I awoke Thursday with that sinking, “oh darn, it’s our last day” feeling. We had plans up to the last minute, but first we had to move a lot of downed branches, some of which were blocking our way to the bathroom. We had plenty of wood and kindling for our last fire that night, but these thick branches would eliminate the need to split any more logs.
The Clearfield County Historical Society was the last checkpoint on our list before we met my cousin Judy and husband Tom for a late lunch at the Valley Grille, and returned to pack up. Unfortunately, we neglected to check the hours of the Society, arriving around 10 a.m. to find that they didn’t open until 1 p.m., according to a gentleman named Joe Hill (Thanks, Joannie, I had THAT song in my head all day!). Joe had been doing maintenance on the windows and turned out to be a font of information, pointing out recent porch renovations that reversed some alterations, restoring it to its original appearance, and recounting stories about the Society and the area in general.
The Clearfield County Historical Society is housed in an impressive mid-Victorian era mansion, circa late 1870’s on East Pine Street, across from the West Branch of the Susquehanna. The brick country mansion boasts ornamental molding at the top and is crowned with a cupola. Inside exhibits include logging/rafting tools, Indian artifacts, military and industrial displays, and a special firemen’s exhibit, along with extensive genealogical and historical archives. On the grounds you can see a circa 1920s Fordson Tractor, and a cast of a prehistoric tree trunk from a Paleozoic forest that grew in Clearfield County 1,300 million years ago. Next door is the Bigler House, built by William Dock Bigler, the son of William Bigler, governor of Pennsylvania from 1852-55 and senator from 1856-1861. (See Slideshow here.)
We then wandered across the street to Lower Witmer Park and the R. Dudley Tonkin Raftsmen Memorial Timber Dam, named after a member of a noted area lumbering family, an historical writer who chronicled the rafting and timbering era. There was a couple fishing at the dam, and I think I recognized a few of the ducks floating by as the ungrateful creatures we fed earlier that week. We wandered around the park a bit, and then headed back to meet my cousins for lunch. (See Slideshow here)
It’s always bittersweet visiting Judy and Tom, because we only see them on vacation, and we weren’t in the area last year. But, it’s always as if we just saw each other yesterday and we had a grand time and a lovely meal. (See review of Valley Grille here.)
Back at the cabin, we packed up and loaded everything we could, and then I built a humungous fire. I just kept burning wood — the firewood we bought, the firewood the guy gave us, the branches that fell, the remaining kindling, anything lying on the ground that looked burnable…! I was also determined to get a shot of the raccoon that had been skulking around and eluding me all week. I sat there with my camera like a hunter in a deer blind, finally catching sight of his gleaming eyes as he munched on the apple cores we left out. Flash! Done! When I ran out of wood and the fire died down, I sighed, took a good long look around me, folded my camp chair and gave up the ghost, retiring to my bed and zipping up my sleeping bag for the last time.
Friday morning, we bid farewell to our Shangri La at Parker Dam and hit the road. This year’s trip was a bit more relaxing than last year, and our cabin neighbor didn’t want to take naked pictures in the woods, or check-out at 11 p.m. carrying a rifle and circle the cabin area for two hours. (See Conclusion of last year’s travelogue, “Never Talk to Strange Men in the Woods”
It’s always sad to leave, but we did desperately want our Serta Queen! I kinda drove Ron nuts on the way home, trying to take pics from a moving vehicle. We stopped in a State College McDonald’s so he could get some food, despite the fact that I had packed him a perfectly nutritious lunch!
One reason I wanted to take Rte. 322 home was to get a picture of the 25 ft. tall Statue of Liberty in the Susquehanna River above Harrisburg, perched an old bridge piling. This is the third or fourth Statue in this location, others were taken down by floods or windstorms. Now, you can only see this statue from a boat or Rte. 322, and there’s no place to stop. You have to take this picture from a moving vehicle at 55 mph. (And you just KNOW no one’s REALLY going 55!) Considering we were approaching the Harrisburg exchange, a snake pit of lane changes, it’s a real trick. But, as you can see from the pic above, I did it! (See Slideshow of ride home here.)
We made it home in one piece, although snapping that picture of Lady Liberty made us miss our lane and we circled Harrisburg for half an hour looking for the Turnpike. C’est la vie. I only make him do this once year. And so, as I close my 2010 vacation chronicle, I thank those loyal readers who followed my adventures, and wish you all happy travels and happy trails. Until next time!
Ch. 1 of Autumn Odyssey to Parker Dam State Park: Look Out for that Low Roof!;
Ch.2: Settling into our Cabin (Oh, man! I forgot the corn muffins!);
Ch. 3: Old cars and dead animals and that blasted gully!;
Ch. 4: Visiting the New Elk Country Visitor Center, Elk County Catholic High Invades Parker Dam;
Ch. 5: The Terror Trail (or Ron and Pat Ride Again!) in Search of the Tom Mix Homestead;
Ch. 6: Exploring the Trails of Parker Dam State Park;
Ch. 7: Ron Loves Lucy! (Trip to Jamestown, New York, Lucy’s Hometown and Gravesite)