I had a rough start to my trip back to PA from the Catskills. I left Phonecia at 6 PM and headed west towards Pine Creek Gorge. What looked short on paper was six hours of driving, and I arrived at Mansfield after midnight. I chose the path of least resistance and ‘camped’ in the back of my car in the parking lot of the local Wal-Mart. After getting a few hours of restless sleep I headed back up Route 15 to the visitor’s center. I’d seen a sign for “overlook” on the drive into Pennsylvania and I knew the visitor’s center was on the southbound side of the road. So a quick turnaround at the Tioga exit had me heading south again and in a minute I was pulling into the parking lot.
I arrived before the local fog had burnt off, so I spent time in the visitor’s center picking up maps and travel brochures. When the fog cleared I was treated to an expansive panorama of the Tioga and Hammond Lakes dam area. There are a couple of platforms for viewing, but you can photograph anywhere along the fence, and the fence is long. Both the photographs to the right were taken at differing locations on the fence. Walking along it was the easiest “hike” I’d ever done, and one of the most rewarding.
I wasn’t done with Hammond and Tioga Lakes, however. Later that day I’d come across a map showing an overlook just off Route 287 North, opposite the lake. I drove to Ridge Road, went round a hairpin turn under a rock cliff, and passed a long-abandoned and chained pulloff. I parked the car, went around the barrier – using a stick to probe the high grass for timber rattlers – and spent a few minutes contemplating the beauty of Tioga County. Tioga is my favorite region of Pennsylvania, and its views like this that remind me why. A day that started with grubby sleep on a bad back in a parking lot ended with this. All days should improve like this.