Harrisburg, Pennsylvania’s Capital

For my last Pennsylvania weekend getaway this year, I went to Harrisburg, the capital of Pennsylvania. I have not been to Harrisburg for over 5 years but I have been there before. The city is bankrupt and kind of seedy. However, Harrisburg might have a lot of technology jobs associated with state government so I should probably do more research on the region. The location of Harrisburg would not be an improvement over Williamsport, because Harrisburg is still far from Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. It is just further south than Williamsport.

Driving to Harrisburg from Williamsport is pretty easy since you just drive south on Route 15 practically the whole way. Everyone likes to circle around Harrisburg but I prefer a simple route and follow Route 15 all the way down and cross the Susquehanna River over the Harvey Taylor Bridge. I parked at the Walnut Street Garage which cost me $18.00 for four hours. I need to find someplace else to park!

The first place I visited was the State Museum of Pennsylvania. I’ve been to that museum before and even remembered most of the exhibits. But I think that was before I had a digital camera since I don’t have any photos of the museum. The State Museum of Pennsylvania is right next to the Pennsylvania State Capitol building so I took lots of photos of the capitol dome as I walked pass. I might even be able to use these photos at work if we need a photo to represent the state government. You can tour the Pennsylvania State Capitol building but I did not have time for that on this trip.

Pennsylvania State Capitol

Pennsylvania State Capitol

The State Museum of Pennsylvania doesn’t represent the state very well in my opinion. It is more of a natural history museum mashed together with a historical society museum. For example, it has a Civil War exhibit which accounts for Gettysburg but practically nothing on the Amish. Lycoming County is only represented by a Textron Lycoming airplane engine. Some of the highlights of the museum include; a huge statue of William Penn, dioramas of mammals found in the state, the Marshalls Creek mastodon skeleton excavated in the Poconos, and many Native American artifacts. There was an art gallery with a decent collection of modern art by artists in Pennsylvania.

I paid an extra $3.00 to see a half-hour show in the museum’s small planetarium. I saw Back to the Moon for Good, a documentary on the Google Lunar XPRIZE competition. Penn State University is trying to win that prize with their Lunar Lion Team. When I first heard about that, I joked that Penn State charges enough tuition to fund its own space program.

I had to wait until 1:30 p.m. to visit the museum store because the staff was out to lunch. I bought the book Better In The Poconos: The Story of Pennsylvania’s Vacationland by Lawrence Squeri. I’ve come across this book while researching the Poconos but I did not buy it because it is an expensive book. However, it was the most interesting book in the museum store so I bought it then.

State Museum of Pennsylvania

State Museum of Pennsylvania

I walked back to the Walnut Street Garage to put my purchase in my car. As I walked pass the Pennsylvania State Capitol  building I noticed a group of protesters. They appear to have been protesting cops shooting dogs but I’m not aware of any recent incidents.

There is a theater located in the Walnut Street Parking Garage, Open Stage of Harrisburg. I saw the entrance to the theater right across from the elevator to the parking garage so I snagged one of their brochures and took a picture. It is a strange place for a theater. I wonder where their stage is located?

The second item on my itinerary was the Midtown Scholar Bookstore, a huge bookstore in Harrisburg. I love bookstores! They are usually the first thing I add to my custom travel guides. The Midtown Scholar Bookstore is practically a tourist attraction in its own right since you can find their brochure in some of the state’s interstate rest stops. The Midtown Scholar Bookstore has three or four floors of books. They specialize in used academic books. The selection of local interest books was impressive. I even saw an original edition of Henry W. Shoemaker’s Juniata Memories but it was $70.00. This bookstore has a cafe, a balcony, and plenty of easy chairs and couches. It would be a great place for a writer to hang out. I eventually found two books to buy; Philadelphia Guide to Visual & Performing Arts (a very thin book) and Alternative Japanese Drama published by the University of Hawaii Press.

Midtown Scholar Bookstore

Midtown Scholar Bookstore

I almost did not have time to visit the National Civil War Museum. It closes at 5:00 p.m. and it took me until 4:00 p.m. to find the place. Fortunately the museum is fairly small and it only took me a half hour to tour the exhibits without really examining every little detail. I almost skipped this museum since it was extraordinarily difficult to find the right streets to the Reservoir Park where it is located. My GPS was being particularly unhelpful and had me driving around in circles. I’m not very interested in the Civil War but the exhibits in this museum were very professional and well designed. I saw lots of pistols, swords, and Civil War uniforms. I bought the book Guide To The Gettysburg Battlefield Monuments in the museum store. I suppose I will eventually visit Gettysburg.

National Civil War Museum

National Civil War Museum

Before I left Harrisburg I spent some time at Reservoir Park. The park is located on a hill and provides an excellent view of Harrisburg. Unfortunately, the sun was low in the sky directly over the city so I didn’t get any good photos. However, the light was excellent for photographing some of the park monuments and statues.

This trip to Harrisburg was a great way to conclude my exploration of my home state. I shall now turn my attention to San Francisco, one of the greatest cities of the United States.

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PIne Creek Gorge In The Late Fall

Today I made my third trip to Tioga County this year to visit the Colton Point State Park and Leonard Harrison State Park. I like to visit the Pine Creek Gorge (aka the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon) because it is only an hour’s drive away and a major attraction. I didn’t even need my directions cheat sheet. First I went to Colton Point State Park and hiked the Rim Trail to reach several vistas where I could take photos of the gorge. It was very cold today. I needed to wear my regular jacket over my Woolrich jacket. I also needed to wear a hat and thin gloves. There were a few bare patches on the mountains so the fall foliage is definitely pass its peak. One mountain visible from Colton Point State Park still had a decent amount of fall foliage. This time I didn’t retrace my steps on the Rim Trail. I found a parking lot for the Turkey Path and followed the Turkey Path down to the Rim Trail to avoid half the trail. I will want to remember that short cut. The trail was covered with fallen leaves so I stayed away from the edges of the rim. There were a lot of people in the parks in spite of the cold weather but I found a place to park at the trail head.

Colton Point State Park View

Colton Point State Park View

I also visited the Leonard Harrison State Park which was also a bit crowded. I tried to get by with just my Woolrich jacket but it was so windy and cold that I went back to my car to put on another jacket. Then I hiked the Overlook Trail. I had to be very careful on the steep part of trail to the Otter View because the trail was covered in dead leaves. But I was rewarded with an excellent view down the gorge. The sun had come out by then and glittered off the Pine Creek below.

Otter View

Otter View

On the way back to Wellsboro, I stopped in at the Tioga County Visitor’s Bureau and picked up some free brochures. I was especially interested in the Potter County brochure since I may visit Potter County next year. The only direction I still have to explore is to the west. Once I reached the town of Wellsboro I parked my car and spent a half hour there. I walked through Dunham’s Department Store and saw where their cafe is located but I didn’t see anything I wanted to buy. I didn’t want to spend much money on this trip. I visited the From My Shelf Books bookstore, of course, and bought the book “A Crack In The Edge Of The World” by Simon Winchester. I only recently added this book to my Amazon wish list. That book is about the California earthquake of 1906 which destroyed San Francisco. San Francisco will be my next major domestic destination but I don’t know when I’ll be able to afford that.

I was going to eat at the Wellsboro Diner but they were crowded so I went to Dunkin’ Donuts instead and ordered two doughnuts and a coffee. Except for gas I only spent $20.00 during this trip. I’m not sure if I will travel next week because it is getting too cold already. This year was a very productive year for local travel. I really expanded my knowledge of the state and established many new places to visit. If I can’t afford a major vacation next year I will continue to explore Pennsylvania.

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The Mystical Poconos

Today I made my tenth and last trip to the Poconos for the year. My primary goal on this trip was to see the Columcille Megalith Park, the Pennsylvania Stonehenge. The Columcille Megalith Park is described in detail in the travel guide Insiders’ Guide to the Pocono Mountains by Janet Bregman-Taney and Kenneth R. Clark (ISBN: 0-7627-3458-2). Columcille Megalith Park features dozens of stone megaliths scattered around a park and in the woods. It is intended to be a spiritual place for New Age meditation or Zen meditation. I can appreciate that because I have found the solitude of the woods to be very relaxing and peaceful. Hiking is an excellent way to get exercise and reduce stress. I often see massive rock formations in the Pennsylvania woods which look like ancient monuments. Columcille Megalith Park is an attempt to make that implicitly spiritual experience into an explicitly spiritual experience.

I used my TomTom GPS to navigate to the park because it is buried deep in the woods and requires driving along twisting roads in the woods. Even the travel guide I read complains about how difficult it is to find this place. Fortunately I didn’t have any trouble. It is now late fall and the trees have all changed color. Soon they will begin to lose their leaves. This makes the woods especially lovely with leaves on the hiking paths and splashes of yellow leaves in the trees. The most attractive photos of Columcille Megalith Park which I found online were taken in the fall so the park looked just like that.

Trilithon

Trilithon

I saw stone circles, a trilithon, dolmens, megaliths along the path, and a stone arch portal like a Stargate. I found a trail through the woods which offered more of a hike than I was expecting, but it was an easy hike and led me to the stone arch portal which I wanted to see. I didn’t do any meditating but I found myself slipping into a dream state while driving to this place, probably because I was a bit tired. I thought Columcille Megalith Park was quite magical and worth the trip.

Stone Portal

Stone Portal

After exploring the park my next goal was to drive along Route 209 and stop in at various establishments. Route 209 is one of the major commercial strips in the Poconos but that means the highway is often congested. My first stop was at Odd Lot Outlet which sells a lot of cheap goods, the sort of crap you find in a dollar store. But they did sell some Poconos souvenirs so I bought a couple of key-chains and a Poconos mug. I also bought a polished stone with the word “Dream” chiseled into it and a cheap pair of earphones for my smartphone. Next I stopped in at a CVS Pharmacy and bought a newspaper, the Pocono Record. I was mostly interested in reading the news about the manhunt for Eric Frein. They still have not caught that sniper. Last I heard he was spotted near the Pocono Mountain East High School so he hasn’t perished in the woods yet.

I then found my way to the Pocono Bazaar Flea Market. This flea market occupies a mall with a movie theater. I’m not sure if this was a failed mall that was taken over for the flea market, or a flea market that became a mall. I wandered through various little shops and eventually bought a DVD of the movie The Backwoods staring Gary Oldman. I figured this movie would remind me of hiking through the woods. I was going to eat at one of the restaurants along Route 209 but I decided to eat at the Pocono Bazaar Flea Market to save money. I ordered a gyro from one of the food stands but they wouldn’t give me a coke since apparently they don’t understand English. Fortunately, I had a bottle of Sparkling Ice in my car so I drank a little of that.

Pocono Indian Museum

Pocono Indian Museum

My final goal was to visit the Pocono Indian Museum. I didn’t have a lot of places to visit for this trip because I have practically exhausted the possibilities in the Poconos, without going to a resort.  The Pocono Indian Museum was actually a bit cheaper than I expected, only $6.00 instead of $7.50. The gift shop was almost as large as the museum so it was more of a commercial venture than anything else. They gave me an audio device which played a recording as I went through five or six small rooms with exhibits. Pennsylvania used to be inhabited by the Lenape or Delaware Indians but they were pushed out of the state by the 18th century. The Pocono Indian Museum does have a fairly decent book store with a wide selection of books on Native Americans. The book store was located upstairs in the Starting Gate Action Sports store which was connected to the Pocono Indian Museum gift shop. I bought two books; The Journey of Crazy Horse by Joseph M. Marshall and Pennsylvania Deer And Their Horns by Henry W. Shoemaker. I’m not a hunter so I was undecided about the Shoemaker book but eventually I decided to reward the book store for stocking one of his books. I did see a lot of dead deer along the highway on this trip. Some of the carcasses where hideously bloated.

