PHC 2005 - Jason's and Tanglewood to Lehigh Gorge & Pine Creek PA

phc2005-03-janie close up at boulder field.jpg (113424 bytes)  Janie playing tourist in the Boulder Field, Hickory Run SP, PA

It was Friday, the 1st of July, and we were off for a weekend at Jason’s. Garrison takes his PHC entourage to Tanglewood for the last live performance of the season, and it is becoming a tradition for us to take in the show with Jason. Last year we were graced with the presence of Tim O’Mara who bought a car and drove up from Tampa to spend a reunion weekend with us. This year, Tim stayed home, so we had to make do with memories. Hey, TimO, you missed out on another good time and some more great eats ;-)

It was one of those America-hits-the-road weekends. We normally hole up during such migrations, but we found ourselves one of the herd, so we joined the crowd on the Interstate. We had a choice: go over the Finger Lakes or under them. The northern route looks ever so much more direct – and shorter – but when we checked the mileages, it turned out that the southern route was only about 20 miles longer – and likely to be way less populated with holiday travelers. We choose the route less traveled – go figure.

Our assessment turned out to be correct. The traffic wasn’t really terrific, but it was very tolerable, and the scenery was great. For anyone who might be interested, we took I-390 to I-86 (old NY-17) to I-88 to NY-23 to progressively smaller roads until we actually ran out of pavement. It was a pretty uneventful 300-mile drive. We had a bit of a tailwind and RVan got 17 plus MPG on our half tank of gas.

We spent most of the travel time talking about getting new computers. We decided to replace the desktop first and then, a few months down the road, check into replacing the notebook. The whole thing was prompted by my having spent some time on the Dell site. Hey, they have these new processors that are two processors in one – and they are not overly expensive. I know that my processor is the weak link in my current system, and I was actually looking into a traditional dual processor system, so when I discovered the new chip – well, let’s just say the computer bug bit me right in the bank account. Sooooo, if any of you know anything about these new processors – good or bad – please let me know. I expect we will be getting real serious about it once we buy our new skis …

Yeah, we are going to get some new ski gear. Jason is our outdoor equipment consultant, and we started pumping him for details shortly after arriving at Chez Jason. Jason’s house is a mile back a private road. It sits on the shoulder of a hill with three ponds about a hundred yards in the valley below. The entire lot is heavily wooded and carpeted with fern and woodland flowers. We set up shop out on Jason’s porch overlooking the ponds. Jason’s place is a marvel of quiet serenity … and the beer is good, too ;-)

The tropical heat we had been experiencing was on its last legs as a Canadian high moved into the area. However, we didn’t let the heat keep us from talking about skiing. I tried on Jason’s boots and … they fit perfectly. We then talked about skis – using his 12-pair-quiver as teaching aids – and decided on the following: Karhu Pyxis skis, Garmont Excursion boots, and Rottefella super telemark bindings. Yeah, that’s what we are going to get … and then sit and wait for snow. So you can expect to hear a lot more about computers and skis over the next few months. Lucky you, eh?

Most of my male friends are great in all rooms of the house – especially the kitchen. Jason is no exception. He had made a most delightful tapénade to go with our beers. For dinner, he whipped up a special pizza with shrimp and chicken (for me). He flung the crust while carrying on a conversation about … I don’t remember what, but it was interesting and profoundly deep, I can assure you. The killer ingredient was a hot chili marinade he used for sauce. Once constructed, the pizza was baked on the grill … never had a grilled pizza before … hope to have another one real soon ;-) My male friends have a way with all things gastronomic, which makes me very happy because I get to delight in their creations, but also leaves me feeling a little wanting because I can’t return the favor. I’m better at guest-ing than host-ing ;-)

We stayed up a little too long talking and drinking, so we had a kinda slow morning. Nonetheless, we eventually got it together, racked the bikes on Jason’s Subaru, and headed for the Harlem Valley Rail Trail (HVRT). This is a trail that starts north of NYC, heads up the Hudson Valley, and will eventually go all the way to Chatham, where Jason teaches. Currently, only the section south of Copake Falls and north of Millerton are complete. However, these sections are connected by a network of little-used back roads that are nearly as delightful to bike as the soon-to-be-completed trail. The cool front had passed through during the night and left us with nice, clear air, so the ride and scenery were absolutely marvelous. As you know, we are S-L-O-W bike riders. Jason exhibited extreme patience with our deliberate rate. When he found himself ahead of us, he would turn around and bike back to check on us. It was like a mother bird herding her newly-fledged young. It gives us a warm and fuzzy feeling ;-)

Bike data: 33.5 miles, 3.5 hours of bike time, 4 hrs real time.

