Bob Webber Trail

On Memorial Day I decided to finish the extended weekend with a grueling hike. I was a bit reluctant to hike the Bob Webber Trail because I knew it would be an ordeal. However, I saw photos online where someone hiked the trail in flip flops so how hard could it be? Actually it would be insane to hike this trail in flip flops. I made sure to bring my hiking poles and three bottles of water. The Bob Webber Trail is related to the Golden Eagle Trail which I hiked last year. Both trails are located in the Tiadaghton State Forest in Lycoming County, Pennsylvania.

The parking area for this trail is the Ross Run Recreational Parking area just pass the village of Cammal. This is along the Pine Creek Gorge rail trail and pass Waterville and the Little Pine State Park. You will encounter the Ross Run Recreational Parking area before you reach the Clark Farm Utceter Station recreational parking for the Golden Eagle Trail. It is important to note these details because the trailheads can be hard to find if you don’t know what you are looking for. Also I had a few of these details wrong in my notes.

Ross Run Recreational Parking

Ross Run Recreational Parking

Unfortunately Bob Webber died just last month. He was a Bureau of Forestry ranger responsible for creating many of the hiking trails in Central Pennsylvania. All of the local papers featured tribute stories on his life.

The Bob Webber Trail is almost entirely uphill so I did not enjoy the arduous ascent. I am extremely slow at climbing uphill since I have to stop for breath every 10 feet and lean on a tree. The trek seems to last forever and I keep hoping that there is just a little further to go but there is always a lot more uphill climbing to do. I only saw two other hikers on their way down but when I finally made my way back down the trail I saw a party of three and a party of two hikers on their way up.

After a long ascent the trail makes a series of switchbacks. You can tell a switchback by the double trail blazes. The trail blazes were yellow and not blue as my outdated hiking book claimed. At the top of the mountain there is an interesting rock formation and a short side trail to two small springs which I would have missed except for a trail sign.

The reward for this grueling hike is a stunning vista view of the Wolf Run Wild Area. You can clearly see the Ravenshorn on the Golden Eagle Trail on the mountain. I could also see another overlook on the Golden Eagle Trail which is a scary rock cliff. I had my binoculars in my backpack so I could spy on these two distant overlooks but I did not see any hikers there. Other than that, the view is of forested mountains with absolutely no signs of human habitation to ruin the wilderness. It looks like you are out in the middle of nowhere with mountains stretching endlessly into the distance. I spent about a half hour enjoying the view because I really had to earn it. There are two benches at the end of the trail but these were not as fancy as I was expecting. The benches were just thin logs laid on the ground.

Bob Webber Trail View

Bob Webber Trail View

I was able to get down the trail a lot faster than it took to climb it. I decided to treat myself with lunch at the Waterville Tavern, just outside the road leading to the Little Pine State Park. The Waterville Tavern is a rustic roadside tavern. It is very popular with the outdoor recreationists in the Pine Creek Gorge and I have to admit that the food is pretty good. I ordered a Patty Melt which was quite delicious and worth the wait.

Waterville Tavern

Waterville Tavern

The Pine Creek area is simply gorgeous and worth further exploration. I will have to buy a bike to ride the Rail Trail because you can enjoy some great views of the mountains and Pine Creek as you ride your bike. I saw a lot people in kayaks in Pine Creek and many people fishing. Just driving along Route 44 is amazing in itself. Fortunately the area is not too over-run with tourists since Lycoming County is far from Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, New York City, or any other major city. However, on Memorial Day the Pine Creek was clearly a popular destination. There are a few small villages along Route 44 and some signs of luxury accommodations like lavish hunting lodges, but otherwise everything seems genuinely rustic and relatively undiscovered.

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Exploring Danville PA

I have driven pass Danville many times on the way to Philadelphia or the Poconos but I have never stopped to see what may be found there. Actually I remember driving through Danville a few times on the way to Knoebels Amusement Park. On the second day of the Memorial Day weekend I finally spent some quality time in Danville to check it out.

