Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Pennsylvania Wilds and why I love going there

Pennsylvania Wilds (map) is a two million acre area in the northern part of the state. Here are the main reasons I like going there so much: - Distance. It's closer to Toronto than Algonquin Park, by a good 100Km. - Getting there is easy and fast. You can reach the fun zone in less than three hours of riding/driving from Toronto and you can pretty much forget any traffic congestion as soon as you cross the border. - Traffic. There's very little of it on any day and in any season. You'll see more vehicles on the roads in Muskoka on a Wednesday morning in November than on a summer long weekend in Spoul State Forest. Crawling behind a truck towing a 20m boat is for those that go to Ontario cottage country every weekend. - Roads. It's practically impossible to find a boring piece of asphalt or gravel anywhere in this area, and believe me - I have tried. You can't make a wrong turn if you enjoy a good road for the roads' sake. - Nature and scenery. Lush forests, mountains, rivers, lakes, farmland, small towns, national forests, game lands, recreational areas, state parks (dozens of them: http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/stateparks/findapark/where/index.htm). Ever changing and ever pleasant vistas with magnificent overlooks. Hundreds of places to stop and smell the proverbial roses without having to share them with flocks of minivan tourists. - People. Friendly and easy to communicate with. I can't say I made friends for life, but all my interactions with the locals were quite pleasant and unpretentious. - Food. It's pretty easy to find decent to very good food and servings are generous to huge. It's quite hard to find a meal that will set you back more than $15, beer included. - Accommodations. You won't find any big hotel/motel chains in the area and quality varies greatly, from $30/night dusty and claustrophobic old hotels (bring your own sleeping bag just in case) to $75/night in a refurbished old mansion B&B. There are hundreds of camps around, from KOA to completely amenity-free camping spots in the forest. - Laws and law enforcement. Pennsylvania is a helmet optional state. Speed limits in populated areas are reasonable (35 or 40mph) and traffic enforcement outside of the few small towns and more frequently traveled roads is practically nonexistent. I guess local and state cops have better things to do than set up speed traps on roads that see a few vehicles an hour on a busy day. If, by chance, one gets a speeding ticket, at least that ticket won't show up on his Ontario driving record (I don't mind paying that form of random taxation as much as I detest being raped by Ontario insurance companies because of it). What don't I like about Pennsylvania Wilds? Not a lot, really. I could do without sniffing gas every few kilometers (oil and gas wells are all over the place although not often visible from the road). There are a few oil refineries that are an eyesore, but I guess people there have to live from something other than hunting and fishing. I would also like to see a more diverse population - I don't think I ever saw any person of color there. Also, God and American flags are everywhere, just spoiling the scenery IMO.