For Spring Break, I decided to take a trip to see Cherry Springs with my good friend, Anne.
The drive to Pennsylvania from Virginia was wrought with anticipation. It stormed, and rained, and snowed. We laughed, and munched on snacks, and laughed some more, and hydroplaned, and skidded… And eventually had to give up completely because sudden snow flurries became too dense for us when we were just 15 miles from our lodge.
We ended up staying at a hotel in Wellsboro. I have to say, after the terrifying drive up, it was like entering Heaven. We drove in at a crawl due to sheer admiration. There were iceless streets! There were beautiful lamp posts! There were buildings! There were people inside a Dunkin’ Donuts laughing and standing around normally like nothing bad had happened that night… There was a Dunkin’ Donuts!!!
We parked in front of the donut shop and looked across the street and, lo and behold, a place to stay! And a very nice looking one, at that.
We called ahead to make sure someone was at the info desk, and then walked over and got our room (which was pretty cheap, concerning how decent our stay was). At 1 AM, Anne and I finally hit the sheets.
The following day, we had breakfast in the hotel lobby, and then set out to explore Wellsboro’s streets. Of course, all of the little shops were closed on Sundays, and the day we arrived was a Sunday. No problem, we just walked around.
We discovered a small detail about Wellsboro that day which we never would have otherwise known without exploring it ourselves… And that is that there is practically nothing there.
Wellsboro looking deserted af
I have heard people in my home county complain about there being nothing to do back home, but nothing I have ever seen compares to the desolation I felt in this tiny town. This trip is what it took for me to realize that I really am from the city.
To me, the Spotsylvania/ Stafford area is a regular Suburbia, but this adorable little mountain town showed me that where I live is much more than a suburb, and that I have been taking 24 hour fast food restaurants for granted for far too long.
(While driving later, we found that on the road connecting Wellsboro, Gaines, and Galeton, that Dunkin’ was the only place that stayed up all night, and the McDonald’s right next to it was the only other fast food restaurant out of all three of those towns. The towns are all at least twenty minutes apart.)
We left Wellsboro this morning and proceeded to get lost.
Our GPS took us on a weird turnaround, and then past a visitor’s bureau (which was closed), where I found some brochures for the area.
We cruised past an airport, went through a town called Gaines (which was more like a small neighborhood than a town), into Galeton (charming, with one restaurant, a little theater, and a lake), and around the mountain and entered Sasquehuttan National Park. We found that the Cherry Springs destination was completely snowed over; the only accessible parts for my car were part of overnight access area and the parking lot for the RV camping section.
We decided to come back later to hang out in the empty camping area.
Cherry Springs, PA
When we finally arrived at Cherry Springs for the final time, the snow had melted a bit from the main asphalt, but not enough for me to park anywhere but the front of the RV lot.
Anne pulled out her 3DS to play Pokemon and I opened the sun roof and looked up… and there was Venus, blinking at me from between a crack in the cloud cover.
In a minute, she was joined by two other little twinkling lights. Then the dense clouds overtook them again.
They were gone as quickly as I’d seen them.
I have opened up WordPress to edit some of my drafts for this trip as I wait for the sky to clear up. It may be a few hours- it is 8:00 PM now and will be ‘mostly cloudy’ up until 10, when it is then supposed to subside only a little (according to Google weather, which I checked at the last township). I do not really mind this weather, though. It was a frightening drive here, because we are not used to this kind of climate down in the flats of Virginia, but I believe it will be worth it to see as many little snippets of the sky as I can.
I have never seen the Milky Way before, except for images from the hubble space craft which I used to find online for backgrounds for my computer and phone.
The clouds are heavy again, but it is not supposed to rain or snow anymore, so I’ll be keeping the sun roof open in hope of a glimpse of the eternal twinkling of a real heaven.
We have pretzels and water and each others’ company to last us through the hours. I hope it will prove to be worth it.
In retrospect, this is probably not the safest time of year to come and stargaze. This place is so empty that it feels as if we are the only people on the whole mountain, and we don’t have service, or a gun, or really anything to defend or help us if we happen to get pounced on (by anything, man or beast).
If you are a pair of young women with no company, weapons, or immediate connection to the outside world, I would suggest that you not go until the summer. It is more populated then.
However, if you tend to throw caution to the abandoned mountain’s wind because your thirst for adventure and discomfort is greater than my thirst for a good cuppa, then pay no heed. Do what will satisfy your soul.
We left. We actually drove all the way to Coudersport, a town a half hour away, and back to burn time until the clouds broke, but ultimately the cloud cover was too dense to stargaze. I did not want to make my friend wait on it any longer. Not to mention, we were both exhausted.
I drove us back down the mountain in silence, but with a glimmer of anticipation still residing within me. We saw a few stars as we went. It was then that we realized the sky was finally opening up for us, as we left for home.
I swung into the first pull off I could find. As soon as I turned the car lights off, it was like I’d flipped a million other lights on.
I opened the sun roof and we stood with our heads poking out of the top of my car. I want to say that we were so caught up in admiration that we were silent, but we actually couldn’t stop jabbering due to excitement.
We stayed for a while on the side of the long, dark road.
There was a river or waterfall somewhere near- we could hear its forceful rush from beyond the treeline. Stars shot by overhead, and we heard a pack of canines (creatures that were definitely not coyotes) perform their eerie nocturnal dirge.
I almost thought that this tuck-away, an hour from Cherry Springs, was better than the legitimate observation area. Though the view was certainly not as good, it was a wilder setting, and more unique because of it.
So, we made it. We drove 12 hours in a 48 hour period, and have only 3 more hours to go from this hotel later in the morning.
I am so, so tired, but I am happy that we visited. It has taught me so much.
If you plan on visiting Cherry Springs State Park, I found some helpful resources during my post-trip research. They are all available for free.
The Clear Sky Chart, located on cleardarksky.com is more precise than the Google weather app that Anne and I used, as well as more in-depth. The color key is visible on the site.
What you can do to maximize the enjoyment of your stay is use broad weather predictions (like from the news or Google weather) to choose the days of your stay, and then use this Clear Sky Chart to help with the arrangement of your daily activities.
Cleardarksky.com also has more links to other helpful resources.
This resource has a wealth of information concerning activities, places to go, things to see, all of that.
I’ve also noticed that state information centers like to suggest TripAdvisor, so if you don’t believe me, take it from them.
AllTrails is a trail review website with an app that I have on my Galaxy (but you can probably download it on iPhone, too).
Anne and I knew that there were a ton of trails and parks around us in northern PA, but we didn’t think to find any during our short visit. Later, I began to look through this app, and found a lot of places and trails that we missed. So, if you ever feel the itch to get out, AllTrails has suggestions, reviews, and directions to whatever trails are closest to you.