One of the major incentives for finally making this trip was my discovery last year of the Robbins Trail, a hiking trail with my last name! Naturally I had to hike my namesake trail. The full name of the trail is the J. Manley Robbins Trail and I don’t think I have any remote relatives by that name. Another good reason to visit Danville is because the Geisinger Medical Center is located there. Geisinger is a huge medical complex which serves as the entire region’s trauma center.  There is a good chance that you may be sent to Geisinger if you are in a serious accident in Central Pennsylvania. Even at work I frequently encounter references to Geisinger since we transport patients there.

The trailhead for the Robbins Trail is behind the Perkins parking lot just north of the town. It begins with a pleasant path through some underbrush not far from the highway into town. The entire trail is perfectly level. The Robbins Trail is actually a bicycle trail but I did not see anyone riding a bike on it, just joggers. At around a trail sign that reads Roup Spur, the trail makes a turn to head back the other way along Mahoning Creek and though a more heavily wooded area alongside a mountain. Eventually the trail ends back at the Perkins restaurant and a Sunoco gas station where there is a bridge over the Mahoning Creek. I was glad this was a circuit trail because I did not want to retrace my steps.

Robbins Trail

Robbins Trail

After hiking that trail I headed into the city of Danville. I found a parking lot hidden away down an alley alongside Mill Street, the main business street. You would never find this parking lot just wandering into town without doing your research. But I suppose I could have parked along Mill Street because it was a Sunday morning and the town was completely dead. It was like a ghost town. The only people I saw where a few veterans running around in motorized wheelchairs.

Danville is clearly a town suffering major fiscal distress. I saw a lot of closed businesses along Mill Street with many boarded up storefronts. Sometimes it was hard to tell if an establishment was still in business. And the street was completely empty of shoppers or local residents. I probably just picked a bad time to visit although it was great for taking photos without feeling conspicuous. Everything was closed.

Danville Mural

Danville Mural

Years ago I would have been nasty and declared Danville a dump which is not worth taking the time to visit. But after traveling quite a bit I can see the hidden charms of any place. Danville may be a bit shabby but it seems like a real town that hasn’t been taken over by tourists. It has a lot of that Pennsylvania podunk town charm with dilapidated taverns on street corners and old storefronts. Still I would have expected a more lively town with the Geisinger Medical Center in town. Where are all those doctors spending their money?

Mill Street

Mill Street

There wasn’t anything to do in Danville since everything was closed, but I wandered up and down Mill Street taking photos. While researching the town, I was annoyed to find so few photos of anything on Mill Street. Google Street View is unavailable for this street so it was almost impossible to determine where anything is located. Well I fixed that! I took 118 photos that day so I have a photo of everything on Mill Street, although one side of the street was directly in the glare of the sun which ruined a few of my photos. One interesting discovery was a small basement performance space called The Booth Theater. I also liked the small Danville River Front Park which had a nice fountain. I also saw two Danville murals.

Danville River Front Park

Danville River Front Park

It was hard to find a restaurant which was open for breakfast, but I did find Edith’s Kitchen open. This was a fairly large restaurant with plenty of seating so I was able to get a table. I ordered the Fruity French Toast with blueberry and walnut syrup. This was three pieces of French Toast cut into six pieces. The blueberry syrup was very watery, like kool-aid, with blueberries and walnuts floating in it. I would have liked the syrup to be thicker, although it would have made the meal heavier. I used the bathroom which only had one stall. The Fruity French Toast and coffee cost me $10.45.

After breakfast I bought a copy of the local paper, The Press Enterprise, Sunday edition for $1.50. I had to go back to my car twice to get enough quarters for the vending machine. I can actually buy this paper at the local Wegmans since they carry many newspapers. Danville is only 50 minutes from Williamsport which is practically in the neighborhood given the distance between towns and cities in Central Pennsylvania.

I wasn’t very impressed by Danvlle and don’t see a reason to go back there any time soon. The next town to explore east on Route 80 will be Bloomsburg. I am particularly interested in the Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble, one of the major theaters in the region. That trip will have to wait until after my vacation in San Francisco in two weeks.