Before I headed home I found my way to Shawnee on Delaware and took some photos of a small strip mall containing just Inti Peruvian Cuisine and Popcorn Buddha. The Peruvian restaurant didn’t open until 4:30 p.m. but it would have been a great place for an exotic meal. Popcorn Buddha is one of those entrepreneurial food specialty stores which crop up in the Poconos because there is no other industry. Popcorn Buddha sells bags of creatively flavored popcorn. I was going to buy some but there was a line and it seemed to be moving very slowly so I left without buying anything.

This wasn’t much of a trip. Maybe I should have gone to Bushkill Falls to see it with fall foliage but it did begin to rain a little during the afternoon. This will be my last trip to the Poconos this year because there is not much more for me to do or see. I could make another trip along Route 6 to see a few more attractions but that would be checkbox tourism. I’ve already seen enough of Route 6 to understand its place in the Poconos. My eventual goal is to move to the Poconos to be closer to New York City so I should see about the transportation options to get the city.

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No Exit at The Pajama Factory

Last night I saw the Jean-Paul Sartre play “No Exit” at the Pajama Factory. The play was translated by Susan Guinter and directed by Tom Ryersbach, two local actors I have seen in numerous productions. I check the Pajama Factory’s Facebook page every now and then to see if there is some excuse to visit the place. The old factory is full of working artist studios but occasionally there is an event open to the public.

This play was produced by The Actors Group and according to their program, they have done many shows which I have missed. They seem to have excellent taste in plays. I would have liked to have seen many of those plays, especially The Pillowman by Martin McDonough. I have not seen a play since Philip Goes Forth in New York City.

I used to read books on existentialism back when I fancied myself an intellectual. I saw Jean-Paul Sartre’s grave in the Cimetière du Montparnasse when I was in Paris. That cemetery has the grave of Baudelaire too. So it was pretty cool to finally see one of Jean-Paul Sartre’s plays performed live. The Pajama Factory is a very creepy place at night so it was an excellent venue for this play which takes place in hell. Jean-Paul Sartre makes the point that hell is other people and their drama.

Next month I plan to resume my writing efforts. I have found it difficult to keep up my enthusiasm for the theater. I know various mental tricks to artificially heighten an obsession through fantasy, but it is difficult to maintain that.

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October Weekend Outdoors

I spent this weekend hiking to enjoy the outdoors now that the fall foliage is at its best. I plan to stop making weekend trips in November. I’m going to be very bored and depressed over winter. I plan to focus on four things this winter; study Dutch, research my Amsterdam trip, do some writing (SciFi novel and playwriting), and attend to financial matters (I need to make more money).

On Saturday I hiked the Loyalsock Trail from Mead Road to the Haystacks. This was only a section of the Loyalsock Trail. The entire trail is almost 60 miles long and would take several days to hike with overnight camping required. The section I hiked was remarkably easy and may become my favorite hiking spot. Most of the trail was along an old railroad grade (the railroad tracks were gone). That part of the trail was perfectly flat and made for easy walking. You do have to climb down to that part of the trail and then climb down to Loyalsock Creek to see the Haystacks, which means you have uphill climbs on the way back.

Walking along the Loyalsock Trail was very relaxing and enjoyable. It was basically a deserted road through the woods. Fall leaves covered the road bed and the aisle of trees were many shades of yellow. I did see some other hikers from time to time because this part of the trail is very popular. Eventually I reached Loyalsock Creek and saw the famous Haystacks. The haystacks are mound-like hard sandstone formations in the middle of the creek. Geologists don’t know how these rock formations were formed. I climbed onto the haystacks and took lots of photos. There were several pools in the haystacks and the rock was very strange, like cement polished into mounds of rock. I tried to use my smartphone to get my GPS coordinates but I couldn’t get a signal so I guess I may need a better GPS device to avoid getting lost in the woods. I did slip on the slippery rocks and fell flat on my back. Fortunately my backpack took the brunt of that fall and I had hand wipes and paper handkerchiefs to clean my hands.

The Haystacks

The Haystacks

On my way to the Lycoming Mall, where I did a little shopping to reward myself, I stopped in at Katie’s Country Store. I didn’t find much of anything worth buying but eventually I settled for a bookmark. This was all located in Sullivan County to the east of Lycoming County. The only place I have visited in that county is Eagles Mere.

On Sunday my main goal was to attend the Fall Festival at the Little Pine State Park. But since that did not begin until noon, I drove to Lock Haven first. There was only one thing I wanted to see in Lock Haven and that was the Clinton County Community Center. The Clinton County Community Center is associated with STEP Inc, my employer. Although I have never been asked to go to this place, I figured I should know where it was and Google Maps was very imprecise on its exact location.

Before going to Little Pine State Park I stopped at McElhattan to follow up on my previous visit. I parked near Henry W. Shoemaker’s old estate, Restless Oaks, and took better photos of the old house by walking along the road. After that I went to the Restless Oaks Restaurant and found their gift shop, to the left of the cash register near the entrance. They had several books of folklore for sale but none of them were by Henry W. Shoemaker, which was kind of disappointing. Fortunately I got two more of his books in the mail on Saturday. I ordered breakfast at Restless Oaks Restaurant; coffee, an omelet with bacon, and an apple danish. The place seemed pretty busy.

Restless Oaks

Restless Oaks

After breakfast I finally drove to Little Pine State Park and did some hiking until the Fall Festival started. I hiked the easier trails, the Carsontown Trail and the Bluebird Trail. Unfortunately I got my hiking shoes wet in a stream which seemed higher than on my previous trip so I had to change into my hiking boots. There were a lot of people in the park and some people were even using the shooting range so I heard several rifle shots. The Fall Festival was held at the main parking area near the lake. It was a small festival devoted to outdoor recreation so I didn’t find it very interesting. One picnic table had two aquariums containing a snake and a turtle. There was a large spread of Indian craft items in one of the pavilions. The most interesting sight was an old trapper wearing buck skin clothes. He had a lot of animal furs laid out on a table. This old trapper looked like an authentic mountain man. It did not look like this Fall Festival could provide enough amusement to last the afternoon so I decided to do some more hiking at Rider Park.

Little Pine State Park

Little Pine State Park

Before heading out to Rider Park I went home to get another pair of socks and my hiking poles. The drive to Rider Park went perfectly even though my driving directions require finding several rural roads. I even managed to follow these directions in reverse to make my way back home without taking a wrong turn anywhere, a minor miracle. At Rider Park I only hiked the easier trails, the Francis X. Kennedy Trail and the Cheryl’s Trail. It was interesting to see how the trails looked in the fall. Some of the ferns were brown and the late afternoon sun illuminated the yellow trees so they shined like gold. I hiked all the way to Charles Ludwig’s Homestead and then as far as Caleb’s Run Trail. I don’t know where that trail goes. Maybe it connects to the Loyalsock State Forest. Caleb’s Run Trail led me to a steep descent and I didn’t follow it too far because I don’t like uphill climbs. At the Doe Pen Vista I noticed that the sign identified Smith Knob far in the distance. Smith Knob is definitely on the Loyalsock Trail which has a Smith Knob Vista. Before leaving Rider Park, I took lots of photos of the Norman S. Wheeland Homestead because the stone basement ruins are the most interesting remains of a bygone era. There are many more state parks and hiking trails within a short drive from where I live but I feel like I’ve hiked enough.

Doe Pen Vista

Doe Pen Vista

This will be my 529th blog post on my WordPress blog. As an aspiring writer, I’m glad I have written that much. I need to do some serious writing to produce something substantial because that is something I have always wanted to do.

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Jim Thorpe Fall Foliage Festival

As mentioned in my previous blog post, I waited until Sunday to attend the first Fall Foliage Weekend in Jim Thorpe because it rained all morning on Saturday. Sunday was very cloudy and a bit chilly. This was my second trip to Jim Thorpe. The Fall Foliage Festival and a special train excursion gave me enough reason to make another trip. Otherwise, there would not be enough things to do in that small town for a repeat trip. I followed the directions on the web site to park at the Mauch Chunk Lake Park. I think I arrived early enough to park beside the train station but I wanted to see Mauch Chunk Lake Park anyway. There was a trolley shuttle to take you into town. It was a considerable distance away from town but I did see the Switchback Trail in the woods.

The first thing I did was walk to the train station and buy a ticket for the Hometown High Bridge Train for $25.00. There was a train leaving right away so I was very lucky. This train ride was different from the Lehigh Gorge trip I went on during my previous visit. This train trip used a different track to head west, going through the small town of Nesquehoning, pass Lake Hauto and Greenwood Lake, to the Hometown High Bridge 168 feet above the Little Schuylkill River. It was an excellent opportunity to see yet another little section of Pennsylvania which was unknown to me. Basically this train ride was a two hour trip into the woods which are very beautiful in the fall. I mostly saw trees changing to a golden yellow, not many red leaves. The train moved very slowly so I could see the passing scene easily enough. Due to the extensive railroad industry that provided transportation  during the Industrial Revolution, there are many freight train lines in Pennsylvania and quite a few of them are put into use for fall foliage excursion rides. The highlight of this trip was the Hometown High Bridge. The train stopped on this bridge so we could enjoy the specular view of the river gorge. I tried to imagine that I was a passenger on a train going through the woods on a trip to a Victorian era resort. It was a charming fantasy.

Back in town I proceeded to do a more thorough exploration of the shops and restaurants to fill in my custom travel guide on Jim  Thorpe. First I entered Sellers Books and bought a collection of Russian plays, Eight Twentieth -Century Russian Plays published by Northwestern University Press. None of these plays are by Anton Chekhov, which is surprising, but I’m sick of him anyway. The book selection at this bookstore was very good and reflects very good taste. I could have bought many more books but I didn’t want to carry them all day.

Next I came across the Wheel Restaurant. This restaurant is easy to miss because the exterior looks like an antique store or a junk art gallery. The interior also looked like a gallery of artwork made from antiques and junk. There was a large cabinet radio and a film poster for Alfred Hitchcock’s Frenzy. The underside of the tables were lit by black lights and cool jazz played in the background. I was lucky to have lunch at this restaurant because they aren’t always open for lunch and you need a reservation for dinner. And they only serve dinner on a few days of the week. I ordered the Chicken Stuffed Ancho Chili which came with tortilla chips. Ancho is a mild chili pepper from Mexico. The Chicken Stuffed Ancho Chili was served with sour cream.  It was really delicious and exotic but made for a very light meal. I loved the atmosphere of this funky little restaurant which seemed way too sophisticated for a small town. It is further evidence that Jim Thorpe is a hot tourist town which attracts a sophisticated set of visitors. Fortunately this meal was very affordable.

Wheel Restaurant

Wheel Restaurant

After lunch I wandered around the narrow, winding streets and stopped in at Mulligan’s, the Mauch Chunk 5 & 10, and the Treasure Shop. I didn’t buy anything at these stores because the selection of merchandise was very poor. Mauch Chunk 5 & 10 was a very old fashioned kind of store, a genuine 5 and 10. But I did spend some money at Soundcheck Records where I bought a jazz CD, Time Out by The Dave Brubeck Quartet. I don’t know much about jazz but I know this is one of the classic albums. I was inspired to look for some jazz after hearing cool jazz during lunch. I also bought a classic rock album, Bad Company for more 1970s nostalgia. Up on Race Street I visited Serendipity which I thought was an antique store, but they had more old books than anything else. I bought a Penguin Classics edition of The Rise of Silas Lapham by William Dean Howells mainly because the cover painting was appropriately Victorian for old Mauch Chunk.

