Saturday, October 8, 2016

Camping in Central Pennsylvania

As my mom reminded me this week, I've been remiss in keeping up around here. I'll try to go back and catch up, but in the interest of not getting farther behind, I'll start by telling you about this past week.

Monday we went to the end-of-summer picnic for our homeschool group, then left straight from there to meet my parents at a campground in central Pennsylvania for a week of "camping" (if you call staying in a motorhome camping), and National Park visits.

Tuesday we went to Allegheny Portage Railroad National Park.  The film there is one of my favorites of all the national park films we've watched.

We originally thought we might be able to do that park in the morning and Johnstown Flood in the afternoon. But once we got there, we realized there was enough to see to keep us busy most of the day, so rather than rush through it, decided to postpone Johnstown till the next day.

Little Bit enjoyed playing with the old fashioned toys at the Lemon House.

My mom's started earning Junior Ranger badges along with the girls, so all four of them were sworn in as Junior Rangers there (Ashlyn was there, but she won't let me post pictures of her these days).

After we left the main park, we went to the Staple Bend Tunnel (which had been a tunnel on the Portage).  The tunnel is a 2 mile hike from the parking lot, but the girls wanted to see it, so we made the hike and walked through the 900+ ft through the tunnel in the dark (we did have a flashlight), but it didn't add much light. And, unlike the PawPaw tunnel on the C&O Canal in MD, you can see from end to end, which makes it less disconcerting. Here's Lexie and Little Bit at the far end of the tunnel. If you look closely you can see the light at the far end of the tunnel.

Needless to say, by the time we got through the tunnel, we were ready for a rest. My mom snapped this picture of us all resting on a cement platform at the far end of the tunnel. Then we headed back.

Wednesday we headed to Johnstown Flood. As it turned out, it took most of one day as well. There's a lot to see there, and the junior ranger requirements (for older kids) were rather challenging, even with Lexie, Ashlyn & Mom all working together, and me helping them, we finally gave up on one answer, and the ranger had to look it up, she didn't know it either. The ranger there was the same ranger who was at Allegheny Portage the day before, so that was kind of fun. :)

Thursday morning we went to the Flight 93 Memorial and got that Junior Ranger before heading on to Fort Necessity. Needless to say, Flight 93 is a sobering place to visit, but as you can see, the day was beautiful. Because we wanted to make sure we had time for Fort Necessity, we didn't really spend any time in the (newish) Visitor Center, since the Junior Ranger books pre-date the visitor center so all the requirements focus on things at the "memorial plaza". I have to admit, while I think the Visitor Center (what I saw of it) is well done, it was a bit intense for children (the ranger warned me, when we got the Junior Ranger books that one area includes recordings of the phone calls made during the flight, and said they leave that area "to parent's discretion"). So it was nice to be able to focus on the memorial plaza. While Mom and the girls worked on their Junior Ranger requirements (and I helped Little Bit), Dad met a volunteer who's been involved in the memorial since 2001, and got a much more thorough history of the making of the memorial than most people get to hear. 

We spent the afternoon at Fort Necessity. The girls and I were there in 2012 and at least the older girls had earned their Junior Ranger then. But that was in the winter time, when some parts weren't open, and they were so much younger, they can learn about it on a different level now. Also this year, as part of the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, the parks in that area have a special patch that you can earn by getting your Junior Ranger at the 5 area parks (the 4 mentioned in this post, plus Friendship Hill, which we did on a previous trip, and the rangers were willing to take my word for it), so the girls went ahead and did this junior ranger again. 
The main thing they remembered from last time was the playground, but I couldn't convince them to pose the same as they had before, so I had to content myself with snapping some pictures of Little Bit working on her Junior Ranger requirements.
And, of course, being sworn in. This Junior Ranger book implied that, like Harpers Ferry, there were different badges depending on how many requirements you completed, so since there were several requirements that Little Bit could do without being able to read, I encouraged her to do the same amount as her sisters did, but as it turns out, the badge doesn't indicate the extra work done. Oh well, she still has the satisfaction of knowing she earned the "Colonel" level.

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