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Second Trip to Potter County

Over the Memorial Day weekend I made my second trip to Coudersport and Potter County. It was a bright sunny day, but a little on the chilly side, so the region made a better impression upon me. Ordinarily I would not repeat a trip within a week but I was not satisfied with the photos I took last week. I also really enjoy exploring quaint, small towns and going for walks in the woods. It is the only real adventure you can experience, a trip into the unknown. I am easily entertained by seeing new places. Even a shabby old building is intriguing because it is the unfamiliar.

On this trip I made more of an effort to take photos of interesting roadside sights even if it meant stopping along the highway. My first stop was to take photos of the “Welcome to Potter County” sign which includes the tag line “God’s Country”. That makes me think this is an extremely religious county, but it may just refer to the natural beauty of the mountains and forests. After that I stopped at the Black Forest Trading Post, a country store and gift shop. I also took a photo of their road sign promoting their deer park. I didn’t find anything I really wanted to buy inside, but I eventually settled for a large souvenir coffee mug. It is important to note the order in which I encountered these establishments  along U.S. Route 6 because it provides a series of landmarks that tell you how far along you are on this long stretch of highway.

Welcome to Potter County - God's Country

Welcome to Potter County – God’s Country

For example, beyond the Black Forest Trading Post I came upon the Pennsylvania Lumber Museum. I stopped there to take a photo of the large road sign and the impressive Visitor Center which is made out of wood. It looks like a huge hunting lodge. I didn’t visit the museum at this time because the parking lot was virtually empty and I was eager to reach Coudersport. I also pulled into the Sweden Valley Inn parking lot and took a photo of this rustic roadside diner and the road sign for Sweden Valley Cabins. This is approximately the area where you look for the connection to Route 44 which takes you to the Cherry Springs State Park. Therefore I thought it important to get some photos for my notes.

After that I finally reached Coudersport where I took advantage of the bright sun to take many more photos of better quality. I got some excellent photos of the creepy Victorian mansion which stands in ruin on Main Street. I also took additional photos of Hotel Crittenden, the Coudersport Mural, and the Coudersport Theatre. And I photographed the court house, the town gazebo, and the Civil War memorial which give the town that classic small town look. I had breakfast at Maple Tree On Main, a pleasant community restaurant. I ordered biscuits with sausage gravy and home fires and a coke. This was virtually identical to the breakfast I had at Fezz’s Community Diner on my trip last week, but I thought it was a little bit better here. I noticed a bookshelf of cookbooks behind the cash register nook which gave the restaurant a cozy feel. I could really go for a restaurant with its own bookstore and maybe a lounge where you can read.

Maple Tree On Main

Maple Tree On Main

After breakfast I drove to Patterson State Park. This park is little more than a picnic area with just one pavilion and some room for camping. However, it does have a trailhead for the Susquehannock Trail System and that was what I was interested in. The park was surprisingly crowded  with a few camper vans, tents, and people having a picnic. I found the trailhead for the Susquehannock Trail System. This section must be known as the Kerr Trail judging by the trail sign. The Susquehannock Trail System stretches for 85 miles and crosses numerous state parks and two counties, so I had no intention of hiking the whole trail. That would actually require a week of hiking and camping along the trail. I only hiked for about a half hour and turned back when the trail started to make a steep descent. It is easy enough to hike downhill, but the return trip uphill can be brutal. I did see a deer bounding through the woods but I did not get too close.

Patterson State Park

Patterson State Park

I did visit the Pennsylvania Lumber Museum on my way back east on U.S. 6. I wasn’t too keen on visiting this museum but it did prove to be a little more impressive than I expected. They have an extensive outdoor exhibit which includes a massive sawmill and log pond, a locomotive used to haul timber, log cars, loader sheds, and even a Civilian Conservation Corps log cabin. It is like a trip into the past to visit a lumber camp. They even have a Sustainable Forestry Trail so I was able to do even more hiking. Part of the trail follows a very picturesque brook. I bought a pack of souvenir playing cards in the gift shop and a bottle of locally produced maple syrup, the nectar of the trees, which is sort of appropriate for a lumber museum.

