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Hyner View State Park: One of PA's Finest Vistas

One of the finest, if not the finest, vistas that I have ever seen in Pennsylvania is at Hyner View State Park, overlooking the West Branch of the Susquehanna River from an elevation of 1940 feet. The river is at an elevation of 640 feet, making for a 1300 foot vista making what is perhaps the most stunning view in Pennsylvania, which says a lot, considering how many spectacular vistas can be found throughout the state. In all of our journeys throughout the 67 counties of Pennsylvania, this view in Clinton County is certainly one of the best. Seeing it in its winter splendor was so inspirational. 
The view looks out upon the West Branch of the Susquehanna River and Route 120, a portion of the 75 mile long Bucktail State Park Natural Area, a stunningly beautiful area and drive that goes through Cameron and Clinton Counties. 

As with most of the awesome things within our state, the state park's facilities were built by the Great Depression era CCC workers. This stone wall has certainly prevented some 1300 foot tumbles. In the distance you can see the small boroughs of Renovo and Hyner, and the surrounding mountains.
The West Branch of the Susquehanna River from the overlook at Hyner View, one of the finest views in the entire state.
The hang gliding launch pad. It is clear to see that this must be a thrilling ride.

Here is the fire wardens monument. This state's fire wardens have heroically kept our state safe and this monument was erected in their honor on the 50th anniversary of their founding. This year will mark the 102nd anniversary of the wardens. This is an especially important time for them, for many of the fire towers that have either stood idle or been abandoned, will come back online or be rebuilt entirely in coming years. The monument has twenty stones surrounding it, each one originating from each of the twenty state forest systems. 
Hyner View is easily in the upper echelon of scenic overlooks in the state. Our travels throughout the state have brought us countless spectacular views, but this one really stands out as one of the best, if not the best in the entire state. The state park itself is only six acres, but it is nearly surrounded by state forest land that has trails surrounding it, leading into hikes and more. Near the bottom of the mountain is the beautiful Hyner Run State Park, a beautiful area that is home to recreational opportunities, including a campground for those who want to spend an extended amount of time here. 


Potter County: Winter Adventures in Beautiful North-Central PA

Today we do a little exploration around Potter County and the surrounding beautiful region. We started our trip by heading northeast from Pittsburgh into Elk Country and then shifted eastward into Clinton County and went to Renovo and Hyner View State Park. This is one of the most beautiful and remote drives in the state. Hyner View State Park is home to what is probably my favorite scenic vista in the entire state and we will talk about that in a later article. From there we headed northeast to Lycoming County's Lebo Vista on the southern end of the Pine Creek Gorge/Pennsylvania Grand Canyon. From there we cut slightly northwest into Potter County. 
Potter County "God's Country"
It was nearly impossible to drive for more than ten minutes or so within the without stopping at a scenic vista somewhere. There are spectacular sweeps that show the rugged landscape of north central Pennsylvania. The gorge of the West Branch of the Susquehanna River and the Pine Creek Gorge (AKA the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon), meander their way through the surrounding counties, making for some spectacular vistas, hikes, and breathtaking drives, often on thrilling and curvy roads that look like they are straight out of a car commercial. Potter County is a deeply dissected plateau area, with it being home to a rare triple continental divide, from which water flows to three different watersheds from one location. Two rivers start directly in Potter County at this triple divide, the Allegheny and the Genesee. The Allegheny flows into the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers en route to the Gulf of Mexico. The Genesee River flows northwards into New York State and into Lake Ontario. The remainder of the waters flow into the Susquehanna River watershed, the largest river on the East Coast, and into the beautiful Chesapeake Bay. 

Ten different waterways that could be classified as rivers, flow through the county. Thanks to the nature of the giant plateau that makes up Potter County, these small rivers have created an absolutely breathtaking web of gorges across the county.
Longtoe Vista
Thanks to the highly dissected nature of the plateau that makes up Potter County, the area looks quite mountainous, with steep and abrupt valleys lending for some spectacular vistas at seemingly every turn. Thanks to the highly rural nature of the region, a huge portion of it consists of state forests and state park land, with tons of trails to hike upon, and to ride ATVs and Snowmobiles upon. A snowmobile is the vehicle of choice around Potter County in the winter, with more than enough roads and trails to ride upon. The main roads are treated very well, though the state park and state forest side roads receive minimal winter maintenance, making studded snows, chains, and/or four wheel drive, a must. There are more than enough main roads to travel upon, with plenty of roadside vistas along the way, that you will be more than occupied if you do not have those things, though with this recent spell of warm weather, it seems like there is a solid chance you may not have to worry about these things until next winter. 
Cherry Springs Vista
Cherry Springs Vista is located near Cherry Springs State Park. As we mentioned earlier, Potter County is an extremely remote area. Since the county is one of the most remote places on the East Coast, its skies are considered to be the darkest on the entire East Coast. 

We visited the day after the lunar eclipse, and the nearly full moon was at its brightest, coupled with solid cloud cover on the tail end of an approaching weather system. Even with the skies not clear enough for stargazing, it was so great to see no light pollution shining off of the clouds from below, with simply the moonlight shining through the clouds. It was awe inspiring in a way that I did not expect. 
The high points in Potter County are all roughly 2000 feet or so. 

This historic route, which bisects the county with its east-west corridor, runs through the charming boroughs of Galeton, Coudersport, and near some cool attractions, including the place where the ice remains long after the snow melts for the season, the Coudersport Ice Mine, a natural oddity where cold air from underground creates condensation with the warm summer air and then large ice formations result from this funky phenomenon. This quirky has attracted guests since the dawn of the automotive age. The Pennsylvania Lumber Museum is also a cool place to check out. For more information about the county, be sure to check out this article that we wrote after a previous visit.

Fezz's Diner consists of a 1954 Silk City Diner car that came from Bethlehem in the 90s. Lehigh Pizza, a popular pizza shop on Third Street in South Bethlehem, opened in 1975 at a then abandoned diner on Fourth Street, in the parking lot of the old Food Lane Supermarket. Due to the popularity of the shop, they moved to a larger location in 1996, even in the midst of the upheaval of losing Bethlehem Steel. Lehigh Pizza still thrives in their new location today. After the shop moved, I remember seeing this old diner car sitting in a state of limbo and wondering if it would ever be used once again. The diner car that served as Lehigh Pizza's first location ended up getting sold and moved, and the old location became a Wendy's. That memory flew right back to me when I saw that this charming diner uses that same diner car that stared down abandonment multiple times. 

Now this diner car is an impeccably maintained beauty utilized by a nice little family operation that you should definitely check out if you are riding through the area and want a nice meal.
There are tons of vistas in Potter County and the surrounding region
The swimming area in the Kettle Creek Valley at Ole Bull State Park in southern Potter County. No need to cool off on this day, though this looks like it would be epic in the summer! Ole Bull was a massively successful Norwegian violinist that wanted to create a colony of land in the Americas in 1852. This stunningly beautiful location was where he first decided to build. The colony did not end up working out, though he would find success elsewhere. It is easy to see why he chose this location though!
This winter visit to Potter County and the ride through the surrounding counties was glorious and we highly recommend exploring north central PA if you love scenic vistas, friendly people, and attractions with a lot of character.


Interesting Pennsylvania and Beyond's Third Anniversary: Thank you for three great years!

Touring the classic cars at Huntingdon's Swigart Museum
We are now celebrating our third anniversary of our Pennsylvania travel blog, authentically showing you many of the awesome things to do throughout Pennsylvania and beyond. We focus the great places and institutions that provide for fun getaways and great relaxation. Our travels have brought us to every corner and county of the state, always finding new things to see and do that never fail to surprise us. As we have chronicled our thoughts and travels we have consistently grown and we are so thankful for your continued support. We hope that you are one of the many people that has used the information on our site to see some pretty spectacular things. You will be sure to have a good time visiting the places that we highlight.
A memorable moment getting to walk between the tracks on Kennywood Park's Racer
Coaster Talk No BS Zone, a page about amusement parks and roller coasters, was our first page and it dates back to 2012. Earlier on we covered different regional attractions that were located in the vicinity of different amusement parks, but we wanted to focus even further upon the different attractions that were not necessarily amusement park related.

Riding Leap-The-Dips, the world's oldest roller coaster at Altoona's Lakemont Park
Our 2013 book, Great Pennsylvania Amusement Parks Road Tripincludes sections on some of the excellent attractions located within close proximity to the ten different amusement parks throughout the state. We soon realized that we wanted to further delve into the many tourism opportunities that our state has to offer through covering them on a new website. 
Lake Erie Ice Dunes
A glorious drive up to Erie on our fifth anniversary as a couple in 2014 finally pushed us to create this Interesting Pennsylvania and Beyond. This was a spontaneous adventure after we had heard that ice dunes formed on Lake Erie at Presque Isle State Park during that brutally cold winter. The state park has always been a favorite hangout of ours during the summer months, so it was pretty awe inspiring seeing our summer oasis transformed into frozen tundra. The ice dune natural phenomena is really stunning and is well worth a trip to see. That trip inspired us to finally create Interesting Pennsylvania and Beyond, and we are still chugging along three years later. It is with great pride and joy that we continue along with our mission to you and your kind words throughout the years mean so much. It has been a journey showing you our journeys across this state, and we look forward to the next many years to come. Thank you very much for your continued support!
Touring the grounds and building at Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater


9 Things You Have to Do in Crawford County

If you are looking for a relaxing and affordable getaway, Crawford County is a place that you need to check out. From activities and attractions ranging from visiting a historic amusement park, enjoying natural lakes, viewing wildlife, riding a historic railroad through the area of the first commercial oil wells, sleeping in a caboose, seeing a zany public art project, to shopping at one of our nation's oldest continuously operating market houses, Crawford County offers a little bit of everything. Here are some of our favorite things to check out.

1) Conneaut Lake Park
One of the last two remaining Traver Tumblebug rides in operation
Conneaut Lake Park is an excellent small amusement park with extremely affordable prices and classic rides. If you are looking for a perfectly landscaped park like Disney, this is not the place for you. If you enjoy good times with family, affordable prices, rides for people of all ages, and some of the strongest airtime that there is upon any coaster, Conneaut Lake Park is definitely for you.
The park is home to the classic Blue Streak, one of only two remaining wooden roller coasters of its kind. The park is also home to the last remaining carousel of its kind, the second to last classic tumblebug ride, and a little waterpark.
To top it all off, there is a classic hotel that is located right on the water of Pennsylvania's largest natural lake, which is often home to banquets and parties.
There is also a full beach where you can cool off on a hot summer day. Conneaut Lake Park is a regular destination for us to really get away from it all and relax. The park also plays host to events in the autumn months, with Pumpkin Fest and Ghost Lake for those who prefer spooky thrills. The park also has a campground.

2) Sightseeing and Feeding the Fish at Pymatuning State Park
This is another thing that we absolutely love to do. Pymatuning State Park is located right near Conneaut Lake and its reservoir is the largest lake by surface area that touches Pennsylvania, aside from Lake Erie. It is located directly on the border of Pennsylvania and Ohio. The lake is so wide that there is actually a two mile long causeway that crosses the lake between Espyville, PA and Andover, OH.
There are plenty of boating, fishing, and other recreational opportunities, but the most popular activity at the lake is stopping at one of the dams, the Linesville Spillway, "Where the Ducks Walk On the Fish." This spot is dominated by these massive carp and ducks that compete to feed upon the bread that people throw into the water. This activity is so popular and it stems from the Great Depression era where this became a popular and inexpensive roadside attraction for people to enjoy. It is impossible for us to avoid making a stop here. When our bread is no longer edible, we take it to feed to the fish. The carp are so large that you could throw an entire hot dog roll into the water and there is a solid chance that one of the fish will actually swallow it whole. It is extremely entertaining! Additionally, the lake serves as an excellent habitat for waterfowl and other wildlife. We had a great time last summer taking in a sunset at the lake, in addition to watching this blue heron.

3) PennDOT Road Sign Sculpture Garden
The PennDOT Road Sign Sculpture Garden is something that we've appreciated for many years. It started out as a small public art project and turned into something large and with a popular following. It seems to grow by the day like any normal garden, but everything is made from recycled PennDOT signs. What was once a simple and mundane PennDOT road maintenance facility is now circled with a famous public art installation that draws people from all over the place. It is a creative and odd attraction that is really quite beautiful. The display is a work of love by nearby Allegheny College and it is located right at the juncture of the famous Route 6, US 19, and Interstate 79, making it an easy place to take in if you are visiting around Crawford County, or just driving through.

4) Taking in the natural lakes such as Sugar Lake, Canadohta, Conneaut, and Others
Idyllic Sugar Lake
Natural lakes are something that are not common in Pennsylvania. Very few exist outside of the northeastern and northwestern corners of the state that experienced glaciation. Crawford County has multiple f excellent natural lakes that have served as traditional tourist destinations and places of relaxation. The bulk of the lakes within the state have been created by way of damming up a waterway, often as a result of flood control.

Conneaut Lake is the largest natural lake within the state and it is absolutely beautiful and it has a great beach for swimming, along with no horsepower limits for boats. Sugar Lake is practically undisturbed and a fisherman's paradise. There is a limit of six horsepower on the lake and it is just so idyllic and peaceful. Canadohta Lake is a traditional tourism draw.

5) Shopping at the Meadville Market House, one of our nation's oldest community markets
The Meadville Market House has stood strong for the better part of 150 years, serving as a marketplace for people to sell their locally made handiwork. You can find all kinds of locally produced food, crafts, baked goods, and more at this great institution in downtown Meadville. We highly recommend going in and getting some stuff, especially some pies. 

