One drawback to the vacation I’d planned was travel. My route took me from outside Reading to Ligonier to Raystown Lake to near Williamsport to Bradford, and then home. Pennsylvania is a big state, and Westsylvania a large part of that state. So after my too short stay in Ligonier I had a two hour drive to Raystown Lake.

Pennsylvania is a mountainous state with many rivers, and has a history of flooding – ask any resident of Johnstown, for instance, or read about the flood in that town in 1889. The US Army Corp of Engineers over the 20th century built several dam projects to control the variable flow of rivers in the state, and Raystown is one of them. The blocking of the Raystown Branch of the Juniata River created a long, snakelike lake, one heavily forested with steep slopes down to the water. 

As is evident from the flotilla of boats on the lake, Raystown is a popular recreation area. My plans were to camp with Brian, the blogger behind the Hike By Faith website, and possibly hike with him the next day. I was excited because Brian is a hard core outdoorsman and an experienced backpacker, and I hoped I could gain wisdom for my upcoming backpacking trip, five days away.

Keeping in mind his experience I was surprised to pull up to a campsite in the middle of RVs and trailers, and to find a giant picnic style tent set up at the site. My first reaction was to reach for my outdoor snobbery – I normally camp in secluded areas without power or water, or on bike tours, and this wasn’t what I expected. But after a minute I realized I was being a fool.  “How can you say you run a website devoted to showing ‘the outdoors is for everyone’ when you turn up your nose at most people’s idea of camping?”  I thought.

Also, I’d never actually experienced this ‘family’ style of enjoying the outdoors. I try to push myself into new experiences; they didn’t always have to be difficult. So I decided to let myself have fun. Brian and two friends spent the morning kayaking while I was in Ligonier, and now we were together and unwinding with lawn chairs, coolers, and a massive tent. Despite my initial misgivings I had a great time. And I’d love to do this style of camping again, if I can find friends to join me.

Speaking of tents, when it was time to retire for the night, I used my tent for the first time in two years. One minor drawback to my bilateral knee replacement is that getting up from low places is difficult at times. Also, while I can kneel, like many people with replacements I choose not to because kneeling on metal and plastic feels odd compared to kneeling on bone. (Yes, that makes me a non-kneeling Neil.) My previous camping involved sleeping in the back of my car. So I honestly wondered if I’d be able to get up out of the tent. My last words to Brian before retiring were asking him to help me get up if I couldn’t manage it on my own.

My first night in a tent went uneventfully, and I had no trouble rising the next morning.  After a heartier breakfast than I normally have when camping, thanks to portable stoves and other items an outdoor ‘snob’ doesn’t use, we parted. Brian’s schedule didn’t let him join me for hiking, unfortunately, and neither did that of his friends. I stayed at Raystown, and headed to the Visitor’s Center to hike trails in that part of the lake.