Race Street

Race Street

I saw three different horse drawn carriages on the streets of Jim Thorpe which added to its charm. I kept seeing them again and again since there aren’t many streets for them to travel on. The Fall Foliage Festival itself consisted of a few booths selling food and craft items near the train station. There were also many musicians playing music around the town. I bought a funnel cake and a cup of coffee. A funnel cake is actually a regional specialty associated with the Pennsylvania Dutch. It is usually served at carnivals and fairs. A funnel cake is batter cooked in hot oil and covered in powdered sugar, sort of like a doughnut in a more lumpy form. Anyway, this was a big mistake since it was far too greasy for me. I began to feel stomach cramps before I even finished the thing. Still, it was nice to eat funnel cake while listening to the music being played in the gazebo in Josiah White Park, the name of the small park next to the train station. In Williamsport, I would have considered this a shabby little street fair but it seemed very charming in Jim Thorpe.

Horse Drawn Carriages

Horse Drawn Carriages

Eventually I ran out of things to do so I headed back to the Mauch Chunk Opera House and caught a shuttle van back to the Mauch Chunk Lake Park. I took some photos of the lake and used the rest room because the funnel cake went right through me. Unfortunately I think I have exhausted the possibilities of Jim Thorpe but there may be other small towns worth visiting for their Victorian charm like Bellefonte.

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In Search of Henry W. Shoemaker

On Saturday I was planning on going to the Fall Foliage Festival in Jim Thorpe but the weather forecast indicated that it would be raining for most of the morning. So I put that trip off for Sunday and waited until the rain showers ended to make a short trip into Clinton County. I’ve recently read the book Country Towns of Pennsylvania by Marcus H. Schneck and the chapter on Woolrich mentioned Henry W. Shoemaker.

Henry W. Shoemaker was a Victorian newspaper publisher and writer. His literary effort was mostly devoted to wandering around Central Pennsylvania gathering the folk tales of the region’s early history. He collected Indian tales, ghost stories, local legends and myths, pioneer lore, lumber camp stories and the tall tales of hunters.  Shoemaker’s work is a rich treasure trove of Central Pennsylvania lore. This really excites me because I’ve longed for a mythology to form the basis of a regional culture. Seriously, I’ve been searching for this very thing because I understand how the psyche loves to create myths to enshrine experiences. This is something I have learned from reading the work of Jungian psychologists like Stephen Larsen, The Mythic Imagination: The Quest for Meaning Through Personal Mythology or Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces.

There is an excellent biography of Henry W. Shoemaker published by Penn State University Press, Popularizing Pennsylvania: Henry W. Shoemaker and the Progressive Uses of Folklore and History by Simon J. Bronner.

This book is interesting enough as a biography since I can’t think of any other extensive biography of a Victorian gentleman from Central Pennsylvania. But it also has some interesting material on the early conservation movement, the formation of the state parks and state forests, Victorian industrialization, and the effort to preserve regional heritage. One interesting observation is how contemporary Pennsylvania tourism celebrates our industrial heritage; coal mines, lumbering, and railroads, while neglecting the natural wonders and pioneer folklore favored by Shoemaker.

Henry W. Shoemaker felt an intense love for Central Pennsylvania which almost seems like an obsession. One of his books is entitled Eldorado Found because he felt that Central Pennsylvania was a paradise, like the mythical city of gold. This is somewhat understandable considering that he was a man of leisure who could afford to wander around the countryside on foot or in a carriage without any consideration for making a hard living. I have been exploring Pennsylvania this summer and the state does put you under its spell if only you can devote enough time, money, and energy to seek out its grand vistas, lofty forests, quaint towns, mysterious caves, and wooded mountains. Shoemaker was a member of high society in New York City but he spent his boyhood summers in Central Pennsylvania, at the Restless Oaks estate owned by his grandmother. This undoubtedly caused him to associate Central Pennsylvania with a nostalgia that fueled his obsession. The biography of Henry W. Shoemaker makes it clear that he felt a spiritual connection with the land, it could be said that he was a nature mystic, so Central Pennsylvania became sacred to him. Henry W. Shoemaker is most famous for the legend of Penn’s Cave.

Fortunately there are still traces of Henry W. Shoemaker to be found west of Williamsport in Clinton County. First I visited the Restless Oaks Restaurant, a rustic establishment named after his estate. I don’t think this restaurant occupies the site of his former estate because the old house still exists only a short distance away. Restless Oaks Restaurant is a very distinctive restaurant with an Indian totem pole outside. Inside the decor was very impressive with bear skin rugs on the wall, stuffed deer heads, rifles, huge saw mill blades, and a wide variety of other rural artifacts. It looked like a fancy combination of Country Cupboard with a mountain resort. Restless Oaks Restaurant is apparently a shrine to local culture as described in Henry W. Shoemaker’s books. I ordered a cheeseburger which was quite good. I’ll have to visit this restaurant again because I’ve heard they have a gift shop where they sell Shoemaker’s books, but I didn’t happen to see that.

Restless Oaks Restaurant

Restless Oaks Restaurant

After eating at Restless Oaks Restaurant I drove by the actual Restless Oak estate in McElhattan and took a few photos from the car. The place looked deserted. I’m not sure if it is a private residence or if it is being preserved as a museum. Just finding the place required a careful comparison of an old photo to the Google Street View.

Restless Oaks

Restless Oaks

My final goal was to visit the grave of Henry W. Shoemaker in Lock Haven at Highland Cemetery. This was a good excuse to visit Lock Haven, an old river town best known for Lock Haven University and the Piper Aviation Museum. I’ve always considered Lock Haven a remote, dull little town, but it did seem more charming after my trips to the Poconos. I had a better eye for its good qualities. You can get a fantastic view of the West Branch of the Susquehanna River from the dike. The river is surrounded by mountains so it almost looks like a lake. Lock Haven has many Victorian mansions and old buildings like you see in Hawley PA. I spent a few hours exploring the town and then drove around trying to find Highland Cemetery. This proved to be quite difficult even though I had actually driven pass the right road on my way into town.

Eventually I found the deserted Highland Cemetery which is on a steep hill overlooking Lock Haven University and the Susquehanna River. The view was spectacular but I had to climb to the top of the hill to find the grave of Henry W. Shoemaker. The fall foliage and desolate hill top made the experience slightly spooky. Shoemaker’s tombstone was surprisingly modern and conventional. I was expecting a small monument. I should have brought flowers to leave at his grave. Before I left I also discovered the mausoleum of the Piper family, William T. Piper was the “Henry Ford of Aviation”.

Shoemaker's Grave

Shoemaker’s Grave

On the way home I passed Spook Hollow Auto Wreckers. Now that I have discovered the work of Henry W. Shoemaker I shall read some of the ghost stories which gave Spook Hollow its name.

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Poconos In The Fall

Yesterday I made my eighth trip to the Poconos and the first in the fall season. Although the manhunt is still going on, there is actually just a small area that you need to avoid. I saw no evidence of the manhunt during my road trip. On this trip I drove along Route 6 again and visited a few of the same towns because my initial trip was not well researched and cramming three towns into one trip causes you to miss a few things. For this trip I visited Honesdale, the Zane Grey Museum, and Milford with the emphasis on Milford.

I followed my usual route; east on I-180, east on I-80, north on I-81, and then east on Route 6. Unfortunately I missed the exit for Route 6 north of Scranton and got on I-84 East instead. I was trying to drive without my GPS. Eventually I pulled over to the side of the road and turned on my GPS which led me to Route 191 North to Honesdale. I passed through Lake Ariel and the village of Hamlin.

Irving Cliff

Irving Cliff

My first goal was Irving Cliff, a park which overlooks Honesdale. I found Cliff Street easily enough but Google Maps does not have street view for this road so I drove pass Gibbons Park Road and had to turn around before I found it. Gibbons Park Road was the steepest road I’ve climbed this summer and it was very narrow so you’d have a real problem if you had to pass another car going downhill. However the view from the park was spectacular with most of the town visible below. There was a Hollywood type sign on the hill and a 50 foot electric framework for a Christmas Star and Easter Cross. I only saw a few other people on the hill.

After making my way back down the hill I managed to find my way to the parking area behind the railroad, near the visitor’s center. Since it was a bright, sunny day I wandered around town taking better photos than I got on my previous trip when it was cloudy. I went to Main Street Books again and bought a hard cover book, Amsterdam by British writer Ian McEwan. Amsterdam will be my next international travel destination but it will be years before I can afford it. I had lunch at Branko’s Patisserie Du Jour, a charming French cafe. I ordered a Patisserie Chicken “Francaise” Grilled free-range chicken breast, citrus lemon, white wine, caramelized Vidalia onions, fire roasted red peppers, Patisserie garnish and a cappuccino. I thought the sandwich was too much like a salad on a baguette but it was pretty good. Patisserie Du Jour also had many French pastries for sale in glass display cases. This cafe is a fine example of how the Poconos can be a little sophisticated and upscale since they cater to wealthy tourists from New York City.

After lunch I proceeded along Route 6 to Hawley but went pass Hawley and continued straight on Route PA-590 to reach the Zane Grey Museum. The drive along 590 was very scenic. The fall foliage in the Poconos is almost at its peak already even through the trees have barely started to change color in north central Pennsylvania. Just driving along a road through the woods is very beautiful this time of year. Route 590 did have many twists and turns and I got stuck behind a slow moving car. I also drove pass the Woodloch Empire, a resort which appears to have a variety of facilities along Route 590.

Zane Grey Museum

Zane Grey Museum

Zane Grey was a writer. He wrote many westerns which were best sellers in the early 1900s. I have not read many westerns but I bought a few Zane Grey novels after I read about this museum in the outdated travel guide The Pocono Mountains.  I haven’t finished reading any of his work yet. There was nobody in the museum when I arrived so I explored the exhibits on the ground floor. I could hear someone walking around the second floor. The exhibits were quite similar to the style of exhibits I saw at the Edgar Allan Poe National Historical Site in Philadelphia; lots of information boards and telephone headsets for recorded narration. Both of these museums are run by the National Park Service. I saw Zane Grey’s study with many bookshelves filled with old books. Before I left I bought a Dover Publications copy of his first book Riders of the Purple Sage when a park ranger finally showed up at the cash register. Outside the museum I could see a wide expanse of the Delaware River and the Roebling Bridge which leads to New Jersey.

My final destination was Milford Pennsylvania which is right on the border with New Jersey, although it is the Delaware River which separates the two states. I’ve done a bit more research on Milford so I had a list of things to see. I parked near the RiteAid convenience store and pharmacy which is much closer to Broad Street, the heart of town. I bought two local newspapers at RiteAid, The Pike County Dispatch and The News Eagle, both of which had front page articles on the manhunt. I forgot to mention that I bought a copy of The Wayne Independent in Honesdale.

Milford Theatre

Milford Theatre

I then walked up and down Broad Street taking better photos but I did have three new establishments to find; the Milford Theatre, Fretta’s Italian Food Specialties, and the Pike County Historical Society (aka The Columns museum). Those are all places I missed on my previous trip because I did not do my homework. I did have to hurry to visit The Columns museum because it closes at 4:00 p.m. and I didn’t get there until 3:00 p.m. This museum of the Pike County Historical Society was slightly better than I expected because they had some neat exhibits. Their main attraction is a blood stained flag which was used to cradle the head of Abraham Lincoln after he was shot. But they also had an exhibit on turn of the century summer camps in the Poconos and an exhibit on the philosopher Charles S. Peirce. I found a stuffed black bear which was amusing. Recently a hiker in New Jersey was attacked and killed by a black bear so you do need to fear these critters.

