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2019 Pennsylvania Calendar and PA Amusement Parks Book Options

3.31.2019

Lancaster Train Station: A Beautiful, Historic, & Functional Gem

Today we visit an absolute gem of a historic train station in Lancaster. The Lancaster Amtrak Station is a former Pennsylvania Railroad station that has been maintained, preserved, and restored to its original grandeur. It serves many travelers daily on daily trains between Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and New York City, with connecting trains to anywhere in the country. It is the second busiest train station in the state and the 21st busiest in the country. It hearkens back to the glamour of train travel of days gone by. It is an absolute treasure and the local government has worked to preserve it as an efficient and functional train station instead of just letting it sit and become abandoned or purchased by a private interest that would cut off public access to the building. Instead of going these routes, the community saw the value in this building, which has more than doubled in passenger traffic since the turn of the millennium in a rejuvenated city. This is a grand building that is absolutely stunning.
The train station was built during the heyday of the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1929 when they built a cutoff to move the main line from the heart of the city. This classical-revival styled station was fully renovated and restored between 2009 and 2013.

The grand staircase that leads to the ticketing and waiting areas. Here you can see the characteristic use of natural light that was typical of Pennsylvania Railroad Stations.

This portion of the rail is part of the Keystone Corridor, which is continuously electrified through Harrisburg. Beyond that, the line continues on the old Pennsylvania Railroad line through Pittsburg, but joins with Norfolk Southern and utilizes diesel locomotives.
The beautiful main waiting area.

The steps down to the arrival and departure platforms. Elevators are also offered.
Looking towards the station from the platform.
Here comes the Amtrak Pennsylvanian. This daily westbound train continues on to Elizabethtown, Harrisburg, Lewistown, Huntingdon, Tyrone, Altoona, Johnstown, Latrobe, Greensburg, and Pittsburgh. Westbound Keystone Service trains have multiple daily runs between Lancaster, Elizabethtown, and Harrisburg. Eastbound service goes daily to the Philadelphia area, with trains connecting from Philadelphia's 30th Street Station to pretty much anywhere that Amtrak offers service. The Eastbound Pennsylvanian makes a direct daily eastbound run to New York City, via Philadelphia. 
The Westbound Pennsylvanian has arrived!
Lancaster's train station is absolutely stunning and we highly recommend checking it out. For information on daily trains to the station and the area, check out www.amtrak.com


3.24.2019

Columcille Megalith Park: Land of Mysterious Rock Monuments in the Poconos


Columcille Megalith Park is one of the strangest, most serene, and coolest things that I have seen in the state. It has a series of randomly placed boulders and has been referred to as the "Stonehenge of Pennsylvania." You can get an experience of Scotland's Isle of Iona on the edge of the Poconos in the northern reaches of Northampton County. As a labor of love of Scottish and Irish culture and mythology, this mysterious area is filled with different boulder creations that are just a short distance from the nearby Appalachian Trail. This destination in itself is a light hiking/nature walk destination.
For starters, the land on which Columcille sits is just spectacular. It is within a half mile of the Fox Gap Trailhead of the Appalachian Trail, right across a ridge that is home to a multitude of overlooks, including Wolf Rocks. It is also within a 15 minute drive of the Delaware Water Gap, a twenty minute drive from Big Pocono State Park, Camelback Ski Area and Indoor Waterpark, the outlets at Tannersville, Stroudsburg, Mt. Pocono, and more. If you are looking for a relaxed and off the radar place to visit in the Poconos, this is it. 
As soon as you enter the grounds, you can tell that this place is a spectacular labor of love. Brilliantly placed boulders, neat signage, well-manicured landscaping that has simultaneously preserved the wooded setting of the area, and so much more.
Looking at the official map of Columcille, it is tough to make sense of what is there. The best thing to do is simply explore and draw your own conclusions about what you see. This place is a creative wonderland that has surprises around every corner.
 On the left you can see the St. Oran Bell Tower. It was modeled after some 8th Century ruins in Ireland.
This land of quiet retreat, serenity, and relaxation was started in 1977. 
By 1997, there were over 80 standing stones in the megalith park, which was no small feat, considering the sheer size of the boulders.
Looking back towards the Bell Tower
I pretty much zig zagged around the entire place. The creativity is awe-inspiring and relaxing.
Here is the Bell Tower again!
Going into the bell tower....

This is probably my favorite section of the place. The stones are arranged so mysteriously.
As you go deeper into the woods, you start to see more intricately stacked boulders.
And I believe that this creation is what draws some people to dub this as the "Stonehenge of Pennsylvania." I would love to see how the caretakers of this land were able to accomplish this feat. I also love seeing boulders that are covered in moss and lichen.
Did mention that the land at Columcille is beautiful? 
Columcille is a place that you need to check out. Located in Bangor, it is within easy reach of pretty much any place within the Poconos and it is located in an absolutely beautiful area. 

It is located within a half mile of the Fox Gap Trailhead of the Appalachian Trail, right across a ridge that is home to a multitude of overlooks, including Wolf Rocks. It is also within a 15 minute drive of the waterfalls at the Delaware Water Gap, a twenty minute drive from Big Pocono State Park, Camelback Ski Area and Indoor Waterpark, the outlets at Tannersville, Stroudsburg, Mt. Pocono, and more. If you are looking for a relaxed and off the radar place to visit in the Poconos, this is it. 

For more information on visiting and the history and myth behind this neat attraction, visit their website at http://www.columcille.org

3.17.2019

Random Birding in Northwestern PA

Touring through Northwestern PA is a ton of fun. There are numerous lakes throughout this region that serve as tremendous habitats for all sorts of creatures. This makes them a hotspot for birding and Northwestern PA has so many excellent places for birdwatching, especially in the winter. MK Goddard State Park in Sandy Lake, PA is home to tremendous birdwatching opportunities, especially when it comes to eagles and ospreys. The marsh lands surrounding the Lake Wilhelm at MK Goddard State Park are excellent habitats for a number of raptors. 
This eagle was perched about 50 feet away from us near the marshlands at the lake. 
Lake Wilhelm

While we did not catch any birds on this specific trip to Conneaut Lake, although we did see some in the immediate area. The historic Hotel Conneaut, Conneaut Lake Park Grounds, and Conneaut Lake, PA's largest natural lake, are absolutely gorgeous with snow and ice. It is serene and an interesting contrast going through these grounds with the quiet of winter when compared to buzz of summer fun that comes with this area being one of the state's oldest summer resorts. Just a couple more months until summer fun begins at the park again.

Now we head  Pymatuning State Park. When the Bald Eagle was nearly wiped out of existence in the state, the last breeding pair is said to have survived at Pymatuning State Park. While we did not see any on this particular visit, we did see a bunch of geese and many Peregrine Falcons.
And over the the Pymatuning Spillway!
Normally there would be thousands of carp surfacing for feeding. Nonetheless, there were still a few that surfaced, even in that extremely cold weather.
We then headed up towards Presque Isle State Park, taking some back roads all the way up. On the way, we happened to catch this huge hawk. It is probably the largest hawk that we have ever seen. The wetlands of the Erie National Wildlife Refuge and Presque Isle State Park are two more awesome birding destinations to check out in Northwestern PA. 


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