We have grown tired of truck camping. Seems like spending the summer looking for a cool place to sleep has also turned into looking for a dry place to sleep. We got chased out of the northwest by smoke from massive wildfires, and now have gotten rained out of the northeast. Cannot wait for world travel to open up! This year we left Phoenix on June 15th, and our bodies and clothing and back of the pickup truck smell like campfire and mold. Just when we get ready to bag it all, the Pennsylvania Wilds reignite our spirits.
Our six dollar per night primitive campsite sits along Minister Creek in the Allegheny National Forest. It has trail heads just steps away. The hiking here brings me back into the woods of my youth, smack in the northern Appalachians. So, let’s grab that dill pickle bread we purchased from a roadside farm stand, and hit the trail.
Steady bursts of rain all summer long has these woods as green as they can be.
The trail twists up and down hills dotted with huge boulders, some being held in the hands of tree roots.
Once again, I huff and puff trying to keep up with Marilynn. She has incredible stamina and lucky for me she looks good from behind.
These vibrant woods revive us, and those sore legs let us know that we are alive and looking forward to happy hour by the creek.
After several days, we splurge on a fancier, sixteen-dollar campsite that comes with a shower. Finally clean, and rain predicted to fall all day long, we head for something different, like a visit to the Zippo Lighter Museum in Bradford, PA, birthplace of this American icon. Thought about buying a few Zippos for friends, but who uses a Zippo lighter anymore?
When we see a break in the clouds, we drive to the Kinzua Skywalk, a train trestle that a tornado blew apart back in 2003.
The walk on the remaining trestle brings vast views of the surrounding area. A hike into the gorge reveals the devastation up close, while the hike back up in the 100% humidity leaves us drenched in sweat. No worries, we have a shower back at fancy camp.
Okay, time to get primitive again. We move to the Hearts Content Campground, where trails lead through some of the only remaining “old growth” forest in the northeastern US.
We traverse through a special twenty-acre area full of impressive stands of hemlock, tall white pine, and orange salamanders.
The white pines are three to four hundred years old.
Back at camp, we try to dry out both ourselves and the memory foam bed roll, quilt, and sleeping bags all to no avail. Nothing dries around here, ever.
Time for a little taste of motel city living. The town of St. Mary’s just happens to have a Fall Festival going on, featuring a “Journey” tribute band and local Straub beer. Nice to do something different and be around a crowd.
We escape the plentiful rain in the Pennsylvania Wilds and travel to the North/South Lake Campground in the Catskills of New York. We must sign forms at the ranger station to promise to be bear aware. Mare and I scoff at this, thinking that we’d be extremely lucky to spot a bear. We make camp and prepare for happy hour. Suddenly I see a black bear climbing down a tree right next to our campsite. He casually strolls away. Must have been up in the tree when we pulled in and disrupted his world. Best wildlife sighting in a while.
Again, the beauty hidden deep in these woods revives our camping and hiking spirit.
Kaaterskill Falls blows us away, especially when we pass a bride (wearing a see-through gown) and groom who just tied the knot down at the base.
Other hikes take us to different sections of the falls and to lakes surrounded by hints of autumn colors before the clouds and fog emerge.
Boom! Cloud burst. We ignite a campfire, anyway, cheating with a can of charcoal lighter fluid I purchased for such an occasion. Smells like a Zippo lighter around here. When it rains, we become captive under the cap of the truck all evening and through the night. Nothing to do but watch mushrooms grow on our memory foam mattress.
In the morning, we hike a soggy, stream filled trail to the Catskill Mountain House Site, which promises stunning views, but the views are full of fog this day.
Mare says, “Drizzla drazzle dreezle drone, time for this one to come home.” I look at her and think that she has lost her mind. “What?” Mare responds, “Remember that old cartoon, it’s time for this turtle to go home?” Her words sound like music to my ears. (Unfortunately, Journey songs are still stuck in my head).
Truck camping and hiking the US from the Northwest to the Northeast has made for a fabulous, albeit smoky, and soggy, summer. Yes, we have had enough of truck camping for a while.
If the world is willing, it is time to get international. Hopefully, we will be writing and taking photos of the gorillas in Uganda soon.
Thank you, abundant universe!