Category Archives: Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Part III: Titusville

When we left New York, we went back down I-90 South to make one last stop in Pennsylvania. This location was just outside of Titusville, about 1.5 hours south of Erie. We were at the Oil Creek Family Campground adjacent to Oil Creek State Park, at the edge of the Allegheny National Forest. This part of Pennsylvania is known as the Oil Region. We were surprised to learn that it is from this location that the American Oil Industry began.

Since we were near a state park, we spent lots of our time from this location walking the dogs or riding our bikes. We took a tourist train ride from an historic depot in Titusville, and learned lots of good stuff from our docent, Rod. (He was a retired math teacher with a passion for railroad history. He had a great sense of humor and many fun stories to share).

The highlight of MY time near Titusville was when the dogs and I came face to face with a LARGE black bear on an early morning walk. That was exciting. I was wide awake before the sun one morning and decided to take Piper and Cessna on a super long walk to start the day. There was a thin morning fog hanging over the campground, and the sunrise was casting a peach colored glow on everything. The atmosphere was exceptionally still and quiet. The park was full of trailers and tents, but since everyone was still asleep, it seemed like we had the place to ourselves. That’s what the big black bear thought too.

The three us were coming down a wooded lane of seasonal campsites when the dogs alerted to something ‘in the air’. They started sniffing and snorting, pulling at me with their leashes as the adrenaline of wild animals infused their senses. This is normal. I was thinking they smelled a rabbit, a woodchuck, or squirrel. Maybe a deer. Happens all the time when we are in the woods. As I was looking around to see what they had noticed, my eyes focused on a giant animal beside a maintenance shed, about 20 yards in front of us. It was casually staring at us and wasn’t surprised to see us at all. The beast had heard us coming and was curious to see what was around the corner. Not exactly what my foggy brain was expecting to come across in the pre-dawn hours. My first thought was “why would someone put a giant carved statue of a bear here in this maintenance area”?  My next thought was “But, it looks so soft… do they make stuffed animals that big”? I began to snap to  and told myself “No. No, they don’t”. Holy crap, there was a big- ass bear directly in front of us! We were looking at a real life bear, and their was no fencing or plexi-glass window in front of us like at the zoo.

I remembered seeing something about how one should act loud and obnoxious when encountering a black bear. They are supposed to spook and shoo away from all the commotion. Acting loud and obnoxious should not be too hard of a task for me in the least! I yelled and clapped my hands. It just stared at us with a bored expression on its cute face. I was having trouble being scared, even though my instinct told me I should be slightly alarmed. I pleaded with Piper and Cessna to bark at it and scare him off, but they had never seen anything like that… and they weren’t sure they could take it down if necessary. It was BIG. They sat like silent statues.

It was about that time that a nice lady in one of the campground cabins opened her front door. I asked if we could please come onto her porch, as there was a bear right near the back of her cabin. Luckily, she obliged. We moved to the tiny covered porch and the bear edged back around the side of the shed, as if to hide from us. It had been rummaging through the campground trash bin, and was waiting for us to go away so it could get back to business.

She knew all about the bear. She said it had been hanging around the campground for a few days. She even had a picture of it on her phone. (I did not get a photo, because I did not have a camera with me that morning). We talked about who else had seen it and where it had been spotted. The consensus was that it was between 350 and 400 pounds. After a few minutes of wait-and-see, it wandered off in the opposite direction carrying a white bag of trash in its mouth. Piper, Cessna and I decided it would be safe to depart the porch, so we wished the lady a good day and went back the way we came. Away from the trash monger’s route.

I took the dogs to the fenced in dog park area so they could do their morning business. When they were done, I took them back to the Monaco. Our long morning walk had been cancelled. Mike was still asleep, so I got my car keys and drove toward the front of the campground. Damned if that bear wasn’t back at the trash bin again! (And I still didn’t have my phone to take a picture)! I followed it around the corner in my car and it tried to evade the Honda by slinking back behind the maintenance shed again. I pursued it a bit more, and it finally trotted off into the woods. The poor lady in the rental cabin was on her porch again when it ran right past her.  She said she was glad to be checking out that morning! I kept my phone with me at all times for the rest of our stay at Oil Creek, hoping to get another glimpse (and hopefully a photo). I guess I should be glad when I say we didn’t see it again before we left.

