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2.25.2018

Parker Dam State Park: Beautiful Cabins, Lake, Natural Beauty, and More

Parker Dam State Park is an absolutely beautiful place in the PA Wilds. There is so much scenic beauty, history, and more at this state park in rural Clearfield County. Much of the natural beauty of the park actually stems from efforts undertaken by the state and the CCC, creating a dam on Laurel Run, a tributary to the Bennett Branch of the Sinnemahoning Creek. Parker Lake is a 20 acre impoundment that is easily accessible for swimming on a sand beach during the summer months, fishing and sightseeing year round, and for ice skating when the conditions are suitable within the winter months. 

Even the forests through out the park, and the surrounding massive amount of land that makes up Moshannon State Forest, are the result of hard work. The land was once completely logged, starting with sawmills being built in the area by American colonists in years as early as 1794. They left the area with nothing but dead branches left piled up. The usable logs were floated downstream through the Susquehanna and to Baltimore. The branches were unusable for lumbering purposes, so they were just piled upon the ground and known to catch fire and cause major environmental issues. The ground no longer had roots and plant life holding it together, so erosion and flooding issues were a major problem. Progressive politicians in the late nineteenth century put plans into motion that worked to ensure that these lands would be rehabilitated and open to public recreation, and the State Forest system was put into place. Moshannon and the land that makes up Parker Dam is part of this effort. Some of the trails throughout the state park and surrounding state forest area are actually made from early railroad right-of-ways that were used to haul lumber away.

Visiting the state park is a great joy and escape. The park is filled with beautiful forest, CCC architecture, and lots of recreational opportunities. 
The fireplace in one of the CCC era cabins. 
One of the beautiful groves 
The park is filled with beautiful groves of hemlock, pine, and other species of trees. 
The cabin that we stayed in for the weekend. For most of the first day, the ground was mostly clear from snow. The park's cabins comprise a National Historic District, for they were built by the young men of the CCC during the Great Depression. These sturdy and beautiful cabins are a joy to stay in, with their spacious living areas, full kitchens, and sleeping areas, with many of the cabins housing multiple sets of bunk beds for prices that range from 50-60 dollars a night. You can easily accommodate six or more people within the cabin, and that value, especially for a family, is pretty much unmatched.
Snow coverage of the cabins on the following day
The Lou and Helen Adams Civilian Conservation Corps Museum has a number of relics from the CCC era.
Remnants of ice left on Parker Lake. Due to the torrential rains and unusual warmth that week, the ice was not strong enough to go out upon. The prior weekend saw skating and ice fishing on the beautiful little lake. In the summer months, the area in front of that building is a sand beach and utilized for swimming and relaxation. 
The dam for the lake. This is another awesome CCC project at the park. For those of you who are unaware, the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) was a New Deal program, initiated by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt during the Great Depression to help put unemployed men to work. Some of the work they did remains to this day, and Parker Dam State Park has what is one of the most intact areas of CCC architecture that remains to this day. The construction was top notch, both in what they physically did, and in the strengthening of the young men that served in the program. These guys would go on and defeat Hitler and the Japanese Empire in World War II, just a few years later, and go on to be referred to as "the Greatest Generation" that our nation has ever seen. 

Parker Dam is a beautiful, functional, and living monument to these guys. Construction on this sandstone dam started in 1933, and the dam was completed and the lake began to be filled in 1935. A setback in construction happened during one of the worst weather events in the history of Pennsylvania, the St. Patrick's Day Flood of 1936, in which the limits of much of the infrastructure of the period were exposed in devastating fashion. The floods caused problems on both sides of the continental divide. The winter had been especially snowy, and heavy rains caused a huge meltdown event. The Susquehanna River, of which the creeks around Parker Dam are a tributary to, had been covered in ice prior to the storms. Ice jams occurred up and down the river, and major damage occurred. Estimates leave the number of dead in Pennsylvania at roughly 100 people. The deluge of water damaged the dam, and set back the grand opening of Parker Dam State Park to the spring of 1937. 