Pennsylvania Lumber Museum

Pennsylvania Lumber Museum

On the way back to Wellsboro, I pulled over at Galeton and took some photos of the interesting commercial buildings which loom over the curve of U.S. Route 6. I am particularly proud of myself for doing this because it was a little hazardous to park there, although there was definitely an area where you could park, and I really wanted some photos of this unique architecture. You rarely see large storefronts directly abutting a major highway or on a curve. One of the large building housed another country gift store, Heart’s Desire, which I regret not going into just to look around.

Galeton Commercial Buildings

Galeton Commercial Buildings

As usual, I visited Colton Point State Park since it would be a shame to drive this far north and not see the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon, the major tourist attraction in the region. I went to the most easily accessible lookouts to take some great photos of the Pine Creek Gorge in strong sunlight. But I did not hike the Rim Trail even though I parked at the trailhead. Instead I investigated another trailhead. I found the West Rim Trail, a 30 Mile Pathway, in a large parking area at the bottom of Colton Road. This parking area was almost completely full even though there is nothing there except the trailhead, unless I’m missing something. A 30 mile trail cannot be completed in one day so these cars may have been for people hiking the entire trail and camping in the woods. In other words, this may be long term parking. I did not hike very far along this trail. I did encounter a sign for the Pine Creek Gorge Natural Area, which I’ve never heard of. I’ll have to study my maps to figure out where this trail goes. It does seem to be a popular trail because I was following a couple of other hikers and their dog the entire way before I turned back.

I didn’t spend any time in Wellsboro because that town is getting a little old and I have taken photos of everything there several times. But I did stop at From My Shelf Books and parked right in front of the bookstore since there is no need to find a parking space now. I found the book I was looking for all day, Short Hikes in God’s Country by Chuck Dillon. This is the book about all the hiking areas in Potter County so I’m going to find that useful. I also bought a paperback copy of The Tin Flute by Gabrielle Roy. I thought I might already own a copy of this Canadian novel, and in fact I do, but it was only $2.00 and it is a cleaner copy than the paperback book I already had.

Some people would not find this trip very interesting, but I thought it was a great start to a Memorial Day weekend. I could have spent the entire holiday at home working on the computer, but instead I explored the great outdoors. The visits to small towns provided a nice bit of variety to all the hiking I did, three separate hikes. I should mention that the U. S. Route 6 is extremely popular with bikers who roam the highway in packs. Their bikes can be seen parked at every roadside diner and state park.

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Trip to Potter County

Yesterday I made a road trip to Potter County, which is the county west of Tioga County. I especially wanted to visit Coudersport, a small town I read about in the book, Country Towns of Pennsylvania: Charming Small Towns and Villages to Explore by Marcus H. Schneck ISBN: 978-0658000058. I frequently visit Tioga County to see the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon (aka the Pine Creek Gorge), the major tourist attraction in the region.

I almost cancelled my plans because the day started with rain and the forecast called for thunderstorms in the afternoon. But I don’t trust the weather reports anymore and in fact it did not rain much for the rest of the day. It was very cloudy and gloomy at times so some of my photos are a little too dark.

To reach Coudersport you just continue west on US Route 6. I already know how to get on US Route 6 from Wellsboro because you need to get on that highway to reach Colton Point State Park. Along US Route 6 I saw many rustic establishments from the era of roadside attractions; diners, inns, campgrounds, motels, and gift shops. For example, I drove pass the Pennsylvania Lumber Museum although I did not visit it. I drove pass the Black Forest Trading Post which has a deer park, Potato City Country Inn, and Sweden Valley Inn. Although most of these rustic establishments looked a little shabby there were a few examples of more upscale hunting lodges for luxury outdoor recreation. The only place I stopped at on the way to Coudersport was Fezz’s Community Diner at the Mill Creek Plaza. The Mill Creek Plaza was a rural shopping plaza with shabby buildings. But Fezz’s Diner was a classic 1950s diner,  very retro. I had biscuits with sausage gravy which was pretty good but nothing special. There were four or five biscuits so it was plenty of food for breakfast.

