, possibly one of the coolest parks in the system. This park is located in one of the darkest spots  around here and is used by astronomers both amateur and professional.  A few times each year visitors can join a “Star Party” with a local astronomy group. I continued driving westward, reaching Cherry Springs long before night fall and too early to truly appreciate the star gazing field.  Just down the road from Cherry Springs is a small park named Patterson State Park.  The sign was missing on this trip so I had to leave the park on my list so I could revisit another time in hopes the DCNR may replace the sign.  Not far from Patterson is another small park that Corinne was in no way interested in visiting that day so we headed north to Route 6 then east toward Wellsboro.  Fortunately Denton Hill State Park is on Route 6 so stopping at this last park of the day for a quick photo was almost effortless.

The town of Galeton was having their fireworks show this evening and getting through that area on Route 6 proved to be a bit challenging with all the folks pouring into town for this annual event.  East of Galeton I was pulled over by the Galeton cop for driving over the speed limit but he was nice enough to let me off with a warning.  Thank you, officer whateveryournameis.

Tour #3 ended with 12 (or 13) parks and two state forests checked off and enjoying my progress!

Cherry Springs 2011-07-02 Colton Point 2011-07-02 Denton Hill 2011-07-02 Leonard Harrison 2011-07-02 Lyman Run 2011-07-02 Patterson 2011-07-02 Susquehannock State Forest 2011-07-02 IMG_0224 IMG_0230 IMG_0235 IMG_0238 IMG_0248 IMG_0257 IMG_0269

Where It’s Close to Home

My friend Megs and I made a trip to Wellsboro on Veterans Day in 2010 to take in some holiday shopping.  On the way home we drove up to Hills Creek State Park to have my photo taken.  Seeing the park in the waning light of a cold, bleak November afternoon was far from what I remembered of the park from my first visit.  Hills Creek is the closest PA State Park to my home in the Central Southern Tier of New York State.  I took Corinne there sometime around 2003 on a hot summer day to enjoy the free swimming in fresh water but have not returned other than this day.

Seven parks checked off.

Hills Creek 2010-11-11

Where It Feels Like Home

As in each previous summer, Corinne and I camped a few nights at Worlds End State Park in August 2010.  When I first began tent camping alone with my daughter we tried out another park closer to home but never felt the comfort feeling we both get from WESP.  From 2002 until 2011, the two of us made at least one camping trip to WESP in one tent or another.  We have stayed in a number of sites and have discovered our favorite tent (and now camper) site in the park.  With each visit we make the drive to Canyon Vista and the Rock Gardens then farther out into the Loyalsock State Forest to High Knob Overlook.  With each year I am discovering more of the Loyalsock Forest and will continue to call WESP my “home park.”

Worlds End became my sixth park sign photo and the Loyalsock Forest sign photo was my fist state forest pic.

Worlds End 2010-08-31 Loyalsock State Forest 2010-08-30

Tour #2 – The Journey Begins

For a few days in mid-August 2010 we were fortunate to be able to use a Keuka Lake cottage owned by some friends.  We live very close to New York’s Finger Lakes region and have spent a number of summer vacations “at the lake.”  Prior to leaving day, my daughter Corinne and I planned a tent camping trip to Cook Forest State Park in western Pennsylvania.  She & I had driven through the park in 1999 during a camping trip in the Allegheny National Forest and the park was high on my list to visit.

Tour #2:  We left home and traveled west on Route 17 to Route 219 where we headed south to Bradford PA then wound our way down to the park.  When we reached Cook Forest we had no problem finding an open camp site, which in hindsight taught me a lot about taking the time to properly scope out a “good” tent site.  We spent a lot of time in the park hiking the trails, wading in the Clarion River and visiting the fire tower.  Corinne readily climbed the tower twice to soak in the awesome view while I gladly waited below.  The highlight of Cook Forest is the Forest Cathedral, some of the oldest growth forest east of the Mississippi River and a National Natural Landmark.  The park is beautiful as is the surrounding countryside.

On the third evening we had severe storm warnings and all the tent campers were on high alert.  During the night we had torrential rain and in the morning there was a veritable lake between the bottom of my tent and my ground cloth as I had selected a site on a downside slope.  If you’ve ever camped in a tent and awoken the next morning to everything being damp or worse yet, wet; your shoes get wet just walking around and starting a fire seems almost impossible… it was one of those mornings.  I woke Corinne; we climbed in the car and headed out for breakfast at Farmers Inn.  This place seems to be out in the middle of nowhere but having eaten dinner there our first evening in the park, we knew it was worth the trip.

After our breakfast meal the weather was still damp, foggy and overcast so we visited nearby Clear Creek State Park.  The park’s camp ground is small but was close to, if not full of campers.  I was fascinated with the disc golf course and the soft green lawns along the calm rolling creek were idyllic on the misty day.  For some reason I neglected to have my photo taken next to a Clear Creek State Forest sign so a return trip to the area is in my future.

On the way home from Cook Forest, we traveled a lot of back roads and along the way visited Bendigo State Park which was empty except for the folks working in the park office.  From there we traveled even more back roads to find Elk State Park which surrounds  East Branch Lake.  The Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) operate a camp ground near the dam.  The Elk State Park I discovered consisted of a large boat launch area that was extraordinarily eerie due to fact that the lake level was down and the launches were not usable.   Again the park was empty of people.  To get to the park we passed through Johnsonburg, PA which is home to a large paper mill and thus can be a very stinky place.  That day it was awful and Corinne named the town “Godfart.”  From Elk we drive north to visit Kinzua Bridge State Park.