We had just finished un-racking the bikes when Jenn pulled in. It was great to see Jenn again; she’s a treat. After a quick exchange of pleasantries – during which Jason put together an assortment of snacks and a noodle and peanut sauce main course - it was time to clean up and head out for an evening on the lawn with Garrison. It was a most pleasant, sun filled evening. We gorged ourselves on sausage, cheese, and the ever-appreciated tapénade; all served on tasty, chewy bread and washed down with a couple bottles of Smoking Loon wine. It was all so good that we sorta overdosed on the preliminaries and decided to save the noodle dish for later.

It was time for Garrison. The man is amazing. He insists on singing, which is sometimes great, sometimes barely tolerable. But it is the speaking that does the magic. How does he come up with this stuff? I suppose that’s why he’s considered a national treasure. I learned some things while watching the program. The first thing I noticed was Prudence Johnson: a petite blond who just happens to be easy on the eyes. I’ve loved her voice for years but never had a visual to accompany it. I now have the mental image, and let me tell you, the total package is pretty good. Okay, I’m an older man, but still … Prudence is the real deal. I especially like the little Marian The Librarian glasses poised on her nose. Who needs cleavage when you have tiny reading glasses balanced on the end of a petite nose ;-)

Speaking of cleavage, Gillian Welch was the main guest, and she was wearing a pretty risqué outfit – for Gillian. I’d seen Gillian on several specials, so I was pretty much over her astonishing appearance … and performance. It turns out that her playing partner, David Rawlings, had just recovered from a broken arm – Garrison said it was broken in a bar fight (Right!). Whatever, it certainly didn’t seem to affect his playing, although he said his range of motion was a bit hampered. Hey, it all sounded good to me ;-)

The other amazing thing I learned was that Garrison does his Lake Woebegone monologues WITHOUT ANY SCRIPT – not even an outline. He just stands up there and tells the story. How can he do that? Hell, I can’t do that with the tales of my life. Garrison is AK Bob’s age – meaning he is no more than a year older than me – and I just don’t see, at that age, how he can keep all that stuff in his head – and there aren’t any long pauses … or repeats … or drool. AND the content is even more amazing than the mechanics of his flawless delivery. What a treasure he is, indeed.

Back at Chez Jason, we decided to have the noodle dish out on the porch. This is one of Jenn’s recipes with the unofficial title of Rat Dog Noodles. It was good, and Janie asked for the recipe. It is noteworthy that the last entry in the preparing instructions is: Eat leftover noodles while standing at sink. Our porch gathering was augmented by a glowing sunset over the Hudson Valley. The glow lingered a long time because, unknown to us at the time, the humidity was building back in. We had a nightcap and recounted the day’s events before turning in for the night. We learned our lesson last night: too many beers coupled with staying up too late detracts from tomorrow’s pleasures – at least for we more mature individuals ;-)

The next day, while Jenn headed home to pick up her kids. Jason, Janie, and I headed over to Harvey Mountain. Although it was a bit warmer than yesterday, it was still a sunny, clear day that, after topping Mt Harvey, offered some great views of the Hudson Valley and the Berkshires. The blueberries were just starting to ripen, and we tested a few. There weren’t enough ripe ones to warrant picking just yet, so we focused on birds. Janie & I got a lifer: American Pipit, formerly known as the Water Pipit. According to the bird book, these birds are supposed to winter in the tropics and nest in the Arctic. Sure they pass through during migration, but migration ended a while ago. Whatever, we are sure enough of the identification to add it to our list. It was an American Pipit damnit; we are sure of it.

