After a long drive, we finally reached our destination

No. 71: Visit All PA State Parks; Poe Valley State Park Edition

Siri is my friend, right? Siri knows the answers to all of life’s daily questions, right? Siri is there for me when I want to stay in and order tomato soup, right? Siri has my best interests at heart, right? WRONG. A million times, WRONG! That is the moral of our trip to Poe Valley State Park. Never trust Siri. Ever. She’s a heartless robot who gives you an artificial sense of security only to subtly ruin your life when you least expect it.

Excuse my rant. In case you can’t tell, Siri, Apple’s all-powerful robot that lives within every iPhone, has got my feathers all ruffled up. In actuality, the moral of our trip to Poe Valley was much deeper and profound, but more on that later. For now, I will explain to you all why I nearly had a screaming match with my iPhone during this trip.

Let’s see, it all began one beautiful Wednesday afternoon in State College, PA. I had just finished the last test I would ever have in Law of Mass Communications, and I was ready for a break from exams. Seeing as it was such a beautiful day (a rarity at PSU), Shane and I decided to venture out on what became our fifth unsuccessful fishing trip (I’m only going to cross fishing off the list when we actually catch something). Truthfully, it was more of me deciding to go to Poe Valley State Park and Shane casually agreeing and going along for the ride. Anyway, we gassed up the car and began the journey.

That’s when I made the mistake of putting our lives in the robotic, nonexistent hands of Siri. Why use a physical map when Siri can give me turn-by-turn directions on how to get there!? I was a little surprised that the ETA was 50 minutes after our starting time, but why wouldn’t Siri get us there the quickest possible way, right? Off we went on 322 (seemingly the only way to get out of State College), music playing, Shane half asleep in the passenger seat; it was a pleasant trip. Then came the first turn.

“In half a mile, turn left on Sand Mountain Road,” Siri said with undetectable malice in her automated voice. She was about to make my life a living hell.

Now, this turn wasn’t SO bad. Granted, it was kind of odd to make a left turn on 322, literally driving over the highway when no cars were coming (don’t worry, Mom, it was a legal move). It was the IMMEDIATE left turn I had to make after crossing 322. That previous turn brought us up a hill where I had to make another IMMEDIATE right turn up this dirt mountain road that formed into the side of this mountain. After some careful pointed turns, I was able to defy gravity up this Mount Everest of a road. Apparently, we were now on “Main Road.” From the state of the gravel my car was struggling to drive over, I really feel this had not been the main road since the 1800’s. After at least 10 minutes of driving below 25mph on this horse path, Siri smugly instructed me to turn left onto Sand Mountain Road. NOW, WAIT A MINUTE! IS THIS NOT THE ROAD I JUST TURNED OFF OF?! What in the world was the purpose of driving all the way to this gravel road just to turn back onto the road I was on in the first place!? Sure, we bypassed the Seven Mountains Scout Camp on Sand Mountain Road, but what does Siri have against Boy Scouts?! I digress.

Now, one might think the return to this larger, more well-known road would bring joy and happiness back into the drive. Not the case. The only change between Main Road and Sand Mountain Road was the color of the dirt & gravel road. I could just barely hear Siri’s maniacal laughter through my radio. This was the bumpiest, roughest, and most cautious driving I think I have ever done. Scratch that, the ride back was worse. More later. Imagine the most underdeveloped road in your neighborhood, multiply it by ten, and add a giant, ominous cliff to one side of it. That comes close to describing how secluded this road was. Sure, we passed a few houses here and there. Strangely enough, each house had it’s own name and sign. Still, not anywhere I would care to stop outside of the Twilight Zone. That’s about when I lost phone service. There goes the GPS. That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, Siri, sensing my growing frustration, decided to peace out on me. Lovely.

However, this 20 minute drive (literally almost half of the trip was this one, confounded road) was still enjoyable. Sand Mountain Road literally takes you through Bald Eagle State Forest, a very scenic and beautiful drive. Just don’t get too caught up in the scenery or you’ll drive off that cliff you’re next to. The wildlife is what got me. Much to Shane’s chagrin, I had to pull the car over and spend a good 5 minutes freaking out over a porcupine we saw. You can’t blame me. Most Philadelphians have never seen a real porcupine out in the wild. I had my doubts they even existed in Pennsylvania. We also had to let a pheasant cross the road, but once you’ve seen a pigeon you kind of have seen a pheasant, more or less. After several moments of doubt on whether or not this park even existed, we arrived at a sign for Poe Valley State Park and Poe Lake came into view. Phew.

