Monday, July 12, 2010

Thoughts on Camping in Potter Country

Got back last night after an eventful and fun camping trip out to Potter county.

Lyman Run State Park
Burnin' Barrel Bar
Route 6
Gas Drilling
Sylvain Restaurant
Dark Skies: Cherry Springs Stars-n-Parks Night
Hunting Lodges

As we raced a storm approaching from the west Friday night through Galeton and into Lyman Run State Park, we headed to the back of the park towards our campsite in the Daggett Run Campground and were immediately stopped by a park ranger. Access to the back of the park was blocked due to a snapped utility pole that had splayed it's wires across the road. The camp ranger told us the road wouldn't be passable for hours but there was a way around--it would take another 30 minutes or so with the last eight miles being a dirt road. Storm clouds gathering like crows around corn, we decided to give it a try: So, back to Galeton, west on Route 6 to just before the Sylvania Restaurant and left onto Rock Run Road.Here's the map from Route 6.

It started raining near the top of the mountain just before we reached the turn-off vista at the top. The view to the northwest was beautiful in a summer-fierce sort of way: the rain was falling heavily, no thunder or lightning, and the misty clouds hung over and between the valleys below. It reminded S and I of the weather conditions and view from the top of El Yunque. The only difference was El Yunque didn't have quite the majestic sweep of mountains in the distance.

The rain let up a bit as we pitched our tent but then it started to pour! And it continued to all Friday night into early Saturday morning. The only thing that got wet was my big toe!

Saturday dawned partly cloudy and by 9 the skies were mostly sunny with no humidity! What a great day for hiking!

We began our hike in Daggett Run Campground ascending Bee Hive Trail generally east and northeast following a small stream. Massive rocks were evident. Could they have been from previous glaciation from the Finger Lake region?

350 feet of vertical climb later we reached the summit at about 2100' where the trail leveled out and followed a mostly level ridge east and north through a nice stand of Hemlock. When we reached the intersection with Wildcat Trail we took it south for the trip back down the mountain through Wildcat Hollow. (Continuing on Bee Hive Trail would have eventually brought us out to Rock Run Road.) Large Cherry and Oak were everywhere along the way--the oldest perhaps 150 years old.

We eventually snagged Wildcat Connector (which is really Rock Run Road) and after about two minutes picked up Spur Line Trail on the right. This is easy hiking along an old rail bed reminiscent of the spur off of Mountain Springs: Old Railroad Grde except that the railroad ties were still in evidence through the shallow layer of topsoil. This short trail ended when it ran into Rock Run Trail which travels south and ends at the main park road. Across the main park road we joined Lyman Run Trail down to the Lyman Run. There were trout fry in clear evidence in the stream, it being an anglers paradise. Or so I am told.

We followed the cool creek environs back to the lake to inspect the dam. The earthen dam was three years old, cost 19M and had an interesting zig-zag design that effectively increases the width of the spillway by three times upon it being breached. This isn't a dam for flood control but recreational purposes.

The park facilities were in excellent condition. The restrooms were only three years old having been constructed at a cost of 1M each. They are of ``green'' design with on-demand water heating, automatic on/off faucets and toilets, low-flow shower heads, sky-lights, and the like. There were two stainless steel sinks on the outside for cleaning camping gear. If you visit in early July look for the blueberry bushes around the one in Daggett. Deeeeeeeeelicious!

Extra-curricular Activities
Sylvania Restaurant
Home cooking! Need I say more? S had liver and onions and I had beer-battered Haddock with hand-cut french fries and excellent cole-slaw. Deeeeeeeeeelicious! Mounted African game like Wildebeest, Springbok Antelope, Zebra, and various other species of Antelope adorn the back dining room. We came to find out that the owner is a big-game hunter who goes to Africa every other year. Ace Ventura wouldn't be thrilled by the display but we sure were! Hilde waited on us and made our dining experience very enjoyable. I would definitely stop here again for lunch or dinner.


Driving home we wanted to experience Route 6 a bit more so we came farther east before heading south. Along the way, we passed through lovely Wellsboro, PA. What an enchanting and vibrant downtown! S remarked that there must not be a Mega-Lo-Mart in town--sure `nuff, just googled it and there isn't! I could absolutely live in a town like this.

Gas Drilling
Bradford County farther east on Route 6 was sprinkled with Marcellus Shale field gas drilling sites along both sides of the road. Some wellheads were already established and operating (of interest to the anarchist: the sites are monitored remotely via video camera), while others were in various states of drilling. It's a shame how most seemed to be set up on five-odd acre bare earth sites carved out of what was once prime farming land. You knew you were coming to a site as there were flag-men situated in both directions to direct traffic--presumably for the heavy equipment being transported in and out of the site.

