Woodland, Clearfield, Quehanna Wild Area, Butler, St. Mary’s, DuBois, Brookville, Altoona, York, Gettsyburg
This continued adventure in Pennsylvania has really been a different experience for us. Not only are we staying in one place for longer period of time, we are also staying in nice campgrounds with lots of amenities thanks to Gabrielle’s company covering our campsite expense. When we traveled before, we would only stay at cheaper campsites when we needed to dump our tanks and refill our water tanks. Those nights were usually spent doing laundry, getting though a mountain of dishes that had built up, and enjoying long, hot showers while we could. Now that we are camping in full hook-up campsites all the time, we no longer have to think about conserving water as much and that is a huge plus! It’s also helped us appreciate the little things that we never used to fully appreciate when we lived in a house or apartment – endless water from the tap, plumbing for as much sewer as you could possibly use to flush “it” all away, power at any time of the day for lights, charging, cooking, cleaning, computer-ing, watching shows, etc…..
These are BLESSINGS, people! ^_^
The Sundancer has taught us lesson after lesson in being grateful. It’s been eye-opening, to say the least.
Another point to make is that staying in a campground for a week or two really lets you get to know your neighbors and the owners or staff of the campground. We have met so many nice and outgoing folks along the way. Usually old retirees with tiny dogs, but who’s counting?
Our favorite Pennsylvania campsite to-date has been Woodland Campground in Woodland, PA, about 2 hours Northeast of Pittsburgh. The owners, a couple named Mike & Lisa, lived above the office and were just the kindest, most friendly hosts. They were always going out their way to help people staying there with things like getting mail, delivering firewood directly to campsites by golf cart, or recommending places to visit around the area. They also had a little shop in their office with local artists’ paintings, pottery, and crafts for sale! Not to make this sound like a 5 star yelp review, but they do deserve it. What was really cool about the campground was that it was situated in a beautiful wooded area with a lake and lots of great trees. We also had a 1.5 mile hiking trail that wound around the campground and down into the woods along a creek. David got some good use out of this trail while we spent 3 weeks here! One time we even took our chairs down to the creek and literally set them up in the creek for an afternoon reading session, bare feet just hanging out in the flowing water.
Below are some pictures of this incredible “Indian Tree” that Woodland Campground had on their property – the Native Americans who lived here trained/coaxed/magic’d this tree into its unusual shape. We’d never seen anything like it!! Gabrielle wanted to walk over to it almost every time we strolled the property.
There is an 80 square mile area north of Clearfield, PA called the Quehanna Wild Area. Its boundaries create a perfect circle around an old nuclear reactor jet engine testing facility from the 50’s that has since been demolished with all radiation sites cleaned up. Mother nature has turned it into a beautiful lush forest where practically no one lives permanently, although we saw many scattered cabins. There are hundreds of miles of trails that loop all around and you can tent camp just about anywhere. We stayed next to a serene lake that was home to beavers, osprey, swallows, and apparently a den of copperhead snakes that some lady decided to tell us about multiple times. The main road runs through the heart of the area and takes you right by the largest stand of white birch trees in the entire Eastern US! We hiked along lakes and roaring streams, open prairies and dense Rhododendron forests.
Last but not least… did I mention there are a few hundred elk that live in this area?! Relocated from Colorado to repopulate the area, they are now flourishing. The Elk Country Visitor Center was really wonderful! Beautiful grounds, intricate displays and exhibits inside. We went to many viewing areas, drove the entire state highway that went through all the small towns that were in the elk territory but we never saw any! HA we found in retrospect that due to it being an unusually hot weekend, they were probably chilling in the shade somewhere out of sight. People were telling us they are just hanging out in their yards all the time and are always near the highway… it’s okay though, we’ve seen a lot of elk over the years as Coloradoans. (Shoutout to the Hamiltons *senior* and Elk Fest in Estes Park!)
