Poe Paddy Park on Penns Creek, Pennsylvania
It was already October and my best friend John was bugging me to organize the last camping trip of the season. I picked up the phone and called Poe Paddy Park State Park to make reservations. "Oh, advance registrations won't be necessary this late in the season. You can fill out a self registration form at the campground," I was told by the ranger. With that I began to plan the itinerary and round up a group of campers. It would be John and my second eldest son Steve. This was going to be an introductory trip for my grandson Joseph, so my son-in-law Ken, his friend Chris and his little boy Christopher, who was the same age as Joseph. Oh yes, and Steve's dog Taz. Taz is one of those friendly Golden Retrievers that jumps up and down to be petted by everyone she meets. She also is a primo hair generator. It sort of makes you wonder about perpetual something.
We packed all our camping gear in the trailer. I decided to leave the cover off since we were expecting good weather for the trip. Steve followed my van with his SUV and Taz. The trip was going great for the first 30 minutes when another driver signaled to us that some gear had blown out of the trailer. Steve stopped to pick it up. Now who could expect a sleeping bag to be damaged buy a bump on the road, But I didn't know John had placed a bottle of wine inside the bag where it would be "safe". That was one sweet smelling sleeping bag. We could all have gotten high breathing the vapors.
After a few hours we turned off the main road onto the road leading to Poe Paddy park. We had 13 miles to go and we would be setting up camp and preparing for a relaxing evening, without the wine. I suppose it was just as well because I am sure alcoholic drinks would not be allowed in the park along with other things, as we were soon to learn. This road was what canoeists would call a Class 6. The season was extremely dry. The potholes had to be carefully negotiated at 5 MPH. The dust engulfed us, covering the packs in the trailer with a layer of silt and leaking into the car everywhere. Steve had to fall back a mile to stay out of our cloud. A mile at our speed was about 6 minutes. After another 90 minutes of bouncing and choking on Pennsylvania earth we pulled into the ranger station to register. Now things began to get bad.
The ranger came in from the garage wiping grease from his hands. He explained that he was fixing the starter on his jeep. We asked about sites, filled out forms and made arrangements to give up our Maryland greenbacks. Uh, what is this about no pets? Does that include dogs? "Cain't have no dawgs in the park," the ranger told us.
Nothing was said on the telephone about dogs. We came too far to go back home. What else could we do? Can't you make an exception? "The "dawg" is friendly, doesn't bark, and besides, Ain't nobody else in the park", I said. "Cain't have no dawgs in the park", he reiterated.
I think I was beginning to understand, this guy really doesn't care. "Where else can we go," I asked. You can camp in the State Forest, we were told. Great! Sign us up for a site. "Cain't do that," the ranger said. The State Forest sites are booked by the Forest Service. "Can we give them a call," I asked. "Nope, they are out all day on forest fire patrol," we were told. We would have to drive another 20 miles on that wonderful moonscape piece of Pennsylvania road, wait until the forest ranger came in from patrol to register for the site. By that time it would be dark and we would still have to drive 20 miles back and set up camp. This wasn't going to work. We decided to drive up the mountain and check out one of the state forest campsites. Actually, we thought we could talk it over while we ate the usual lunch of cheese, crackers, and beefstick.
During lunch we considered camping in the state forest without a permit. Well, if we were going to do that, why not go back and camp in the campground without a permit. We were getting desperate and starting to surrender some of our principles. After eating we drove back to Poe Paddy and into the campground. On the way in we saw the ranger driving out. "He must have gotten his starter fixed," I noted. We located a couple of good spots and began setting up tents when the ranger returned. "Where's the dawg," he asked. We explained that we were going to keep her in the car. "Cain't have no dawgs in the car," he said. Being in a rather precarious situation we began loading up our gear. We decided to drive over the mountain to the town of Coburn.
In Coburn we were directed half way back up the mountainside to a private campground. We met the owner of Hemlock Acres and were expecting to hear those ominous words again, "Ain't no dawgs allowed," But that was not to be. We, and Taz, were welcomed as guests would expect a welcome. We were given a choice of campsites, as this campground was empty as well. We found a very nice grassy site and set up our tents, prepared our dinner and retired for the night.
When we arose the next day we drove down along Penns Creek and found the abandoned railroad that took us across the river to another settlement. It was too far to reach the trestle we originally planned to cross, so we finally returned to the car and drove back to Maryland, avoiding Poe Paddy State Park and the dust bowl. I don't think I will ever be going back to Poe Paddy again, with or without a "dawg".