Coudersport, Pennsylvania bills itself as having the darkest skies on this side of the Mississippi. This sort of darkness is achieved with an abundance or rural isolation and lack of industry. The sky is so dark, people claim you can see the Milky Way with the naked eye. I wanted to get away from cities, industry, and any remnant of work, Coudersport beckoned me and if all went well, we might see some spectacular stars.
We rented a cabin in the mountains and it had all the amenities, except cable TV, internet, or cell service. The cabin was only accessible by a long unpaved driveway (about 3/4 mile long) that went up and down serious bumps, but this only added to the adventure. The cabin was surrounded by wilderness, hundreds, if not, thousands of acres of forest. However, they did clear a field about 100 square yards that was nicely mowed and perfectly flat, this was where you could do your serious star gazing. The image on top is of Dalia, Win, and their cousin Iona on the stargazing field.
Believe it or not, it snowed on Saturday and Sunday while we were at the cabin. It didn’t accumulate too much, but it was definitely falling down. The skies were gray and could filled, which made stargazing impossible for the most part. The weatherman predicted that it would be cloudy until 9PM on Saturday night. Jaclyn, Shanna, and I all sat by a toasty camp fire and waited for the clouds to clear. It was truly a dark place in those woods, if not for the fire, it would have been a world of blackness, not even the moon was visible. As I sat next to the fire and looked straight up into the sky, I could only see the snow flakes falling onto my glasses. After awhile, I finally noticed a single star in the sky. We all celebrated and thought it was comical that we drove 3 hours to see fewer stars than we can see in our own backyard. But then, around 9:30PM on Saturday night, a couple more stars appeared, dozens, hundreds, and then, the sky was filled with them. They were on every horizon, they seemed close and clear, we ran onto the stargazing field and couldn’t believe our eyes. We retrieved the kids and plopped them down on a blanket on the field, we laid down and stared at the sky, I saw about 5 shooting stars that night and was completely mesmorized until an hour lately when the clouds returned and ended our fun. I will be back with my tent next summer, a very unique and powerful experience.
We went to the town of Austin and saw the site of the second worst dam disaster in Pennsylvania. The dam pictured above broke in the early 1900’s (after Johnstown) and destroyed an entire town and killed 78 people. We spent a solid hour hiking through the ruins, looking at old photos in the pavilion, and imaging the power of the water that ripped the concrete and steal a part like it was created by children.
On our way home, we stopped at the Kinzua Bridge Skywalk. This place was totally insane. First off, we got caught in an intense snow storm (mid October) and driving through the Allegheny National Forest was perilous. This was one of the highest and longest railroad bridges in the world, in 2011, a tornado ripped half of it down and they now made it into a really awesome national park. You can walk out to this bridge, look out over the edge, and they also have a glass floor at the end where you can walk onto the glass and poop your pants in horror as you’re relying exclusively on a piece of glass to prevent you from falling 300 feet to your death. Jaclyn dared to step out and you can see the pic above, it is hard to see the glass because the snow is covering it, but she did it, and it was terrifying. The one picture is somewhat obscured by snow, but it shows the wreckage from the tornado. I will 100% come back here and hike the path beneath the bridge and explore the wreckage.
We explored the Pennsylvania Lumber Museum – Jaclyn found an old train there (Dalia was inside the conductor’s area ringing a bell on a long rope).
Earlier last week, I had to travel to New Orleans for work and then came home on Wednesday night to see one of my favorite bands, Luna, perform at the Warhol Museum. I got an autographed poster that I cherish!