Below are some pictures from our time in the Quehanna Wild Area. In true Gabrielle-&-David style, we passed by the only bar in the wild area and couldn’t resist. Most of the people in the bar were covered head to toe in mud/dust from a full day of ATVing or offroading. You could tell because their eyes were the only clean part, where they’d had goggles on. The picture of Gabrielle at the bar is when she’s observing a group of the mud-people doing pickle shots.
The Hamiltons came to RV camp with us over 4th of July weekend to celebrate our birthdays. We were staying at a KOA in DuBois that was in the back of a gated community surrounding a few lakes. They had two golf courses so David and his dad got to get a game of golf in! We found out that the Butler County fair, one of the largest in the state, was that weekend so we headed west to a local campground nearby. A classic, satisfying country 4th of July weekend complete with a school bus demolition derby, carnival rides & games, a petting zoo, fireworks, and all the terrible but oh-so-delicious carnival foods you could eat! On Friday we checked out a state park and then got to the fair just in time for lunch which was mini donuts, corndogs, lemon shake ups and smoked chicken. David’s mom watched the Draft Horse shows all day and the rest of us would come and go. Also explored downtown Butler, saw some shops and hit the local brewery for dinner.
A truly *gold* redneck find: Ring toss on knives. Whatever pocket knife or giant bowie knife you hook a ring on (they were stabbed point down into the display) you win that specific knife. No tradesies.
David won TWO! This carnival game was bumping the whole time, it was hard to get a spot to play.
The school bus demolition derby preceded the fireworks -none of us had ever seen anything like this, either. I would post the video of this if it didn’t take up so much data but go google it because it was hilarious!
Our birthdays are 8 days apart so we always have a birthday “week” of fun. We were still staying in DuBois and the options of places open on a Monday night for Gabrielle’s bday were limited but we found a craft beer bar in town that had crab legs! Also lots of delicious IPAs for David. Then we struck gold when we happened to try the restaurant at a local golf course up in the foothills north of town. The clubhouse and restaurant were situated at the top of a hill in a big valley so the views were excellent. Gabrielle decided crab dip was in order to continue our crab vibe (I mean, we are Cancers after all…). It was so picturesque and the food was so good we decided to return to it on David’s bday to play golf! Gabrielle makes the best pin tender.
One weekend, we took a ride up north to the town of St. Mary’s which is the home of this small but mighty old school brewery Straub Brewing. They make tasty crisp lagers of different types and also brew a nice IPA. We sat outside and played corn hole and tried one of their hard frozen slushys which I proceeded to knock over immediately onto the table. They gave us another one for free! After they closed we headed to what we thought was going to be dinner at an Italian restaurant… we walk into to find its 90’s night and only the bar was open. They had all the decorations out, walkmans, tamagotchis, polaroids, beer pong, shot specials, Nsync and Britney Spears playing on the boom box, it was hilarious. So we go up to the bar to see if we can get any food and I meet an interesting couple who are arguing whether they are going to get an in-ground trampoline or a hot tub for the bed of his pickup! So I stoked the fires a bit and told them they should build a zip-line from the trampoline that can go flying INTO the pickup hot tub so they can have both… and we were instantly friends. Now they want to buy me shots and take us to their Catholic Men’s Club bar across the street! It was a whole step into another world. We did not take pictures…
Our next stop took us west to Brookville where we stayed a week out in the woods at a small campground. We had a really nice day walking around the natural areas near us and we even saw our first Green Heron (bird nerds alert) that was fishing for frogs at the pond behind our campsite! SO COOL! After that first day, it rained almost the entire rest of the week. One night I (David) thought I had a good break in the storms to run the trash up to the dumpster. But then the clouds opened up and I had to take shelter in the shower house. The winds were blowing so hard I could barley keep the door closed. Then the lights went out. After 20 min or so I could head back down to the RV and the whole campground had lost power. There were tree limbs down all over. Luckily nothing hit us and the power came on the next morning. Crazy! We sat that night and watched the lighting shows by candlelight.
