Saturday, May 31, 2014

Allegheny NF Boondocking

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  If I were to describe my perfect boondocking spot this would be it – a flat grass covered clearing nestled in a forest with mixture of sun and shade plus a clear babbling brook right outside the door. The kind of place that boondockers are a little afraid to share for fear that it will be overused and destroyed in the process. We found this after the spot that I had scoped out on Google satellite view turned out to be a mud hole. Scouting out a new place led us to drive up a gravel spur which dead ended at this camping paradise.

  This is obviously a well used camping spot with a large fire ring and plenty of room for several RVs and tents. It’s been kept very clean. The forest in this area is riddled with old oil pumper roads and signs of a removed pumpjack are visible at the far end of the clearing. To find the spot go north on US 219 from the intersection of 219 and US 6 for about 5 miles. Turn left on route 3006 towards Westline. Travel slightly shy of a mile and turn left onto the gravel spur after crossing the bridge over Windfall Run. Pass the nonworking pumpjack to get to the camp site. The site is large but I’m not sure if there’s turning room for a fifth wheel.  Since it’s close to US 219 there’s a little traffic noise.

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Friday, May 30, 2014

Kinzua Bridge Skywalk

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  When it was built in 1882 the Kinzua Bridge was the longest and tallest railroad bridge in the world with a span of 2053’ over a 301’ deep valley. In 1900 the bridge was rebuilt using steel as a replacement for the original iron to make it strong enough for newer, heavier trains. The bridge was in daily use until 1959 when commercial train traffic started using another line and the bridge was sold as salvage to Nick Kovalchick, Nick couldn’t bear to tear the bridge down and petitioned the state to buy it for a park. In 1970 the park was officially opened to the public. From 1987 until 2002 a tourist train crossed the bridge as part of a 97 mile scenic excursion. Then on July 21, 2003 disaster struck. The bridge was closed (fortunately) for restoration when a tornado swept up the valley and ripped 11 of the 20 towers from their sandstone piers.

  Trains will never again run across the valley but six of the original towers now support a pedestrian walkway. A viewing platform at the end looks over the valley and has a section of glass flooring panels that give a view straight down through the girders to the ground. A kiosk has informative signs and something we never seen before at an outside exhibit – a flat screen with a video about the bridge construction.

  The sidewalk leading to the bridge walkway has a slight downhill slope. The walkway is accessible but the view is blocked a little by the railings. A view of the walkway itself can be seen by following the General Kane Trail to the first deck. Bypass the handicapped parking spaces and park on the opposite side of the lot, close to the sidewalk, for an easier roll.

  The parking lot is large enough for any RV.  Park

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Thursday, May 29, 2014

Cook Forest State Park

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  Cook Forest will always be a special place for me. Every year my mother and father would load up our old car, packing camping supplies high on the roof. More equipment was layered on the floor in the back with a piece of plywood covering everything to make a footrest for the short legs of my two brothers, my sister and me. Then we were off to spend two weeks camping in a leaky canvas tent, cooking marshmallows over a campfire and hiking in the cool, shady forest. But we weren’t very good at posing for pictures!

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   I think this was the last camping trip for my father. Shortly after this summer he had open heart surgery to correct damage from a bout of childhood rheumatic fever and didn’t survive the operation.

  Cook Forest has one of the largest stands of old growth forest east of the Mississippi. The Cook family settled along the Clarion River in 1828 and built a sawmill. By the 1920s Pennsylvania's forests were reduced to stubble but the Cooks had preserved about 6000 acres which was bought by the state with help from an early environmental group, the Cook Forest Association. Hiking trails wind through the forest leading to trees that stretch 150’ to the sky and have diameters of four and five feet.

   Most of the hiking trails are steeply sloped or have steps. We walked and rolled along the fire tower road which is directly across from the campground entrance. The road is hard packed dirt and gravel and pretty easy to push along. It travels through old forest with few signs of logging. The road is about 3 miles round trip. It’s better to go out and back the same way because the second half has more hills. The overlook is not accessible.