We found a parking lot nearby, but then had to spend several minutes confused due to the “No Parking” sign on the side of it. I kid you not, at least 10 painted parking spaces, yet there was no parking. I don’t even know where to begin on that logic. So, we drove around the park to the other side of Poe Lake. There was another young couple shore fishing, so we set up camp a little further down from them. Begin fishing round 5. We had only casted maybe three times when the low, forbidding thunder rolled in. No big deal right? As long as it doesn’t start…oh, now it’s raining. Not just rain, but bullets of water pouring from the sky. Time to run to the car. After sitting 10 minutes in the safety of the car to try to wait it out, we decided to be on our way back to State College. Thus began the slow drive back through the forest, but this time with the added benefit of rain. This was cautious driving at its finest. We drove through the woods to the soundtrack of Fleet Foxes and the patter of rain. At some point, Shane drifted off to sleep.

There’s something about the rain that makes me reflective. I’m not sure if its just from years of watching melodramatic movies or it has something to do with the rhythmic beating of a rain storm. It’s peaceful. The rain seems to saturate the trees with this vibrant green that can’t be duplicated. The forest air smells greener and full of life during a rain storm in the woods. It’s as if the coming rain immediately awakens the forest as the promise of new life is fulfilled. It’s these beautiful moments that motivate me to pursue this list.

You can write a bucket list of all the events and actions you would like to complete before you die. Sky-diving, horseback riding, road tripping. All these things can easily be completed with a little dedication. However, it’s the individual and unique moments that come with each experience that make this all worthwhile. You can’t write a list of all the unexpected and new experiences you want to have, because those things can’t be listed. Rather, there is a second layer to this bucket list that we are discovering as we go. When I think back to visiting Poe Valley State Park, I am going to remember the laughs Shane and I had just on the trip there, and also the peaceful and beautiful moment that we happened upon while leaving. That’s what this experience is all about: those inevitable moments that we discover along the way.

By the way, if anyone knows an easier route to Poe Valley State Park, please let me know.

Via Google Maps: the idiotic route my beloved Siri had me take.

Via Google Maps: the idiotic route my beloved Siri had me take.

Via Google Maps: Literally driving through uncharted territory.

Via Google Maps: Literally driving through uncharted territory.

I also spent a good amount of time amazed at how many trees there were.

I also spent a good amount of time amazed at how many trees there were.

Good Ol' Sand Mountain Road

Good Ol’ Sand Mountain Road

One of the more scenic views of the road

One of the more scenic views of the road

This was the best picture we could get of the little porcupine

This was the best picture we could get of the little porcupine

Poe Lake--a welcome sight

Poe Lake–a welcome sight

10 parking spaces, but no parking in any of them.

10 parking spaces, but no parking in any of them.

Deep Low Place.

Deep Low Place.

After a long drive, we finally reached our destination

After a long drive, we finally reached our destination

Off we go, into the rain

Off we go, into the rain

Jurassic Park 3D!

No. 56: See a Movie

A thunderous storm, flesh-hungry dinosaurs, and a trip to the emergency room. Interestingly enough, the last one is completely unrelated to the former two. Rather than telling this story in chronological order, I would like to first explain what prevented me from posting this sooner.

You see, I have a weakness for sushi. Raw, cooked, sashimi, you name it and I will try it at least once. Thus, the Panda Express in the HUB attracts me like a moth to a lightbulb. Despite the sign warning customers about eating raw food, I willingly consume this undercooked fish nearly every day. Big mistake. To make a long story short, that raw fish still had some fight left in it, and my stomach suffered greatly. The stomach virus became so unbearable that Shane had to whisk me off to the hospital. I don’t remember too much before the hospital, due to my rising fever. However, I slightly recall deliriously singing the theme to “The Love Boat” while complaining about a killer headache. Major kudos go to Shane for sticking by me and suffering through my illness with me; he’s a lifesaver.