Coudersport is a very small town. One of those places that time has forgot. The area appears to be economically distressed. Coudersport could be as charming as Jim Thorpe but they must not get as many tourists. Nevertheless there were a few things to see there. I saw the Coudersport Mural on a side of a building. Lots of small towns and cities now have a mural to commemorate local history. For example, Williamsport has a mural across from the Community Arts Center. I also saw the creepy mansion, the ruined Franklin W. Knox House. This was actually my major reason for making the trip. This Victorian mansion is amazing! It has enough architectural interest to be left standing even though it is all boarded up and in an advanced state of decay. It looks like a haunted house. Fortunately my photos of the house are pretty good even though it was very cloudy at the time. You could say it was appropriately gloomy.

Creepy Coudersport Mansion

Creepy Coudersport Mansion

I also saw the Adelphia Communications Corporation headquarters. This grand building is very modern but it was designed to look vaguely Victorian so as to match the rest of the town’s best architecture. This building looks much too fancy for such a shabby little town. It was the headquarters of  a cable television empire which collapsed due to fraud. The downfall of Adelphia and its effect on Coudersport is probably an interesting story but unfortunately there has not been a book written about it.

Coudersport Theater

Coudersport Theater

After Coudersport, my next destination in Potter County was Cherry Springs State Park. This state park is famous for dark sky astronomy. It even has some Astro Haven domes for telescopes. I saw lots of amateur astronomers camped out on the Astronomy Field in camper vans although the skies should have been cloudy that night. But there isn’t much to see at this state park except for the dark sky. There was an Working Forest Interpretive Trail which I hiked. The trail was very easy and covered in gravel for most of the way. It led me though some dense underbrush and forest which was very attractive with the vibrant green leaves of new foliage. The leaves were almost a florescent green and looked spectacular against the dark tree trunks. I did take a wrong turn onto East Branch Road and drove all the way to Conrad, going through the Susquehannock State Forest, until  I realized this was not taking me to Cherry Springs State Park. This is an easy mistake to make since the park sign is right in front of that road and it makes it look like you should turn there to enter the park.

Cherry Springs State Park

Cherry Springs State Park

When I left Cherry Springs State Park I briefly stopped at Longtoe Vista which must be somewhere along PA 44. Once back on US Route 6 my goal was to find a gas station. There are surprisingly few gas stations in the region so it is worthwhile to note their locations. I couldn’t get gas until I reached an Apple Market in Galeton PA.

Before going home I visited Colton Point State Park again and hiked the Rim Trail. I started down the Turkey Path before realizing I was not still on the Rim Trail. That trail goes all the way down to Pine Creek Gorge but it is too steep for me. Climbing back up the trail would be really exhausting! Finally I stopped in at Wellsboro where I discovered that the From My Shelf Books bookstore had moved. At first I thought they had closed and I was a bit sad about that, but just as I was leaving I spotted the new store in a shopping plaza down the street from the Wellsboro Diner. Fortunately I had parked on Pearl Street and the shopping plaza was right across from there.  I even found a book I was looking for, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers.

This trip really advanced my knowledge of the region north of Lycoming County. There are several places I could visit on a return trip. I should visit the Pennsylvania Lumber Museum some day and Susquehannock State Forest might have some hiking trails. The area reinforces my impression of the region’s rustic recreational nature with plenty of hunting lodges, campgrounds in the woods, and vintage roadside attractions.

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Washington DC – Trip Into The City

Yesterday I made my tenth trip to Washington DC. As usual, this trip took place during the National Cherry Blossom Festival. This year the cherry blossoms were at their peak and it was a beautiful, sunny day. I expected it to be more chilly than it was, so I wore a sweater which made me too hot. For my San Francisco vacation I will need to buy a light sweater with buttons so I can remove a layer more easily.