Now I understand where the multitude of tank trucks we passed heading west were going. They must have been carrying the mysterious ``fracking fluid'' to the drilling fields. I sure hope county and state leaders are accounting for the added abuse to the Route 6 roadway surface! It would be a shame to have it turn into a pothole ridden cow-path due to the heavy truck traffic.

Route 6
Route 6 was once the longest highway in the US extending all the way from Massachusetts to California. It's two-lanes in PA and not like I-80 or I-81 with limited access--it passes through most of the small towns it encounters in PA.

Route 6 is well known to be an excellent route for bike tours. Passed hundreds as we traveled to and fro. It's easy to see why: The hills are rolling, the scenery is breathtaking, and the pace is bucolic with a speed limit of only 55.

The abundance of non-chain motels along the way, especially the farther west you travel through Tioga and then into Potter counties, hearkens back to a bygone era before the interstate system was in full tentacle. I would LOVE to travel this route sometime (by motorcycle preferably) all the way to its terminus in California.

Burnin' Barrel Bar
Ah, the good stuff. After hiking along the western rim of Pine Creek Gorge in Colton Point State Park Saturday afternoon, we had worked up a fierce thirst and knew there was a place down along Route 6 near Ansonia that we spotted on the way in that boasted of 18 beers on tap. Harley's® parked out front and a family getting in their car portended to something perhaps a cut-above inside. Or perhaps a bar fight. Happily the former turned out to be the case.

Inside to the right was a very nice ess-shaped bar with a bar-top built from cherry. The back-bar area was knotty pine befitting a bar alongside Pine Creek. There were about 16 stools at the bar and tables were arrayed along the front of the room and to the left of the bar. The place was occupied by a bunch of nice bikers enjoying a late lunch on a lazy Saturday afternoon and the Tour de France coverage glowed from two flat-screens. I guess the Harley® races weren't on and this was next best watch for a bunch of bikers!

Three six-handle towers proffered a plethora of fine beers including some local beers from the Bullfrog Brewery and Bavarian Barbarian (Hammerin' Ale) in Williamsport; something from the Great Lakes Brewing Company in Cleveland; a couple of Sam Adams beers (Summer of Sam and Cherry Wheat); a couple Sly Foxes; A Magic Hat; Lager® and a small stable of macro-lagers. I opted for the superb Lake Erie Monster which was a kick-ass grapefruit kick-ass revelation! S chose the Sam Cherry Wheat which I sipped and found overpowering in the cherry flavor--perhaps even a bit more than the last time I had this in Jake's. S liked both beers which is itself a tribute to her burgeoning good taste, and ordered a Lake Erie Monster for her second. My first went down like I was mad, and for my 2nd I opted for the DREAD Double Red Ale from Bullfrog Brewery. It was pretty strong but didn't have quite the hop-gasmic aroma as claimed. Still a great beer though and it left me wanting to try a few more from them.

We didn't have anything to eat but the home-made, hand-cut french fries looked and smelled fabulous from across the bar.

This is not a biker bar but a bar where bikers happen to stop along with any type of wayward traveler. I will stop by again when I pass through on my cross-country trip.

Hunting Lodges

Ah...the hunting lodge. Potter county is full of them once you turn off of Route 6 and start on the back roads. They definitely brought back a flood of old memories... That place the X-chromosome types ne'r wander. A place where stories are told over beer the night before opening day--young pups reverentially listening wide-eyed to tales of 400 pound beasts and tracking wounded deer for miles to deliver fatal lead medicine. Of 300 yard killing shots from eagle-eyed wizards of the gun sights who take into account humidity and wind direction before squeezing. The wafting smells of bacon and eggs and strong coffee that wake and greet the hunters hours before dawn. The place to escape to every year with like-minded men for that short period of early December.

Dark Skies: Cherry Springs Stars-n-Parks Night
We drove out to Cherry Springs State Park before dark on an almost cloudless Saturday night to participate in the Stars-n-Parks program. As you may or may not know, Cherry Springs is noted for it's Dark Skies--that is, it's located away from light pollution affording a great place to star-gaze. Some claim it has the darkest skies east of the Mississippi river.

This program is held a few times a year and serves as an introduction to astronomy for the general public. There are volunteer amateur astronomers present with their telescopes set up and they describe and lead ordinary people in having a look at the heavens. I can tell you, unless you've been out west, you won't see skies like this anywhere else in PA.

No comments: