Traversing Interstate 84 west across Connecticut is going to bring you back down into southern New York State. In need of a spot to park up for the evening we found a roadside rest area at Stormville, about 25 miles into the state. Rest stop was a popular spot to pull in and rest for a while and I was talking to a couple of chaps that had driven that day all the way from Nova Scotia through to where we were, but they were planning on pushing on west all the way home to Ohio – obviously taking it in turns to do stints driving. They had been bear hunting and wanted to get the bear home whilst it was still fresh – commitment there. We got in the road again early Sunday morning and continued to cut west across the state – which in reality isn’t a great distance – something like 75 miles if you still to the main east to west Interstate. We headed through to Middletown and then took a secondary road – the 284 through some smaller towns to cut across the state and drop down into another.
Before you know it New York becomes New Jersey. We took the 284 and then the 565 through to the city of Newton. I reckon you can measure the size of a city by the volume of car dealers it has – Newton had all the main dealers all along the main road leading into the city (which in reality we would again call a town). Along the way I think we passed an advertisement for a zoo – in the hills of New Jersey – unexpected. We stopped in Newton and went to a nice little diner for some brunch. Timed it well as the town was having its Fall Markets and a car show to boot. Having restocked ourselves with some food we took in the car show – not a big turnout but I’m sure there would be more cars join as the day went on. It was a nice break from the road – sun was shining, we’d had food, and now we got to look at some nice cars – good way to spend a Sunday morning. From Newton we cut south and west on the 94 across towards the border at Columbia. You have to cross the Delaware River here to cross over into Pennsylvania – wasn’t a big bridge but they have a toll in place so you can’t avoid it – $1 for cars, but $6.50 for a motorhome – not sure how they worked that one out. Crossed over we had again, yes again, crossed over into another state – we were ticking off these eastern states pretty quickly I know.
Having crossed the Delaware, we were again back into eastern Pennsylvania. We followed a nice Delaware River Scenic Byway south along the rivers edge through to the town / city of Easton. From there we pushed west taking the easy option of Interstate 78 – it cuts clear across the south eastern portion of Pennsylvania above Philadelphia. You forget just how big this state is – any state that has more than 2 pages dedicated to it in our atlas represents a big state – Pennsylvania has 5 pages to cover all it spans. The 78 took us on a south westerly path across the state cutting above Harrisburg the state capital. You know when you are getting down into this area that you are getting into some history – less New England battle of Independence territory – we were now getting into the thick of Civil War country. Below Harrisburg you have Gettysburg one of the more famous Civil War sites. Not us with our Civil War history, we didn’t opt to visit any of these sites, but we understand there is some real character to some of the homes around the capital and surrounding areas of southern Pennsylvania. As we headed along the interstate we felt very fortunate to be heading the direction we were – on the north bound lanes there had been an accident and traffic – which was primarily trucks, was backed up solidly for the better part of 10 miles – they were going to make slow progress. Thankful to be heading the way we were, we passed the miles off. We’d planned to stop at an interstate rest area but got to it to find it had been closed. A quick check of the Boondock website saw us cut south on the 233 to an area known as the Pine Grove Furness State Park. This area is a bit of a landmark as it is the half way stage for anyone hiking the Appalachian Trail. We were in the trees / woods and Carol was in a very happy space.
The Park office had closed by the time of day we pulled into the area but we noted it state you could ‘overnight park’ so we took that at it’s word and head down to the trail carpark and got the deck chairs out and the barbe cranked to enjoy the last of the nice Sunday afternoon we were experiencing. We got talking to some ‘snowbirds’ – a couple from the Northern states making the winter run to Florida – Snowbirds is the popularised name given to ‘migratory traveller’s’. Pleased with my barbequing efforts (the pork was very good), we were just settling in as the evening was closing in on us. The local Park Ranger then turns up and states we can’t park up overnight – we would have to move (along with the Snowbirds). The Park has a forest camp nearby so we had to pack things away and then try and find a camp spot. We had some fun and games with the park ranger – he found us in the park and was going on that we hadn’t paid, which we hadn’t but considering the time of day we thought we would be able to dirty things up in the morning. Finally we were settled – unlike the Snowbirds who seemed to take offence at the nature of the ranger and packed a bit of a huff as they weren’t anywhere to be seen in the morning.
Monday was a national holiday in the US – Columbus Day so the park was alive pretty early with the sound of young kids running around. As the day went on most of the camp sites packed up and headed back home. Nice advantage was that you didn’t have to be off your site until 3pm so we took full advantage of that. We set out for a nice walk around part of the Appalachian Trail and then on around to Lake Laurel. Along the way we met up with an English chap who was walking the trail – he’s started July 19 up in Maine so had been walking now for almost 3 months – and estimated it would take him 5-6 months to finish the walk. He was only his second pair of shoes – first pair lasted 6 months he told us. He had a decent sized backpack on but didn’t look too loaded down. I could see the thoughts running around in Carol’s head – how cool would it be to do something ‘epic’ like that – the trail. I did say to her I fully support her doing so – just not that keen myself to spend 6 months walking but yes, have to admit, the landscape is very nice. But our walker did say it’s not like this every day – he’d spent some long days hiking all day up in New Hampshire only to progress 10 miles a day – emm, maybe not for me. Did suggest to Carol that maybe we could start with some 3-5 day tramps once we get ourselves back home.
Right, back to the area we were in. Pine Grove Furnace got its name from the fact that an Iron Furnace was built on site around the 1770’s. The surrounding area held a load of iron ore that they excavated and then melted down to make into iron. One of the furnaces still stands in the park today. I understand the 2 lakes in the area were created from them digging out the ore – so man made lakes. Looks like the iron production ran locally up to the late 1890’s when technology put the small furnace operations out of business. Some of the old pictures from the area were amazing – the area today is an Historic Place. Also at the park that have a museum to the Appalachian Trail – tells some stories of some of the characters that have hiked the trail and ‘made the trail their home’. One lady just spent years walking the trail. There was one story about a chap that was kayaking some river nearby when he befriended a kitten who took a liking to him and carried on his travels with him. They ended up walking the trail – the cat walked for about 4 days before the guys picked the cat up and parked him atop his pack – that’s where the cat stayed for the next 5 months – grew in weight from 4 pounds to 12 pounds by trial’s end – then the guy, with the cat on back ‘biked home’ almost a 1000 miles – sounded like a character indeed.
Bringing us back to reality, as we hiked back across the park towards the camp, we saw some massive praying mantis – size of the cell phone, and a small, yes, small snake. We headed back to the camper and got ourselves cleaned up ahead of saying goodbye to the peaceful surroundings. It was getting on for 4pm by the time we cleared the camp, so we headed on down the 233 to the town of Chambersburg before getting onto Interstate 81 for the final push out of Pennsylvania. It’s a big state Pennsylvania with a load of history and diversity. We had the lake at the top, and rolling farm land. The Armish are scattered all over the state and whilst we saw plenty of roads signs warning of ‘horse and carriage’ we didn’t actually see any riding along the country roads. As noted, there’s a lot of history in the state and it would take another trip to try and do some of that justice – another time maybe – for now we were running out of day and running out of this state.