Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Summer Travel Countdown and Review

Despite the fact that it is going to be in the 90’s on Wednesday, the summer is pretty much over so I thought I would take the time to go over some of the favorite trips that my wife and I took during the warmer months. This will not be a complete list as I am going to stick with my top 10 (with a favorite photo from each trip). They are ranked based on a variety of factors with some ranking higher because of the meaning of the trip rather than the place itself or because of some discovery that was made during our time there. Of course, many of them are simply places that we enjoyed and look forward to returning to in the near future. So, without further delay, here is countdown.

Honorable Mentions – Williamsport and Fort Washington
Williamsport was the furthest we traveled this summer and while it was an interesting trip I am not sure it was one that I would make again. It is a nice little town but one that leaves you wanting more. Fort Washington (Harvest Books in particular) is somewhere we will always visit. Maybe it will move up the list if we explore a bit more but for now it is just one of those common places that is part of our regular routine.

10 – Harrisburg
By no means is this one of the more pleasant or attractive places to visit and, during our time there, we weren’t able to get as much done as we hoped with regard to our genealogical research but it was a good trip. I put it at number ten because of the discovery I was able to make in a local book store (more about that in a later post) and for the glimpses of the past that the city still possesses (albeit deep under a layer of urban decay in some areas). It was a laid back trip for us and our first real exploration into the research process in an archive. For those reasons it made the cut but just barely.

9 – New Hope
I know a number of people who would easily put this in the top spot on their list but, for me, it was an okay trip. The town itself is very clean and easy to get around but the atmosphere is not something that I would like to spend a lot of time immersed in. The high tourist prices are also something that makes me hesitate to return. However, it was a great place to walk around and somewhere that my wife could browse around in multiple shops for Wizard of Oz merchandise. The smile it brought to her face bumped up this small town to number 9.

The drive along Route 209 through the Delaware Water Gap is one of the most beautiful day trips you can take on this side of the commonwealth. Milford was a nice little town and I would like to go back at some point when there isn’t a music festival clogging up the streets. This trip does win for best meal during our summer travels with the pastrami salmon sandwich at Bar Louis (I would return just for that). But the trip back is really what earns the spot on this list as we were able to explore Raymondskill Falls (similar in size to Bushkill Falls but free) and we stopped by Country Junction in Lehighton just before getting back on I-476. I don’t expect it to be anytime soon but I know we will take this trip again in the future.

This was not the most exciting trip we took during the summer but it was good to just get out and hike for a change. It had been way too long since I had put my boots on a dirt trail. The trail is beautiful in the summer and if get to the mid way point at the right time you can run into a number of through hikers and hear a handful of interesting stories about their time walking in the woods. But, in the end, the reason for the placement above the aforementioned trips is simple; this is something that I was able to cross off my bucket list. I would like to return some day to walk a bit more.

When the temperature is in the mid 90’s with high humidity it is a refreshing experience walking into a cave. While I have explored a handful of caves in my life it had been some time since I had last gone spelunking and this was a first for my wife. The reason for the higher ranking is twofold. First, exploring a cave is a great exercise if you enjoy photography as it forces you to use depth and find patterns in a way that is seldom seen beyond the cavernous confines. Second, this was a trip back to my childhood as I have a vague recollection of a school field trip to this location and it was nice to share that memory with my wife. I am certain that we will bring others with us upon our return.

This trip was long overdue and while it had its depressing moments the overall experience was one that I will never forget. When you spend hours upon hours working on your family history you can easily get lost in the documents and forget the people and places. Visiting the graves of your ancestors brings you back to reality in a way that is hard to explain. This was the first time I was able to visit the resting places of my family and one that I will never forget. I will return in the future as there still is a lot of work to be done and a wrong that needs to be made right. I don’t know when but I will be writing about this topic in the future.

4 – Gettysburg
When you know your family participated in the Civil War, visiting some of the battlefields takes on an entirely different dimension. When you know you had family members on opposite ends of the field it brings about a certain surreal aspect to the experience. Standing behind the rows of cannons you can’t help but think about what it would be like knowing that your actions could cause the death of your family member. Today it is a fascinating contrast between the beauty of the scenery and the horrors of what transpired 150 years ago. I am certain that we will return in the future when we can spend more time walking the fields.

3 – Knoebels
This was a great trip and one that we are both looking forward to taking again in the future. It was one of those simply enjoyable experiences where we could walk around the amusement park taking in the sights and sounds all the while doing so on a budget. Being nestled in the mountains while going on rides and taking pictures is the perfect amusement park experience for us and one that I am glad we were able to share this summer.

2 – Jim Thorpe (x2)
There is a reason why this little mountain town was the only place we visited multiple times this summer. This may be our favorite little town to visit and we are looking forward to returning over and over again. It was a great place for us to both relax and explore at the same time which is not an easy combination to find. Natural mountainous beauty mixed with the small town charm is a hard combination to beat. This would have taken the top spot if it wasn’t for one very special event this summer.

I can’t say that I am a fan of Lancaster County. I really don’t have anything against it but it is not somewhere that I would choose to visit, I much rather go to the mountains. However, there is one reason why we continue to go back and that is to visit family. That alone would not get New Providence on this list but this summer it shot to the top. The reason is simple, my niece graduated in June and we headed over there both for the party and for the actual graduation ceremony. I am immensely proud of my niece and being able to see her graduate is why this was the best trip of the summer.

So that’s the recap of my favorite trips that my wife and I took this summer. As I said before, there are various reasons for the placements but this is how things fell into place as I looked back over the last few months. I am looking forward to continuing to travel around the commonwealth and while the frequency has since diminished I am looking forward to a few destinations in the near future that I will be writing about and posting pictures. For now I will leave you with a couple of questions (both topics I will also be writing about in the future): What are some of you favorite local destinations? Where would you like to go?