One afternoon, we walked the downtown area of Brookville. Of course it was raining. And of course the one brewery in town wasn’t open. We went in the town visitor center and the nice lady there let us use the bathroom and see the museum for free. Upstairs they had one of the biggest, most detailed model train set with the entire town laid out! So after pulling Gabrielle out of books stores and antique stores, we hit up a local distillery the lady at the visitors center recommended to us called Blackbird Distillery.
This place was fantastic! Best moonshine we have ever had. Found out it was Pennsylvania’s first legal distillery. They had so many flavors to try along with different proofs of shine, vodka, and a whiskey-like shine. Best part – they weren’t really keeping track of how many free samples we had had. Favorites would have to be the Root Beer, Chocolate Banana, and Apple Dumpling which was one of their cream liquors.
Back to Altoona —> Gabrielle’s project added a huge circuit last minute that she was assigned to cover back in Altoona. We found a wonderful campground just south of town where the owner, Nellie, was really sweet and always helped us find a spot to stay with her since we never really knew how long that was going to be. It turned out that there was a lot of circuits for Gabrielle in the Altoona area, so it was our longest rotation. It really did start to feel like a home for us. We stayed there for 2 and a half months other than the few weeks we were in York. We got to know all the places around town and David played disc golf at the 3 courses quite a lot. It’s an old railroad town in the foothills of the Appalachians and it’s fairly large. Altoona is famous for the Horseshoe Curve west of town where the railroad line makes a 200 degree bend through the mountains. Also, random fun fact: Boyer Candy Co. in Altoona is the creator of the “cup candy” concept and they have the original chocolate peanut butter cup in the country, predating Reese’s! It’s really, really good (we liked it better).
Since we had gotten settled into Gabrielle’s new role, we felt it was time to bring our cat Beaker on the road with us! Beaker had been living with Gabrielle’s parents for a year or so when we went to South America and onwards. We missed him and thought it wouldn’t be too much trouble turning him into an RV kitty, especially since we’d seen so many RV people with cats on the road while in Pennsylvania. It took some getting used to at first while he meowed a bunch as we drove…but now he’s doing great! Just sleeps all day anyways…so no real change from normal cat life, let’s be honest.
Some Beaker in the Sundancer pics from his first few months as a Kitty on the Road:
We LOVE having him back with us! We got the band back together (cue Blues Brother’s theme)
York, PA is a good sized city south of Harrisburg. The day we got there was the day of the State Fair but we just drove by since we had already done the Big Butler County Fair over the 4th of July with David’s parents. We checked out a couple local shops and a cool lil place called Collusion Brewing. This was one of those hidden gem breweries in a back alley past many amazing murals. Every beer we had was really delicious! On our way home we picked up food, it was pouring rain, and David got his whole left foot soaked from a huge puddle running out of the Chinese restaurant.
Gettysburg is only 45 minutes from York but unfortunately we only had enough time for a day trip with Gabrielle’s work schedule so we made the best of it! We drove the entire loop where most of the battles were fought. It was a sobering afternoon filled with history, imagery, and astonishment. You really can feel the ghosts through the vastness of it all… just imagining the thousands of soldiers that had been on the hills and fields in front of you is mind-blowing and sobering. We live in an entirely different era these days. Incredibly difficult to even imagine what that must have been like and the kind of desperation and fear they went through.
The visitors center had recently been remodeled to include a huge museum and theater, and I hope we can get back there someday to take the time and experience them.
**NOTE: I know we’re WAY behind in time on our blog posts, so thank you for your patience! While life has been crazy and much more fast-paced than normal this Fall, we still want to maintain this priceless record and electronic journal of our travels on the road. SO we are doing our due diligence to keep it in chronological order in the *hopes* that we will be up-to-date again someday soon 😀 It’s GONNA HAPPEN.