I stopped in at Fretta’s Italian Food Specialties and bought four slices of cheesecake. I also had a bottle of something in my basket but it was missing when I got home. I assume they overlooked that item in my basket and did not charge me for it. Before I went home I had dinner at the Apple Valley Family Restaurant. This is one of those large operations which appear to be an attraction in its own right. In addition to the restaurant, there were many shops in rustic cabins and a duck pond. The food portions at Apple Valley Family Restaurant are enormous so I wisely only ordered an appetizer, the Shrimp Alexander. Three jumbo shrimp, prosciutto, roasted red pepper strips and mozzarella wrapped in a puff pastry. Served with basil and roasted red pepper pesto sauce. This was fantastic and almost a meal in itself. I also ordered dessert, deep fried apple pie, which was enormous. I couldn’t even finish this dessert since it was enough for a meal in itself.

I’m glad I made this trip because the scenery was incredibly beautiful with flaming foliage that rivals anything seen in stock photography for the fall season. And I enjoyed good food at distinctive restaurants. More importantly, I advanced my knowledge of the Poconos region. Even if I never move to the Poconos, it is still close enough for weekend road trips. I also gain a little more appreciation for the things that makes Pennsylvania an attractive vacation destination.

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Little Pine State Park – Second Visit

Today I made my second visit to Little Pine State Park. My goals for this trip were to hike another trail and to eat at another restaurant. It only takes me 30 minutes to reach Little Pine State Park since it is in Lycoming County. The Pine Creek Rail Trail runs along the highway to Little Pine State Park. This is the same rail trail I saw up in Tioga County, sixty miles north. I’ll have to hike a stretch of the Pine Creek Rail Trail soon. Unfortunately I don’t have a bike but I should probably buy one to get more exercise. I have no intention of riding a bike sixty miles though!

Little Pine State Park Sign

Little Pine State Park Sign

Today was sunnier than Saturday and the drive through the woods along Little Pine Creek Road was very beautiful. A flock of wild turkeys flew across the road ahead of me. I slowed down and took a photo through my car window as the wild turkeys entered the woods. That was the first time I’ve seen that particular wildlife.

My first goal was to hike the Carsontown Trail, an easier hiking trail farther north in the park. I found a place to park along the road and a trail which I thought was the Carsontown Trail, but it was probably the Bluebird Trail. There were plenty of bird houses along the trail. The trail was just a mowed path through a field and it was fairly short.

I drove back to the Eagle Watch Area and took some photos. I examined my park map and realized that the Carsontown Trail should be pass the Shooting Range so I definitely had not found the right trail. I drove back up Little Pine Creek Road but I did park at the same spot as before because I noticed a car from New York State was gone. This was my chance to walk down to the creek and get some photos of a stone column in the middle of the creek. I saw some fishermen there earlier. After that I drove pass the Shooting Range and found the Carsontown Trail trailhead which is clearly marked with a trail sign.

I wasn’t always sure I was following this trail because parts of the trail were incredibly wide, like a two lane highway, and could have been an access road or dried out creek bed. There was also a creek I had to cross using some stepping stones. I wasn’t sure I could cross it at first. Towards the far end of the trail I saw the back of some houses along the road. There were a few side trails up to the houses. I’m not sure if these were private residences or cabins for rent, but they looked more like private residences.

After completing the trail I drove back to the lake. I took photos of the lake and walked down a short path to the shore. I sat at a picnic table and finished a chapter of a book I’ve been reading, Into The Wild by Jon Krakauer. This seemed an appropriate book because it is about the tragic story of a young man who sought escape in the outdoors. I tried to just chill for a half hour and enjoy the scenery but it did get a little boring. I had to change out of my hiking boots because they did not prove to be genuinely water proof. My socks were wet. Fortunately I also had my trail runners and spare socks.

Happy Acres Restaurant

Happy Acres Restaurant

At around 11:30 I left the park and stopped in at Happy Acres Restaurant which is right at the park entrance. Happy Acres Restaurant is part of the Happy Acres Resort which rents cabins. I think this is the only resort in Lycoming County.  I had to order from the breakfast menu so I had scrambled eggs and toast. It was a fairly bland meal but I just wanted to check out the resort. After eating I visited the Happy Acres Store were I bought a furred winter cap.

Woolrich Outlet Store

Woolrich Outlet Store

My final goal for this trip was to revisit the Woolrich Outlet Store and buy a classic Woolrich overcoat. The town of Woolrich was a short drive further into Clinton County. I bought a Woolrich Men’s Wool Stag Shirt for $111.00. I’m not sure if this was exactly what I wanted. I wanted a coat.  But it was in the classic read and black plaid Buffalo woolen shirt design. It is too thick and stiff for a shirt and should be worn as a jacket. It was pretty expensive, but a Woolrich jacket lasts forever and is the ultimate in outdoor chic. But for me, the deciding factor was Woolrich being part of our local outdoor recreational tradition here in North Central Pennsylvania.

I don’t think there is anything else in Little Pine State Park for me to see or do but I may attend a fall festival event next month which will be held in the park. There are still many more state parks I could visit in Clinton County or other surrounding counties. I would like to resume my trips to the Poconos but I’m not sure it is safe right now. I could go back to Jim Thorpe which is far south of the manhunt.

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Colton Point State Park

Now that the Poconos are under siege, I spent this weekend at nearby state parks. On Saturday I visited Colton Point State Park which is on the west side of the Pine Creek Gorge, also known as Pennsylvania’s Grand Canyon. I have been going to Leonard Harrison State Park which is on the east side of the canyon. There really isn’t any reason not to visit both parks while you are in the area. In photos of the Pine Creek Gorge, you can tell from which park the photo was taken by the position of the Pine Creek Rail Trail. If the trail is on the right of Pine Creek the photo was taken at Leonard Harrison State Park. If the trail is on the left of Pine Creek then the photo was taken at Colton Point State Park.

Colton Point State Park

Colton Point State Park

Colton Point State Park was a bit of a revelation to me because I’ve only been enjoying half of what the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon has to offer. This state park has even more overlooks and additional hiking trails. There also appeared to be more facilities like pavilions, restrooms, and rustic buildings. Leonard Harrison State Park has a larger overlook area which is better designed and there is a lot more parking.

It is only the beginning of fall but some of the trees were already beginning to change color, especially yellow. Both parks had plenty of visitors. It requires a long drive along the narrow Colton Road to reach Colton Point State Park. It was basically a drive through the woods so that was quite enjoyable. If you love the woods then Pennsylvania is where you want to live. However you should realize that the old growth forests were completely destroyed by the lumber industry. Almost every tree you see today is secondary growth from the last one hundred years. Sometimes I see a tree with a large trunk and that would be a rare survivor of old growth.

I parked at the first vista which has an iron railing and two binoculars. The view from the west rim was quite similar to the view from the east rim. Unfortunately it was a cloudy day so I couldn’t take any really great photos. I could just make out the overlook over at Leonard Harrison State Park on the top of the mountain. I had my binoculars in my backpack so I didn’t have to pay 25 cents to use the stationary binoculars. I could spy on the people down in the gorge biking along the Pine Creek Rail Trail.

Colton Point State Park Vista

Colton Point State Park Vista

I drove further along Colton Road and found the parking area at the trailhead for the Rim Trail. The Rim Trail is one of the easiest trails in the park. It was mostly flat with just a few uphill climbs. It is a beautiful trail through the woods which eventually leads to several overlooks where you get great views of the canyon. There was one side trail down to a cliff but it didn’t look very safe so I didn’t follow it very far. It looked like there was a three to four foot rock step down which I wasn’t going to attempt. I found a rustic men’s bathroom along the Rim Trail in a building with moss on the roof. It was pretty nasty inside. There were also many crude water fountains and picnic pavilions. The Rim Trail seems ideal for when I want to do a little hiking without it being an ordeal.

After completing the Rim Trail I drove over to Leonard Harrison State Park which was a little difficult because I was going in another direction than usual. I figured I might as well visit Leonard Harrison State Park after driving all the way up to Tioga County. I did get some more photos of the park signs and picked up a copy of the park map. I took lots of photos from the overlook of course. One additional detail caught my eye. There was a historical marker for Nessmuk (aka George Washington Sears) an outdoor writer who lived in Wellsboro in the 1800s. The only book available by this writer is Woodcraft and Camping published by Dover Books, a publishing company that specializes in reprinting cheap editions of books in the public domain.

Nessmuk

Nessmuk

I didn’t spend too much time at Leonard Harrison State Park because it was very familiar to me. I drove to Wellsboro. I was in Wellsboro just last week for the Tioga Central Railroad bus trip. But I did spend some time improving my notes on Wellsboro so I had a few establishments to check out. I couldn’t find any free parking spots along Main Street but when I drove behind Main Street on Pearl Street I found plenty of parking. First I went to From My Shelf Books and searched their collection of local travel books. I found a copy of Penn’s Greatest Cavern by Henry W. Shoemaker. This was a great find! I’ve recently placed orders for other books by Henry W. Shoemaker. He wrote some of the earliest travel guides to North Central Pennsylvania and gathered many mountain folk tales. I also bought the book Short Hikes in Pennsylvania’s Grand Canyon by Chuck Dillon. Chuck Dillon operated the Pine Creek Outfitters company which offered guided tours in the area. He currently teaches outdoor recreation courses at Mansfield University.

I had lunch at Timeless Destination Restaurant & Lounge in Wellsboro. I ordered a French Dip sandwich (roast beef with cheese) and homemade potato chips. The homemade potato chips were the best chips I’ve ever tasted but they seemed to upset my stomach a bit for hours afterwards and I had to take a pill for heartburn before going to bed.

Before heading home I located the La Belle Auberge Bed and Breakfast on Main Street. According to their web site, this is a luxurious place to stay. They even have a Mennonite woman working for them. She appears in many of the photos. I thought that was cute. I don’t really have any need for accommodation in Wellsboro since I live only a hour’s drive away but it is interesting to observe how there are some high end accommodations like the resorts in the Poconos. I have come to appreciate my region more, now that I have seen the fancy establishments for outdoor recreation which are hidden away. Clearly some tourists consider North Central Pennsylvania a great vacation area.

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Poconos Antiquing

Today I made my seventh trip to the Poconos to do some antique shopping. I’m not particularly interested in antiques. Usually you will find better junk at a yard sale. But I did want to see if I could find any old Poconos resort memorabilia. The primary purpose of this trip was to drive a stretch of Route 611 and see some small hamlets; Tannersville, Scotrun, Swiftwater, Mount Pocono, and Tobyhanna.

First I drove all the way to Stroudsburg and visited an establishment which I overlooked on previous visits; the Olde Engine Works Market Place. Hundreds of dealers have booths in this old machine shop. I browsed through a lot of bad art work, metal signs, old books, VHS tapes, and a wide assortment of bric-a-brak. I did see some old typewriters which would be cool as decoration for a writer. As usual I had trouble finding something that I considered worth buying. Eventually I settled for an old science fiction hard cover book, Bodyguard and Four Other Short Novels from Galaxy edited by H.L. Gold. I also bought a wooden plaque with a picture of The Indian Queen Hotel, Early 1800s. This was the only item I saw which reflects the area’s long history as a popular destination.