I’ve attached a few more photos and tidbits below with extra details about our last stop in Pennsylvania. The rest of the trip was much more low key.

One day I drove south to the historic town of Emlenton. At one time in its past, it had more millionaires per capita than any other place in the country.  On my way back I drove through Foxburg and accidentally stumbled upon the Foxburg Country Club, featuring the oldest golf course in contiguous use within the U.S. It was established in 1887.

One day I drove south to the historic town of Emlenton. At one time in its past, it had more millionaires per capita than any other place in the country. On my way back I drove through Foxburg and accidentally stumbled upon the Foxburg Country Club, featuring the oldest golf course in continuous use within the U.S. It was established in 1887.

On my drive through Emlenton and Foxburg, I stopped for a snack at the Allegheny Grill on the banks of the Allegheny River. The day was just too gorgeous not to stop and enjoy the view from the patio for a bit.

On my drive through Emlenton and Foxburg, I stopped for a snack at the Allegheny Grill on the banks of the Allegheny River. The day was just too gorgeous not to pause and enjoy the view from the patio for a bit.

Mike was able to fish a couple of times in Oil Creek. That always makes him a happy camper.

Mike was able to fish a couple of times in Oil Creek. That always makes him a happy camper.

The views along the bike trail in Oil Creek State Park were magnificent.

The views along the bike trail in Oil Creek State Park were magnificent.

The first day we went to see about the bike trail at Oil Creek State Park, we had the dogs and intended to take them on an extra long walk. Unfortunately, the gnats were so annoying, we turned around after only one mile. The next time we returned, it was on our bikes.  We went for a 10-mile ride, and they didn't bother us as much. I guess since we were moving faster, they couldn't circle us as easily.

The first day we went to see about the bike trail at Oil Creek State Park, we had the dogs and intended to take them on an extra long walk. Unfortunately, the gnats were so annoying, we turned around after only one mile. The next time we returned, it was on our bikes. We went for a 10-mile ride, and they didn’t bother us as much. I guess since we were moving faster, they couldn’t circle us as easily.

A one lane dirt road connected our campground to Oil Creek State Park, The short drive between the two places was always spellbinding.

A one lane dirt road connected our campground to Oil Creek State Park, The short drive between the two places was always spellbinding.

We drove over to Erie one afternoon. We wandered around the bayfront for a little while before getting back in the car and driving around the bay to Presque Isle State Park.  It was at the far end of the Peninsula that we found this happy kite beach.

We drove over to Erie one afternoon. We wandered around the bayfront for a little while before getting back in the car and driving around the bay to Presque Isle State Park. It was at the far end of the Peninsula that we found this happy kite beach.

The marina in Erie - just off of downtown.

The marina in Erie – just off of downtown.

We visited Erie on a gloomy day, but there were still plenty of boats in the bay.

We visited Erie on a gloomy day, but there were still plenty of boats in the bay.

There was a 2.5 mile hiking path that circled the Oil Creek Family Campground. The four of us walked in on our first full day. After I learned that we were sharing the campground with a 300+ pound bear, we did not take advantage of the rustic trail again.

There was a 2.5 mile hiking path that circled the Oil Creek Family Campground. The four of us walked in on our first full day. After I learned that we were sharing the campground with a 300+ pound bear, we did not take advantage of the rustic trail again.

If anyone would have asked these two proud Texans where the modern-day oil industry originated, our answer would have been the Lone Star State. Not true. In America, it actually happened in the Oil Creek Valley of Pennsylvania.