Moving on. What this post is really about is our trip to the movies. As much as it pains me to employ this cliche, it honestly was a dark and stormy night. It was actually pretty fitting weather conditions for the movie we were about to see: Jurassic Park 3D.

Now, I had my doubts about paying extra cash just to see a movie in 3D. However, gone are the days of blue & red 3D glasses and cheap thrills. Rather than acknowledging the gimmick of 3D, the new generation of 3D seamlessly works the invention into the film. The new and improved 3D makes the film more realistic and closer to actual life in the third dimension. It’s like HD on crack; you can almost reach out and touch the rugged snout of that tyrannosaurus in front of you. The consensus: it was worth the extra cash.

Going to the movies has always been an escape from reality. Popcorn saturated with fake butter, microwaved pretzel nuggets dipped in fake cheese, and a slushy with fake blue coloring. Being a patron of a movie theater means giving up that secure foundation in reality and allowing yourself to be whisked away to an imaginary realm. Whether that realm of imagination is filled with fatty foods and candy from the concession stand is your decision. However, whether you sneak in your own snacks or give in to the guilty pleasures behind the counter, no one can deny that a nostalgic magic exists within the theater walls. What better reason to go out and catch a flick for old time’s sake?

Filling out paperwork

Filling out paperwork

College 9 on a stormy night

College 9 on a stormy night

Jurassic Park 3D!

Jurassic Park 3D!

Ghost theater

Ghost theater

New 3D glasses are made to look like Ray-Bans

New 3D glasses are made to look like Ray-Bans

Lake Wallenpaupack

No. 34: Horseback Riding

There’s nothing like the feel of a mountain breeze, the warmth of the sun peeking through the forest, and the heavenly scent of horse manure. Alright, the last one might be a slight over-exaggeration. Despite the smell, seeing life from the back of a horse is an experience I would recommend everyone to try at least once in their life. That brings us to item No. 34 on The List: horseback riding.

It was Shane’s first time riding and my second, so I basically was a pro. Okay, I guess the first time doesn’t really count (I had to ride a pony rather than a horse; a pony whose top speed was that of a slug). Anyway, this was a memorable experience for the both of us.

It all started when Shane and I made the spontaneous decision to join my parents for a weekend in Lake Ariel, PA. Lake Ariel sits on the edge of Lake Wallenpaupack, a beautiful lake at the northeast corner of Pennsylvania. Our hosts, Donna and Fred Wright, have an adorable house on Wallenpaupack that they graciously shared with us for the weekend. After driving over 100 miles, mastering the art of cruise control, and making a pit-stop at Weis, Shane and I arrived at our destination. After nearly drowning in Donna’s drawerful of brochures for the area, Shane and I decided on two options for our weekend plans: a haunted house or horseback riding. Due to the fact that the haunted house was a 4-hour-long extravaganza, we settled on horseback riding early Sunday morning.

After 2 hours of the waking up process (a real struggle for college students before 12 p.m.), we typed the address for Triple “W” Riding Stables into my iPhone and began our journey. The stables were about 20 minutes away from the Wright House (a clever pun), and the drive itself was gorgeous. Winding roads, back-trails, and a view of the surrounding Pocono Mountains transformed the windows of my 2001 Ford Taurus into a living art gallery. My only regret is not taking enough pictures of the scenery up there. After some cautious driving through the forest (the last mile and a half took what seemed like 10 minutes), the cozy bed-and-breakfast/riding stable came into view. Then came the smell. That striking smell of manure that slowly fades into the background like the hum of a refrigerator. By the end of the riding session, Shane and I were oblivious to the horse odor radiating off ourselves.

Something interesting about the boondocks of Pennsylvania: no one cares where you park. See an open spot between a boulder and a tree? Feel free to park there. I’m sure this is probably the case with most rural areas in the country, but it takes some getting used to for us city-slickers. Just a side-note.

As we approached the stables, I nearly died from a cuteness-overload. First came the fluffy Bernese Mountain Dog, then it was the fluffy Calico Cat, but what really did me in was the fluffy horse. I cannot begin to describe the fluff level on this property. Shane probably went deaf from all my high-pitched baby talk to the animals. We had an hour to kill before our ride, which I spent running around petting everything with fluff while Shane attempted to befriend Scooter, the grumpy horse.

