Thursday, July 31, 2014



Our friend Rick, the Sultan of Solitude, warns us to escape camping crowds in summer, "Avoid water features."  
(I believe the Sultan also avoids electricity, paved roads and fee stations.)  We of little faith have slipped a ways off the shining path in the last few weeks.  We have seen a lot of water features but suffered only slightly.  

One of our bike rides along the Erie Canal returned us to a place Tom and Carole led us to years ago.  Behind the welcoming "harbor" at Holley NY and down a little path among tall trees is a surprising waterfall

The 35-foot fall is a "Waste Weir" diverting unneeded water from the canal.  A great lunch spot and a poignant memory of our earlier visit.

Of course, a week on the shores of Lake Ontario at Lakeside State Park qualifies as a water feature.  The spacious park was a perfect staging area for cherry picking, canal path riding,  cherry pie eating (at a place that has been baking pies for 200 years!)  and a visit to Niagara Falls.

And if size matters, The Canadian side of the falls is pretty impressive.

 "Totally worth the border hassle," she says.

"Marginally," he replies, remembering that travel writers have been warning travelers of taste and discernment AWAY from the Niagara area for nearly 150 years. 

 We took good advice and approached on the

The ride along the rim and through palatial neighborhoods was green and peaceful.  The Botanical Gardens are well worth a visit.  The last couple miles toward the falls are uphill, on the road shoulder, in heavy traffic and through a short tunnel.  We arrive at the overlook threading our way through a mass of humanity taking selfies over their shoulders. 

The views ARE breathtaking and so much more impressive from the Canadian side.

Obligatory picture of the "Maid Of The Mist"

Letchworth State Park  showed us grand water features which were nevertheless more intimate than Niagara and far less crowded. On our first round of waterfall peeking on Sunday, a nice crowd enjoyed the huge picnic area and grounds of the Glen Iris Inn.  

After the downpour that welcomed "Our Sister Beth" to the camper, the streams quickened and Middle Falls and Upper Falls roared while we had relative solitude.

"The Grand Canyon of the East" cuts down fast and deep so the walls are steep.

Side streams like Wolf Creek cut down more slowly and leave a series of hanging falls.


 "Lake Bethany" added yet another water feature...

The Pine Creek Bike Trail

is one of our favorite places and now we had a chance to share it with Beth and our niece Kristen.

This is the "Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania" and the underlying stone is less fractured; the walls are steep and forested to the top.  The bike trail follows a railroad grade at the bottom. No dramatic falls, just clear water, wildlife and an excellent surface to enjoy.  
Earlier Pine Creek Adventures

The water feature here was not so much the creek (which always has a gaggle of bike riders along its length), but the "Plumbing" which the Corps of
Engineers created for flood control and dilution of mine runoff pollution in the Hammond Lake area. 

We camped at Ives Run and the Sage of Serenity was quite right; the place was crammed with families enjoying the weekend water sports and the excellent facilities.  We were a mile away in the non-electric sites with a great view of the lake and just a little too much dust stirred up by the boat trailers.  Weekend over, it was the most blissful spot in the area.

The water feature review continues in the next episode, but we can't part without a word about our foodie find.

 The Cast & Crew in nearby Mansfield Pa "is not much to look at" to quote nearly all the reviews, but wait till you see the menu!  

 Your friendly chef is happiest in Improv mode and only reluctantly commits his creations to a Menu, but the reading is guaranteed to have you salivating.  We tried some menu items even though each category gives you a chance to trust the chef to impress you.  We gave him the nod for dessert and this was the delicious result.


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Very Erie

"It's so eerie," said the punny wife standing on the edge of the canal, watching the road pass under it. 
The dutiful husband moaned, as is his right and privilege...

Biking the Erie Canal has always been on our bucket list; we have heard wonderful stories about the mass ride across in July, "the hottest week of the year."  Well, the big ride passed through yesterday and the weather was perfection.  Today we began with Albion to Medina, an easy eleven miles out and back, except for the 25MPH headwind going out!

 Them are WHITECAPS out yonder, partner.

 The trail surface was  fine smooth gravel, the scenery mostly agricultural -- apple orchards and corn.  The trail-side wild cherries were heavy and the path sometimes sprinkled with bleaching cherry pits.  We saw deer, wood chucks and indisputable sign of bear; a bear could make a nice living among all these apple trees.

Only two riders came our way.  One was Knute crossing the country on the Northern Tier route after spending last
 year on the Appalachian Trail where he was known as "Late for Supper".  There were lots of stories to be told, but miles to go.  He was downwind, working on another 100+ mile day.

 Perhaps the most fascinating aspects of the canal are the off trail engineering structures which control the water flow.  This is the Medina Aqueduct outflow. We are anxious to visit a Canal Museum and learn more.

 "Welcome to the Big Apple," the punny wife says.

"Is this where we turn around and "Fly Back"?

  "You said there would be ice cream."

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Into the Forest Primeval

It has been several weeks of non-stop merriment, fun and frivolity and that's just about  enough for these country mice. We consulted our mentors and after a while and fifteen miles of forest roads found our Heart’s Content.