If anyone would have asked these two proud Texans where the modern-day oil industry originated, our answer would have been the Lone Star State. Not true. In America, it actually happened in the Oil Creek Valley of Pennsylvania.

Next to the historic Depot in downtown Titusville is The Caboose Motel. The place has about 20 rooms. Each room is a refurbished train caboose, complete with bathrooms, televisions, phones, and all the other usual comforts of home. I wish I could have seen the inside of one.

Next to the historic Depot in downtown Titusville is The Caboose Motel. The place has about 20 rooms. Each room is a refurbished train caboose, complete with bathrooms, televisions, phones, and all the other usual comforts of home. I wish I could have seen the inside of one.

We went for a train ride on the Oil Creek and Titusville Railroad. It was a three-hour round trip ride along 13 miles of tracks within the Oil Creek State Park. Back in the day, the area would have been littered with oil derricks and all the other equipment that accompanies a full-fledged boom. Now the landscape has grown over all the abandoned wells and pipes.

We went for a train ride on the Oil Creek and Titusville Railroad. It was a three-hour round trip ride along 13 miles of tracks within the Oil Creek State Park. Back in the day, the area would have been littered with oil derricks and all the other equipment that accompanies a full-fledged boom. Now the landscape has grown over all the abandoned wells and pipes.

All of the trees and green of this region were destroyed when oil drilling began in earnest. It was kind of like taking a train ride through a ghost town...slightly eerie.

All of the trees and green of this region were destroyed when oil drilling began in earnest. It was kind of like taking a train ride through a ghost town…slightly eerie.

When we first arrived to the depot, we bought two regular tickets at a discounted price. As soon as other families with large numbers of children began to arrive, Mike approached me with an idea. How about we upgrade our tickets to first-class. It would be better in that car, because all the kids would be back in the coach section. I laughed because my frugal husband was more than happy to shell out the bucks if it meant escaping the throngs of kiddos. They moved the engine car to the other end of the train on our return trip, and we got this great view of the tracks behind us!

When we first arrived to the depot, we bought two regular tickets at a discounted price. As soon as other families with large numbers of children began to arrive, Mike approached me with an idea. How about we upgrade our tickets to first-class? The cost was almost double, but we could ride in the front VIP car. He said it would be better in that car, because all the kids would be back in the coach section. I laughed because my frugal husband was more than happy to shell out extra bucks if it meant escaping throngs of scary kiddos on an educational outing with their parents and grandparents. We went with his idea and almost had the front car all to ourselves. We shared it with three other adults and one small child. The train crew moved the engine car to the other end of the train on our return trip, and we got this great view of the tracks behind us for the second half of the excursion! Another perk of our upgraded tickets.

An old bridge we crossed above Oil Creek.

An old bridge we crossed above Oil Creek.

 

Pennsylvania Part II: East Stroudsburg

Our second stop in The Keystone State was up north near the New Jersey line and Mount Pocono. The campground itself was the third worst we have stayed in. The owners had basically stopped caring about the place about twenty years ago, or so it seemed. Our electricity went off every 2 hours. We ran the generator when I did laundry, just to avoid power surges when the appliances were in full motion. The upside was that we had the place almost all to ourselves. We had a nice neighbor named Penny on the driver’s side, and no one else near us in any other direction. We took full advantage of our proximity to the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, taking the dogs on long hikes almost every day. We saw many beautiful waterfalls and other lush mountain scenery. We drove about an hour into New Jersey on Sunday evening to meet my cousin Kevin and his bride Claire for dinner in Morristown. It was a week of good exercise and bright night skies.

We asked if they could take a big rig. They said yes. We believed them. They assigned us a grass pad with no gravel or concrete. There had been lots of recent rains in the area. We sunk into the muddy ground before mike could even pull all the way into our spot. That is the first time we've been towed out of anywhere. Now, instead of asking the parks if they can take big rigs, our wording has changed a bit. The new question is "Do you have concrete or gravel pads"? Live and learn.