Olde Engine Works Market Place

Olde Engine Works Market Place

I then began my long drive north on Route 611. There are many establishments along Route 611 which seems to be one of the major commercial strips in the Poconos. I’m not sure if you can say there are any cities or towns along Route 611, just small named hamlets. I don’t think any of these places have a downtown where you can walk around, although Mount Pocono had crosswalks across Route 611.

My next stop was Pocono Peddler’s Village Antique Mall on Route 611. This antique mall was quite similar to the Olde Engine Works Market Place. Again I browsed through many dealer booths without much enthusiasm. A lot of the nicer items were locked away in glass cases but I only saw a few paperweights which looked interesting. There are a lot of books at these antique malls but even the books tend to be shabby. The books are either soiled or the bottom of the barrel mass market crap. Eventually I found a small panther statuette which seemed sufficiently unusual.

Pocono Peddler's Village Antique Mall

Pocono Peddler’s Village Antique Mall

The next establishment I stopped at was Smuggler’s Cove where I ate lunch. I ordered Jumbo Shrimp with a side dish of coleslaw and a baked potato. For dessert I had a slice of cheesecake from Pocono Cheesecake Factory. This meal was expensive, $30.00, and barely a cut above anything you could buy at a grocery store. In contrast to my dinner on the Tioga Central Railroad, which was fantastic, this meal was a step back to unimpressive restaurant fare.

I was going to stop at Pocono Cheesecake Factory but I drove pass it because I wasn’t feeling hungry. And I was going to stop at the Candle Shoppe of the Poconos but I must have missed it. I did see many other establishments of interest like Sanofi Pasteur, a major employer, the desaki Japanese Restaurant, and the Scotrun Diner. Unfortunately, I can only eat one meal on a trip so there isn’t much to do on a commercial strip filled with restaurants. I bought gas near Tobyhanna but I didn’t see any sign of the famous Tobyhanna Army Depot. I probably should have stopped at Mount Pocono and explored the town but I followed my original plan too closely.

On the drive back home I saw my first black bear in the wild! I saw a black bear run across Interstate 80 a few cars ahead of me. Both lanes of cars applied their brakes and avoided hitting the bear. I also saw three deer gathered by the side of the highway. I saw more wildlife on Interstate 80 than on the train ride the other day.

With this trip I have explored all the major roads and towns of the Poconos. I could make more trips to the Poconos to visit different establishments; other restaurants and stores, but it will get a little repetitive. I might want to visit the Poconos in the fall to see the fall foliage.

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Tioga Central Railroad

On Saturday I went on a bus trip offered by the Merrymakers Cruise & Travel, an independent travel agent. This trip was to Tioga Central Railroad for a ride on an excursion train including a dinner served on the train. I have been meaning to try the Tioga Central Railroad. It was added to my notes on Wellsboro back in 2011 but I didn’t know how to find the place. This bus trip was very convenient. I drove out to the airport in Montoursville where the bus picked up passengers at 2:00 p.m. It only takes an hour to drive north to Wellsboro and the train did not start boarding until 6:00 p.m. I don’t know why they allowed so much time to get there, but we wound up with some free time in Wellsboro. I didn’t mind that because Wellsboro is a quaint little town. Although I’ve been to Wellsboro many times on trips to the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon, I did find a few more establishments to check out.

First I checked out Pop Culture, a store devoted to gaming. There were several groups of people playing games in the store. I assume they were engaged in role playing games. Then I went to the From My Shelf Books book store and bought a science fiction book, Blood Music by Greg Bear, because I’m currently reading one of his other books. Over the winter I may start writing a science fiction novel because that is on my bucket list. I plan to write about space travel, recreational space travel. It will be fun to vividly imagine the ultimate trip.

Warehouse Theatre

Warehouse Theatre

I found the Warehouse Theatre and The Native Bagel north of Main Street in an area I have never visited. Both were closed but I took some good photos for my notes. I also entered Garrison’s Men’s Shop to look around. I ordered a cup of coffee and an egg muffin at the Wellsboro Diner just to use their restroom. They did have a few tourist brochures outside the restroom so I picked up a few. The Shopping & Dining Guide to Wellsboro has a map which is useful for identifying the most significant establishments. I also stopped in at Wild Asaph Outfitters where I bought a Guide To The Susquehannock Trail System. Those hiking trails are in Susquehannock State Forest of Potter County, near Coudersport PA. I may eventually visit that area.

Tioga Central Railroad

Tioga Central Railroad

The Tioga Central Railroad is located in a very rural area. I could see a huge barn with two grain silos at the base of the mountain. The freight train station was located within a huge corn field. It was quite a shabby little establishment with a pathetic gift shop but that just made it seem more authentic than touristy. I enjoyed the sense of being out in the country.

The train left promptly at 6:00 p.m. We were served a turkey dinner prepared by a professional chef. A turkey dinner is usually a very conservative meal which is probably going to be a little bland. But this was definitely the best turkey dinner I have ever eaten. Everything was obviously carefully prepared with great skill to taste perfect. This meal was better than any restaurant meal I’ve had in recent memory. As I was eating I could look out at a vast marsh which seemed to be a wildlife sanctuary for birds and ducks. Most of the scenery was mountains, creeks, wooded areas near the railroad tracks, and an occasional access road. The train took an hour to travel 24 miles and took us pass Hammond Lake. It stopped just pass an elevated section of Route 15 but not quite to the border with New York State. After dinner I was able to walk through a few passenger cars  and checked out the open air car. On the ride back I sat in a passenger car but night had fallen so there wasn’t much to see. We arrived back at the station at 8:20 p.m.

Tioga Central Railroad Train Engines

Tioga Central Railroad Train Engines

The Tioga Central Railroad should be considered a hidden gem of Pennsylvania because it is located in a remote area. Only people visiting the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania are likely to experience this attraction. The ride through the countryside is like a trip back in time to when trains served rural areas. It reminds me of that old TV show, Petticoat Junction. You wouldn’t expect fine dining on such a train but I thought that meal put every New York City meal I’ve had to shame. It was a simple meal but it made it clear that a professional chef can do wonders with the old standards. If you aren’t impressed by your meal then you are not getting food prepared by a real chef.

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Little Pine State Park

Today I did some hiking in Little Pine State Park. This was the first time I’ve been to this state park even though it is located in Lycoming County. I saw Little Pine Creek Road when I went hiking on the Golden Eagle Trail which is technically in Tiadaghton State Forest. Little Pine State Park is just a 30 minute drive from where I live. I picked up a map to the Little Pine State Park at the Lycoming County Visitor Center which is located across from Wegmans. They had maps for all the area state parks and a travel guide for Tioga County which will be useful. I’ll have to stop in again for another Little Pine State Park map since I kept the first map in my shirt pocket and it got soaked with sweat.

A dam on Pine Creek has created a small lake and the park surrounds the lake. Forested mountains surround the lake making for a very picturesque scene. Little Pine State Park with its lake is comparable to the many outdoor recreation areas in the Poconos which surround lakes. But unlike the Poconos this state park and lake is not crowded with tourists. I only saw a few boats out on the lake and I only encountered a few other hikers on the trails. Since Lycoming County is too far west for New Yorkers and Philadelphia residents you are not going to get the large number of tourists.

Little Pine State Park

Little Pine State Park

I only hiked two trails because the trails are long and difficult. It is hard to tell which trail I hiked because the trail sign read “Love Run Trail” but I think that was the road while the trail was the Panther Run Trail. The trail was blazed with yellow rectangles. I found the trailhead across from the Eagle Watch Area which is further up the road from Pavilion 3. The trail began with a very steep ascent. Unfortunately hiking in Pennsylvania frequently requires climbing up a hill. Fortunately I had my hiking poles which are great for climbing uphill or downhill. I was also wearing my new hiking boots which are waterproof. It seemed like I climbed uphill forever but eventually the trail leveled off and followed a mountain ridge. The path along the ridge was covered in moss and led through numerous rock outcroppings. I was surprised by the number of large rock outcroppings. One rock outcropping had a keyhole through which you could see the forested mountains. I took a lot of photos of the keyhole hoping to get a great shot but the sunlight seemed to be causing glare no matter how I took the picture. It looks like I got one good photo through the keyhole but the mountains in the background are lost in the glare.

Keyhole

Keyhole

Eventually the trail along the ridge came to a dead end at a clearing. There may have been a way to go further but it looked ridiculously steep so I retraced my steps going back down the mountain. Going downhill can be just as difficult as climbing uphill, just not so tiring. My toes were being mashed in the toe of my boots as I walked downhill. I was wearing two pairs of padded socks so it wasn’t too bad. There really wasn’t any vistas on that trail because the trees were in the way but you could see some mountains through the trees.

The first trail was so exhausting that I almost called it a day. I drove back to Waterville, the small village on Route 44 right where Little Pine Creek Road begins. I stopped in for lunch at the Waterville Tavern. There were a lot of bikers at the Waterville Tavern. I saw way more motorcycles than cars in the parking lot. I suspect bikers like the scenic drive along the Pine Creek Gorge. The Waterville Tavern is perfectly situated for visitors to the Little Pine State Park since it is right across from the access road. They have a black bear on their logo and the pine wood interior makes the place seem woodsy. I ordered a Coke and a chicken sandwich with hot barbeque sauce which came with chips and a sliver of pickle. For dessert I had ice cream with funnel cake sticks. The meal was pretty good and only cost me $22.00 including tip. That was my only expense for the day.

Little Pine State Park Valley Fields

Little Pine State Park Valley Fields

After lunch I wasn’t so hot and thirsty so I decided to hike another trail at Little Pine State Park. It was a short drive back to park but this time I parked near the dam. I hiked the Lake Shore Trail. This trail starts off with an easy trail along an access road but it does climb a little to run above the lake. You don’t get any really good views of the lake through all the trees. Eventually this trail forms a huge loop pass the lake. The Lake Shore Trail Loop takes you into a vast valley with the trail going through the fields. I thought this was the best scenery in the park since it seemed like virgin wilderness. There was a tall stand of pine trees in the middle of a swampy area which looked particularly dramatic. Unfortunately this was very long and tiring trail out in the middle of nowhere so it seemed to go on for entirely too long. The hike back was partially uphill so that was very tiring too. The Lake Shore Trail is a bit of an ordeal if you do the entire trail.

Tall Pine Trees

Tall Pine Trees

Next week I’m going on the Tioga Central Railroad Dinner excursion train. I don’t think the train goes along the Pine Creek Gorge but it goes through similar terrain. It will be nice to ride through the woods and countryside in comfort instead of hiking though it.

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Indian Caverns and Lincoln Caverns

I spent the second day of the Labor Day weekend in caves. It was raining on
Sunday but this does not matter if you are going to be inside caves. But I don’t
like driving in the rain. For this trip I had to drive west, deeper into the
heart of Central Pennsylvania, to some caves near State College. I visited
Indian Caverns, and Lincoln Caverns because it is a short drive from Indian Caverns. I was particularly eager to see Indian Caverns because I thought this might be the Indian caves we visited when I was a child. I’m pretty sure this was the place because they had Indian blankets for sale. We had Indian blankets and an Indian drum for years and years after our cave trip. The other possibility was that we went to Indian Echo Caverns, but it makes more sense that we stuck to Central PA.

