Wednesday, December 12, 2012

2012 Summer Family Camp

I changed phones last night.  A surprisingly painless process because of how I had my previous phone organized.  There is, however, the inevitable searching through files and photos, just to be sure everything made it over.  It all made it, but while I was viewing the photos I came across several photos from last summer's family campouts. 

After spending a weekend in both May and June at my uncle's cabin in Warren Co, near Pittsfield, we made the bold decision to spend 5 nights at the cabin, plus a 6th night at a rental cabin on the Kinzua Reservoir.  Now I say bold decision because we have a 7 year old and a 2 year old.  The 7 year old is relatively self-sufficient, aside from not wanting to hike long distances and being to old to carry.  The 2 year old is, well, a 2 year old and all that entails.  We went for it anyway, and even though I remember some relatively stress-filled points, the good memories are amazing.

There it is.  The iconic symbol of camping. A fire.  Nothing sets my mind at ease like the tasks of collecting wood, and building a proper fire.  I've done it thousands of times, yet I never get tired of it.  We had a fire nearly every night, and for my time and effort, there is nothing more relaxing.

One of the great aspects of my uncles camp is that it serves as a tremendous home base to explore the Allegheny National Forest.  The edge of the forest is a solid 20-30 min drive, and most of the sights are deeper than that, but to sleep in a cabin, for free, I'll put in some windshield time and spend money on other parts of the trip.

Hearts Content Scenic Area Interpretive Trail, is not a long trail.  30 minutes at an easy pace, while answering the 7 year olds continuous questions and carrying the 2 year old on my back.  The joy of Hearts Content is the majestic old pines.  People throw that word around, but this place lives up to the true meaning of majestic.  Hearts Content is 200+ acres of virgin ground.  This land has never had trees harvested.  Enormous white pines reach to the sky, with bases so large that my wife, son, and I could barely hold hands around.  The woods are in a beautiful mature state, meaning that the trees reach enormous size, but also that trees have broken and fallen down, simply dying as a natural part of their life cycle.

The Kinzua Railroad bridge, at one time was the highest and longest railroad bridge in the world in it's hayday.  As you can see in the above photo several of the supporting structures were toppled by a tornado back in 2003.  The cost to reconstruct such a masterpiece would be astronomical, so the decision was made to allow the steel structure to remain in the valley as a display of Mother Nature's awesome power.  While my childhood memories of walking the bridge rails from end to end will never be revisited by my children, I have to admit I love the re-purposing.  The remaining structure has been reinforced and a observation deck has been added at the end with a section of glass floor. 

The first picture doesn't quite do justice to the scale of the remaining bridge section, but in the above picture look at the rails run off into the horizon next to Robert.  The bridge is breathtaking, and truly a must see.

Looking forward into 2013 we have decided to head back to the Allegheny National Forest for more camping with the family.  This time we plan on exploring the lower half and get down  into Elk Country.  PA has done a remarkable job growing the Elk herd, and in towns like Bennezette, there are several spots to explore and see these massive animals.

Happy Exploring
Scott M

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