We asked if they could take a big rig. They said yes. We believed them. They assigned us a grass pad with no gravel or concrete. There had been lots of recent rains in the area. We sunk into the muddy ground before mike could even pull all the way into our spot. That is the first time we’ve been towed out of anywhere. Now, instead of asking the parks if they can take big rigs, our wording has changed a bit. The new question is “Do you have concrete or gravel pads”? Live and learn.

A view of the Delaware River Valley from our hike at Bushkill Falls.

A view of the Delaware River Valley from our hike at Bushkill Falls.

Mike spent most of his time during our waterfall hike looking for trout in the streams.

Mike spent most of his time during our waterfall hike looking for trout in the streams.

The dogs were mucho tired after our morning at Bushkill Falls.

The dogs were mucho tired after our morning at Bushkill Falls.

Waterfall selfie.

Waterfall selfie.

I love the noise and energy that you feel when standing so close to the rushing water.

I love the noise and energy that you feel when standing so close to the rushing water.

Sunset at the abandoned RV Park.

Sunset at the abandoned RV Park.

The little pond at Foxwood Family Campground provided some pretty scenery on our morning dog walks.

The little pond at Foxwood Family Campground provided some pretty scenery on our morning dog walks.

River Road runs along the Delaware River in The Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. So pretty.

River Road runs along the Delaware River in The Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. So pretty.

The McDade Recreational trail provided glimpses of the Delaware River along its path.

The McDade Recreational trail provided glimpses of the Delaware River along its path.

One of the benefits of staying at an ultra crappy campground where all utilities are on the blink...we had the place to ourselves.

One of the benefits of staying at an ultra crappy campground where all utilities are on the blink…we had the place to ourselves.

My friend Janet thought I was being a bit harsh when I called the place dumpy. When I took this photo and texted it to her, she realized I was actually being optimistic.

My friend Janet thought I was being a bit harsh when I called the place dumpy. When I took this photo and texted it to her, she realized I was actually being optimistic.

There wasn't too much to see in the form of restaurants or shopping in the Poconos, but we didn't mind. We spent most of our time on hikes through the wilderness. The Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area is a beautiful national resource.

There wasn’t too much to see in the form of restaurants or shopping in the Poconos, but we didn’t mind. We spent most of our time on hikes through the wilderness. The Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area is a beautiful national resource.

One of the corn fields along the McDade Recreational Trail.

One of the corn fields along the McDade Recreational Trail.

Buttermilk Falls was right down the road from our camp .

Buttermilk Falls was right down the road from our camp .

This is either Bride's Maids Falls, or Bridal Veil Falls. There were just so many to see that day!

This is either Bride’s Maids Falls, or Bridal Veil Falls. There were just so many to see that day!

More gnarly roots and rocks.

More gnarly roots and rocks.

I love all the exposed tree roots along the river bank.

I love all the exposed tree roots along the river bank.

 

 

 

Pennsylvania Part I: Denver

We left the Walmart parking lot near Baltimore’s BWI Airport on a clear and dry morning without a roof or oil leak (we hoped). Both of us were extremely relieved to be back on the Lower 48 in 48 Tour. We happily crossed Maryland off the list and drove north to start our month in Pennsylvania. Our first stop was Lancaster County – a world of farmlands, antiques, and Amish folks. Aside from one daytrip to Philadelphia, we mostly relaxed at home. I spent a lot of time driving along the back roads looking for Amish people like they were aliens, and stopping at every Farmer’s Market I stumbled upon. Mike played golf one afternoon. We played backgammon during happy hour. On Saturday night we lived large and had dinner at a local smorgasbord. It was a fun and low-key stop.

A typical vista in Amish Country.

A typical vista in Amish Country.

The Philadelphia City Hall looks more like a foreign embassy or the capitol building in another country.

The Philadelphia City Hall looks more like a foreign embassy or the capitol building in another country.