6) Taking in the wetlands, hiking, and wildlife at the Erie National Wildlife Refuge
Erie National Wildlife Refuge is a place that you can go and enjoy some beautifully restored wetlands, filled with lilly pads and all of the other vegetation you would expect in healthy wetlands. There are a number of trails and boardwalks that traverse the woods and wetlands, in addition to viewing platforms that allow you to stay hidden and watch the birds and other wildlife without spooking them away. This is a really relaxing place to visit.

7) Checking out the fine little cafes, restaurants, shops, and historic buildings in Titusville

Visiting Titusville is an absolute must and between it and the local attractions, you have a really solid and affordable weekend trip. The town is filled with little shops, fun and delicious cafes, a beautiful town square, and lots of historic homes and buildings that hearken from the days in which this was an oil boomtown. This is the town that brought us John Heisman. He played his high school ball here and practically invented football as we know it today.

8) Riding the Oil Creek and Titusville Railroad 
The Oil Creek and Titusville Railroad is a short line railroad that you can ride through the "Valley that Changed History," the Oil Creek Valley. It runs through the land that now makes up Oil Creek State Park, and was home to the first boomtown in the history of fossil fuel extraction. This is a pretty awesome place to explore for a multitude of reasons, from exploring history that has seemingly been frozen in time, in a semi-apocalyptic way, with nature taking control once again. You will find random foundations and old industrial machinery scattered about the woods along Oil Creek. The railroad is a remnant from that time period and it is a joy riding on it in classic rolling stock. The people who run it are really nice as well and this is certainly a place that you need to check out.

9) Sleeping in a Caboose at the Caboose Motel
At the train station for the Oil Creek and Titusville Railroad you can find the Caboose Motel, accommodations that were created exclusively with classic cabooses. You can have your own caboose for the night, complete with a full bedroom, bathroom, deck area, and more, to sit and relax at. It is a short walk from all of the fun things to check out in downtown Titusville as well, making this an excellent and unique place to stay the night.

All in all, Crawford County as a nice and well rounded collection of things to do that should certainly be on your radar to check out. One of the best aspects of all of these things is the low cost/free aspect of all of these activities, perfect for an affordable weekend getaway.

For more information on visiting the county, be sure to check out http://www.visitcrawford.org


Minister Creek Hike: Allegheny National Forest, Warren County, PA

The Minister Creek Natural Area is known by many hikers as having one of the premiere hikes in western PA. While the hike was nice as it got closer to the higher elevations, the lower areas consist of old logging roads that have not held up well with erosion issues. Make sure that you are not afraid to get a little mud on your hiking boots. With all of that said though, it was still a relaxing hike that I would rate at a mostly moderate level due to the maneuvering you will be doing in the lower sections of the hike around slides, with the upper portion of the hike being a little more advanced due to the steep elevation change near the highest points in the hike. While I would not go to this area simply for this hike, I would definitely stop again heading to or from the beautiful Hearts Content Natural Area, home to one of the finest stands of old growth forest within the state. 
This is right near the beginning of the hike. The trail is in good shape in this area, though the fallen trees leave you a good hint of the erosion issues to come.
A fork in the trail!
As you ascend, you get into a beautiful second growth forest with nice groves of hemlocks.

I don't know why, but this mushroom covered tree really caught my attention.
It is amazing to see how dozens, if not hundreds, of different organisms have feasted upon this dead tree.
This is the point where the hike started to kick in nice. You can see already see where you will reach the top. There are a number of these rock formations throughout the area.
Here is where the fun really kicks in with some nice elevation change. It is short, but this is my favorite kind of hiking.
More boulders and a heavy duty ascent
Getting there!
Looking backwards
Almost to the top!
Here is the start of the Minister Valley Overlook, the big reward for the hike.
This rocky outcropping gives you a commanding view of the Minister Creek Valley. This overlook is not unlike that of places like Wolf and Beam Rocks much further south in the Alleghenies.
I always love these types of overlooks
The rounded nature of the valley rims and the meandering Minister Creek make this overlook quite beautiful, not to mention the feeling of the crisp winter air always feels so invigorating.
The boulders look as if they could topple at any moment.
This seemed to be the only spot where any snow and ice remained throughout the entire hike.
Now headed back down....
Between the beautiful woods and overlook on this hike, it is definitely worth a stop if you are sightseeing around the Allegheny National Forest area. The trail system is about 6.6 miles long. If you come to hike here, you absolutely must check out the nearby Hearts Content Natural Area with its stunning old growth forest. 
Coordinates to parking area:
41.621430, -79.155604

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