Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Kayaking the West Susqehanna River

Once the weather gets warm, it's time to start kayaking again! For the first trip of the season, we were introduced to an 11-mile segment of the West Branch Susquehanna River, which spanns some 243 miles, almost entirely within Pennsylvania.

Almost half -- 102 miles -- are within just one county: Clearfield County, in central PA. Along most of its course, the river wanders along a large "zigzag arc" over the north end of the Allegheny Ridge. It meanders through quaint towns, such as Clearfield, PA, but mostly, dense forests and mountains line both shores.

It's long been a river integral to the communities that lived along it. The lands along the West Branch were vital hunting grounds and agricultural lands for Native Americans. The first recorded inhabitants of the West Branch Susquehanna River valley were the Iroquoian speaking Susquehannocks -- the name translates to 'people of the muddy river.'

The river sustained the region's lumber industry, with annual log drives to lumber mills further down the river. Sadly, as Pennsylvania became more industrialized, the upper reaches of this magnificent river turned a weird, scary yellow/orange color due to sulfur that drained from nearby and abandoned deep bituminous coal mines.

Now, of course, thanks to ongoing efforts to combat the pollution and regulations on industry in the watershed, the water is healthier and exactly the color it should be. Fish flourish within, bald eagles nest along its shores, and it's likely you'll see heron, kingfishers, deer and fox.

If you don't own your own kayak, you can still enjoy this wonderful natural resource. In Clearfield County, you can rent kayaks or canoes from a local outfitter, McCracken's Canoe Rental and Sales (don't let the name dissuade you -- they also offer kayaks).

Dave McCracken himself accompanied us on this paddle.

Our 11-mile paddle took us from Clearfield, where we put in at Elliott's Park (a memorial to a man's dog) to Shawville, right across from the powerplant.

This stretch takes you from the light industrial outskirts of Clearfield, under several railroad and highway bridges. Although during some of it you can hear road noise, soon you're well away from all noise except the sounds of your own paddles and the birds.

The river was high the day we were on the river, so mostly all we had to do was steer our kayaks through some of the faster swirls (none of it truly white water). This was more a float than a paddle.

If you own your own kayak, McCracken Canoe Rental and Sales will provide shuttling service. Contact them at the website below to determine rates and availability. Even if you don't want any of their services, contact McCrackens. No one knows the river like Dave McCracken and Dawn, his daughter. They offer river maps, dry bags and other supplies, guidance, and advice.

Getting there: 5409 Shawville Highway, Clearfield, PA 16840

Hours: Check website

Website: www.mccrackencanoe.com

Beginning in March 2018, I started a series of posts about Clearfield County, PA. This is a continuation of the series. To see others, click on the label "Clearfield County" at the bottom of this post.

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Saturday, May 26, 2018

Milford River Walk on the Mispillion River

The mile-long Mispillion River Walk Park in Milford, DE threads its way through the heart of downtown, offering numerous recreational opportunities to both visitors and residents alike. In addition to simply being a nice place to enjoy a relaxing stroll, the River Walk has revitalized Milford’s downtown. Along this stretch of the river once were seven shipyards, which between them produced more than 600 wooden sailing ships between 1680 and 1927.

Located on the banks of the Mispillion River, Milford was first settled in 1680 by Henry Bowan on what was known as the Saw Mill Range -- a quaint name. A century later the Reverend Sydenham Thorne built a dam across the Mispillion River to generate power for his gristmill and sawmill. Around the same time, Joseph Oliver laid out the first city streets and plots nearby on a part of his plantation. Soon a number of homes and businesses appeared along Front Street: Milford was born.

By the 1770s, the ship-building industry, an economic boon to Milford, was already flourishing along the river. Ship-building brought prosperity to Milford, lasting through World War I. But soon things would change.

At one point six shipyards operated in the downtown area. However, progress -- metal steam ships and simply a lack of appropriate resources ended this locally important industry. When the last of the area’s giant white oaks was cut in the 1920s, the shipyards quickly went out of business, although the Mispillion ships sailed on for many years.

