Appalachian Mountains, Pennsylvania
Here in the Northeast, we're accustomed to magnificent color shows every autumn. But a day trip through the Appalachian Mountains on the northern edge of Pennsylvania outdid even my wildest expectations.
We began by heading north out of Reading on U.S. Highway 61, which we followed for many miles. The colors were brilliant, and the beautiful farm fields looked like patchwork quilts.
After a stop in Danville, along the Susquehanna River, we turned onto State Highway 54. Here the land flattened out and we could see for miles in every direction. The fall colors dazzled us again when we turned northwest onto I-180, and the white steeples of small-town churches provided a magnificent contrast to the brilliant hues.
At Liberty, we turned west onto State Highway 414 and followed it to State Highway 287 and Wellsboro, a 194-year-old town near the New York state line. We were charmed by the working gaslights along the main street and had a delicious lunch at the Penn Wells Hotel, a beautifully restored 19th-century building.
After lunch, we took a side trip--a 90-minute ride on the vintage Tioga Central Railroad, traveling to the northern end of Hammond Lake. This historic line was established in 1872 and is now run by volunteers.
The 24-mile trip, one of three offered on Saturdays and Sundays (from May 13 through October 22), costs only $10. No reservations are necessary for these daily excursions, but you should arrive early to be sure you get a seat.
Saving the best for last, we topped off our day of spectacular scenery with Pine Creek Gorge, also known as "The Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania". We weren't disappointed--it displayed some of the finest fall foliage I've seen anywhere.
Located about 10 miles southwest of Wellsboro in Leonard Harrison State Park and open year-round, the gorge consists of two tree-lined canyons, 47 miles long and 800 feet deep. There are several public overlooks, and admission is free.
After that, we returned home, tired but satisfied. We observed Mother Nature at her best, visited a charming town, took a ride on a vintage train line, did a little shopping and enjoyed some great food. Not bad for one day!
If You Visit...
Wellsboro has a lot to offer, including a series of year-round festivals. (In October alone, there's Homecoming Harvest and Wellsboro Rail Days.) For details call 1-570/724-1926.
The Tioga Central Railroad also offers theater and dinner trips as well as group charters; call 1-570/724-0990 for details.
For information on Leonard Harrison State Park, call 1-717/ 724-3061.