  The campground has 210 sites. The condition of the sites varies a lot. Some have gravel parking pads, others are just grass which gets very muddy. Some sites have electric hookups and one section is getting made over to have full hookups. The accessible sites in E section are excellent with concrete parking pads that extend under the accessible picnic tables and to the grills and fire rings. They’re close to the accessible restrooms.  Park

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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Venango Museum of Art Science & Industry

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   The highlight of this small museum is a restored 1928 Wurlitzer Theater Organ. Ask to hear the music! Other exhibits cover the discovery of oil in Venango county and the way it has changed our lives for the better and worse.

   An accessible entrance with a ramp is located at the rear of the museum. Ring the bell for admittance.  All of the exhibits areas are accessible.

  Small RVs will fit in the parking lot. Larger RVs can park along the street.  Museum

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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Harrison State Forest Trailriders Campground

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  The history of southeast Ohio includes underground coal mining and above ground strip mining which caused hillside erosion and water pollution from mine drainage. Many of the old strip mining areas have been reclaimed, reforested and are now suitable for other uses such as this campground. The campground has paved parking pads, fire rings, picnic tables and vault toilets. Water is available but it isn’t potable.There’s no fee for camping.

  This is a horse camp but anyone is welcome to camp. Most of the sites are fairly short, narrow and not level so it might be difficult to maneuver a horse trailer or a long RV into them. The sites and toilets are not wheelchair accessible.

The campground road is paved and less than a mile long so it very easy to access the campground from Route 9 but check the forest website before planning a trip. A short section of the road slipped and the campground is closed until that’s repaired. Campground

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Friday, May 23, 2014

Warther Carvings & Gardens

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  Ernest "Mooney" Warther lived simply, content go to work at the steel mill and spend time with family in their little house surrounded by his wife’s flower gardens, but in his spare time he carved walnut wood. His carving are absolutely amazing - extremely detailed and exact miniatures of the real thing. He carved 64 trains, walking canes, post cards, 1000s of wooden pliers and even scenes from the steel mill where he worked.  He was working on a carving of the Lady Baltimore locomotive when he died at age 84.

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  Mooney didn’t make the models to sell so when, after 23 years, he quit working at the steel mill he still needed to support his family which was the start of his knife manufacturing business. He had learned how to forge and temper steel when he couldn’t find good knives for his carving work. Today, Warther kitchen cutlery is made by 3rd and 4th generation Warthers and is available for purchase at the gift shop.

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  The museum is shown by guided tour which we thoroughly enjoyed. Our tour guide was extremely knowledgeable and the tour flows well through the museum galleries. Visitors are welcome to visit any of the rooms on their own after the tour. At the end of the tour large windows allow a good view of the work going on in the knife factory. Before or after the tour visit the Warther house which is opened for self guided tours. There’s also a small building that houses Mrs. Warther’s huge button collection. The flower gardens are planted with seasonal flowers.

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  The museum is wheelchair accessible. The house has a ramp up to the front porch and the rooms inside are accessible. The button museum has a step at the entrance but most of the display can be seen from the doorway. The garden paths are very narrow and because the gardens are on several levels most areas are not accessible. Park at the gift shop parking lot close to the main entrance for easy access to the museum.

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  The main parking lot has plenty of room for RVs but there are two sets of steps up to the museum. If you can’t walk up the steps drive through the lot and park in the gift shop lot on the upper level.  Museum

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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Fannie May Chocolate Tours

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  This Fannie May factory produces 10 million pounds of chocolates each year. The tour goes through the whole process from melted chocolate being poured into molds to boxes being filled with finished chocolates. Visitors view all of the operations from large windows overlooking the factory floor. The tour includes a short video and a story board display about the founding of both Fannie May and Harry London. It ends in the gift shop where freshly made candy, boxed candy and good bargains ( half price dark chocolate bunnies! ) are available for purchase.

  The tour is accessible. An employee operated lift accesses the second floor.  Some of the processes that are located directly under the windows are a little hard to see.