I’ve never been to State College so that may be a good city to visit in the
future. Bellefonte may also be a cool little town because it is known for its
Victorian architecture. I don’t drive west very often so I’m still unfamiliar
with the highways in that direction. Pass Lock Haven U.S 220 South merges with
Interstate 80 in a way that often throws me off. I used my GPS to navigate on
this trip. For the caves I had to use GPS coordinates so I learned how to enter
them into my TomTom XL 340S. I also printed out cheat sheets because the GPS
never tells you what street to look for. For example, it will tell you “Right
turn ahead” long before you reach the target street and then “Turn right and
take the highway” but it won’t tell you its Route 45 West you should be on. So
it is crucial to have some idea where you should be going. I did notice that it
warns you when you are speeding and it gives the distance to the next turn.

I saw some great scenery on the drive to the caves even though it was
raining. There was a lot of mist around the mountains. I also saw a lot of
farmland and fields of corn. Somewhere along the highway you are tempted to take
your eyes off the road because there is a vast valley that you can see below.
Unfortunately there is no place where you can pull off the road to enjoy the
view.

Indian Caverns has a curious rounded building built into the mountainside.
You have to cross a rickety bridge over a creek to get to it. It is located in
the woods and has a very rustic look. I arrived at the cave around 10:30 a.m.
but I had to wait a half hour for the 11:00 a.m. tour. The gift shop had many
Indian themed gifts which were tempting but I bought a DVD Pennsylvania
Caves and Caverns
, which lists eight caves. I have been to five of those
eight caves. Fortunately they also had a restroom which I needed after the two
hour drive. I passed the time leafing though a travel guide to the
Juniata River Valley. The only thing I saw of any interest to me was Lewistown, a
town where my sister used to live when she found a job there. Later at Lincoln
Caverns I found more interesting brochures like one for the Flight 93 Memorial
and the 2014 Central PA Visitor’s Guide which is devoted to State College but
includes some Williamsport attractions.

Indian Caverns

Indian Caverns

When the tour began at 11:00 a.m. I was the only person in the tour group but
later a few other people joined the tour after we were half way through the
caverns. There was the usual business of turning off the lights to show us how
pitch black it was without the light. I am likely to confuse this cave tour with
the Lincoln Caverns which I visited shortly after, but I remember that this cave
allows Boy Scouts to stay overnight in the cave, without lights, to earn merit
badges. There are no bats in the caves because all the bats are dying from
White-Nose Syndrome.

Indian Caverns Interior

Indian Caverns Interior

It was a short drive to the next cave, Lincoln Caverns near Huntington PA.
There are actually two separate caves to see here; Lincoln Caverns and Whisper
Rocks. The gift shop had a large selection of souvenirs and I bought a chunk of
polished ocean jasper for $15.00 before I left. As I mentioned before, they had
a wide selection of free brochures including brochures for show caves all across
America.

Lincoln Caverns

Lincoln Caverns

There were more people in my tour group at the Lincoln Caverns. It was
drizzling so I was glad to get into the caves. I brought along my light jacket
because the temperature is around 50 degrees Fahrenheit in these caves. The
Lincoln Caverns had some steep steps and narrow passages. I managed to take a
lot of decent photos in these caves. At one point the tour guide turned out all
the lights to show us the pitch black. This is part of every cave
tour. But she didn’t leave the lights off for long. There was a short uphill
climb to reach the other cave system, Whisper Rocks, which has its own door. The
two caves are not connected so we had to go back out in the rain to reach the
other one. There were many spiders hanging out at the cave entrance, over the
door, and some of the kids got a little hysterical over that. In this cave I saw
some excellent examples of flowstone. Yes, I have picked up some of the cave
lingo after this trip.

Lincoln Caverns Interior

Lincoln Caverns Interior

I was really starving after leaving Lincoln Caverns but unfortunately there
are no places to eat on U.S. 220 North. I drove pass a little diner that looked
interesting but it was raining too hard to stop. I didn’t eat anything until I
got home at around 4:00 p.m.

Woolrich Outlet Store

Woolrich Outlet Store

Before I went home I did manage to squeeze in one other side trip. I visited
the Woolrich Flagship Store and Outlet in Woolrich PA. It was slightly difficult
to reach because there was a detour around some road construction. Woolrich PA
is just across the Lycoming County line in Clinton County so technically it is
in my neck of the woods. Towering evergreens line the road into town. There are
attractive ranch houses along the street so the town almost looks like a summer
camp with houses instead of cabins. Woolrich sells expensive sportswear and
outdoor clothing in red plaid. It is the perfect fashion for Pennsylvania’s
woodsy outdoor recreation. I’ve been hiking wearing the same clothes that I wear
at the office so I need to buy some outdoor clothing. Woolrich clothing should
be ideal since it shows local pride. I only bought a short-sleeve plaid shirt
because their prices are steep, even with the discount. That shirt sells for
$55.00 but I got it for $29.99. I also bought a black bear teddy bear wearing a
red plaid Woolrich jacket since it is a fine example of Pennsylvania kitsch.
Lincoln Caverns actually had a brochure for the Woolrich Original Outlet Store.
It is considered a tourist attraction in its own right and there are billboards
for the store along Interstate 80. The store did have an attractive interior
with an indoor waterfall and old Woolrich advertisements from the 1950s. There
was a table with travel guides to Williamsport and Pennsylvania but I already
have all those.

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Pocono Towns On Route 6

I began my Labor Day weekend with a road trip through the northern Pocono mountains. I visited three towns along Route 6; Honesdale, Hawley, and Milford. There aren’t many large cities or towns in the Pocono region so I’ve completed my tour of the major towns. Future trips will have to focus on state parks or individual attractions.

My driving directions to Honesdale were a bit complicated and called for me to head directly east to Wilkes-Barre. Unfortunately I missed the exit for 220 North to Hughesville so I took the usual route to Interstate 80 instead. From Interstate 80 you take exit 260B to Interstate 81 North. I’m familiar with this highway from my trips to Scranton and Wilkes-Barre. The Scranton / Wilkes-Barre metropolitan area is huge and a major influence on the entire north east region of the state so I should spend more time exploring that area. I drove further north than Scranton to reach Route 6 and passed Carbondale. I used my GPS to navigate the rat’s nest of highways in the Scranton area. These details may be boring, but it is always a challenge to drive around Pennsylvania so it is worthwhile to note the details.

My first destination was Honesdale, home of Dwight Schrute’s Beet Farm and Bed and Breakfast. Honesdale was the largest town on my trip. Honesdale is not particularly interesting but there are many summer camps in the area. Between Carbondale and Honesdale I passed Waymart in Wayne County and Keen Lake. My research for this trip was very preliminary so I didn’t have any information on the surrounding area. I tried to be very observant and I will mention many little details for future reference.

Once I reached Honesdale I found a parking area near the Visitor Center. The Visitor Center did not appear to be open but I didn’t try the door. The Visitor Center is also were you board the Stourbridge excursion train. Unfortunately, the trains are no longer running. I saw some passenger train cars but no train engines. I parked behind some passenger train cars labeled Copper King Express. I immediately located the Wayne County Historical Society museum located in the Torrey Land Office of the former Delaware and Hudson Canal company. The museum was open so I made that my first stop. I saw a replica of the first steam locomotive in the United States, the Stourbridge Lion. There was also a Delaware and Hudson passenger gravity car, the Eclipse, which you could enter. A TV with a VCR was in the passenger car. I watched a short film on how the canal system and later trains were used to transport coal from Carbondale and Scranton to New York City. There were several other interesting exhibits; photos of some Lackawaxen River flooding in winter with large icebergs in the city streets, an exhibit of things you might find in your grandmother’s attic, Indian relics and arrowheads, and glass display cases filled with cut glass, etched glass, and fine crystal. The museum had a bathroom upstairs which I used. After a long road trip it is important to know where to find a bathroom. Before I left I picked up a few brochures. A booklet entitled “Navigate the Northern Pocono Mountains” looks like it will be particularly helpful for future trips to this area.

Copper King Express

Copper King Express

After leaving the museum I began to wander around Honesdale photographing everything in sight because I need photos to complete my custom travel guide. I did spend some time gathering photos of Honesdale from Flickr so I had some idea of what to look for. I found the headquarters of Highlights for Children Inc, publishers of children books and a well known magazine for children. I remember those magazines from Elementary School. This company does have an IT department but most of their IT positions are based in Ohio. Only their editorial department is based in Honesdale.

I also found Central Park and the Wayne County Courthouse. I took lots of photos in the park which has a fountain and a small civil war monument. There were three churches north of Central Park with exceptionally tall steeples so I took photos of that too.

Eventually I found Main Street Books, an used book store on Main Street. I found an interesting book, Wise Men Fish Here: The Story of Frances Steloff and the Gotham Book Mart by W. G. Rogers. Although that New York City book store is long gone, I thought it would be interesting to read about the literary history.

I also found the Music & Video Express store which sells home electronics, appliances, cell phones, CDs, and DVDs. Their DVD collection was small but showed excellent taste. I bought a film by Mike Leigh, Life Is Sweet, The Criterion Collection. I bought a copy of the local newspaper, The Wayne Independent, in front of the Honesdale Post Office. It is always important to check out the local media. However, the major publication in the Poconos is the Pocono Record and I visit their web site often to keep up on the news. Recently there have been many fires in downtown Stroudsburg and even one of the Delaware Water Gap trolleys caught on fire and burned up completely.

I was getting very hungry, so for lunch I went to Eleganté Restaurant & Pizzeria. I didn’t do any research on restaurants in Honesdale so I picked this place just because it was open and looked like a distinctive local establishment. Inside, this Italian restaurant was surprisingly large, stretching back a long distance. I had a Salami Hero (also known as a hoagie or cosmo), a glass of Pepsi, and some chips. For desert I had mint ice cream with chocolate chips. This meal cost less than $12.00 but I tipped a few dollars extra. I noticed that the waitresses used the word “Hon” just like in Baltimore, “Is everything OK, hon?”.

My favorite photo from my trip to Honesdale is of a stuffed black bear that was sitting on the sidewalk to promote a business. Pennsylvania is supposed to be crawling with black bears but I’ve never seen one in the wild. The Promised Land State Park is said to be a good place to find black bears and Lycoming County has the largest population of black bears in the state. Black bears are typical Pennsylvania kitsch. For example, in Jim Thorpe I ate at the Bear Appetit Cafe which took the black bear motif to extremes and of course there is the Crippled Bear Inn near my house.

Stuffed Black Bear

Stuffed Black Bear

As I left Honesdale I noticed that all the big box stores and the Walmart Superstore were located just outside of downtown on Route 6. I drove south on Route 6 to reach Hawley PA, the next town on my itinerary.

Hawley PA was the smallest town on my road trip. It is best known for Lake Wallenpaupack, a large man made lake created by PPL. I was slightly familiar with the town from my previous visit to Ehrhardt’s Waterfront Resort, which is located on Lake Wallenpaupack, but I had never actually been in Hawley. Downtown Hawley is only four blocks wide and three blocks in length so there is not much there. I did see quite a few antique stores.

The first thing you see when approaching the town of Hawley is The Settler’s Inn, a hotel and restaurant housed in a Tudor mansion. This is where I took a wrong turn and wound up on Route 590. I followed this road for quite a ways hoping to get back to Hawley but I can see on Google Maps that it never does. Eventually I turned around and went back to the Settler’s Inn and went into town. I think I parked on Keystone Street on the west side of town.