Matt and I had visited Kinzua Bridge State Park rather by accident in 1999.  On our return trip from the Allegheny National Forest camping trip we got a flat tire on our trailer which was being used to haul 2 ATV’s.  It was a holiday Monday and we could not find an open store to get a new tire or have ours repaired so we resorted to calling AAA and the trailer (and 1 ATV) were taken to Mt Jewitt, PA while we returned home.  The following day Matt and I drove back to Mt Jewitt and discovered Kinzua Bridge State Park.  In 1999 the bridge was still standing and trains were still using it, if not just for tourists.  Matt walked out onto the bridge that day while I stayed safely on the soil at one end.  In 200? While a work crew was working on the bridge, a tornado tore through the valley and left only a portion standing.  When we visited in 2010 there were again crews working on the remaining structure building today’s skywalk.  To see the twisted piers tossed upon the valley floor below was an awesome sight.  The state has done a wonderful job building observation decks and providing interpretive displays about the bridge’s history and tornado.

We came home with five state parks crossed off my list and more than one hundred to go.

Me with Cook Forest State Park Sign Corinne at Cook Forest Cook Forest Fire Tower

Tree roots over solid rock at Seneca Point Overlook, Cook Forest SP.

Tree roots over solid rock at Seneca Point Overlook, Cook Forest SP.

The interesting rocks at Seneca Point Overlook, Cook Forest SP.

The interesting rocks at Seneca Point Overlook, Cook Forest SP.

Coriinne with a HUGE tree root

National Natural Landmark marker in the Forest Cathedral.

National Natural Landmark marker in the Forest Cathedral.

Corinne at Cook Forest State Park

The seed is planted

July the tenth, 2010 I set off in my VW with my husband Matt as my passenger to visit a state park or two south & west of Wellsboro, Pennsylvania and check out the camp grounds.  This trip planted a seed in my mind and became Tour #1.

For the better part of twenty years I have camped at least once each year at World’s End State Park.  World’s End was the park my father took us to on those hot, muggy summer days.  We weren’t a camping family but the picnic and swimming area bring back fond memories of my childhood.  My own family began camping at World’s End when our daughter was a toddler; therefore the park will forever hold fond memories of that (and this) chapter of life as well.  I have come to know the beautiful park, the ever-changing Loyalsock Creek and the surrounding Loyalsock State Forest well and their voices pull at my heart when I am not there.

In June of 2010 I visited Ricketts Glen State Park on a day trip with a group of young women I had advised for eleven years in Girl Scouting.  I had previously visited this park a number of times throughout my childhood and as recently as 1997 while camping at WESP.  Ricketts Glen is all the guide books & DCNR web site say it is.  The falls are a National Natural Landmark and the hike along them is spectacular.  It was a beautiful day filled with hiking, picnicking and the usual laughter and good times with this group.

A week or so later I decided to visit a few new parks within a short drive of my home in Corning NY just a few short miles from the PA border.  The first park on my list was Ole Bull State Park and before we reached there I realized I had left my camera at home.  Luckily, Matt had a camera with him so all was not lost.  We hiked a short trail at the park and saw the remains of the stone foundation of Ole Bull’s home and had a nice view of the small town below.  The campground at Ole Bull was nice but lacked the vegetation between sites that we so like. After leaving OBSP we headed to Kettle Creek, missing a turn and ending up in Renovo before turning around.  Along this route we passed the Sproul State Forest Office, twice!  Our visit to Kettle Creek State Park began at the Alvin R. Bush dam and a spectacular view of Kettle Creek below.  The interpretive signage at the other end of the park near the park office left us in awe as to how high the water raises.   I personally do not prefer flood control dam parks as the landscaping is generally less mature and I am left with a stark feeling.  While my main goal at this point was to look at campgrounds, I did not fall in love with the camp ground at Kettle Creek either.  Both parks I found to be beautifully maintained with great signage and a lot of recreational opportunities.  Definitely parks I would spend time in if I lived close by.

Somewhere along those roads leading back into canyon country from the “black forest” of Pennsylvania, past camps and cabins and through farmland, I had a thought.  The thought began with my birth in Pennsylvania, my upbringing in a small rural Northeastern Pennsylvania town and my decision to attend college in New York State. The thought flowed through to my decision to remain in NYS, to make it my home and how that affected my new found love of Pennsylvania’s public lands.  Jokingly, I said, “I should visit every state park and have my picture taken next to the sign, then send those to the DCNR (Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources) with my birth certificate and high school diploma and ask if I may please camp at PA resident prices for the rest of my life.”  And thus the seed was planted.  Due to the idea being planted after leaving the two parks on our tour, I had to leave both parks on my list to re-visit at a later date.

Pennsylvania has one hundred and twenty state parks and 2.2 million acres of) state forest land (20 state forests .)  The state park system won “Best Parks in the Nation” award 2009-2011.  All state parks and forests are public land and are open at no charge for day use (some swimming pools may charge a fee.) In my opinion, the Pennsylvania DCNR does a superior job of ecological conservation and environmental education.  The DCNR web site is, by far, one of the most useful tools I have used online and can tell you more about the parks and forests than I could possibly remember.

View from Ole Bull Bush Dam Signage Alvin Bush Dam Matt at Ole Bull Ole Bull Monument 071010 Ole Bull Signage Ole Bull SP 071010