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 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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? 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.