We also flushed a bevy of grouse all the way from New York to Massachusetts. It sounds amazing until you realize Harvey Peak is the border between the two states. Normally, when we scare grouse out, they scare us in return by bursting out of their cover with a flurry of feathers. This time, however, they flew a few at a time and landed in trees nearby. Of course, we still couldn’t see them, but I’m guessing that they were a family because there were some calls in the distance, which caused the nearer birds to flutter off in that direction. Yep, a family of grouse; that’s what it was.

We were scheduled to meet Jenn and her kids, Lizzy & Nick, at Crellen Park in Chatham. You see, Jason (and Jenn?) belong to a unicycle club: Hell on Wheel. Apparently, Jason doesn’t find regular bicycling challenging enough – he has to do it on one wheel now. And he is serious about it – he has TWO unicycles. Let’s see, that would be bi-uni-cycles, eh? He started with a regular and has now migrated to a fat-tired, off-road version. It turned out that the unicycle club was preparing for or recovering from celebrations related to the big 4th of July weekend, so no one showed up – well, one couple showed up just as we were all getting ready to leave. They came to see if anyone else showed up and to tell them that today’s events were, well, not happening. The guy turns out to be a performance artist who pays the bills by doing carpentry work. Interesting fellow … one of many in Jason’s circle.

We went to the pub for a beer … root beer for the kids … and a bit of country music played by some enthusiastic local talent. Let me tell you, Jenn’s kids are great. I really wanted to talk to them, but they were not prepared to deal with an aged, bearded stranger quite so quickly. I did ask them if they had ever seen such an ugly old man. I also asked them what their third favorite color is. Although they had a little trouble with the first question, they handled the second question with aplomb. Nick, after a moment of thoughtful silence, replied, "Yellow." Lizzy quickly chimed in with, "Green." Ah, the innocence of kids; you just gotta love it ;-)

Jenn picked up some pizza on the way home, and we devoured it while sitting on the porch and watching the sun set in the West. Life is sweet when you can share good food & drink with good friends in a great environment. These experiences keep us young. We were all winding down, so we made another early night of it.

Monday, July 4th, we headed out for a few days of biking in PA. Janie knit together some nice back roads through the Catskills. We had driven through the Catskills once before, and the experience was sufficiently distasteful for me to announce, "We will never do that again." I guess Janie took it as a challenge – one which, I am grateful to say, she handily overcame. There actually are some low-traffic roads for our amusement, but then it was the 4th.

Along the way, we stopped to see the World’s Largest Kaleidoscope that Janie had read about in a magazine. We didn’t actually go into the big kaleidoscope, which was like a barn silo/telescope/planetarium thingy. We did spend some time looking at the bewildering assortment of kaleidoscopes on display. There were two good-sized rooms full of ‘em, and Janie ended up buying an assortment – she has a special fondness for kaleidoscopes.

Our destination was Hickory Run SP, which is just on the other side of the river from the Lehigh Gorge Rail Trail. We found a campsite – after driving around the campground no less than three times looking at the 4 page printout of checkout times for the long-weekend stragglers. Unfortunately, the campsite we selected was near a large family of Hispanics. Not that being Hispanic is an issue, but rather it was the music they played while preparing and eating their dinner. Under normal circumstances, I would have loved the tropic beat of their selections – it didn’t seem to be the normal pop salsa stuff. However, it was discomforting to hear the heavy beat pounding though what should be a quiet, relaxing campsite.

They were tent campers; all of them and all of their gear had exfoliated from a medium-sized SUV. The source of the music was the SUV, parked facing them. They had opened all the doors, including the tailgate, all pointed directly at us. Of course, they turned up the volume so they could hear it, which meant we were bathed in the music. I considered going over to ask them to turn it down, but figured I would end up asking about the music and maybe getting some of their CDs to copy – hey, I had the notebook and a 300 Gb Maxtor ;-)

They had some smallish children, so the music stopped shortly after their dinner. By that time, we were ensconced in RVan and Janie was preparing us something to eat while I lounged on the bed reading, like the slothful toad I am. What was I reading? Well, I had finished the month’s magazines, so it was time to start another book. Janie had brought along one she had just finished, so it was my turn to read it: Into The Wild by Jon Krakauer. It is one we had borrowed from Jason’s bookshelf during our January visit. I think it was on the best-seller list a few years ago, so maybe you know about it, maybe even read it. If so, you may want to skip the following couple paragraphs wherein I describe my reaction to reading it.