The  campground has 26 spaces among 100 year old trees adjacent to a virgin forest that rivals any we have seen in the Eastern US. We came by different paths but met Rick and Carole here.  They are the Zen Masters of finding a tranquil place and settling in, but this was just a one night stand for them. We visited a little and put Patty to sleep, a long series of rejuvenating naps. We spent a week, adding a day or two at a time, thinking we should “get busy” , then “Nah.”

The Forest

It is hard to describe the awe we feel walking among these giants; certainly our photos can’t do justice. We estimate some at over 160 feet, thirteen feet at a man’s chest seems average. White Pines and Beech, some standing dead from yet another pest, but many thriving. One recently fallen, so tall it crossed the trail twice. 

Twins, one bending 10 degrees to reach the light, the other nearly 20 to find life. 

A huge Pine twined with a Beech at the ground growing skyward together.

We walked the trail several times in both directions and found new wonders every few feet.  Off trail it would be a matter of months to know the secret places.

This whole area is so under used that a few squeals from a gaggle of  eighth grade girls in the picnic area seemed sacrilegious; we never met another person in the grove. During the week, the campground seldom had more than three sites occupied.

The Allegheny National Forest in Western Pennsylvania and reaching North into New York has a lot of varied attractions. 

The Kinzua Bridge

was once considered the Eighth Wonder of the WorldFor over a century coal, timber and oil moved over one of the highest railroad bridges in the world. Then, in 
2003, a tornado severed the span leaving only tangled wreckage in the gorge and two short spans reaching into the emptiness. Patty had to see this! 

We drove thirty miles, focused on the huge storm cell approaching from the North, remembering the rain gear we had left behind at camp. The squall caught us halfway out the span sporting our church  umbrellas. We looked like a couple of geriatric Mary Poppins heading out for a base jump.  We retreated, the first blow passed and we explored the "skyway" until the rain began in earnest.

Farnsworth Trout Club

began as a CCC fish hatchery providing stock for streams revitalized by the corps. We visited because we are big fans of CCC stonework and always awed by the long term beauty these boys brought to lands ravaged by logging and fire. 

In the seventies the Farnsworth Trout club brought the hatchery back into production, assisting the state's efforts to improve  fishing opportunities in the National Forest. They preserved the original CCC structures and even have a nice two bedroom cottage available for a secluded vacation among a couple thousand trout.









Jakes Rocks

Pennsylvania Appalachian Trail hikers
moan about the rocks -- a couple hundred miles of sharp football size rocks. That is East of here.  Around this part of the Alleghenies, rocks are celebrities. Jakes Rocks are convoluted capstones on a high ridge overlooking the Allegheny Reservoir. They are a favorite family picnic grounds recommended warmly by locals. We did a quick tour in the rain, again Mary Poppins style...

...until the trail ended abruptly at the ultimate "Whoa Buddy."


Sunday, July 6, 2014

Young and Old at Birthday Bash V

If you have been paying attention here, you know that the annual Birthday Bash (for Wally Byam, founder of Airstream) is a consistently great time.  Lots of shiny trailers, smiling faces young and old, great food and a serene setting near Coopers Lake.  So my pictures of these delights look a lot like previous versions: just look here for a sense of all the fun. LINK

Our genial hosts, Frank and Ace, Lisa and Beth  did their usual excellent job setting it up.  Lots of volunteers kept us fed and the children of all ages entertained.  It was grand!

This year, after years of earnest invitations,  our own precious Fourteen year old Cassie “Crashed the Bash”. So this post is mostly about what was new for us at Bash V.

When  a young lady is fourteen nearing fifteen, the world is divided neatly into two parts. There is your PEER GROUP which extends down to kids in diapers (Yuck!) and upwards to girls with steady boyfriends and cars. The rest of the world is made up entirely of OLD PEOPLE.  Sorry gentle readers, that’s just the way it is.

 We had no fear that Cassie would find some fun with her peers, but we warned that the Bash Airstream Rally was mostly about sitting around in camp chairs between meals. Sure, we SAY we are going bike riding and adventuring, but let’s be honest here.

Fresh from several days with her seven year old cousin, Cassie was in tune with huggin and non stop movement.  At the “totally unofficial and marginally boisterous” Pre Bash at Penn Wood Airstream Park, we introduced her to the Old People she had heard tales about, but when activity retired to the camp chairs she found little Sarah and Nicholas and the exploring began.

(The nicest feature of the Bash and the Pre Bash is that they are sited in places where kids can explore safely and adventurously but never far from eighty “old people” who instinctively watch over them and smile.)

On the Bash grounds at Cooper’s Lake, a posse of bike riding, creek wading, fish and frog chasing boys and girls formed and they were seen flashing by on their way somewhere, but reliably always appeared at meal time.  Parents and grandparents and other old people dispensed snacks as required.

In the mean-times, new friendships of an entirely unexpected sort started forming.  Northern grandparents were enchanted by a child that ended every exchange with “sir” or “mam”.  Natural curiosity led Cassie into new areas as arcane as “sewer stuff” , and, of course, critters of any kind were magnets.


Now I’m not saying that basic skill sets like checking messages and talking trash about boys were ignored…

…just that lingering around camp chair circles led to some revelations and surprising friendships.

…and any number of occasions when the lines between young and oldsters was blurred…

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This was summarized in typical Cassie fashion as she made the round of goodbyes before leaving for the plane home. “ Who knew I would get so attached to Old People?”