Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Western PA State Parks Road Trip Day FOUR

Day four gave me fits when I was planning my trip and it was to be the most inefficient day travel-wise. When planning, I was stuck between leaving certain "out of the way" parks for a later trip or, visiting them while on this trip. I chose the latter, since I can't say forever, but it was unlikely that I would be coming back to this area of PA unless it was to visit a state park.

Oil Creek State Park was first and it was an hour southeast of Erie and 100% out of my line of travel. This park was interesting, too! It was the site of the world's first commercial oil well. The section that we visited had a little board walk with historical information stops and I did make the time to go on the little history tour. After a while I had to laugh at how many signs noted that such-and-such building used to stand here...but it burned down. Lots of buildings burning down!

Next stop was and hour drive to Chapman State Park. I found a geocache here, but most of the dam, lake and park was under major construction. We did not stay long.

Another hour's drive to Kinzua Bridge State Park, and this park was the one I was most excited about. Actually, my travel for the day might have been more efficient if I had left Kinzua (and Chapman) for another trip but I have been so excited to visit this park for years. I absolutely could not resist visiting on this trip!

The Kinzua Bridge  was at one time an intact railroad bridge, over 300 feet high and the tallest of its kind. In 2003 a tornado damaged the center of the bridge and it has now been renovated into a sky walk for visitors. It is still impressive, for sure! I have to admit walking out onto the skywalk, I was a little intimidated! It was so windy and I wished that I had left anything that could have blown off of me in my car. (My headband, sunglasses, the pen in my pocket.) Zorro handled it all in stride, Perri was a little nervous but she was a brave girl. She did not care for the glass floor in the center of the skywalk platform, Zorro posed on it for a picture. 

I finally got my hands on a PA State Parks passport book at the Kinzua Bridge gift store. Every park has a unique stamp that they will stamp in your book for you. These books did not exist when I started! I mostly wanted one for my own records, I am going to go back and record which date and year I visited each park. I will get stamps for any that I can but it is not a priority. Any parks local to me I will be happy to get stamped. The lady at the visitor center told me that if I call each phone number of parks I have already visited, they will mail me a piece of paper stamped with that park's stamp but I think that will be far more work than I am interested in. In any case, I love my passport book and it was the last one!

From there was only forty minutes south-ish to Elk State Park which was....a weird park. It was at the East Branch Dam, seemed to be a trail head for the Elk State Forest and was managed by the US Army Corp of Engineers and not DCNR. Whatevah!

Next was a very small park, Bendigo State Park. My cell service totally zero'd out here as well, so I was not able to even find the geocache that I wanted to. What a bummer! Usually I at least have enough for my phone to operate GPS services. Pool, ball fields, picnic areas.

Now here was where the day started to feel like endless driving, and I started to feel the insanity of my plan. Another hour back west! to Clear Creek State Park. I actually had to pull over in a gamelands and let the dogs run and stretch my legs for a little bit. I was starting to become so weary of driving. We arrived at Clear Creek and I let the dogs out for a drink from the...well, the clear creek! Perri had also gotten dirty on our gamelands walk so I wanted her fur to rinse off in some clean water so that she didn't make the tent messy. Clear Creek was another picnic area/recreation area park, very small and quick to visit.

And at last, Cook Forest State Park. This was a park I was very excited to visit because you could hike in the old growth Forest Cathedral among the ancient pines and hemlocks. I absolutely love hiking through pines, especially a beautiful old growth forest. When I planned my day, I tentatively wanted to end my travelling here. Camp. Hike the Cathedral in the morning. We made excellent travel time and arrived here around 4pm with plenty of time for a nice long hike after a day of driving.

I was feeling grouchy from the road. Restless. Unsure if I wanted to camp after my hike, or go south to I-80 and find a hotel room. I was unsure of where to park to best enjoy the Cathedral hiking. I finally made a decision and found a sign that said "Reflect. Relax. Enjoy this precious resource." It was like somebody wrote that just for me. I needed to see it. I walked into those ancient pines and felt the stress slowly unwind. There was nobody else in the forest at that time, and that was perfect too. Just what I needed. There was now no question that I would camp at Cook Forest for my last night of the trip.

1 comment:

  1. Was that just a day trip or are you camping? Nice to be able to go at this time without campground reservations. I'm heading down east this summer and many campsites are already booked up.