Pennsylvania Part 3 – Autumn 2021

Altoona, Raystown Lake, Huntingdon, Pottsville, Towanda, Hills Creek SP, State College


Our final day in Pennsylvania we went to Penn State game

Back to Altoona! Like we said before, we stayed here for a while – under the walnut trees that pounded us with fresh walnuts in September and October! Check out the picture below with all of the walnuts covering the ground at our campsite, about the size of baseballs when they fall off the tree. They were so loud when they hit the roof! Those things would drop on the Sundancer with a huge BANG and would always make us jump before we remembered. It was a daily occurrence in the fall, kept us on our toes.

Early on at this campsite, we would occasionally do yoga or stretches at a grassy spot with bamboo shading it. One day in early fall, an especially large walnut dropped between our yoga mats, mere inches from our faces. It was quickly decided that outdoor yoga was quits for the season in the efforts of preventing painful lumps on the head or broken teeth/noses.

The campsite sat adjacent to a big cemetery on the side of the mountain, so it kind of became our daily evening walk spot. There’s a picture from it below. Also wanted to insert a picture of Gabrielle near the end of her time on the Pennsylvania project, cleaning off the resistograph that she hiked all over the place with for the summer and fall. It’s a drilling instrument that is designed to detect heart rot and weak points in wood – that thing was heavy! Quite an accomplishment, especially in some of the harder to reach places up steep mountainsides and through waist high brush. Even though she was physically exhausted by the end of almost every week, she still says the tough side of it was worth it for how great it made her feel getting stronger and was a nice change from sitting in an office for years.

There is a huge reservoir in the mountains east of Altoona called Raystown Lake. We spent our Labor Day weekend there camping at Seven Points Campground. Unfortunately the storms from hurricane Ida had just came through the area the week before and the lake was 15 feet above the fill line! Half the campsites were flooded, all boating was prohibited and the beach was entirely submerged. We made the best of it and had a lot of fun just chilling and walking around outside. When the Hamilton seniors came in their RV to camp with us near the end of September, the reservoir was back to normal levels and it was interesting to walk the same areas where all the water had been. We even got to swim at the beach on the last weekend of the Fall before it closed down for the season. Was just warm enough that the swim was refreshing. Also found a good outdoor BBQ joint near the entrance to Seven Points called the Backwoods Smoke Shack.

Photos below are a combo of our Labor Day weekend trip and weekend with David’s parents.

The end of September came and it was time for our big trip to North Carolina for Gabrielle’s cousin’s wedding! Since we were driving right by it and our national parks pass was about to expire, we drove through Shenandoah and camped overnight. It was an amazing experience driving the RV along the famous Skyline Drive. The next morning we woke up early to see the sunrise and Beaker saw his first deer! He was completely baffled and acted like a spaz, meowing all weird and trying to leap out the window:

We did a short hike down to Dark Hollow Falls that morning, which was one of the more intricate waterfalls we have come across on a hike out East.

We had a fantastic clear afternoon and followed by a beautiful and cool fall morning so everything was just…sublime. The pictures of Shenandoah really reflect the joy we were feeling in this mountain paradise nestled in Virginia.

Very glad we took the long way south.

And then…Brooks & Courtney’s wedding weekend in North Carolina! A fun-filled weekend with a small family get together on Thursday night, rehearsal dinner on Friday, and big wedding on Saturday. Got to spend quality time (and hilarity time) with family we don’t get to see very often on Gabrielle’s mom’s side. It was a total blast.

Not sure when our paths will cross with these North Carolina relatives again, but when they do… we look forward to it with gusto. Congratulations again to my cousin Brooks and my new cousin Courtney! Psyched to kick both your butts shreddin’ the slopes in Colorado sometime.

On our way back to Pennsylvania we took a brief detour to Asheville because why not? When your house has wheels and your home is the road…vacation is your life. Or life is your vacation. Either way.

Plus as prior Fort Collins residents and having frequented New Belgium of the West countless times, stopping at the New Belgium of the East was a must. We miss you, FoCo!!

Mom & Dad met us in Asheville for one last sandwich, flight, rehash of the shenanigans from night before, and then a parting of ways as they headed north to Chicago. They were the behind-the-scene stars of the weekend in charge of the grandparents care, logistics, and transportation. Grandma and Pap Pap couldn’t have made it to the wedding without them.

Best parents any girl could ask for.

David and I stuck around an extra day to explore just a little more. We of course did some more Asheville brewery hopping (I mean, our blog is named Hoppy Purpose for a reason…click the link at the top that says ‘What is a Hoppy Purpose?’ for more on that) intermingled with a delightful Indian buffet lunch and some shopping at cute stores in the downtown area. Would love to come back in the summer to do some backpacking, river tubing, and tour Biltmore House.

Our favorite was Sierra Nevada Brewery, which was SO cool. It’s a California-based brewery, and this location in Asheville is absolutely worth checking out. All over the brewery and grounds there is evidence of how they’ve invested in green, environmentally-conscious technology for their production – LEED certified architectural designs (Platinum level, the highest one!), recycled and upcycled raw materials, hops and produce and fruit gardens, runoff-displacing parking lot designs to discourage erosion…the list goes on and on. It’s so encouraging to see a large business put time and money into shrinking their carbon footprint! Innovative thinking and choices showing a genuine care for the Earth’s well-being are two things that will bring me back to spending money at a place.

And their beer was crisp, clean, and delicious. AND they have a baller back patio complete with a stage for concerts.

And now we can say we have officially been to Hillbilly Heaven! Little roadhouse bar we found on the way back while passing through West Virginia. Tasty wings, onion rings and fish n’ chips washed down with a frosty Yuegling Lager. We played some pool and watched some super random old movie involving Dracula and Billy the Kid…so pretty much exactly what you’d expect.

