Pine Grove Furnace State Park, PA (Pt. 1)

May 10

This park was named thusly due to the presence of a historic charcoal iron furnace on the property, PG Furnace SP is one of three state parks in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania. The furnace was built in 1764 and operated for 131 years. During the 1930s, a camp for the Civilian Conservation Corps used a site right outside this park, which cabin area was later used during WWII as a German POW camp.

The Appalachian Trail courses through the Park, and many through-hikers are proud to make it to Cumberland County, PA as it is the middle of the 2000+ mile hike from Springer Mountain in GA to Mt. Katahdin in Maine. Right at the mouth of the State Park is the Appalachian Trail Museum, which I highly recommend as an informative, not-at-all-stuffy, friendly-staffed stop. It’s a small museum packed with books, t-shirts, memorabilia, information, history, hiker’s stories, photos, and more.

Downside to the PG Furnace SP is that there’s not much else close by. 

We arrived early (around 2:30 on Saturday, May 9) and realized along the way that there was exactly zero cell service around the park, so missed the entryway to the campground itself (thinking we could rely on an online map to find our site). Trailered the Roomba up a narrow, climbing road for quite a while before finally finding someplace that might allow a turn-around. Did our first “back the trailer to turn around” three-point reverse and it went pretty well. Glad there was no traffic on that skinny road.

Back down that road, and we hit the correct entrance and saw the “campground full” sign but soldiered ahead, finding our reserved spot in short order. Another backing the trailer campaign and we were set up and un-hitched in a snap.

 Ventured out straight away to find some info and spoke to a couple of nice folks in the Visitors Center and got a map of the area, as well as a map of Gettysburg, and chatted about where we might find some groceries. We asked about any nearby Rail Trails, and they told us of one not too far away — a new discovery for us, which we got excited about.

Totally by chance, on one of the maps we saw a “Country Butcher” shop and just had to find it (and maybe a farmer’s market?). We did, and got a couple of very nice steaks that would do for two of our dinners (roquefort butter steaks, anyone?), but the true excitement abounded when we found real Lebanon Bologna. Took home a healthy stack of that PA treasure! 

Unfortunately, it’s still a bit early in the season for the farmer’s markets to be selling anything but plants and starts, so we did not get lucky on that front.

They suggested we head toward Carlisle for groceries and on the outskirts, found a grocery called Nell’s. It was similar to our Food Lion in Floyd, and we got a bunch of stuff to carry us over for meals in PG Furnace SP. Jack also found a package store and we felt it was warm enough to initiate G&T season, so we did.

High on the agenda was Gettysburg Battlefield, so despite predictions of rain and thunderstorms, we loaded the bikes onto the car rack and headed to the town and the battlefield visitor center/museum/etc. Saw the movie and watched the “Cyclorama,” which is a light and sound show built around an enormous oil painting by Paul Philippoteaux, which had been painted close to the time of the battle itself, around 1864-5 (?). It was restored within the last decade, and has found its home in this circular display area where they do a light show to help visitors experience the battle. It’s pretty amazing, and with the movie and the museum, well worth the $11.50 senior citizen discount ticket prices.  

Of course, we were there on Mother’s Day, as were thousands of other folks. So we headed out on our bicycles, parking at the Pennsylvania Monument (all of the states who had soldiers participating at the battle have erected monuments to their fallen and wounded). A body could climb up to a top tier of the monument, which I did, and took some photos of the view.   

   Following the “Auto Tour” signs our day was a 22-mile round of the battlefield, and of course, we took our time (but did not stop at every signpost or historic marker, else we’d be there to this day). In the end, with stops and a picnic lunch we packed along, we were riding about 2 hours, and our Cyclometers registered about equal time stopped along the way, so it was a four-hour bicycling adventure (not including the visitor center sights).   


The rain held off and along the way we saw some totally ridiculous-looking folks on Seg-Way thingies, taking a tour. It was too funny not to take a photo or two.   
I liked seeing the tall monuments with horses against the blue sky, and I took several pix like that, but here are the best.


And of course, we stopped at Virginia’s memorial to its fallen, having (who else?) Robert E. Lee on Traveler as the focal point.    

It was VERY hot and we were getting a bit weary, but after eating our picnic lunch at the Peace Memorial, we climbed up to Little Round Top. One cannot get to Gettysburg Battlefield and not go up to Little Round Top. It would be sacrilege. So glad we did — it was a great spot, even though mobbed with peeps, and hotter than a fry pan up there. But Jack especially wanted to see if he could find the place where a photo of his great grandfather Peter Isenberg was taken a century ago on Little Round Top.    

We might have found it, and Jack wanted to stand about where Mr. Peter I. had stood, and we took a photo. He’s going to do something with his heritage website with them. An incidental find as I scrabbled below the boulders was a lovely patch of columbine clinging to the rocky hillside.

We were very hot and about to run out of water, so when we spied a Weiss Grocery store, we wanted to stop for some Gatorade or juice, and while there, we checked email and called Pat McNamara back home, because he’d reported some problems with our rooster attacking him. He said it really wasn’t a problem, but I told him that roosters were replaceable, and if he felt he needed to take drastic action to keep rooster spurs from imbedding into his calves, it was fine by me. Good old rooster came to me because he was rather aggressive with his prior caretakers, and even though I’ve not had any problems with him, he does, indeed have a history. It was good to speak with Pat and hear that (other than rooster attacks) all is well.

Back at the car, we loaded up and went to find a “restorative” as Jack calls it. In a little while, we sat down in some shade in the town of Gettysburg for an ice cream. Yum.

More on our stay at PG Furnace SP next post –