Into The Wild: Jon Krakauer

In April 1992 a young man, Chris McCandless, from a well-to-do family hitchhiked to AK and walked into the wilderness north of Mt McKinley. He had given $25,000 in savings to charity, abandoned his car and most of his possessions, burned all the cash in his wallet, and invented a new life for himself. Four months later, his decomposed body was found by moose hunters.

Well, the cat is pretty much out of the bag. We learn the outcome of the kid’s adventure right on page one. So the author spends the rest of the 200 pages detailing the events that led up to the rather depressing ending. This is a book about idealism and death – a book about not just living on the edge but a little beyond. I found the book depressing and stimulating at the same time. Certainly, the concept of living in the wild with a minimum of creature comforts is a fairly alien concept for those of us who travel in RVan-like comfort. Whatever, it was an interesting read and stimulated a lot of discussions for Janie & me, and I would be happy to continue on these pages, if any of you are interested.

Tuesday morning found us parked at the Rockport trail head, which is near the middle of the Lehigh Gorge trail. We did the northern half in the AM, returned to RVan for lunch and a bit of a rest, and then did the southern half in the PM. We got caught in the blow-off from a thunderstorm just before lunch. It was so hot and humid that getting a little wet was more of a relief than an inconvenience. However, we were a little concerned about drying our wet gear before wanting to use it next. Not to worry, the afternoon ride was rain-free, which allowed us to dry out while riding. Well, we dried out from the outside; we were still pretty wet on the inside. Ah, but these great PA parks have showers – yeah.

Bike data: 46 miles, 5.5 hours bike time, 7.5 hours total time

We slept well that night in a pleasantly quiet campground. The next morning, Wednesday, before heading for the Pine Creek Rail Trail, we spent some time touring Hickory Run. We've stayed here before and read about the Boulder Field - even read some about it - so we thought we should go check it out. It is a pretty amazing sight. A field, several acres in size, that is chucky-jam full of big ol' boulders. Apparently there was a confluence of favorable conditions that contributed to this geologic phenomena. Check out the pictures and you will see what I mean.

phc2005-01-boulder field.jpg (72665 bytes)  The Boulder Field at Hickory Run SP, PA.
phc2005-02-janie & boulder field.jpg (99192 bytes)  Janie reading about the area
phc2005-04-PA glacial map.jpg (54459 bytes)  PA Glacial showing the location of the boulder field.
phc2005-05-boulder filed formatin.jpg (132283 bytes)  Explanation of Boulder Field formation

We did Pine Creek on our May outing, but it is still one of our favorite trails, and it is on the way home – only an easy three hours from Naweedna. We pulled into Little Pine Creek SP around five, found a quiet campsite, and set up for an evening of reading and relaxing. Once again we found the PA parks to be relatively bugless – even in July. Far out, at home we would be … and are now … eaten alive if we venture out amongst the trees. Okay, another big positive for vacationing in PA – VA & WV as well. I never thought I would EVER vacation in PA – on purpose – but this is our third or fourth surprisingly pleasant trip, so there must be some redeeming value, eh? Janie keeps reminding me that she was born in PA, so it can’t be all bad, to which I respond, "Well if PA is so great, why did you leave there when you were 2 weeks old?"

I continued reading my book, and we had several long discussions about the content and writing style. I must admit that I found myself a little distressed after the first night of extended reading. I actually had some minor nightmares about this whole living beyond the edge concept. It certainly isn’t for us, and I wonder if it is for anybody given the number of deaths detailed on the pages of the book. Even the author had a couple harrowing experiences he shared in the context of telling this kid’s story.

