Thursday, July 7, 2011

Country Livin'

This weekend we had an amazing time staying at our cabin in northwest PA. We didn't take our RV with us, but it was never far from our thoughts! One of the main reasons we became interested in camping is because of our experiences at the cabin. We realized we both loved the quaint, down-home small-town life, the picturesque surroundings and the chance to "get away from it all." I adored the idea of having a vacation home we could escape to on weekends, without ever having to pay for accommodations. It also helps that we don't know anyone else who vacations in the Allegheny National Forest. This might be more popular with people on the other side of the state, like Pittsburgh, where Steve's dad's side of the family is originally from.

The only problem is that the camp is six hours away, which means that we need at least a three-day weekend to make a trip there manageable and worthwhile. In 2009, we made it there four times, which ended up being a record. Last year, between the wedding and Steve's work schedule, we only got there once. It does make the actual visits even more special. But during the times when a six-hour drive isn't possible, we want to be able to enjoy all the benefits of camping anyway. That's one of the reasons we bought the trailer.

Front view of the camp
While we were there, we were surprised to see travel trailers and motorhomes all over the place -- and not just because the campgrounds there are a major draw. People had RVs parked in their driveways everywhere we looked, it seemed. I figured that since so many of the houses there are second homes, people wouldn't have the need for a recreational vehicle. Not so. Apparently, even when they already have a main vacation base, they don't necessarily want to be tied down to that one spot. That makes sense. Steve pointed out that when we bring the trailer, we'll be able to seek out new spots and adventures, like, for example, boondocking by a lake.

Our favorite spots

When Steve started taking me here in 2009, it was shortly after we adopted Lola. I remember being so thrilled watching her tear through the trails, romp through the streams and generally live like a dog is meant to do. After all, not too long before that, she was trapped in a cage at an animal shelter. It was great to see her unleash some of that boundless energy in the forest.

So every time we visit the camp, we make it a point to take her on at least one or two long hikes. This trip we opted to go to one of our old standbys, Buzzard Swamp. It's a relatively flat and scenic route, and it's also where we've had some of our most memorable wildlife sightings (grouse, pheasants, a ginormous buck that nearly trampled me...). And it didn't let us down this time either. On our way driving to the parking area, Steve spotted a porcupine crossing the road! My life was officially complete. I had to get a pic of course, which entailed following it into bushes and up a tree (okay, not the second part. I draw the line at climbing).

Damn you, fast porcupine! You can barely see him
Lola drinking out of a Gatorade cap...when she's thirsty, she'll do anything
Halfway through Buzzard Swamp trail
We also made a visit to one of the unnamed trails along Route 66, which we've informally named the Savanna. It's this wide open space of sand and swamps surrounded by forest. We love to come here, take Lola off leash and let her go nuts. Which she did, of course.

She underestimated how deep it was going to be
This makes me laugh...Lola, Queen of the Forest
Because we always have this area to ourselves, we don't worry about letting Lola roam free. Nobody disturbed us this time either, but there were signs the Savanna isn't as untouched as we'd like it to be. What used to exclusively be an expanse of sand is now dotted with some large piles of gravel and interestingly shaped cinderblocks. Don't know what's going on there, but leave my happy place alone, people!

Lola inspecting the new additions
New loves

One of my favorite parts about coming here is that we always seem to discover something new. While we were at Flickerwood Winery in nearby Kane (best wine ever, people...enough to turn this strict white-wine oenophile into a red-wine devotee!), Steve picked up a brochure from a place called Kinzua Wolf Run Marina. It sounded like absolute paradise -- a place to go swimming, boating and dine on a deck beside the Allegheny Reservoir. Unfortunately, the brochure stated no dogs were allowed, so it was going to have to be a Lola-free excursion.

The beach
The marina
It was in this stunning spot that I found my new favorite activity: kayaking! Steve and I each got our own kayaks, which scared me at first. Steve can attest to exactly how worthless I am at paddling canoes, so I seriously doubted my ability to pilot my own boat solo. But it was actually pretty easy to pick up. Once I got the hang of it, I was in my own little world. Steve had to yell at me to avoid getting hit by passing motorboats.

Back on the ground...I was afraid to take my camera along, which was smart because I got soaked
Steve also discovered something that he now wants to add to our ever-growing travel collection: a house boat. These things were docked all over the marina, and I have to admit they looked pretty awesome. Like a trailer on the inside, only sitting on the water. They aren't cheap, I'm sure. So maybe we'll look into renting one at some point.

After wearing out our arm muscles paddling, we treated ourselves to a lovely late lunch at the restaurant on site, called Docksiders Cafe. Relaxing outside by the water and listening to some live Neil Diamond covers capped off a splendid day.

Yes, I'm a goofball
This weekend, we're back in the RV for a stay at a state park that's two hours away. Can't be more excited! Apparently there's an active black bear population. If we don't see at least one, I want my money back!


  1. great recap of your 'country living'!..looks like everyone including Lola had a great time!!

  2. LOVE your cabin! I'd like to have a little place like that when I stop RVing, maybe even before. Glad you had such a good time. :)