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Potter County: Bright Stars, Ice Mines, Potatoes, Lumber, & More

We started our Route 6 journey in Wellsboro at the PA Grand Canyon in Tioga County. The next county west of Tioga is Potter County. This is one of the most remote areas on the entire East Coast of the country. Due to this remote location, there is very little light pollution from things such as street lights and more, thus the skies are the darkest and the clearest of any on the East Coast. Cherry Springs State Park is a popular destination for star gazers and more. Additionally, due to the elevation of this county, there is a rare triple divide in which three different rivers start and flow into three different watersheds. This is one of only a handful of places where three different rivers start that flow into three different watersheds. Potter County is home to the headwaters of the mighty Allegheny River, which flows to the Gulf of Mexico, the mighty Susquehanna River, which flows into the Chesapeake, and the Genesee River, which flows into Lake Ontario. In addition to natural beauty, some pretty awesome local institutions are around as well that celebrate some of the natural resources that the county has, including the Pennsylvania Lumber Museum, and the Coudersport Ice Mine, a strange geological wonder where ice forms year round within a cave setting. 
With everything said, Potter County is a breathtaking place, truly earning the moniker of "God's Country." 
In addition to the lumber industry being a huge part of Potter County, Potato farming is another industry that has played a huge role within Potter County, so much so that this quirky roadside attraction, Potato City, was started in 1949 by Dr. E.L. Nixon, President Nixon's Uncle, a major player in the potato industry. The restaurant and motel celebrates this potato heritage. 

Nearby Coudersport is a stunning little town, with lots of charming architecture, like this old train station. If you are looking for an idyllic and quiet place to spend some time, Potter County is a great place to go. Natural beauty, small family businesses, classic roadside motels, natural wonders, and the darkest skies on the East Coast await you in Potter County.


PA Grand Canyon: A Natural Wonder, Pine Creek Gorge, Tioga County, PA

Today we visit a place that had long been on my bucket list, Pine Creek Gorge, aka the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon. We've driven through the region many times, specifically through the beautiful I-99/US 15 Corridor through Wellsboro and the Williamsport area, but we never made our way over to the PA Grand Canyon. This is one of those places that was always on my radar, but we could never find the time to visit this awesome place. Pine Creek Gorge, aka the PA Grand Canyon, became a tourist draw during the depression era in the 1930s, similar to many other natural tourism draws. The CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) one of the groups formed as part of the New Deal Programs proposed and created by FDR during the Great Depression, built roads and facilities at this natural wonder, as they did across this nation. Much of the infrastructure remains intact, allowing us to enjoy the wonder of this awesome natural landmark.
Pine Creek Gorge, aka the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania!
The PA Grand Canyon moniker dates back to the 1930s, when roads and facilities were added to allow for accessibility to this place. A promoter added the moniker to help boost tourism to the region. While in scope, the Pine Creek Gorge does not compare to the actual Grand Canyon, this is truly one awesome place to see. It averages roughly 1000 feet in depth, and is two miles wide at its largest point. This was and remains an important lumber area for the state, though conservation efforts have thankfully lead towards a thriving second growth forest within the gorge, and surrounding Tioga State Forest. The selective logging appears to be getting done in a sustainable fashion that is leaving the forest intact. You can learn more about the heritage of the lumber industry at the Pennsylvania Lumber Museum in nearby Potter County.

The following article dates back to 1937 from the Beaver County Times, from when the area really began to get noticed as a roadside tourism destination. 

We approached the PA Grand Canyon from the northeast, passing through the beautiful Interstate 99/US 15 Corridor, the 287 corridor, and eventually the Route 6 Corridor, which we ended up continuing on across the state once we left the Canyon. This photo was taken at the Tioga-Hammond Lakes Recreation area, a popular spot for anglers and boaters within a scenic part of the state. The Tioga-Central Scenic Railroad runs through the Hammond Lakes area. 
We started on the East Rim of the Canyon at Leonard Harrison State Park.
Coordinates: 41.696927, -77.452384
This cabin was built by the CCC in the 1930s.
A beautiful pavilion that is home to a visitors center and guest facilities serves as a portal to this stunning overlook on the East Rim of the Canyon.
The Turkey Path goes down to the floor of the Canyon with a scenic hike that passes waterfalls and more through the descent. It picks up on the other side of Pine Creek and up the West Rim of the Canyon to Colton Point State Park
The first glimpse of the canyon!
This was one of those days where the weather was questionable. We were unsure of what to expect. It was perfect! The clouds were low, so we were actually truly in the clouds in the gorge.
A look down to the floor of the gorge.
We were truly in the clouds!

Both rims of the canyon have state park camping available.
A little bit of sun peeking through the clouds
Adjacent to the creek bed, you can see the Pine Creek Rail Trail. This trail runs 65 miles from end to end and it allows for a tour through the length of the entire PA Grand Canyon.
One of the greatest treats to sightseeing in the PA Grand Canyon is birdwatching and spotting wildlife. I think we saw only one other visitor on the weekday that we visited. The place was silent. We saw many birds flying around, including this turkey vulture. We also saw turkeys, deer, hawks, and more. 
It is clear why this was named Pine Creek Gorge with how many pines are located throughout this picturesque place. It is also clear why Pine Creek Gorge was given the PA Grand Canyon Moniker. It truly is a spectacular gorge.

