The Austin Dam

(Morning glory in the meadow.)

Saturday morning M and I took a walk through the woods and meadow, exploring the area around the cabin for a little while.  When we got back to the cabin, L and J were preparing breakfast.  L had made a lentils and dill biscuits dish that she served with sauteéd asparagus and scrambled eggs.  Great stuff!

(The Austin Dam ruins as seen from an overlook.)

After breakfast we all piled in one of the cars and took a short trip up the road to explore the ruins of the Austin Dam.  One of the things that brought us to the area was The Dam Show, usually held at the Austin Dam.

Austin Flood Disaster

On Sept. 30, 1911, the Bayless Pulp and Paper Co. dam broke here.  This concrete dam, built in 1909, was nearly fifty feet high; 534 feet long.  Its failure sent torrents of water and debris down Freeman Run into Austin and Costello, causing great destruction and killing at least 78 people.  This second worst single-dam disaster in Pennsylvania inspired legislation (1913) to regulate the construction of dams in the state.

(From the historical marker at the dam site.)

The dam was commissioned and paid for by the Bayless Pulp & Paper Co.  George Bayless, the owner of the company, chose to ignore the civil engineer’s design recommendations, wanting to find a cheaper method.  The purpose of the dam was to hold 275 million gallons of water in which to soak the wood to remove the bark before sending it on to be made into pulp and paper.  During seasonal dry spells there was not enough water in Freeman Run for soaking the wood so the dam was built in 1909 to solve the problem.

Most of the damage from the dam break, so we were told when we paid a visit to the museum in the town of Austin, was caused by the logs being swept through the towns on that torrent of water.

(Jackson Pond)

Signs such as the one above were posted all around the dam site.  We could be wrong but we decided the names are those of the victims of the flood who died and/or were missing afterwards.

(Freeman Run)

Next year marks the centennial of the September 30th flood.  The Austin Dam Memorial Association (ADMA) has big plans for the park and the remains of the papermill.  It will be interesting to go back someday and see what they’ve done with it.

When we finished wandering around the dam area we drove over to the papermill site, or what we could see of the papermill site from the road.  The plan was for M and I to go back on Sunday so I could take some photos but you already know what happened on Sunday.  It poured!  Since we weren’t sure we could get back there and since the weather wasn’t cooperating, it didn’t seem worth the time or the drive that was not on our way home.

(The tower and some of the papermill ruins.)

As I understand it, ADMA’s plan is to get rid of the papermill ruins.  I’m not sure if they will leave the tower up or not.  I’m guessing not as it probably isn’t stable or safe.  A gentleman at the museum in Austin said the tower was built after the flood of 1911 and that no one has been able to identify the purpose of the tower.  He jokingly said it was to house the CEO of the company so he’d be safe from the next flood.

I’m sorry we didn’t take the time to try to find our way back there that day.  It would have been cool to wander around and take some photos of the place.  It’s unlikely I would have gone inside (doesn’t look too terribly safe) but I would have liked to get a little closer.

This was my “in a nutshell” version of the story of the dam disaster.  For more information, please visit:

One of the aspects of it that interested me is Cora Brooks, the woman who first sounded the alarm when the dam broke.  She was Austin’s town “madam,” running a “house of ill-repute” on the hill opposite the dam.  Cora had some problems with the law a few times, being charged with operating a house of prostitution, as well as making and selling alcohol.  A researcher in the area, Margaret Crosby (married to a descendant of Cora’s), is seeking a pardon from the state for Cora given her heroism and help she provided after the flood when she opened her home to those who needed food and shelter.


(Potter County Courthouse in Coudersport.)

After unpacking our stuff and spending a little time getting semi-caught up with each other, we headed out to one of the nearby towns for dinner.  Our first stop was a restaurant/bar in Austin.  It had gotten a good review on TripAdvisor.  We walked in, stayed about 30 seconds, and walked back out again.  The place looked dirty, had a bad smell to it, and we all had a feeling the food was not going to be good.  It’s possible we were wrong in that assumption which is why I am not naming the restaurant.  It seems unfair to do a review without having tasted any of the food.

We decided Austin was not the place to have dinner that night so we went in the opposite direction, to Coudersport.  It was a good decision.