I quickly located the only three establishments which are of any interest in Hawley; the Hawley Diner, the Ritz Company Playhouse, and Penny Lane Candies. The Hawley Diner is an old-fashioned diner. I wish I had waited to have lunch there, but I was too full to eat again so I didn’t check it out. I did buy some candy at Penny Lane Candies. This was a fun candy store where you can fill up a small plastic bag with a variety of pieces of candy. They had old fashioned candy like root beer floats and fancy candy like gourmet jelly beans. They weigh your bag of candy and charge by the pound. The Ritz Company Playhouse is a community theater so that interested me the most.

Ritz Company Playhouse

Ritz Company Playhouse

I stopped in at the Lake and Leisure Shop which sold souvenirs and tee shirts. They had a variety of cheap goods like ceramic figurines, lots of black bear figurines of course, but I settled for a Bee Gees CD, “Monday’s Rain”, for some 1970s nostalgia. This album does not have any of their hits on it but the songs will probably be new to me.

I didn’t spend much time in Hawley. Most visitors to this town are probably there to enjoy the lake. But I did find the Riverwalk Trail to Hawley Park and walked along the dyke path.

The final town on Route 6 in Pennsylvania is Milford PA. After that you are in New Jersey and we don’t want to go there! I didn’t plan on visiting Milford at all so I had done no research on this town. But I was done with Hawley PA by 2:30 p.m. so I had plenty of time to squeeze in Milford. I was also eager to complete my tour of the Poconos after the long drive to get there. The drive to Milford along Route 6 took a long time. Just outside of town I saw the Apple Valley Family Restaurant and I was tempted to stop there. It looked like a small empire similar to Country Cupboard in Lewisburg. But I proceeded along Route 6 and parked as soon as I could on West Hartford Street just before 7th Street. This was too far from downtown. I should have parked further up the street.

It was pretty hard to identify downtown Milford. I can see on Google Maps that Broad Street is the heart of the town and I did find my way there but it looks more like a residential area than a downtown area. The only clue that you are downtown is that the shops seem fancier and there are a few distinctive buildings. This was a rare attempt by me to completely wing it without being the least prepared to find anything. Nevertheless I did manage to find; the Milford Diner, Hotel Fauchere (an important landmark), the Tom Quick Inn, First Presbyterian Church, Books and Prints at Pear Alley, Dimmick Inn and Steakhouse, the Milford Community House, Pike County Public Library, Beer Barn, Chang Mao Chinese restaurant, and the Turkey Hill Minit Market. Unfortunately I can’t tell you much about these places because I didn’t do my homework.

Hotel Fauchere

Hotel Fauchere

I did stop in at the Books and Prints at Pear Alley. They sell lots of rare books, leather bound books, and prints but they also have used books. I found a good book Hauntings, Tales of the Supernatural edited by Henry Mazzeo with illustrations by Edward Gorey. The illustrations by Edward Gorey made this a good buy because he is a famous gothic artist. I only paid $12.00 for this book but it might be worth more than that.

I left Milford at 4:00 p.m. and didn’t get home until 7:00 p.m. since I had to drive half way across Pennsylvania. My GPS led me to take Interstate 84 all the way to Scranton. There was a rest area on Interstate 84 where I picked up some brochures for the Scranton area. Finally, I should mention that I stopped at the Lycoming Mall before going home and bought the Moon Pennsylvania travel guide. I don’t really need another travel guide to the state but I’m glad I bought this one because their chapter on the Williamsport area is impressive. Every other travel guide only mentions Little League Baseball as a reason to visit Williamsport. But this book has such in-depth information that I even learned about a few things in the area which had escaped my notice.

This road trip really advanced my knowledge of the Poconos region. I am very pleased with how smoothly the trip went. I even visited one more town than I had intended. Ordinarily I would be satisfied with this and turn my attention to other travel destinations. But since I’m interested in moving to the Poconos I intend to do some seriously in-depth research. Finding work in the Poconos would be especially difficult. There is not a lot of IT in the Poconos, it is mostly an outdoor recreation area. But there are probably IT jobs hidden away in local government. There is no reason an Internet startup couldn’t locate in a lodge hidden deep in the woods. Just visiting the small towns in the Poconos does not even hint at the many establishments hidden away between the towns. There seems to be a lot of backwoods entrepreneurial spirit in the area with campgrounds, resorts, ranches, and bed and breakfast places like Dwight Schrute’s Beet Farm and Bed and Breakfast.

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Victorian Mauch Chunk

On Sunday I visited Jim Thorpe PA, the most charming town I’ve ever seen. Jim Thorpe is known as the “Switzerland of America” and the “Gateway to the Poconos”. The town was originally named Mauch Chunk, but bizarrely renamed itself after a sports legend in exchange for the honor of being his final resting place. I found Jim Thorpe to be the ideal combination of Pennsylvania scenic splendor and Victorian architecture. To describe the town of Jim Thorpe as picturesque doesn’t do it justice, it is the essence of the picturesque. Mauch Chunk is ideally picturesque.

I was going to visit Jim Thorpe on Saturday but the weather was bad, too overcast and dreary, so I waited until Sunday. Fortunately Sunday was a beautiful day with bright sunshine and just a few clouds to create patches of shadow and light. It was perfect weather for maximizing the effect of the scenery. I arrived in Jim Thorpe around 9:00 a.m. so I had two hours to take photos before the attractions opened. What makes Jim Thorpe so picturesque is its many fine examples of Victorian architecture set against forested mountains that fill half the sky. There are two Victorian mansions on a hill overlooking the town and massive stone buildings. Broadway is a street lined with boutiques and other establishments housed in extraordinary architecture. The streets were very narrow and every building looked quite distinctive creating an impression of a very cozy, magical dream town. Jim Thorpe has been voted one of the most beautiful small towns in America.

Jim Thorpe

Jim Thorpe

I parked in a large parking lot next to the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway. It cost me $6.00 to park there for the day. I walked pretty far up Broadway to the Church of the Immaculate Conception, which is on West Broadway, and took a lot of photos to complete my custom travel guide. I didn’t quite complete my research before making this trip so I need lots of photos for my notes. On the way back downtown I stopped in at Strange Brew for some iced coffee and picked up a brochure for the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway. I also went into Dugan’s Store and bought a copy of the local paper, the Times News. I don’t think I had established what the local paper was called so this was important. After returning to my car to stash the newspaper it was around 10:15 a.m. My walk around town took quite awhile because I went up the Packard Hill to photograph the mansions and I walked down Race Street too.

I bought a ticket for the 11:00 a.m. excursion of the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway. I paid $17.00 for the open air car. A branch of the Pocono Mountains Visitors Bureau is located in the Mauch Chunk Depot so I went in there and picked up even more brochures for the Poconos. I have a huge stack of brochures now. I was especially glad to find some maps for the state parks in the area. Beside the Mauch Chunk Depot is a small park with a massive coal bolder and a gazebo. I took photos of everything.

One of the things that makes Jim Thorpe seem like a perfectly preserved Victorian town is its train station, which is located on the east end of downtown, with a passenger train stationed there. The Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway is run as a tourist attraction with scenic excursions. There are many excursion trains in Pennsylvania. The Strasburg Rail Road is probably the most famous because it takes you through Amish country. I visited the Strasburg Rail Road in 2011. Next month I’m going on the Tioga Central Railroad Dinner Train, a trip offered by a local travel agent. My ride on the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway took me through the Lehigh Gorge State Park, or at least the Glen Onoko part of the park, so I saw the bike trail and the Lehigh River rapids. There were also fantastic views of the mountains. The entire trip took an hour so that was an hour of relaxation before I resumed my tourist activities.

Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway

Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway

After the train ride I headed up the hill for a tour of the Asa Packer Mansion. Next door to that mansion is the Harry Packer Mansion, which is run as a bed and breakfast and served as the model for Disney World’s haunted mansion. So it is a pretty awesome old mansion. Before the tour started I got to sit under the veranda of the Asa Packer Mansion. This was a surprisingly enjoyable experience because it was so damn picturesque! Before me was a plot of yellow daisies. An American flag hung over that. And the view down the hill of downtown Jim Thorpe was dominated by a massive stone clock tower, a civil war monument, with a huge mountain in the background. This was the view enjoyed by a Victorian millionaire and I got to see it virtually unchanged. The tour of the mansion was also amazing. The furnishings of the mansion are perfectly preserved and display Victorian elegance at its finest. This tour was my favorite part of the trip because it allowed me to form a perfect fantasy of Victorian life. I got to see lavish rooms; a library, a parlor, a dining room, a kitchen, bedrooms, and old fashioned bathrooms all done in fine woods like mahogany and rosewood. This was truly a vision of another era set in the familiar scenery of the Pennsylvania mountains. Unfortunately no photography was allowed inside the mansion or I would have photographed the shit out of it.

Asa Packard Mansion View

Asa Packard Mansion View

After the mansion tour I walked back up Broadway to West Broadway and entered the Old Jail Museum. The Old Jail Museum is where the Irish coal miners known as the Molly Maguires were hung. The tour through the Old Jail Museum was led by a young teenage girl but she seemed very knowledgeable. We were led though the warden’s quarters, the cell block, and the dungeons. There was a gallows set up in the cell block for hanging prisoners. The entire building looked pretty decrepit, dreary, and spooky. I bought The Molly Maguires film on DVD in the gift shop. This film stars Richard Harris and Sean Connery and was filmed in Jim Thorpe and the Eckley Miners’ Village. The DVD cost me $29.95 which seemed a little expensive for such an old movie, but I suppose it supports the museum. I have not watched the film yet. I probably won’t like it.

The Treasure Shop

The Treasure Shop

I was ready for some shopping after all those tourist attractions. Jim Thorpe has many interesting boutiques which makes it better than a shopping mall. First I went to Sellers Books because I always have to visit a bookstore. This bookstore fills the lower floor of a Victorian row house. I made a real find, Lehigh Gorge Trail Guide, a book on the trails in the Lehigh Gorge State Park and even the Hickory Run trails. I plan to do some hiking in the Lehigh Gorge State Park as part of my exploration of the Poconos. I returned to my car after buying the book because I now had a DVD and a book plus some brochures to carry around. I checked my cash and found I was already practically broke so I used the ATM at the Mauch Chunk Depot to withdraw $60.00 more from my checking account.

The next store I visited was the Emporium of Curious Goods which specializes in the arcane and the occult. I especially wanted to visit this store because I’m slightly interested in the occult, mostly shamans or visionaries. I didn’t find anything I particularly wanted to buy in this store but I settled for the book Haunted Cemeteries by Tom Ogen. I was looking for a graphic novel, The Victorian Horrors of Old Mauch Chunk #1, which I came across while researching this establishment, but I did not see it anywhere. I was pretty hungry by then so I entered the Bear Appetit Cafe. My research on Jim Thorpe was so incomplete that I didn’t have a single restaurant in my notes so I took a chance on this place. They did not appear to be crowded like some other places I saw. I ordered sweet potato fries, a crab cake sandwich, and a mountain dew. The sweet potato fries were excellent and the crab cake sandwich was pretty good. I finished everything because I had not eaten all day. That meal only cost me $15.00 with a generous tip so it was very affordable. A record store was right next door, Soundcheck Records, so I went in there and bought a CD of Three Dog Night’s Greatest Hits. Three Dog Night is an old band from the 1970s. They are a little before my time but that gives them a curious nostalgic appeal without being associated with any actual memories. There is a lot about the Poconos which harkens back to the 1970s when the honeymoon resorts were very popular. I have formed a sort of fantasy of the Poconos as a semi-rustic Pennsylvania dream world stuck in the summers of the 1970s. I use that fantasy as my inspiration for this project.