I did not spend too much time planning this trip. My only goals were to visit the Adams Morgan neighborhood and Chinatown. Reading about San Francisco’s Chinatown made me want to explore Washington DC’s Chinatown, but the nation’s capital has a very small Chinatown.

I used the Metro to get to Adams Morgan. My previous notes on how to use the Metro proved useful and I managed to find my way. I bought single trip farecards for $2.75 and avoided overspending.

The Adams Morgan neighborhood is described and recommended in the travel guides to Washington DC. It is a colorful area of the city with many ethnic restaurants and fashionable boutiques. Still, it was not a particularly worthwhile place to visit since there is nothing to do except have lunch and do a little shopping. I actually arrived at Adams Morgan before most of the stores were open on Sunday, even after walking all the way from the Woodley Park Metro Station and across the Duke Ellington Bridge. So I spent about an hour photographing establishments on both sides of 18th Street and wandered down some of the other streets.

Adams Morgan

Adams Morgan

By 11:00 a.m. Idle Time Books was open so I made that my first stop. I bought the book, Smile When You’re Lying: Confessions of a Rogue Travel Writer, by Chuck Thompson. This seemed to be the perfect book since I love to travel. My travel writing is pretty boring, just like what this book is criticizing. I plan to write a novel about space travel entitled Offworld. It is going to be a boring piece of imaginary travel writing
unless I can think of a story.

By 11:30 a.m. Sakuramen Ramen Bar was open so I had lunch there. I picked this restaurant because I like Japanese culture and ramen shops are great for a really cheap meal. This restaurant is rather small and it filled up shortly after opening, but I was early enough to get a seat at the largest table. I ordered Sakuramen, their signature vegetarian ramen with corn, green onion, mushrooms, and nori. It was pretty good but only one cut above instant ramen. They only give you a soup spoon and chopsticks to eat with. Everyone was using chopsticks but I only used the spoon. Yes, I still have not learned how to eat with chopsticks even though I’ve bought some to practice with. This meal was only $11.00 but I left $15.00 with tip.

After lunch I went to a punk rock record store. There are actually two such stores in Adams Morgan, Smash Records and Crooked Beat Records, but Crooked Beat Records was late to open so I went to Smash Records. The selection of CDs was
small so I bought a CD of Washington DC heavy rock underground bands, Doom Capital. They also had some good old-fashioned vinyl but I did not want to carry an LP record all over Washington DC. I feel too old for punk rock record stores but most of the original punk rockers are dead now anyways. Punk rock will soon be old people’s music, golden oldies!

Although I only spent an hour or two at Adams Morgan, there was no reason to hang around. I took the Metro to Chinatown, which is on the Red Line at the Gallery Place Station. Gallery Place is a small shopping mall built over the station. The Verizon Center is also nearby. I took lots of photos of the Friendship Arch (the Chinatown gate), and a few recommended Chinese restaurants in the area. I also explored Gallery Place which is not much of a mall. I considered watching a movie at Regal Cinema but nothing good was playing.

Friendship Arch

Friendship Arch

I was done with Chinatown by 1:30 p.m. so I walked all the way back to the National Mall and killed time at a few Smithsonian Museums. First I visited the National Museum of Natural History because it has been a long time since I’ve visited that museum. The dinosaur exhibit was being redesigned but I did get to see the Hope Diamond. Then I spent a brief amount of time at the Freer Gallery of Art and saw the Peacock Room again. And finally I went to National Air and Space Museum to kill several hours. At the gift shop I bought the book Robots in Space: Technology, Evolution, and Interplanetary Travel (New Series in NASA History) by Roger D. Launius and Howard E. McCurdy. This book is probably pretty boring but it was the most interesting title I saw. But as I was leaving the gift shop I saw they had Failure Is Not an Option: Mission Control From Mercury to Apollo 13 and Beyond by Gene Kranz which might have been a better book.