I always love seeing these tributes to the CCC workers. These young men would go on to become "the Greatest Generation," the group of young men that worked through the Great Depression, went on to win World War II, bring to us the greatest period of widespread economic prosperity, and worked to knock down racial barriers. Many of these young men were given a chance in our society through working in the CCC. We still enjoy and use much of the infrastructure that these young men improved and created more than 70 years ago. We have the opportunity to enjoy many of these awesome landmarks because of the work of these young men. 
A state park campground is within walking distance of this vista, along with picnic and playground facilities. There is also a private campground and motel just down the road from this point, in addition to a privately owned 100 foot lookout tower that was relocated from Valley Forge.
Now we move over to the west rim of the PA Grand Canyon to Colton Point State Park. The coordinates to this awesome lookout point are 41.708951, -77.464435

Now we have ventured over to the West Rim of the PA Grand Canyon. This is the main lookout point from Colton Point State Park. Leonard Harrison State Park is located directly across the gorge.

There must have been about twenty turkey vultures sailing around like kites around the point here. It was really quite a sight to see. 
Brit was having a blast photographing these birds of prey.
"Let's lay down for a minute and catch some sun!" Seriously though, I've never seen them do this before. This guy was just sitting there for ten minutes like that.
"Oh look! A squirrel!"
"Nah, the sun feels too good!"

Such a beautiful place! The questionable weather forecast made for some dramatic and awesome looking skies!
A look north!
Lookout Point on the West Rim Trail. 
Coordinates: 41.699913, -77.463687

A lookout point on the West Rim Trail.
A view of Leonard Harrison State Park from across the gorge.
The skies really started clearing up for a short time at this point. The weather was absolutely perfect.
From this point we meandered through the network of stone roads around the Tioga State Forest. We ran into all kinds of wildlife throughout the ride in this scenic area. We eventually made our way back to Route 6 and ventured through the remote and gorgeous Pennsylvania Wilds region.
If you love natural beauty, the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon is a place that you must visit. This is a place that needs to be on your bucket list of things to check out in Pennsylvania.
Leonard Harrison State Park:

Colton Point at Colton Point State Park. Be sure to use directions to this point so you can accurately maneuver around the canyon. 
Coordinates: 41.708951, -77.464435


Cathedral of Learning, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA

The most distinctive, unique, and gorgeous building that I have ever set my eyes upon in all my travels, just happens to be in the same neighborhood that we live in, Oakland. The University of Pittsburgh's Cathedral of Learning is the ultimate building in my humble opinion. Granted, I may be biased as both Brit and I are Pitt alums, but these sentiments about the building are echoed all over the place. Built in Gothic style, this skyscraper is absolutely tremendous. One of my favorite times to check out this magnificent building is in the middle of a snowstorm. 
The Stephen Foster Memorial on the left-hand side of this picture is a monument and theater, dedicated to the famed musician that brought us over 200 songs like "Camptown Races" and "Oh, Susana." The earliest form of "sampling" was done with his work, with the sheet music distributed around the country, and people playing them on pianos and coming up with their own lyrics in these days prior to recorded music. He was born and raised in nearby Lawrenceville prior to him moving to Cincinnati in his adult life. The memorial was designed by Charles Klauder, the same Philadelphian architect that designed the Cathedral of Learning Tower, and the beautiful Heinz Chapel.

The Cathedral of Learning is 535 feet tall and 42 stories tall. It was built from 1926 to 1934. Construction faced major delays due to the onset of the Great Depression in 1929. To raise funds for the completion of the building, donations were asked for from groups around the city. With Pittsburgh being the ultimate melting pot of different nationalities, many different ethnic groups donated to get the building completed. As a thank you to these communities, the University of Pittsburgh decorated rooms on the first three floors of the building to represent classrooms within each individual nationality. There are now 30 different classrooms dedicated to the cultures of some of the many ethnicities throughout the Pittsburgh region.
The old Log Cabin is a landmark that is meant to represent the start of the University of Pittsburgh in downtown Pittsburgh. It was purchased in the 1960s and reassembled on the grounds of the University of Pittsburgh. It was purchased at auction for only 1000 dollars in Armstrong County, roughly 50 miles from the city. The building was paneled over in its previous location and it was restored when it was reconstructed at Pitt.
When the student workers at Pitt work to entice potential students on tours around the campus, without fail they mention the building as being "Hogwarts" from the Harry Potter series. Not that far of a conclusion to jump. This building is truly nothing short of spectacular.
Heading up to the 36th floor. The windy snow does not lend well to taking decent pictures out of the wndows. This is the view looking north over most of the Pitt Campus and the Soldiers and Sailors Monument on the left side of the picture. 
The view looking South. On the immediate left you can see the Carnegie Library, Music Hall, and the Museums of Art and Natural History, On the right hand side of the street in the center of the photo you can see Frick Fine Arts and Schenley Plaza. On the middle across the photo, the area of darkness, you can see Panther Hollow and in the distance on the left you can just barely make out Carnegie Mellon University and Schenley Park, and on the far right is Phipps Conservatory. Oakland is truly the cultural center of Pittsburgh. A haven of academia, old architectural beauty, and culture. 
Through and through, attention was paid to every architectural detail within this building. Even after nearly a decade of being a resident in this neighborhood, and entering this building probably thousands of times, I never fail to notice a different detail within this building. So much character, so many different beautiful details to this building. This is certainly one of the jewels of Pennsylvania and Pittsburgh and you need to explore this building. Between the nationality rooms, the scenic views of Pittsburgh, the beautiful architecture, and more, this building is a complete masterpiece and easily the most stunning building that I have ever laid my eyes upon. If you end up in Pittsburgh in October, the Polish and Slovak festivals, held in the spectacular Commons Room on the first floor, are the ultimate events held in Pittsburgh with pierogies galore, ethnic dancing and music, and crafts. Within a five minute walk of the Cathedral are the best cultural institutions the city of Pittsburgh has to offer, the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, the Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History, and Phipps Conservatory

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