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Pennsylvania: The Wild, Wild East
Four days in pristine Pennsylvania deliver raucous white water, a hang-gliding haunt, and state-protected starry skies.  Text by Andrea Minarcek
Map: Pennsylvania

Print and Play: Download your own PDF of this map and intinerary >>
[This PDF file requires Adobe Acrobat. Download it here >> ]


North-central Pennsylvania is a bona fide, 21st-century Eden. Or so says the Wildlife Conservation Society's Human Footprint report, which put the rugged woodlands on par with Brazil's Pantanal and China's Gobi as one of the last untarnished tracts on Earth. Only 1.3 percent of the lower 48 is as pure.

Conveniently, the two-million-acre (one-million-hectare) stretch is less than a four-hour drive from New York City, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. Go in May to avoid the Winnebago caravan of leaf peepers and watch the mountain laurels bud and the bald eagles nest. On our four-day itinerary the only crowds you're likely to encounter will be of the elk, trout, and nebular variety.

Day 1: Come May, when snowmelt can boost water flow to 68,000 liters a second, modest Pine Creek makes like a full-fledged river. From Ansonia, canoe 17 miles (27 kilometers) south through the creek's eponymous gorge (aka Pennsylvania's Grand Canyon) on Class II and III rapids and pitch camp near 70-foot (21-meter) Bohen Run Falls, south of the old Tiadaghton logging camp.

Get the skinny on Pine Creek's best fishing holes from the pros at Slate Run Tackle Shop (www.slaterun.com).


Day 2: Pine Creek is stocked with 56,300 trout a year—more than any other lake or stream in the state. Fish from camp in the morning, then paddle two miles (3 kilometers) to Blackwell for pickup. Just north of Wellsboro, Mountain Trail Horse Center leads half-day rides on the ranch's ungroomed trails and has cabins with private redwood hot tubs.

Take it slow: State Route 6 gets a shot of drama near Ansonia, where it overlooks 1,450-foot-deep (445-meter-deep) Pine Creek Gorge.


Day 3: Elk State Forest teems with black bears, coyotes, and bobcats, but it's the 400 namesake elk that hold court. Trek a portion of 19-mile (31-kilometer) Elk Hiking Trail, near Dents Run, for your best shot at a sighting. Make camp at nearby Cherry Springs State Park, beneath skies that astronomers have deemed the darkest in the East.

On summer weekends starting May 27, volunteer astronomy buffs lend their telescopes and expertise to Cherry Springs campers.


Day 4
: Peaceful northern Pennsylvania is anything but when you're launching yourself off of Hyner View peak, 1,340 feet (408 meters) above the West Branch of the Susquehanna River. State College–based Summit Airsports equips you with a hang glider and tandem guide. Says owner Randy Grove: "I've been doing Hyner for 25 years, and it still blows me away every time." (Pun intended.)
 
At Bucktail Lodge near Renovo, just west of State Route 144, load up on pancakes with fruit, fresh from local Amish farms, before taking the plunge at Hyner.

The Vitals
Do: Pine Creek Outfitters ($44 for overnight canoe rental and shuttle;
www.pinecrk.com)

Mountain Trail Horse Center ($80 for a half-day trail ride;
www.mountaintrailhorse.com); Summit Airsports ($115 for a half-hour flight; +1 814 571 1745)

Eat: Bucktail Lodge (+1 570 923 2472), west of State Route 144 near Renovo

Sleep: Mountain Trail Cottage ($63;
www.mountaintrailhorse.com); Cherry Springs State Park ($4; www.dcnr.state.pa.us/stateparks)


Map by Computer Terrain Mapping

Photo: May 2006 Cover



Pick up the May 2006 issue for 38 amazing family escapes, wild beaches, and cool festivals; Sebastian Junger's lessons from the road; and the best bikes for summer.




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