Along the River Walk and surrounding streets are a series of 18 sculptures based on the classic yacht Augusta, a 47-foot yacht and one of the last to be built in one of the town's former shipyards. The sculptures are decorated to the theme of River Town, Home Town, or Art Town, and are quite imaginative and a lot of fun. These were quite lovely, and I enjoyed seeing the ones I found!

In addition, it's likely you'll see some birds -- I noted what I thought was a very cheeky swallow and a gorgeous heron.

The Vinyard Shipyard, where the Augusta was built, is the last working shipyard in Delaware. The original Augusta can still be seen at the Milford Shipyard Area Historic District (which in on the National Register of Historic Places).

Dogs: would love it!

Getting there: type in 2 S Walnut Street, Milford, DE 19963 to get downtown to the River Walk; in the evenings or when there's a production, then be courteous and don't park in the theater's parking lot -- there's a library around the corner, or on-street parking.

Website: http://www.cityofmilford.com/321/Mispillion-Riverwalk

This is one of a series of articles about Kent County, DE. For others in this series, please click on the Kent County label (if you're on a laptop/desktop) or search the blog for Kent County if you're on a phone.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Antique and Classic Cars Galore and More at Grice Museum

Beginning in March, I started a series of posts about Clearfield County, PA. This is the fifth of this series. To see others in this series, click on the label "Clearfield County" at the bottom of this post.

Looking for something to do with dad? How about a visit to one of the most unique museums I've been to recently?! The Grice Museum, located in Clearfield, PA, is sure to please dad, as well as other members of the family, with its unique collection of historic and antique cars and vehicles, and taxidermy.

1948 Allard

Highlights of the collection of historic and just neat cars include the eight Crosley cars, a 1960 Corvette, unique kit cars, a 1959 Cadillac convertible, a 1917 Buick D35 Touring Car, and a 1948 Allard, among other really, really cool cars.


The museum had its beginnings with the personal classic and antique car collections of Lynn "Scoot" Grice and his son Tom. They realized they could begin giving back to the community by placing them into a museum of all to enjoy. But they didn't just place their existing collection in the museum -- they added to it.

My favorite part of the museum was the collection of almost 2000 1/18 scale die cast cars. Fond memories of assembling one such car (not very well) with one of my sons!

1958 Chevrolet Impala Convertible

In addition, you will get to see more than 800, legally obtained trophy game mounts, most of which have been donated to the museum, and include the usual deer, elk, moose but also lions, rams, turkey, bears, and African game. The museum does not accept poached animals, notably turning down the giant elk illegally shot in Clearfield County, which is now honored in the Historical Society Museum.

Know before you go: Just in time for Father's Day, Clearfield County is offering a package that includes four admission tickets to Grice Museum and an overnight stay for family of four (includes continental breakfast) starting at $120 (plus PA sales tax and hotel tax). For more information regarding the details and how to book, contact 814-765-5734.

Getting there: 119 North 4th Street, Clearfield, PA 16830

Hours: Open 7 days a week, Memorial Day through 30 September; Monday - Saturday 10 a.m. - 4 p.m., Sunday noon to 4 p.m.

Website: www.gricemuseum.com

One of the several kit cars in the museum's collection; 1951 Mercury Coupe.

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1986 Zimmer Golden Spirit

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Air Mobility Command: Airplane Petting Zoo

If you're looking for a great summertime daytrip for the kids or family -- this one is for you! The Air Mobility Command Museum is truly a hidden gem of a museum -- interesting for all for its aviation and military history, or simply the wonderment of these amazing planes. Best of all? It's free. (Although, consider offering a donation.) For lack of a better description, this museum is an airplane petting zoo. You can explore many of the planes, inside and out (with the guidance of a knowledgeable tour guide).