One important point I took from the book was the idea that only those who are thoroughly ensconced in the safety of civilization actually talk about the beauty of nature – beautiful mountains, breathtaking sunsets/rises, glorious rivers, grand lakes, wondrous fields of flowers. The more primitive societies that live on the edge of existence don’t have the time or inclination to marvel at nature’s wonders. They are too busy dealing with nature’s hardships to take the time to ponder aesthetics. Sure, cave paintings are considered fine art, but I doubt that their authors considered it as such. They were trying to capture the spirit of the animal so as to make it easier to hunt and thereby sustain them. No, the aesthetics of nature are reserved for those of us who don’t actually have to survive while dealing with its harshness. Those who live in the wild see a sunset as the end of their hunting day and the beginning of their being hunted at night. Ah, but I digress … again ;-)

Thursday, we headed for the Rattlesnake Rock parking area. This is the same parking area we used in May. However, this time, we discovered that it was most appropriately named. We headed north toward Ansonia, the current north end of the trail – the trail is in the process of being extended both north and south, but those extensions are not yet complete. In fact, we discovered that, although the entire length of the existing trail was resurfaced just last year, there is a substantial section that needs to be repaired – thanks to the runoff from the hurricane remnants that passed through last year. Those repairs are probably tapping resources set aside for extending the trail.

We had only progressed a couple miles when we came across a man walking with a pair of binoculars. No, the binoculars were not actually walking with him; they didn’t have legs or anything. Rather, he was carrying binoculars while he walked the trail. Garrison, teach me how to write clearly. As we passed, he commented on our binoculars and asked if we had seen anything. Well, not yet, we just started. He pointed out a kingfisher sitting on a rock in the middle of the creek. Thanks. Then he said he saw a yellow-phase rattlesnake yesterday. Okay, we will be on the lookout.

Just a bit farther down the trail we happened upon a couple of college-age guys who were off their bikes, sitting on the edge of the trail, writing in field notebooks. Hey, don’t tell me you are geologists. Yep, they were geology majors on a summer internship with the USGS. It seems they are going to create a geologic guide for the trail, and they were ground-truthing what a USGS pro had mapped out. Great.

Another couple miles down the trail we came across two middle-aged ladies standing beside their bikes, gazing intently at the opposite edge of the trail. We usually stop at scenes like this because it means they have spotted something and we want to see it too. One of the ladies pointed out a big, fat rattler slowly slithering through the freshly cut weeds along the trail’s western edge. The four of us were too much for the snake, so it coiled and began to rattle. It was amazing. The snake was yellow. A very bright, almost caution flag yellow. The body got darker toward the tail and was nearly black at the base of the rattles. We learned later that this is the typical coloration for Timber Rattlers. Hey, it was a big ol’ Timber Rattler for sure.

While I was walking around to get a better view, I noticed something black about five feet away in the same cut weeds. My conscious mind didn’t pay any attention to the black thing; my subconscious mind basically said, "Just a piece of rubber along the road … focus on the Timber Rattler." After a moment or two, my conscious mind said, "Wait a minute, this isn’t the Interstate … there shouldn’t be any pieces of rubber along the trail." Sure enough, when I put the glasses on the black object, big black, shiny scales popped up – it was another big fat snake … another rattler? We couldn’t tell because the tail was tucked under the ample body.

Just after we discovered the second snake, the two geology boys pedaled up. The presence of six people so near caused the black snake to begin coiling. Yep, there are the rattles. This rattler was almost entirely black. Again, when we looked ‘em up that evening, we learned that this was an Eastern Diamondback. Okay, what the hell are these two different rattlers doing within five feet of each other? Dunno. But while contemplating the situation, we all decided we should look around for MORE SNAKES. We laughed, but a little looking revealed a third snake – all of them within ten feet of each other.

The third snake was hidden under some leaves and very reluctant to move. We could just see about four inches of its midsection. Eventually, Janie found its head just barely sticking out from under a leaf. It was a mottled reddish-brown and yellow like the Corn Snake we had seen in May. However, it had a much more distinct pattern, and, as I had learned while looking up the Corn Snake, was likely a common water snake. The much narrower head and whip-like tail certainly confirmed that it was not another rattler. I guess that would explain why it was so reluctant to come out of hiding. Okay, we were parked at Rattlesnake Rocks and we had seen two rattlers in the first hour of biking. Looks like it was going to be a Snake Day.