Blue Mountain Sports

Blue Mountain Sports

The final thing I did downtown was visit the Mauch Chunk Museum and Cultural Center, basically a historical society museum. After watching a short film on the town’s history I went on a self-guided tour of the exhibits which were a bit cluttered so you had to spend some time picking out details. By then it was almost 4:00 p.m. and I knew most of the attractions and shops closed early at 5:00 p.m. on Sunday so I decided to call it a day. There isn’t a whole lot to do in this small town so you don’t need more than a day to visit Jim Thorpe, but I may find more things to do after more research.

Before heading back home I did drive out to East Mauch Chunk and found the Jim Thorpe Memorial, the final resting place of the sports hero who lent his name to the town. Actually, his widow lent his name without getting the rest of the family’s permission. I think that entire arrangement was kind of strange and sad.

In conclusion, I thought Jim Thorpe was a magical place, a dream town. The place was crawling with bikers just like at Wellsboro. Bikers must have a thing for quaint small towns. I did see some Susquehanna Trailways buses drive through town which was an interesting local connection for me.

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Indian Echo Caverns

On Saturday I visited Indian Echo Caverns, one of Pennsylvania’s many caves which are open to the public. I can barely remember visiting a cave when I was a boy. I remember that we bought Indian blankets and an Indian drum which we had for a long time. I’m not sure if this was that cave since there is also an Indian Caverns in Pennsylvania. Indian Echo Caverns is located between Harrisburg and Hershey. It took me two hours to drive down there.

Indian Echo Caverns Entrance

Indian Echo Caverns Entrance

Indian Echo Caverns is featured on the cover of the only book on the caves of Pennsylvania:

You can only visit this cave as part of a guided tour. The cave is outfitted with electric lights so you can see everything. I took a lot of photos and most of them turned out all right even without flash.

Indian Echo Caverns Stalagmite

Indian Echo Caverns Stalagmite

The cave had many rooms and a pool of water. At one point, our tour guide turned out all the lights to show us how pitch black the cave would be without light.

Indian Echo Caverns Pool

Indian Echo Caverns Pool

I like to visit show caves because these roadside attractions are very retro. These attractions haven’t changed much since the 1950s and remind me of rare road trips I went on in my youth. So far, I have seen Penn’s Cave and Woodward Cave plus Indian Echo Caverns. There are six other caves in Pennsylvania that I could visit. I did find some other cave brochures at the Indian Echo Caverns gift shop.

Indian Echo Caverns Interior

I’ve really been getting around the state this summer and seeing a lot of attractions that I’ve been meaning to visit. I hope to keep up this pace into the fall and only stop during winter. The quaint town of Jim Thorpe will probably be my next destination.

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Hiking The Golden Eagle Trail

Yesterday I hiked the entire Golden Eagle Trail. It took me ten hours to hike this 9 mile trail. The Golden Eagle Trail is located in the Tiadaghton State Forest in Lycoming County. It is near the Little Pine State Park on the far west border of Lycoming County. To reach the trail you must drive pass the town of Jersey Shore and take Exit 120 onto Route 44 North. Just past Waterville, you will take a right off of PA 44 onto route PA 414. I almost turned right onto the wrong road, Little Pine Creek Road in Waterville since the signs showed that is the way to Little Pine State Park, but you actually need to drive out of Waterville before you can get on Route 414 North. Unfortunately, most of the tourist attractions in Pennsylvania require a long drive deep into the woods. I took some photos of the Clark Access Area parking lot to help me to find the place again.

Golden Eagle Trail Access

I saw part of the Pine Creek Rail Trail, an old railroad line which has been converted into a bike trail. The Pine Creek Rail Trail is 65 miles long and stretches from Jersey Shore up to Wellsboro. Considering how long it takes me to drive to Wellsboro, I would not want to ride a bike that far. But it would be practical to ride part of the trail for the scenery. I also saw a few country inns and restaurants which seemed rustic, but upscale, clearly designed to cater to outdoor recreationists. The area was comparable to the Poconos. There is really nothing special about the Poconos. Most of Pennsylvania is nearly identical to the Poconos. But the Poconos has become famous for outdoor recreation because it is within reasonable driving distance to New York City and Philadelphia. My point is that I can find great outdoor recreation closer to home, without driving two hours to the Poconos.

I came well-prepared for this long hike. I used to hike the Falls Trail at Ricketts Glen State Park without even a bottle of water. I brought three 17 ounce bottles of Sparkling ICE on this hike and drank all of it. I also wore my new hiking shoes and used my new hiking poles. Hiking poles are great for climbing uphill or downhill and there was plenty of that on this trail! I only saw a few other hikers on the trail and almost everyone had hiking poles. I bought a trail guide for the Golden Eagle Trail from PAHikes. The Guide to the Golden Eagle Trail includes detailed directions with points of interest which was helpful in determining my progress.

Wolf Run Vista

The Golden Eagle Trail proved to be quite an ordeal. There are some fantastic vistas on the trail but you have to earn it by climbing uphill. I started on the trail at 8:45 a.m. and didn’t finish until 6:30 p.m. Towards the end I was worried that I would be in the woods after dark. Fortunately I did have a hiker’s headlamp in my backpack. I didn’t see any wildlife except for one deer and a chipmunk. I hiked this trail counter-clockwise so first I encountered the Wolf Run vista. I ventured out into a rock ledge but it made me very nervous. The view was spectacular! The next vista I found was the famous Ravenshorn Vista. All of the photos of the Golden Eagle Trail feature the Ravenshorn Vista, usually with a hiker standing on the Raven’s Horn, a large rock formation that you can climb onto. It looks like a precipice of a mountain but if you fell off you would only land 20 feet below the large rock formation. This was were I encountered the first hiker I saw. The trail was completely deserted most of the time. The view was even more spectacular than the Wolf Run vista.

Raven's Horn Vista

Raven's Horn

Most of the Golden Eagle Trail is a seemingly endless hike along the Wolf Run creek and the Bonnell Run creek. You have to cross these creeks dozens of times but fortunately the creek beds were bone dry or there was only a trickle of water. My hiking shoes are not waterproof but I did order a pair of waterproof hiking boots. Every uphill climb really winded me. I could only climb uphill for 15 feet before I needed to stop and take a rest.  At the end of a Game Commission Access Trail, which is like a grass road through the woods, I found the Beulahland Vista which offers another great view of the mountains and valleys.

Beulahland Vista

After hiking the entire length of the Golden Eagle Trail, I feel like a real hiker, a mountain man, a frontiersman. This was a very strenuous hike. It was almost too much for a day hike since I barely got out of the woods before dark. But it was interesting to see some of the outdoor recreational areas that Lycoming County is famous for. There are many more hiking trails in Pennsylvania. I plan to do some more hiking because it is a cheap way to make a trip. I have bought several books on hiking in Pennsylvania.

Bonnell Run

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My 9th Trip To Washington DC

Yesterday I made my 9th trip to Washington DC. I have to admit that I was not very enthusiastic about this trip. I was also a little bored on this trip. I think I’m guilty of checkbox tourism, checking things off on a list of popular attractions. Some tourists seek out the “hidden gems” and a genuine local experience while other tourists do only the highlights mentioned in the travel guides. I like to find obscure establishments through intensive research or base my activities on my serious pursuits and interests. For example, finding theater buildings is worthwhile because I like to write plays. And I like to visit bookstores because I love books.

The bus arrived in Washington DC around 10:00 a.m. The bus driver was quite knowledgeable about Washington DC so he tried to point out all the major attractions as we passed them by. My research on the city is fairly complete so I don’t need such general information. We were dropped off in front of the National Museum of Natural History. The first item on my itinerary was the Corcoran Gallery of Art. I was considering a stroll though Georgetown for this trip but the weather was calling for rain so I decided to stick to museums. The Corcoran Gallery of Art is just to the left of the White House so I was able to take some great photos of the south side of the White House along the way. The scaffolding is gone from the Washington Monument so I got some great photos of that as well.

The White House

Fortunately, admission to the Corcoran Gallery of Art was free on this Saturday. I didn’t even need a ticket. This art museum is fairly small with only two floors and thirty galleries. The most famous artwork I saw was a Chairman Mao portrait by Andy Warhol. I was going to have lunch at their Muse Café but it looked like they only sold coffee and some pastries. The museum store was closed so I couldn’t buy anything. This was probably the cheapest bus trip I’ve ever been on since I spent very little money.

The next item on my itinerary was the National Archives. The big draw at the National Archives is the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights which are on display in the Rotunda. I was not particularly interested in seeing the original documents enshrined in this building, but it would be a shame to visit Washington DC repeatedly without seeing this important exhibit. You have to go through security to enter the building which proved to be a little annoying since my pockets were full of electronic devices, small change, keys, etc. Absolutely no photography is allowed in the National Archives but they will allow you to bring in a camera. You just can’t use it. In addition to the Rotunda, there is a public vaults exhibit with other historical documents on display. The only really interesting thing I saw was an exhibit on modern technology which had many motherboards and obsolete media formats encased behind glass. The My Archives Shop had many books for sale but I didn’t find anything I would want to read. Perhaps my low enthusiasm level made me reluctant to buy anything.

United States Botanic Garden

The final item on my agenda was the United States Botanic Garden. This was my favorite part of this trip but the Botanic Gardens should probably be low on your list if you are visiting Washington DC for the first time. I walked though the National Garden and then explored the Conservatory. I liked the indoor jungle and tried to take every conceivable photo through the lush foliage. I also visited Bartholdi Park which features a massive Bartholdi Fountain. The Capitol building is nearby so I tried to get the Capitol building dome in as many of my photos as possible. You can see the dome through the foliage at many spots in the Botanic Gardens so it is an excellent location for taking some classic photos.

National Museum of the American Indian

Incredibly enough, I still had plenty of time to kill so I visited a few more museums. I had not planned on visiting the National Museum of the American Indian but it is right next to the United States Botanic Garden so it was convenient. I must say that I found the National Museum of the American Indian a little disappointing. It’s primary focus seems to be on contemporary tribes. The exhibits were pretty thin on the history of the American Indian. There was not an extensive collection of Indian artifacts. Frankly, I think even the Pocono Indian Museum might be a better museum. Where were the Indian Chief feather head dresses, the buckskin clothes, the teepees, the peace pipes, the scalps, the drums, the tomahawks, the arrows, etc? I did buy a book in the gift shop, “The Shawnees and the War For America” by Colin G. Calloway. The Shawnees used to live on the Delaware River which is why there is a Shawnee on Delaware town in the Poconos. I’m not very interested in Indians except for Shamanism. Shamanism is the universal and fundamental expression of spirituality. The National Museum of the American Indian did not have an exhibit on Shamans and its collection of books on the subject was not very good. Even my meal at the Mitsitam Café was disappointing. I only had a buffalo burger, a parfait, and a bottle of Minute Maid but that cost me over $16.00.

I spent considerable time in the National Museum of the American Indian but I still had over an hour to kill so I decided to visit the National Museum of American History. I have been to this museum on a previous trip but I was a bit rushed and did not see everything. This time I saw the exhibit on the American Presidency and the gowns of the First Ladies. I think they made improvements to Julia Child’s Kitchen because the view into that glass enclosed space was better. I saw the original Star Spangled Banner Flag again.

With this trip, I am pretty much done with the National Mall. But I’m not quite done exploring Washington DC. I should consider the United States Capitol Visitor Center for a future trip. The Folger Shakespeare Library and a tour of the Kennedy Center would better serve my interests. And there is still one more art museum to see, The Phillips Collection. I also want to visit Georgetown and the Adams Morgan neighborhood.

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