Wandering the Endless Mountains of Northeastern PA
Aug 31, 2016 10:31AM
By Vanessa Orr
Eagles Mere Auto Museum
One of the most exciting things about traveling to a new place is coming upon something completely unexpected. This happened to me recently when I was wandering through the Endless Mountains of Northeastern Pennsylvania, which is made up of Sullivan, Wyoming and Susquehanna counties.
I expected parks—and boy, does this area have parks. And I was prepared for great hiking and kayaking opportunities, both of which this destination, about five hours from Pittsburgh, has in droves. But what I wasn’t expecting was to roam down Highway 42, just a short distance outside the historic village of Eagles Mere, and find an air museum and an auto museum holding world-class collections.
The Eagles Mere Air Museum holds an eclectic group of about 30 vintage aircraft from 1917-1944, but what makes them truly unique is that almost all of them are flyable—and pilots take them out on Sundays for demonstrations. Many of them are the only airworthy examples left of specific types of planes; there’s even a 1917 Curtiss Jenny on display that is one of only 50 left in the world, with the rest being in the hands of museums or private owners. The museum also features a wealth of displays focused on the history of early aviation; my favorite was a wonderfully detailed look at the role of women pilots in those early days—who knew that the WASPS (Women Airforce Service Pilots) were the first to pilot the big bombers flown in WWII?
Even more jaw-dropping, at least to me as a muscle car fan, was what was held in an adjacent hangar—about 70 classic cars at the Eagles Mere Auto Museum, all the property of one very dedicated private collector. While the space itself isn’t gigantic, it holds a truly impressive display of 1950s and ‘60s automobiles ranging from Chevelles to a whole row of ’69 Camaros, and classic Woody station wagons. Wandering through the bright colors, shiny chrome and classic tail fins is like taking a trip back in time—in fact, it reminded me of days spent at my granddaddy’s filling station in Indianapolis…though this garage is so pristine that no vehicle would even dream of leaving a drop of oil behind.
It’s important to note that these museums are only open on weekends and from mid-May to mid-October, so plan your trip wisely. You won’t have any trouble finding other things to do while in the area, though, especially if you like hiking or biking. Susquehanna County offers more than 15 miles of trails at Salt Springs State Park, which, interestingly enough, is the only state park not run by the state. A nonprofit organization cares for the 848-acre park, which features waterfalls, campsites and cabins, as well as Penny Rock, a favorite of locals who take a short hike along the boardwalk to place pennies in the stone formation and make a wish.
If you prefer to ride, the 38-mile D & H Rail Trail runs from Simpson all the way to the New York border, passing under the Starrucca Viaduct in Lanesboro. Built by the Erie Railroad in 1847-48, the Viaduct, or “Bridge of Stone” towers above the trail and was the most expensive railway bridge in the world at the time that it was built. If you get a chance, check out the Tunkhannock Viaduct as well; it is an awe-inspiring piece of architecture.
For panoramic views, Elk Mountain Ski Resort sits at the highest elevation point in eastern Pennsylvania at just under 2,700 feet. There are more than 180 acres of skiable terrain, including 27 slopes and trails and two terrain parks. Speaking of views, Worlds End State Park in Sullivan County is also a popular stop, especially by visitors participating in Endless Mountain fall foliage tours. The park is also a great place for families (and travel writers) to get a little R-and-R after a long hike as it has its own little beach and swimming area alongside Loyalsock Creek.
Speaking of bodies of water, if you’re looking for a relaxing place to paddle, the Susquehanna North Branch was just named 2016 River of the Year and is a wonderful place to spend an afternoon. You can rent kayaks or canoes from Susquehanna Kayak & Canoe, or take a guided tour. They also offer full moon kayak trips and even kayak wine tours…need I say more?
One last stop that I’ll mention (and there were many other cool places to visit) is Artisan Alpacas in Sullivan County. While I’ve been to other alpaca farms, I’ve never been to one where the animals actually rushed to meet you (and the treats you’re holding). Even better was the chance to meet Bear, an Italian Maremma sheepdog from Italy, who is roughly the size of a house, and his Great Pyrenees companion. While I wasn’t able to bring any of the larger animals home, I was able to buy a miniature hat-wearing alpaca in their small but beautifully curated store to hang out with me at home.
For more information on the Endless Mountains, visit:
Endless Mountains Visitors Bureau: www.EndlessMountains.org, 570-836-5431
Artisan Alpacas: www.artisanalpacas.com
D&H Rail Trail: www.nepa-rail-trails.org
Eagles Mere Air & Auto Museum: www.eaglesmereairmuseum.org
Eagles Mere Lake and Eagles Mere Museum: www.VisitHistoricEaglesMere.com
Elk Mountain Ski Resort: www.elkskier.com
Endless Mountains Nature Center: www.endlessnature.org
Howland Preserve: www.nblt.org
Salt Springs State Park: www.friendsofsaltspringspark.org
Susquehanna Kayak & Canoe: www.kayaktheriver.com
Worlds End State Park: www.dcnr.state.pa.us/stateparks/findapark/worldsend
Eagles Mere Inn: www.eaglesmereinn.com
Fern Hall Inn: www.fernhallinn.com
Twigs Café (Tunkhannock): www.twigscafe.com
Comfort Inn, Tunkhannock: www.choicehotels.com/pennsylvania/tunkhannock/comfort-inn-hotels/pa659