The beaver dam area of Parker Dam State Park has a boardwalk that allows for sightseeing and checking out wildlife in some beautiful meadows.
Snow coverage over the Beaver Dam Trail Area on the following day
The beach area. On cooler days, this area is utilized for ice skating, and on much warmer summer days, this area is utilized for swimming. The beach area initially had lifeguards that worked with the CCC.
The lake after the snowfall on the following day
The Parker Dam State Park Office. They have a small museum and interpretive area that shows the common wildlife found within the region, and offers interpretive programs to educate visitors on different topics. An ice harvesting program was scheduled for the weekend, and while the weather was too warm to do ice harvesting on the lake, they planned on doing a presentation on the tools and process within the classroom area.

Additionally, throughout the year the Friends of Parker Dam State Park runs interpretive programs for different sightseeing and outdoor activities, including cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in the winter, in addition to ice skate and kayak rentals within their respective seasons. They also run festivals at the park, including Woodsy Owl weekends in the spring where they do park cleanups and beautification with volunteers being offered free camping, the Woodhick Festival, every Labor Day weekend, which shows heritage logging displays and competitions, and the Fall Festival and Pumpkin Float. 
Bears!
Owls and other birds!
A hawk!
A view of the lake from one of the beautiful picnic groves.
This CCC built structure within Moshannon State Forest, just outside of Parker Dam State Park, was strong enough to save the lives of Boy Scouts during the 1985 tornado outbreak. The tornadoes killed 89 people and injured more than a thousand people in locations ranging from Ohio, through western PA, NY, and Ontario. The trees within the immediate area of the cabin are markedly smaller because the older growth from the CCC days was wiped out by the 1985 Tornado. The revegetation is marked as an experiment to monitor forest growth.
The surrounding Moshannon State Forest is full of scenic beauty. A number of creeks cascade through the rugged landscape of the area.

A beaver dam within Moshannon State Forest
Parker Dam State Park has so many year-round recreational opportunities, and we highly recommend spending some time at the park, especially within one of the park's cabins, or at their campground. The state park, and the areas surrounding it, are extremely scenic and well worth going out of your way to explore.

2.18.2018

Interesting Pennsylvania & Beyond's 4th Anniversary: Thanks for four great years!

Our fourth year has passed for us here at Interesting Pennsylvania and Beyond. It has been an honor being able to authentically cover travel topics across Pennsylvania and Beyond and the support you have shown for us is greatly appreciated in helping us become a leading Pennsylvania travel blog.
Pausing for a moment at Kinzua Bridge State Park
The commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the region in general, has so many scenic and awesome things to experience. Our goal is to give exposure to these places that provide relaxation and are accessible to everyone. Traveling across every corner and county in our state has provided great joy to us. Pennsylvania has so much to offer when it comes to tremendous scenic overlooks, cascading waterfalls, hiking trails, excellent cultural attractions, institutions, businesses, and more.

When we started four years ago, we were not aware of any blogs dedicated to covering travel around Pennsylvania. We decided to do our part to help with boosting tourism awareness throughout this great state. Through our other page, www.coastertalknobszone.com, which is dedicated to amusement parks, we often covered many non-amusement park related attractions across the state. After writing Great Pennsylvania Amusement Parks Road Trip, a book on Pennsylvania's ten historic and awesome amusement parks, and after a glorious visit to see the ice dunes at Presque Isle State Park on our fifth anniversary as a couple, we knew that we wanted to create Interesting Pennsylvania and Beyond to highlight travel throughout Pennsylvania.
Riding the historic Dentzel carousel at Kennywood Park
Here on our ninth anniversary as a couple, and the fourth anniversary of the creation of Interesting Pennsylvania and Beyond, we thank you for your continued support and helping us provide exposure to the many great places PA has to offer. Your kind words throughout the years have meant so much to us and we look forward to continuing to show you great places to explore.