We crossed paths with the two ladies several times that morning. They were nearly as interesting as the snakes. One was German transplant who spoke with a bit of an accent. She was from Lebanon, PA and her companion was her (pick one) mother, aunt, sister, daughter from Germany. The relative spoke no English, so there was a lot of translating – especially as we discovered the second and third snake. You know, you meet some really interesting people on these bike trails. They are almost without fail, happy and gregarious. They greet you with a smile and a, "Hi, how you doing." It is a far cry from some of our experiences on crowded trails and certainly much different from driving on busy highways where rage rules. Biking these trails gives us the same warm, fuzzy feeling we get when driving the back roads of ND – are there any other kind in ND? Yeah, if you have to share your experience with others, it really helps if they are nice and friendly.

Yet another few miles down the trail, we saw two snakes sunning themselves on a flat rock in the middle of the creek. We couldn’t get close enough to identify them, but I expect they were a couple water snakes like the quiet one with the rattlers. Ah, but the snake story isn’t over. On our way back, much later in the day, we saw yet another Timber Rattler. This one was stretched out long and proud in the recently cut weeks along the west side of the trail – same as the first three. When stretched out like this one, we could see that these are some healthy snakes. It was four or five feet long with an impressively fat body. The body was so big, it made the triangular head look comically small. All three of the rattlers had a full set of rattles, but they were not climax size. Thus, I would say they were all early mature. We later learned that before Europeans came, the Native Americans didn’t go into the gorge much – because it was so infested with rattlesnakes. Good idea. After today’s experience, we are going to be even more cautious about going into the bushes to pee ;-)

Ah, but snakes weren’t the only exotic things we saw. A couple years ago, while returning from a New England trip, we stopped to check out Montezuma NWR … between Geneseo and Syracuse. While we were scanning the swamps for birds, we noticed a fox trotting down the road toward us. Dangling from its mouth was a full-grown duck. The damned thing came right at us like we weren’t there. It passed between our driver’s side and the swamp, practically brushing RVan with the bobbing head of the recently deceased duck. Well, we saw a similar event on the Pine Creek trail, only this time it wasn’t a fox and it wasn’t carrying a duck. It was a mink and it was carrying a large mouse. Yep, a MINK. It was bounding along with its cargo right down the trail toward us. We stopped and watched in amazement as it came ever closer. I made a little guffaw of amazement. That must have been the mink’s first inkling of our presence because, I no sooner uttered my "hunh" than the mink picked up its pace, veered across the trail in front of us and disappeared into the tall weeds along the bank of the creek. Yep, the same west side of the trail as all the other wildlife we’d see that day.

Just like the snakes before, we weren’t done with the mink. Again, as we were pedaling back near the end of our outing, we saw another one along the edge of the trail. This one was much more secretive and quickly disappeared into the weeds. We were pretty close to where we had seen the first one, so this might have been the mate or maybe even the same one. Whatever, that was TWO minks in one day. Yay, us!

Bike data: 37.8 miles, 4.5 hours bike time, 6.5 hours real time

Friday was a touring day. Yep, we decided to tour some of the touristy places in NC PA. Janie’s research revealed some potentially interesting shops and such, so we slowly meandered along toward civilized discovery. The first stop was a tourist Mecca filled with an extremely wide variety of knickknacks – most of which with a Potter or Tioga County flair. I made a quick sweep through the place and retired to RVan to finish my book. Janie spent the better part of an hour picking out interesting items: spoon cozies, mink tail, post cards, keep-your-beer-cold thingy proclaiming Potter County to be God’s Country, jar of maple cream spread, pair of mocs, and … fudge. The fudge was the best, although I do have a special fondness for the mink tail.

We then ambled down the road toward a cheese place Janie had read about. Okay, I know what you are thinking. Going to a cheese place in NC PA is like going to a wine place in WV. Well, I have to admit, it was a real pleasant surprise. The place is called The Endless Mountain Cheesery and it is on a small county road, which we passed twice before successfully turning on to. The road led up a hill to an even steeper driveway. The driveway led to a largish house and a series of outbuildings, one of which was labeled The Cheesery. After parking in the empty parking lot, I found myself mesmerized by the view. The buildings were set on a low ridge at the head of an extensive valley. The valley was part of an intricately dissected plateau. The overcast sky and heavy air added to the scene. I just sorta stood there taking it all in while Janie started up a conversation with the proprietress.