The F-101B Voodoo became the principle aircraft of the 98th Fighter Interceptor
Squadron stationed at Dover Air Force Base in the mid-1950s to the mid-1960s.

During WWII, the 4146 Base Unit was involved in secret rocket development at what was then known as Dover Army Airfield. The building complex where these military secret operations took place was Hangar 1301.

From the 1950s to the 1970s, various fighter squadrons called the hangar home. In the 1990s, after restoration and placement on the National Register of Historic Places, Hangar 1301 was given new life as the home of the Air Mobility Command Museum. Now you can visit this most secret place and explore these fabulous planes.

Even if you're not an aviation geek, you'll probably enjoy this museum. This is a great place for kids and families to explore aviation history. The different shapes of the planes are impressive -- a couple of them are bigger than most houses -- and seem more like ships than airplanes. It's a wonder they can take off at all. Kids of all ages will enjoy climbing up into the planes and exploring them.

My recommendation is that you go up into the control tower -- the original, and decidedly and outdatedly analog, for the Dover Airforce Base (it was moved to the museum when a new, more updated control tower was built in 2009). From there, you get an almost bird's eye view of the outside airplanes, plus you can see to the current landing strips on Dover AFB. After you eyeball the planes and figure out which ones you really, really want to see, then head down to the planes themselves to start touring.

You can admire the opulence of the VC-9C, more famously known as Airforce 2, the airplane that between 1975 and 2011 flew the likes of Vice Presidents Al Gore, Dick Cheney, and Joe Biden, as well as first ladies Rosalynn Carter, Nancy Reagan, Barbara Bush, Hillary R. Clinton, Laura Bush, and Michelle Obama. It also served foreign dignitaries and leaders, including Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain. 

My personal favorite is the behemoth C-5A Galaxy plane. It was ginormous, and is bigger than my house. I don't think they were lying to us when they claimed this amazing plane has flown the friendly skies -- but it's hard to see how something this big could do so!

The C-5A Galaxy. Photo courtesy the Air Mobility Command Museum.

As the Air Force’s largest and only strategic airlifter, the C-5 Galaxy can carry more cargo farther distances than any other aircraft.

On 24 October 1974, the Air Force successfully conducted an Air Mobile Feasibility Test when C-5A Galaxy 69-0014 (this aircraft!) air dropped an 86,000-lb Minuteman Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) from 20,000 feet over the Pacific Ocean. 

Inside the behemoth C-5A Galaxy

The C-5 entered operational service in 1970 and has been a vital asset in every military operation since that time including Vietnam, Desert Storm and Operation Enduring Freedom. But this amazing plane also has a softer side: it has been instrumental in humanitarian relief efforts around the world, including Hurricane Katrina, and tsunami and earthquake relief.

The C-133 Cargomaster served as an air transport for America’s large missiles.
 To me, some of the styling of it reflects its design in the 1950s.

After you see the outside planes, head inside to the historic hanger and the welcome air conditioning. There's still more to see! You'll want to allow yourself at least an hour, but it's more likely that you'll spend about 2 hours at the museum.

Inside the C-133 Cargomaster lurks a bright red firetruck!

Every third Saturday of the month through October are Open Cockpit Days, which provide full access to many of the museum’s aircraft 10 a.m. - 3 p.m. (if weather permits and tour guides are available). Tour guides stationed in the open aircraft will describe the history of the planes and their missions; what's really cool is that the tour guides -- all volunteers, by the way, are often retired crew members of these airplanes, so their descriptions are from personal experience and bring the aircraft to life for visitors.

The cockpit of the C-133 Cargomaster.

Know before you go: If you go up and into the airplanes, wear sneakers or appropriate footwear -- flip flops or open healed shoes, I learned by real-life experience, are dangerous when climbing into the cockpits of some of the planes. Other than beneath the wings of the planes, there is no shade where the planes are parked, so wear hats and put on sun block.

The PT-17 Kaydet biplane trainer, which was produced between 1933 and 1947.

Getting there: 1301 Heritage Rd, Dover AFB, DE 19902

Hours: Tuesday - Sunday  9 a.m.-4 p.m.

Website: https://amcmuseum.org/

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The museum began in 1986 with a single C-47A Skytrain that was
rejected as “beyond salvage” by other museums. Today it stands
immaculately restored, complete with D-Day invasion stripes, as it
 was when it served with the 61st Troop Carrier Squadron in World War II.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

York PA Is a Daytrip Destination!

Spring is a great time to visit York, to see the many blooming pear trees along Market Street.

York has always been a place to pass through or pass by, on my way to somewhere else, but not anymore! Recently, I spent a day exploring York, and came away excited about York as a day trip destination. From history to art galleries to boutiques and antiques and even good eats, we found a town offering lots to do for everyone -- and many reasons to return.

Over the next months, I'll be covering different aspects of York, PA more indepth, but here's a taste of what's to come:

Boutiques to Browse

At the Sunrise Soap Company, you can see how bombs are made -- bath bombs, that is!
You can even learn how to make these bath fizzies.

There are a number of interesting boutiques, from Redeux Market, an curated antiques and collectibles store, to Memory Lane Sweets, a candy store specializing in nostalgic candies, and an interesting factory-store-boutique, the Sunrise Soap Company, where you can not only see how soaps are made, but make them yourself!

There are lots more to be found in York than these places, but these provide a good start to filling your day!

Public Art and Murals

There are some 40 murals scattered around downtown York (mostly on the Market Street corridor) but there are some cool "retro rustic" metal sculptures that spoke "steam punk" to me and fascinated my husband, who is totally into steam punk.

On our way to i-ron-ic coffee shop, we passed by a cool little park -- Foundry Park on the Codorus -- next to Codorus Creek, with metal flowers and a yellow cat.

York in the 1800s mural

There's another yellow cat on North George Street too, as well as Tinker and a Curb Dragon rising out of the sidewalk. Crafted from components of equipment that defined York as an innovative and industrial manufacturing center, these pieces of art tell York’s story and speak to the city’s heritage.

Royal Square Art Scene

From the King's Courtyard Artists' Collective

Located in the Royal Square District, the Parliament Gallery is just one part of Downtown York’s creative arts community. Right next door is the King's Courtyard Artists' Collective, an eclectic art gallery and studio space and the Hive Artspace. Hidden nearby are an additional six murals.

Historic Sites

On the left is the Golden Plough Tavern, which operated in
Colonial Times; on the right was the 
home of General Horatio
Gates while the Second Continental 
Congress convened in
York, September 30, 1777 to June 27, 1778

The City of York was an integral part of the history of our nations' founding. The York Country Colonial Courthouse seeks to interpret some of that past through hands-on experience and other exhibits featuring authentic documents and artifacts. There's the reconstructed Colonial Courthouse, a log cabin, and the Golden Plough Tavern, a rare example of Germanic half-timber architecture. While you're there, say hello to General Marquis de Lafayette, who stands in front of the Gates House as a reminder of his loyalty to General George Washington.

Don't miss Colonial York Day 2018, coming up on Saturday, July 28, 2018!

Getting there: 205 W Market St, York, PA
Website: https://www.yorkhistorycenter.org/event/colonial-york-day-2018

Good Eats

The Revival Social Club offers a menu offering an extensive selection of globally
inspired delicacies with an emphasis on farm-to-table foods.

Downtown York offers a number of interesting restaurants, from coffee shops to food markets to finer dining, with more restaurants opening. A great place to start is Central Market. But look for interesting coffee houses such as i-ron-ic, a combination art boutique and coffee house, and fine restaurants such as the Handsome Cab and Revival Social Club.

The Handsome Cab offers a changing menu with an emphasis on seasonal foods.

Know before you go: There are three parking garages downtown. If you’d like to park in a garage and walk, the Philadelphia Street Garage is the most central option. A note: Parking Garages are free on Saturdays.

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