Sincerely,
David and Brittany Witoslawski

2.11.2018

Pinball Perfection & Betsy Ann Chocolates in West View, PA

Do you like pinball, classic arcade games, classic slot machines, air hockey, and more? Pinball Perfection in the borough of West View, just outside of Pittsburgh has one of the largest collections of pinball machines on the planet, along with a sizable number of other amusement games. 
The museum's collection of classic slot machines.
A few of their pinball machines. These have been restored and are up for sale.
You naturally found us in the row of Star Trek Machines. They have about ten Star Trek and Star Wars Machines.
Along with other classic machines, with close to four hundred of them in all. These machines date back to the 1960s.
More pinball machines, including this strange baseball machine, and several air hockey tables.
They have row upon row of these machines. One could easily spend several days straight playing all of the machines.
Instead of operating on quarters, you simply pay hourly, or go to their timed events. They often hold events where you can pay-one-price and then spend an entire evening playing. During the week and outside of these events, they offer hourly pricing.
Betsy Ann Chocolates, located across the street, is possibly the finest chocolatier in the Pittsburgh region, and it is located directly across the street from Pinball Perfection. This institution dates all the way back to 1938.

2.04.2018

Historic Borough of Roaring Spring, Blair County

The last leg of our journey took us through the Raystown Lake Region, out of Huntingdon County, through Bedford County, and into Blair County on beautiful Route 164. This area is very scenic and pretty. Our next stop takes us to the borough of Roaring Spring, home to one of the strongest springs in the state, a geologically notable location around which grew a thriving village with a connection to the mighty Pennsylvania Railroad. It is home to the only remaining original PRR station in Blair County, something that is quite notable considering the illustrious railroading history in Blair County, specifically in Altoona. 
This municipality is a fine example of a "company town." Much of the borough's development formed around the Roaring Spring Blank Book Paper Company, which was founded by businessman Daniel Bare. Remarkably, a large part of the operations of this company have remained in the borough to this day, and the bulk of the remainder of their operations are within the county. 
Cresting Tussey Mountain and heading into Blair County from Bedford County.
Here is the town's small railroad station, which serves as the home of the Roaring Spring Historical Society The building dates back to 1906 and is the only remaining authentic Pennsylvania Railroad Station in Blair County, which is surprising considering that more than three dozen different buildings existed in this county, which was once a main hub of operations for the PRR. Tyrone has a historically accurate replica PRR station, and Altoona has a modern station of its own. The line is now operated by the Everett Railroad. Roaring Spring has a number of beautiful and historic buildings that have lead towards designation as a National Historic District. A 1942 Pennsylvania Railroad locomotive sits parked next to the train station.
The village formed in Morrison's Cove, an eroded anticlinal valley that formed in Blair and Bedford Counties that is surrounded by Tussey Mountain to the East, and Dunning, Lock, and Loop Mountains to the West. The bowl-like cove has only three openings. The Raystown Branch of the Juniata River and Yellow Creek flow through the cove. 

The large expanse of flat land of Morrison's Cove was, and remains, fertile farmland, and the sheer power of Roaring Spring lead towards the founding of this village around the spring and it was used as a key source for hydropower, initially for a grist mill, and later for a paper mill. You can see one of the paper industry buildings, the beautiful Roaring Spring Blank Book Company Building that dates back to 1900, on the end of the pond created by the spring.
The pond itself stays warm enough at a constant temperature to be an excellent habitat for trout and waterfowl. The air temperature was about -2 degrees when we visited, and every other body of water was basically frozen solid. This water did not have even a single bit of ice on it, showing the sheer power of the spring. The spring water temperature always comes out at a steady 50 degrees. In the summer months, they have a fountain that has operated in the pond at Spring Dam Park since 1931. The fountain has been illustrated on postcards since it was erected. 
Waterfowl!
Trout!

Hawk!
The spring itself has mostly been diverted to the municipal water supply, though it still has a good amount of flow that goes into the pond. The spring was named "Roaring Spring" because of the estimated eight-million-gallons-a-day that it gushes out. The sound is said to have echoed through the valley. Not nearly as much sound is made now, since much of the flow is diverted to the municipal water system. 
The Bare Memorial Fountain, sitting dormant for the winter months.
Another view of the train station.

Roaring Spring is a fun little borough to explore. We highly recommend checking it out if you are in the area. 
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