Wildlife sightings and drinking with ex-cons

Leaving Sherry and Jack’s in the morning we were in a pretty good mood after having such a nice evening the night before. The weather however wasn’t quite as good, so we decided to head for Penn’s Cave on our winding journey northwards. I did question whether we should really be spending money on another cave tour, as we had just done one, but this one was one a boat!

We were greeted in the car park by this little guy.

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After buying our tickets we headed down some stairs to the cave entrance. Our tour guide was waiting to help us and another 7 people onto the boat. We headed through the half mile of caves.

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Although from my pretty rubbish photos it looks much like the other cave, we were glad we went to this one too. Having the boat trip was a bit different and the tour guide was a lot better. Even though I’m sure she says the same exact things several times a day, it wasn’t as excruciatingly obvious as the previous guide. Having 20 less people on the same tour was good too and we felt like we got to see the caves more.

On our return up to the visitor centre we saw our first chipmunk. It’s facial expression reminds me of my own when Lee walks into the kitchen and I’m raiding the snack cupboard…

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Our next stop was to head for Pine Creek Gorge and find somewhere to park for the night. After driving along the gorge road, it was apparent that it was quite residential and being a gorge there wasn’t much margin to get away from the road. By this point we had a bit of a tailback and didn’t really have a plan on where to go, so Lee pulled over on a drive. Unfortunately the car behind us wanted to go up the drive so we had to drive further up, not a problem in itself until we went to turn the van around. Lee didn’t realise there was a telegraph pole directly behind us and reversed quite enthusiastically into it.

Still aware that we had nowhere to sleep we tried to head down a minor side road to find a lay-by but after several miles of dirt road that didn’t work out. We were now near a picnic area for the lake and we pulled up into the car park. It was a lovely spot, but we were aware that we were in a state park and therefore might not be able to stop here long. We parked right at the back, you can just spot us through the trees.

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We tried to extricate the bikes from each other and the bike rack and surveyed the damage. Ruby’s rear door had a pretty sizeable dent but still shut ok and my bike was fine. The bad news was that the frame on Lee’ s bike was quite bent to the point it had cracked a part of it. The bike rack was also quite bent, although we didn’t realise quite how much until later on.

It was now getting dark and we sat in our van in the gathering dusk, not wanting to turn lights on so that no one would see us parked up. After about 9pm we decided that we were probably ok, and started to cook dinner.

In the morning we scrambled out of bed as a white pick up approached us.. Thinking they had finally seen us. We were both trying to throw some clothes on as the truck parked up behind us. Turns out however that he was just cleaning out the barbecue next to us and didn’t care that we were camping. So we enjoyed our breakfast by the river.

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We decided that we would do a walk, roughly 5 miles long, around the lake further up the road. P1000622

We walked this area, which had signs up saying not to enter as it was an eagle nesting spot.

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The walk headed out into valley, as you can see we had another gorgeous day.P1000625

We continued round in a loop and spotted a (water?) snake on the way back.

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Finishing our walk we went to van to get some money and then walked back up to the campsite restaurant to use the wifi. I also managed to Skype my family as it was my mum’s birthday. We were going to have one drink in the restaurant in exchange for the facilities, but it turns out they have a very cheap happy hour so we stayed for a few more drinks, walking back to the van in the dark. As we had hit gold with our camping spot and it was already dark, we decided to stay another night.

Waking up to this, I could get used to it.

We felt up to a slightly more challenging walk today and moved the van up the restaurant car park where a trail started and headed up through the campsite to valley above. As we were getting ready to leave we spoke to a guy outside the restaurant who was interested in the van, after having a pleasant chat with Craig, who said he worked in the restaurant we headed off.

We climbed steadily for around an hour through the forest. The walking app had warned of rattlesnakes, but the only wildlife we had to deal with was numerous spider webs across the path. This was the high point of the walk and I got the impression that this would have definitely had nice views if the trees didn’t have leaves on. As it was you couldn’t see much.

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We continued along the ridge for a bit before starting a steep descent back to the road. While it was a pleasant enough walk, there wasn’t much to take photos of.

We got to the road a bit higher up above the lake and started to walk back along. Spying a very large toilet block we went to check for showers, but didn’t strike lucky. We continued to walk back towards the van, when Lee spotted something on the trail we had walked the previous day. I’ve never seen a tortoise that big in the wild, so that was pretty cool.

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We decided to take advantage of the very near campsite to fill our water tank and have a shower and then realised the time. It was happy hour again. Justifying that it was always useful to have a bit of wifi we headed for the bar again. Craig came over and starting talking to us again, turns out he was a chef in the restaurant. He was a lovely guy and was so happy that we had enjoyed the area and stayed that he bought us a drink. We told him he was welcome to come and have a drink with us after his shift. We also met another chef who worked there called Scott.

At the end of their shift we had a beer with the two guys, Scott headed off shortly but invited us back to his for some drinks around the fire. Craig bought some beers from the restaurant and asked us if we wanted to join them, he did warn us if we did that Scott ‘wasn’t quite right in the head’ and that he was also an ex-con who was just recovering from Leukaemia. On the promise of interesting conversation, we followed Craig’s car to Scott’s cabin. Scott had fire going in a HGV wheel and we stood around chatting and enjoyed some Yuengling beer.

Lee had a go at axe throwing, Craig chatted about his love of meat and Scott informed us he had been in prison for 15 years but didn’t say why. After two packs of beers and a small bottle of whiskey, it was time to call it a night. Scott said we could stay in the van outside and even offered us a bed in his cabin, which was kind. The two blokes the departed to find an elusive pack of cigarettes, and we headed to bed.

 

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