When it came time to ride, Shane was given Casanova, and I was with Kismet. Apparently there was some unknown rivalry between our horses, since Kismet tried biting Cas every time I tried riding next to Shane. Needless to say, this was not a storybook, romantic horse ride. Rather, I was in the front most of the hour while Shane acted as the caboose of our party. Also, what the guides don’t tell you is the attitude level of your horse. Kismet basically made his own decisions while I sat back and kept quiet. Trust me, I tried giving him direction, but when you’re high above the ground without a helmet in a wooded area, whatever the horse says goes. Meanwhile, Shane was having similar attitude problems with Cas. According to the guides, Cas only respected a strong kick from his riders. No one informed us that you needed to gain the horses’ respect before they listened to you. Aside from the apparent lack of respect we got from our horses, Shane and I got the hang of it pretty quickly. Towards the end of the ride, the guides gave us the go-ahead to attempt trotting on our horses. Easier said than done. My experience with trotting was basically this: “DEAR GOD, PLEASE DON’T LET ME FALL OFF THIS HORSE.” I honestly only remember having a death grip on the horn of the saddle until Kismet eventually slowed down. Shane’s experience? Let’s just say the bouncing up and down was a lot rougher on the guys of the party.

So, with sore backs and groins, Shane and I crossed off our first activity on the list. Oh, and a message to Shane: if you got this far I’m very proud of you for reading so much! Here’s some snapshots of the experience.

Not sure this guy's name, but he LOVED my phone.

Not sure this guy’s name, but he LOVED my phone.

Shane on Casanova, and myself on Kismet

Shane on Casanova, and myself on Kismet

"Don't touch me, I'm allergic!"

“Don’t touch me, I’m allergic!”

Scooter: the furriest and grumpiest of all the horses.

Scooter: the furriest and grumpiest of all the horses.

Shrek the cat

Shrek the cat

Scooter was not having any of this.

Scooter was not having any of this.

Part of the Welcome Committee at Triple "W"

Part of the Welcome Committee at Triple “W”

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The List

The ever-growing list as of now:

  1. Amusement Park
  2. Aquarium
  3. Arcade
  4. Art Museum
  5. Backpacking
  6. Bake Together
  7. Bar Tour
  8. Be Extras in a Movie
  9. Beach
  10. Biking
  11. Boardwalk
  12. Bowling
  13. Camping
  14. Canada
  15. Casino
  16. Cave Tour
  17. Circus
  18. Cross-country Road Trip
  19. Dance Class
  20. Dog Sledding
  21. Drive-in Movie Theater
  22. Eat at a 5-Star Restaurant
  23. Farmer’s Market
  24. Fishing
  25. Frisbee
  26. Frisbee Golf
  27. Go Karts
  28. Go to a Dog Park
  29. Go to a Fortune Teller
  30. Go to a Record Store
  31. Haunted House
  32. Hiking
  33. History Museum
  34. Horseback Riding
  35. Hot Air Balloon Ride
  36. Ice Fishing
  37. Ice Skating
  38. Indoor Rock Climbing
  39. International Trip
  40. Jet Skiing
  41. Kayaking
  42. Kohr Bros.
  43. Laser Tag
  44. Mario Kart Competition
  45. Mini Golf
  46. Outdoor Rock Climbing
  47. Paddleboarding
  48. Parasailing
  49. Picnic
  50. Ping Pong
  51. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
  52. Roller Skating
  53. Rope Swinging
  54. Sailing
  55. Scuba Diving
  56. See a Movie
  57. See a Musical
  58. Skiing
  59. Sky Diving
  60. Sledding
  61. Snorkeling
  62. Sporting Event
  63. Star Gazing
  64. Surfing
  65. Tennis
  66. Thrifting
  67. Tour Brewery
  68. Tour Philadelphia
  69. US Open
  70. Visit Alaska
  71. Visit All PA State Parks:
  72. Visit Doylestown
  73. Visit Gettysburg
  74. Visit New Hope
  75. Visit Pittsburgh
  76. Water Balloon Fight
  77. White-water Rafting
  78. Wildwood
  79. Wine Tasting
  80. Zip-lining
  81. Zoo