I have always wanted to camp out and was looking at the parks and information. I noticed PA State Parks has a first time camper’s program where they are going to provide the required material and guide us through camping. It was a good option to just try it out first and so I signed up. I also picked Black Moshannon as not only was it close by (and never visited so far) but also one of the must visit parks in PA. While picking a date, no date was available sooner but it wasn’t harder once I came to know there is going to be an annual festival and activities. What a great decision it proved to be !
With more than a month to go, they sent a welcome package with maps, things to bring etc. As the date neared, we shopped and packed the things (with some guidance of ‘things to bring’ list they sent). We set out on a Friday night reached ‘çampsite’ around 7 PM. Our ‘tent’ was neatly setup, with electric stove, lamp, chairs, axe provided by the program. Oh, the cell reception was totally lost (even otherwise I had decided to remain switched off for 2 days). There were already many tents and recreational vehicles already set up and this made it even more comforting.
We still had couple of hours before sunset and we spent that playing in ‘beach’ area. We came back and created camp fire to cook corn and later heated pre-prepared food on stove for dinner.
On Saturday morning we woke up early to start our hiking. It was an easy and short hike, after returning from which (after throwing stones into water) we quickly finished breakfast to head over to the activities area. First activity was building ‘sand castle’ – although meant for kids, I noticed some parents taking part too. Wifey took part (and as many things, it was her first time in sand playing) and slowly overtook (read ‘destroyed’) my built casual attempt walls, domes and started building her own structure. I was contempt in sitting back and watching 🙂 One of the visitors stopped by and asked if it was Indian architecture and I replied Taj Mahal – any tourist from any part of the world can talk about 2-3 things about India without introduction – Gandhi, Taj Mahal, and color of skin.
Even though it was a kids’ activity, I couldn’t help notice a very competitive father who built the monument all by himself, several times shouting at his kids to stay away.
I was all prepared to explain (cook up a story) to judges, how this structure is a replica of a famous temple in India – but they never explicitly stopped near wifey’s creation. However, they were so confused with all the great structures built around, they announced 9 first prizes for all participants ! I wasn’t even sure if they counted ours among the 9, but they had.
Soon after sand castle building, a bunch of other activities followed. Sawing, ‘scat’ dropping (dropping a tiny object into a jar from a height), log rolling (rolling a heavy log – we couldn’t complete this..), axe throwing ( like throwing dart, to bull’s eye) , spitting ( sunflower seeds to maximum distance), throwing horse shoe magnet ( I sucked at 2 trials but did pretty good in actual throws ..so much that he was surprised and doubted that I was just fooling around in trials, and I was one of few since morning to get that score..), cone throwing. It was good fun and lot of sun – which means, next stop was at Ice cream shop. Delicious it was, needless to say.
We headed back for a quick lunch and came back to witness people climbing on two ends of a log and falling into water. I was afraid that I would be able to climb onto it, otherwise it would have been a good, fun adventure falling into water while the whole crowd was watching. Awards were then announced, including yearly titles such as ‘Lumber Jack’and ‘Lumber Jill’. And then it was several hours of playing in water.
Later that evening, we went on a ‘bog’s walk’/board walk hike that we couldn’t locate in the morning. It was good to walk into what looked like middle of nowhere, surrounded by silence and beautiful scenery comprising of water and greenery all around.
Back to our camp, we put camp fire again to cook another corn. After relaxing a bit we left to ‘beach party’- with wifey dressed too well. Which meant we went back to dress down and return soon to the beach party. After bit of dancing (wifey) and watching stars in the sky (me), we returned to end the night with some late dinner.
Despite a very hectic and tired saturday, we were up on our feet early morning to venture on a ‘difficult’ rated hiking. I was on the lookout for snakes on the way, because we were alarmed that way by instructions. It was a walk next to a stream, although a very narrow path – something unlike my other hikes. We returned in time to head back to ‘bird watching’ talk. The bird guide gave us instructions about birding, different apps that are available for bird calls etc. It was an interesting session.
That fly casting one might have seen fishers do is actually pretty hard. Does take some practice. One grand dad who has fished all his life was volunteering to teach people fly casting. I failed miserably to learn – yet he told I was doing good. I couldn’t disappoint him any more and passed it on to wifey, who did slightly better than me.
Both of the days, there was country/folk music going on in the festival area. There were food carts and arts exhibitions/sales. We relaxed and listened to some music while watching people canoeing.
There was a contest of building boat with cardboard boxes, and this time we didn’t want to interrupt a kids contest ! We tried a bit of canoeing and had light maggi lunch before preparing to watch canoe race. Several participants (all amateurs) took part in canoe race and it was fun to watch. On second thought, even if we didn’t know how to navigate quickly, we could have participated. I wanted to rent canoe but we were very tired (and it was hot), so decided to return home.
That noon, it was sad to see people starting to pack up (tents, RV)and leave .. It was one of the best experiences and a great vacation – in the middle of jungle with no reception, but with lot of people, music, lot of time in water, and full of activities and games. It couldn’t have got better.