After we made it to the Art Museum in Philly, we were pondering what else to see during our short visit. Then it dawned on me... the LOVE sculpture was somewhere in the city. We had stopped into a restaurant called Water Works for a quick libation, so I got the scoop from the bartender. We paid our bill and followed his directions on a trek through the city center. It was exactly where he said it would be!

After we made it to the Art Museum in Philly, we were pondering what else to see during our short visit. Then it dawned on me… the LOVE sculpture was somewhere in the city. We had stopped into a restaurant called Water Works for a quick libation, so I got the scoop from the bartender. We paid our bill and followed his directions on a trek through the city center. It was exactly where he said it would be!

Almost every single person on those steps was channeling Rocky that afternoon.

Almost every single person on those steps was channeling Rocky that afternoon.

There are tons of majestic statues and sculptures all across downtown Philly.

There are tons of majestic statues and sculptures all across downtown Philly.

This was the view from the parking lot of an Amish Farmer's Market that I found on a little country back road. If I had an actual house with a patio or porch, you can bet most of those hanging baskets would have been purchased and transferred to the back of my Honda!

This was the view from the parking lot of an Amish Farmer’s Market that I found on a little country back road. If I had an actual house with a patio or porch, you can bet most of those hanging baskets would have been purchased and transferred to the back of my Honda!

I felt a bit like a cheezy paparazzi lurking in my car trying to take a photo of some 'authentic amish people' from a distance. They draw lots of tourism dollars from visitors in the region, but I wonder how they like living in a fishbowl as they try to maintain their simple lives.

I felt a bit like a cheezy paparazzi lurking in my car trying to take a photo of some ‘authentic amish people’ from a distance. They draw lots of tourism dollars from visitors in the region, but I wonder how they like living in a fishbowl as they try to maintain their simple lives.

I also wonder how these beautiful horses like sharing their carts on the road with cars, trucks, and loud motorcycles.

I also wonder how these beautiful horses like sharing their carts on the road with cars, trucks, and loud motorcycles.

Since we started the Lower 48 in 48 Tour, we've road signs telling us to watch for moose, bear (in Florida), deer, and now Amish.

Since we started the Lower 48 in 48 Tour, we’ve seen road signs telling us to watch for moose, bear (in Florida), deer, and now Amish.

The parking lots in larger commercial areas have stripes for cars, and shelters for horses and their carts.

The parking lots in larger commercial areas have stripes for cars, and shelters for horses and their carts.

A couple of our buddies from the neighborhood tavern back in Woodbine told us we MUST go eat at the Sugar Maple Smorgasbord if we made it to Lancaster County. This is one attraction we could have skipped. It was owned by an Amish family, but most of the employees were just regular people. The food was okay. It was kind of like going to a casino buffet - but definitely not the Bellagio!

A couple of our buddies from the neighborhood tavern back in Woodbine told us we MUST go eat at the Sugar Maple Smorgasbord if we made it to Lancaster County. This is one attraction we could have skipped. It was owned by an Amish family, but most of the employees were just regular people. The food was okay. It was kind of like going to a casino buffet – but definitely not the Bellagio!

I would prefer to shop at a Farmer's Market, as opposed to a grocery store, on any day of the week.

I would prefer to shop at a Farmer’s Market, as opposed to a grocery store, on any day of the week.

Almost every farm in Lancaster County had a little self service produce stand by the side of the road.

Almost every farm in Lancaster County had a little self service produce stand by the side of the road.

If I took a picture of every farm house I fell in love with on this stop, you would be extremely bored with my comments.

If I took a picture of every farm house I fell in love with on this stop, you would be extremely bored with my comments.

Friday night fun = a few games of backgammon while watching all the other campers arrive.

Friday night fun = a few games of backgammon while watching all the other campers arrive.

Our campground was adjacent to a regular neighborhood, and there were houses behind our spot. However, the thick trees between us still made it feel like we were out in the wilderness.

Our campground was adjacent to a regular neighborhood, and there were houses behind our spot. However, the thick trees between us still made it feel like we were out in the wilderness.