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.