  The parking lot is not very big but RVs can park lengthwise across the spaces.  Tour
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Sunday, May 18, 2014

Massillon Museum

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  This is a very small museum with two floors of changing exhibits and a permanent exhibit of a hand carved miniature circus. Most of the 2,620 circus pieces were carved by Dr. Robert Immel using tools from his dental practice. It took him almost 50 years.

  Everything in the museum is accessible.

  Two hour free parking is located along the streets around the museum.  RVs will fit taking up two spaces.  Museum

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Saturday, May 17, 2014

Silver Springs Campground

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  The campground is a large grassy field with picnic tables, fire rings and electric hookups. Most of the sites are not clearly marked although a few do have gravel parking pads. The ground is uneven and very soft after a rain. It may be difficult to level a large RV and the RV may sink into the soft ground and get stuck.  Porti potties are the only facilities at the campground but there are flush toilets at the ball fields. There’s a dump station and potable water available.  The best thing about the campground is easy access to the 34 mile paved Hike & Bike Trail.

  The campground does not have accessible sites but as long as the ground is dry wheelchairs will work in most of them. The picnic tables have long overhangs. The bike trail is wide, level, shady and fairly smooth but has steep up and down grades at all of the highway crossings.

  There are two entrances to the park – one for the ball fields and one for the campground. There isn’t a path or road connecting the two. The ball field section has a large parking lot at the heritage area that will accommodate RVs. If you plan to roll along the trail this lot is a better place to park than the campground because you must travel along the road for a short distance. Campground      

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Friday, May 16, 2014

Wyandot Popcorn Museum

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  The red, white and blue stripes of a circus tent adds a colorful touch to the room which houses many antique popcorn machines plus an informative display  about the Brown family and the Wyandot Popcorn Company. Wyandot was founded during the depression to supplement farming income. The company is still family owned and based in Marion, Ohio but now it manufactures snack foods under private store labels and sells it’s products wholesale rather than retail. Visitors receive a fresh box of popcorn as they leave the museum. The popcorn museum is part of the Marion County Historical Society museum which has a gallery with local history and another with memorabilia from Warren G. Harding’s presidency.

  The museum is accessible. A ramp on the east side of the building leads to an entrance with a button to push for admittance. The basement level where the Harding display is located is accessed by an elevator.

Parking, roomy enough for RVs, is at the rear of the museum. Follow the walkway between the buildings if you need to use the ramp.  Museum

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Thursday, May 15, 2014

Hartman Rock Garden

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  Ben Hartman, a molder at the Springfield Machine Tool Company, was laid off in 1932 but he wasn’t content to sit around and began building a cement pond behind his house. Before long his backyard was filled with fanciful concrete and stone creations. Ben died 12 years later and his wife Mary took over the care of the garden until her death in 1997. The garden is now cared for by the Friends of the Hartman Rock Garden. Every spring they weed and plant new flowers. We visiting in early spring so everything was still a little shaggy.

  The garden is not accessible due to steps at the front entrance and very narrow walkways through the garden. The gates in the fence are locked and not used as entrances. The actual entrance is on the left side of the house and is easy to miss.

  Parking is on the street with plenty of room for RVs on McCain Ave.

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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Cox Arboretum

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  About 2.5 miles of trails wander past flower beds and through the woods. One mile is paved and accessible. The other 1.5 miles are packed dirt and gravel with steps and steep sections. The butterfly fly house doesn’t open until July 7th. It appears to be accessible but the path to it is composed of coarse gravel which may be difficult to push through.

  RVs will fit in the lot backed up over the grass or lengthwise across the spaces.  Arboretum

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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Miami Valley Gaming

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  Gambling just became legal in Ohio in 2012 so this casino is very new and spacious with all of the latest machines. It’s also nonsmoking. There are no video poker machines or table games. The money and card slots are easy to reach and the chairs aren’t very heavy.

  The parking lot is large. There isn’t a special oversized vehicle section but we stayed overnight without any problems. We parked inline with the front entrance so it was easy to roll across the lot and up the curb cuts to front door.  Casino

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