National Air and Space Museum

National Air and Space Museum

I should mention that our tour bus had a lot of trouble getting out of the city and we wound up driving around the Watergate complex and the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, an area I’ve never seen before.

This will probably be my last bus trip for this year because I will now be totally focused on San Francisco. I have decided to go to San Francisco twice. Once on my own and once on a package tour which will include side trips to Napa Valley and Monterey. Going twice will be very expensive so I will have to save all my money for San Francisco. I am almost ready to book my hotel and flight for the trip on my own.

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ASP.NET 1.1 Is Broken

Recently I came across the first instance I’ve seen of Microsoft dropping support for its legacy web application technology. ASP.NET 1.1 is now seriously broken. Officially, support for ASP.NET 1.1 ended on October 14, 2008. What I am talking about is a serious technical issue which creates a problem for legacy ASP.NET 1.1 web applications.

By default, the release version of the .NET Framework 1.1 supports only the SSL 3.0 protocol. By default, the Transport Layer Security (TLS) protocol is disabled. Unfortunately, SSL 3.0 became vulnerable to a padding attack, named the POODLE attack (which stands for “Padding Oracle On Downgraded Legacy Encryption”), see this Wikipedia article. Because of that security issue, many APIs are dropping support for SSL 3.0.

I encountered this problem because I still support LaGarde’s Storefront 6.0 which was never converted to ASP.NET 2.0. All Storefront 6.0 web sites still need to run under ASP.NET 1.1. Storefront 6.0 used at least two APIs, from Authorize.Net and UPS, which no longer accept requests over SSL 3.0. Storefront 6.0 was an e-commerce shopping cart and  it is now unable to validate credit cards through Authorize.Net or get shipping rates quotes from UPS.

Fortunately, I have developed a really easy fix for this problem. I can force ASP.NET 1.1 to use TLS instead of SSL 3.0 for every request. And this can be done without recompiling the DLLs which Storefront 6.0 uses.

I rarely get any work requests for Storefront 6.0 and frankly nobody should still be using such an old e-commerce shopping cart. There is no official support for Storefront 6.0 and nobody is addressing any security problems that may exist in the code. But if you need to keep your e-commerce site running until you can migrate to something else, then contact me for a solution to the SSL problem.

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Creative Genius And Programming

I consider myself to be a creative genius. My imagination excels at the intuitive leap ahead where something occurs to me like a miracle, without my knowing how I arrived at the idea. Unfortunately this type of creative genius can be useless for a programmer because programming requires thinking of the precise steps required to achieve the desired result. In programming, it will do you no good if you think of something brilliant without knowing how to arrive at it. So although I am often inspired and profoundly inspired this has never been apparent in my career. In fact, I have never benefited from my creative genius in any way. All it seems to do is make me an idle dreamer. You could say that I took to computer programming as an antidote to this idle dreaming. Exerting control over a computer gives you the illusion of creative power. There is also a strong graphics design element to web pages which appeals to anyone who loves book covers, magazine layouts and other printed matter.

Recently I have decided to make a concerted effort to apply my creative genius to my craft. My incentive for this is that I need money. Everyone seems to think you can get rich quick with just a good idea for an application. Frankly, I find these entrepreneurs annoying since they try to entice you to do a herculean task for a piece of the company when all they have to fund their project is a few hundred dollars. But there are many modest ways to make money in software development. Most of the start ups I read about are focused on mobile applications for smartphones and tablets. Unfortunately mobile application development is a completely different technology stack than web development so it would take me a long time to learn how to create those kinds of applications.