The stairs to The Cheesery are immersed in a well-tended flower garden and climb up to a deck festooned with patio furniture arranged to take advantage of the valley-view unfolding before you. Ah, but things were about to get even better. When I walked in the door to the "Tasting Room" I found myself greeted by an amazing assortment of flavored oils, dips, sauces, and spreads the likes of which you would expect to see in one of those classy CA boutique-y shops. Well, it turns out that the proprietress is a CA transplant. However, before you fully develop the mental image of a bronzed CA beach girl, let me tell you this lady is the keeper of the herd – the goat herd. Pamela Trynovich is of middle European descent and not only tends the goats but milks them and makes all the cheeses … and … obviously pays close attention to quality control by frequently sampling her products.

Just let me say that I did not expect such a presentation from a place called The Cheesery that is located in NC PA … in Tioga County … in the heart of northern red-neck country. It was a pleasant surprise. The lady offered us samples of her wares: a plain and herbed soft fromage, a harder and saltier version of the plain formage, and an apple smoked variety. Janie bought two packages (actually balls) of each and a couple jars of pepper jelly, and … a couple salamis. Yep, Pam carries an assortment of seasoned salami from … CA. The meat and cheese were all in the order of $16/lb, so our total expenditure was … $70. Hey, that may have been Pam’s only sale of the day – maybe even the week. Okay, Pam, you can go feed the goats; it’s time for us to find a campsite and feed us ;-)

Our evening’s accommodations were in the Asaph Run State Forest Picnic Area & Campground. We had discovered these SF camping areas last year. They are free and quite nice. No showers, but the one we stayed at last year had a dump station. We didn’t need a shower or a dump, so this was the perfect place for us – and several other campers. There are only ten sites and one of them is perpetually reserved for handicapped campers. Seven of the other nine campsites were already occupied. Of the two that remained, only one was suitable for RVan. Well, one is all we need, so we parked and set up for the night.

Apparently, we were immersed in the remnants of a foundered hurricane, and we had been pelted with rain most of the day. It continued that evening, so we just settled in. I finished the book, we discussed its ramifications. We tried to address the question of gender and living beyond the edge. ALL of the individuals described in Into The Wild are MALE. Earlier in the summer, we had read a book about a birder, Kenn Kaufman, who, as a teenager, had hitched around the continent several times. All of these people are male. Why is that? Is it because females aren’t adventuresome? Or is it that males dominate the authoring and publishing worlds?

Our readings pointed out that throughout history, humans, especially MEN, have willingly abandoned what passed for civilization in their times for the pleasure of solitude in the wilderness. There were the Irish monks who floated across the North Atlantic in their little skin boats and settled in Iceland … before it was Iceland. When the Norse arrived to "discover" it, the Irish monks got in their boats and moved to a more isolated location: Greenland. Then you have Thoreau and his splendid isolation on the outskirts of civilization. John Muir was equally "uncivilized" – I believe he walked across the country – and is known for riding out the most violent Sierra storms from the top of the tallest trees. Then you have all these more modern adventurers detailed in these books we’ve read – all men. So why is that? Do men dominate the world of adventure because they are driven to do so or is it because they dominate most aspects of human life? If one is the consequence of other?

Of course, all my ponderings returns to ME. I don’t share the death wishes of these great adventurers. I’ve known, and still know, many adventurers, but I seem content to observe from the sideline. The most adventurous of my friends were all male and at least three of them died in the prime of their lives. No, I don’t have such a death wish. I continue to revel in the simple pleasures of the slow lane. So does that make me any less MALE? Dunno. I continue to demonstrate my MALENESS from time to time. I’ve always harbored desires for great adventures and frequently beat myself up for not following through on those thoughts, but I’m still content with slow, continual stimulation – I see my life as a long-distance race, not a sprint. Unless the life-sprinters can sustain their level of activity over the long haul, I expect we all experience about the same amount of total pleasure – does the accumulation of little adrenaline rushes equal the big one you get when you are about to fall 2,000 feet to your death? Dunno that either; pretty sure I don’t want to find out ;-)

We ate cheese and salami for dinner, and hit the foam mattress early. Saturday, we took the short, three-hour drive home – another trip in the book – another book in the brain.