I told myself before we started the trip that I wanted to see the Grand Canyon again. I just didn't expect to find it in Pennsylvania. In a series of unexpected pit stops throughout PA -- including Wellsboro, State College and Pittsburgh -- we found ourselves in various degrees of cognitive dissonance. So much so that we started a game. We call it "you did what in PA?!"
1. Gazed at the Grand Canyon
Our first stop in Pennsylvania was at the Pine Creek Gorge, also known as Pennsylvania's Grand Canyon. Steep canyon walls and little waterfalls cut through the miles of endless trees in sight. While comparing it to the actual Grand Canyon might be a little overwrought, we sure didn't mind waking up in Leonard Harrison State Park each morning and walking over to the lookout point for sunrise. We highly recommend taking the Turkey Path Trail to the basin of the gorge.
2. Ate Award-Winning Ice Cream
The Penn State Berkey Creamery is an institution in State College, PA. The creamery has been making ice cream for 150 years, and it shows. We shared a huge dish (only comes in one size!) on a hot summer night. Regardless of how you feel about the name, Peachy Paterno was so, so, so good.
3. Rode a Bike with the Amish
At the base of the Pine Creek Gorge lies the Pine Creek Trail, 60 miles of pristine biking along an old railway. We managed a 32-mile round trip tour from Darling Run to Blackwell, PA. We stopped for a PB&J sandwich and Champayno from Miller's Store. We passed several Amish biking along the route, each headed to Miller's on a Saturday for a treat in the August heat. We even encountered a bus load of Amish visiting Leonard Harrison SP the day we arrived. They spent the afternoon playing volleyball far better than I could.
4. Drank Beer in a Church
The Church Brew Works is a brewpub operating out of an old Roman Catholic church in Pittsburgh, PA. The celestial gold was our favorite, but even if you don't like craft brews, go simply for the experience of drinking beer in a church. Who doesn't want that?!
5. Witnessed 2 Rivers Becoming One
We sort of loved Pittsburgh. I guess we are suckers for that industrial, blue-collar rust-belt kind of feel. Intricate bridges are a big feature of the city and an important one, too: the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers converge here to form the Ohio River.
6. Visited an Authentic 50s-Style Diner
The Wellsboro Diner is a dining-car style eatery that's been in business since 1939. While they've added a room on the back, much of the interior is true to style and a fun step back in time. Our advice? Order old school and you won't be disappointed. You can't go wrong with the BLT club!
7. Paid $2 to Climb a Privately-Owned Fire Tower near an Abandoned Zoo
En route to Leonard Harrison State Park there were signs galore advertising "views for 100s of miles" from an old fire tower near the park. On our last day there we decided to give it a go. We drove past the abandoned zoo onto a dirt path leading to the tower. To climb the tower, you must swipe your credit card through an old machine affixed to a turnstile and a beat up FAN travel trailer. YES, the exact same kind of trailer that Elsie is! Once we saw that, we didn't really have an option. While the views aren't that great, I don't regret the trip.