For now, I think I have come up with my first brilliant idea which does qualify as an example of my creative genius applied to programming. I first thought of this idea as an elaborate joke but after further thought it does seem to have some potential. My idea was to generate IBM punch cards as image files which encode data. These image files can then be scanned back into the computer to read the data. Only you don’t actually need to scan the punch card, just read the pixels from fixed locations in the image. IBM punch cards are an obsolete form of data entry so this is sort of a joke. But they do have an advantage over bar codes and QR codes in that they are human readable, to an extent, and the encoding scheme is extremely simple. The basic concept can be taken further. For example, you could create a deck of punch cards as an animated gif. Smartphones could scan punch cards to obtain a web address just like how QR codes are used now. OK, so I can’t imagine why you would want to do that, but it is sort of cool. At the very least, you can use a punch card as your calling card if it encodes your web site address. For example, the punch card image below can be read to give you my web site address.

http://www.williamsportwebdeveloper.com

punch card for my web site

I have created two web pages on my web site to demonstrate this idea. Punchcard Image Generator allows you to enter up to 80 characters and generates the punch card image that represents that data. Punchcard Image Reader allows you to upload this image. It scans the punch card by reading the pixel color at fixed positions in the image and shows you the data that was punched onto the card.

This idea is probably not going to make me rich. It doesn’t seem to be of any practical use whatsoever. But it does exemplify my quirky imagination and it is somewhat brilliant. There are probably some old mainframe programmers who will get a chuckle out of it. A more serious application of my creative genius to computer programming requires more thought. I’m not a math whiz so I can’t do anything highly technical. Fortunately there is a wealth of possibility out there in the form of old technology that was surpassed before anyone really had the time to take advantage of it. I’m inclined to look towards old technology because I can wrap my head around it. As I do my programming chores, I’m always looking for an angle, something that I can use in an unexpected way to get ahead. There are also millions of lines of open source code out there that you could study, searching for a killer idea. But who has the time to do that? Another idea I had was to stalk a particularly brilliant programmer. Programmers attract very little attention but you can find out an awful lot about their work. I am currently in scheming mode.

 

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My First GitHub Repository

I have begun to do my research on San Francisco which will be the next major city I visit. San Francisco is a particularly interesting city because it is close to Silicon Valley. A large number of technology companies are located in San Francisco, particularly in the South Park district. I have already added several technology companies to my travel notes including; Wired Magazine, Twitter Headquarters, Reddit, and GitHub. This has given me a shot of enthusiasm for technology. I have begun a new project to “kick it up a notch”, in other words, to take my mad skills to a whole other level.

I spend way too much time on Reddit so I’m interested in the technology behind that site. I learned that Reddit was originally developed using web.py, an open source web application framework created by Aaron Swartz. web.py uses Python so it is a bit sexier than the PHP or C# programming languages I usually use. Python is the programming language that slowly chokes you to death with its layers of complexity. I am currently learning how to extend one of the sample projects, a blog which illustrates basic CRUD functionality (Create, Read, Update, and Delete).

I have also created my first GitHub repository for this project. https://github.com/rsrobbins/reading I desperately need to learn how to use Git so this is probably the best reason for doing this project. A programmer is practically unemployable if he does not know how to use Git or some other version control system. Nobody is going to hire you if you are completely ignorant when it comes to working with Git. But since I work alone most of the time, I have not had to learn how to use it. I have seen a GitHub repository before. A lot of the open source code I make use of has been moved to a GitHub repository. But the only time I found it necessary to create an account was to suggest a fix for a problem I had with SubSonic 2 where the code clearly wasn’t right.

So far I have found a GitHub repository quite useful for eliminating the need to keep this project in sync at work and at home using a thumb drive. I also like the wiki where I can keep my notes on the project. I love documentation and notes! I think this GitHub repository will also be useful as my code portfolio. Currently I find it difficult to create a portfolio since I don’t do web site designs and my custom web applications are for backend administration, so I cannot make anything available to the general public. But my GitHub repository is public and eventually it will demonstrate how I work on a project. Every little change will be available for you to backtrack, although I doubt that anyone will be interested in my work. My web application will just be a simple web site for managing the list of books I have read. This was my earliest database which I have been maintaining since the days of MS-DOS. The only interesting aspect of my project is that it will demonstrate how to use web.py to create a complete web application, and not just a bare bones web application for a crude blog. I have already solved an irritating problem with the static files for the view.html and edit.html templates.

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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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