Also in October: Pottsville, PA – home of Yuengling! Not only is it America’s oldest brewery (continuously operating) but it is also America’s LARGEST craft brewery! On top of that, this was one of my favorite brewery tours I have ever been on. So much history!

The original brewery from 1831 is in the middle of town built into a hillside where they tunneled back 150 feet to create natural cellars for cold lagering. The tour led us through many tunnels and stairs going up to the many different levels of the brewhouse which had been replaced several times before they bought the former Stroh’s brewery in Tampa in 1999. From there, they opened a new large production facility down the road in 2001. The old dairy across the street now houses the tour center, gift shop & tasting room where we got unlimited 2 oz pours for an hour!

For the wrap-up of Gabrielle’s work project in Pennsylvania, we headed Northeast for a few weeks to basically the middle of nowhere. It was great! No, seriously…we love being in the middle of nowhere. Most of her work centered around a small town named Towanda up near the New York border, so that’s where we camped. It had some great scenic overlooks of the country side, creative and pretty damn good Halloween window art, and a couple cool dives we wandered into different nights.

On one of these such Friday nights, we walked into a place for drinks and stumbled across a fully decked out bar OVERFLOWING with the color pink. It was a breast cancer awareness party and fundraiser! All of the food, desserts, alcohol, apparel, koozies, gift bags, and everything else had been donated by locals and staff so that 100% of the proceeds from that night would go towards breast cancer research.

They named the event “Save the Rack” – clever, eh?

We were only gonna stay out for an hour and then ended up staying until 1 AM. Did pink animal cookie shots with whipped cream, entered the raffle and won a gift bag, ate a bunch of pink starburst that were scattered all over the bar (the best Starburst color that I always used to trade for when I was a kid!!) listed to some locals playing guitar, had strawberry daiquiris with pink umbrellas, sang a bunch of karaoke, made friends with all the bartenders and the bouncer. And the bouncer’s wife.

It was our favorite night in Towanda. Highly recommend the bar Towanda On The Rocks to anyone passing through. Great people. They made a BUNCH of money to put towards breast cancer research.

I also want to touch on how completely fantastic the fall colors were this Autumn and how lucky we were to be in Northern Pennsylvania at this time of year. The mountains aren’t quite as big as they are in the central PA Appalachians – they’re more like rolling hills with strong pastoral and farmland feels that weave in and out of Eastern forests. It’s quite wonderful, and I would consistently be pleasantly surprised while out working in coming across another breathtaking forest full of Autumn color or another sweeping vista with no cars in sight. I’ve shared some of my favorite “Fall-Feels” moments.

Oh, and came across the incredible Tunkhannock Viaduct quite randomly one morning and yelled aloud because I was totally not expecting it – the thing is ENORMOUS! Spanned the entire valley I was driving through. Had to stop and grab a pic of the historical marker and the cool story behind it.

Sometime during this time, Gabrielle got the call that she’d been waiting for…she’d been accepted to transfer into a DRG project out in California! That’s one of the cool things about Davey field work – you can make transfers to most anywhere in the country depending on where you want/need to go because the company has work in every region of the US. We’d had our eye on Cali for a while and for a number of reasons, and now we could finally pull the trigger to our next big adventure. ONWARD!

For our final weekend in Pennsylvania, we went to a Penn State football game at Beaver Stadium. It worked out really well that her last day of work fell on the Friday before a home game, and that home game they just happened to be playing the ILLINI, Gabrielle’s alma mater! So of course we had to go.

Little did we know that this game and entire day would be EPIC and set a record for the most amount of overtimes in a NCAA football game. Crazy!

The funny part about the whole thing is that it wasn’t that great of a game in terms of quality of football being played. By either team. But because of that, we got to watch the teams go back and forth, end zone to end zone, doing 2-point conversion attempts which is the new NCAA overtime rule. They went to the NINTH OVERTIME. It was wild. Back and forth, back and forth…entire teams on the sidelines just taking strolls. We were cracking up.

Anyway, spoiler alert: Illinois pulled off an upset in the 9th overtime and won, 20-18, which was most unexpected. The handful of other Illinois fans sitting way in front of me turned around and air high fived with me from 30 feet away as we celebrated, but for the most part the entire stadium was silent as the visiting team celebrated on the field. It felt simultaneously eerie and awesome!

We celebrated the Illini win at a (shocker) local craft beer bar. It was a cool one, darker lighting and set in the basement. All night, Penn State fans kept walking up to Gabrielle with her Illini hat on and congratulating her on the win with smiles, saying how happy they were that she’d made the trip out to their home stadium and that she picked a great day to come. It was a great night for sportsmanship and Big Ten camaraderie. And humanity, let’s throw humanity in there too.

Our waiter was great – after a couple conversations, he figured out that we were legit and then went and checked to see if they had any rare bottles in the back that we might be interested in cracking open……

Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA!!! One of these puppies even from the most recent year can be hard to find. The one they had was from 2015. OMG! We’ve had a lot of these over the years, but never one that was so old. This beer is the definition of a hop bomb and comes in at 18-20% ABV to boot. When it’s fresh it’s very resinous & bitter although sweet from that high of gravity. This one, aged in a standard cold box for 6 years, was like all the hop flavor and aroma had melted down into layers upon layers of decadence with a little heat. A unicorn of a beer for a unicorn of a football game…it was totally apropos.

This is the stuff of Hoppy Purpose legend. These are the kind of stories that make me yet again realize how rich David and I are in every way that matters. I wouldn’t change a thing about right now, and as I write this I am reminded again how grateful we are for this unconventional #nomadlife. It’s the freakin’ best.

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