Coudersport, Pennsylvania  (population 2650, 12.3 miles of streets)  was settled in 1807.  It is located in the Allegheny highlands by the Allegheny River and is surrounded by some lovely hills and plateaus.  “The Grand Army of the Republic Highway” (aka PA Route 6, mentioned in yesterday’s post, but doesn’t “The Grand Army of the Republic Highway” sound more impressive?) runs east-west through the center of town.  One of the most noticeable things to us on the drive through town the first time was an unusually large, and apparently vacant, building located on PA Route 6.  I did not get any pictures of it.  It looked almost brand spanking new.  We found out later that it was built by Adelphia Cable.  The company was, at one time, headquartered in Coudersport and was one of the area’s biggest employers (and the 5th largest cable company in the U.S.) until they went bankrupt in 2002.  If you happen to have 3-4 million dollars laying around, the building is for sale.

Coudersport is the county seat of Potter County.  The county courthouse, pictured above, is located in Coudersport.  Work on it was begun in 1851 and completed in 1853.  The roof was remodeled in 1888 and there is a sign “commemorating” that near the top of the building.  I put the word commemorating in quotes because I read there was some controversy regarding the squandering of tax money to remodel what was considered a fairly new building.  The building is done in the Greek Revival style with a few Victorian elements mingled in.

At the top of the courthouse is Lady Justice.  I’m not sure when she was added.  Perhaps with the remodel of the roof.

The late evening shots of the courthouse are dreadful.  The camera and I are still learning about each other.

We had dinner at Olga’s Gallery & Cafe.  It was an excellent choice.  Everyone was friendly, the service was great, and the food was fresh and tasty.  M and I split a sandwich and a salad.  Both were yummy.

The inside of Olga’s is beautiful with lovely woodwork and lighting.  The gallery portion, both upstairs and downstairs, is filled with some amazing artwork by Olga.  L and I had a look around before our dinner arrived and we both ended up buying some cute winter hats.

(Looking up at Olga’s.)

We went back to the cabin after dinner and spent an hour or two sitting on the deck under the light of the almost-full moon talking and enjoying the evening.

Next up in the road trip series:  The Austin Dam

A Cabin in the Woods

Around noon on Friday M and I left the Bogs, setting out for Coudersport in Potter County, Pennsylvania (“God’s Country” as the welcome signs put it).  We have friends who live in Scranton, Pennsylvana and we had been looking for a half-way point to meet them and spend a weekend together.  The area around the towns of Coudersport and Austin fit the bill perfectly.  It was a four hour drive for them and a four hour drive for us.

Our drive took us north on Pennsylvania State Route 66 through small towns and the Allegheny National Forest, to Route 6.  I was surprised by how dark some of the forest looks, even on a sunny day.  The trees were so thick in spots that it was difficult to see into the woods.  Friday did happen to be a sunny day, but I didn’t take many photos on the drive that day.  I was busy looking at and admiring the scenery, thinking we might take our time on the way home on Sunday and I’d get some photos then.  I had no idea we’d be driving back through torrential rain.

PA Route 6 has a big campaign going with frequent mile markers exhorting you to “Do 6.”  We were headed east on Friday.  The pictures along routes 66 and 6 I’m posting were taken yesterday going west towards Ohio.

Please excuse the poor quality of the “Do 6” sign (and other photos taken during the storms).  The weather didn’t make it easy to capture some of the signs and scenery on our way home.

The portion of PA Route 6 we saw lives up to the advertising.  The towns were quaint and interesting.  M and I would like to go back and take some walks through some of the small towns we went through.  There are some beautiful buildings and houses along the way.

PA Route 6 is also an Artisan Trail that includes a variety of shops, boutiques, and galleries with local art, along with fairs and festivals throughout the year.

Our friends traveled the eastern portion of PA Route 6 and said they found it as interesting and scenic as the western portion we traveled.  It might be fun to someday Do 6, all the way.

(PA Route 6 in Coudersport, Pennsylvana, Sunday morning.)

Having arrived in Coudersport around 4pm in the afternoon, we looked for Sweden Valley Cabins where we were to meet our friends and the guy with the key and directions to the cabin.  MapQuest, as usual, was about 99% correct.  It was, as usual, the last portion that was off.  In this case it involved getting the mileage wrong instructing us to go 0.3 of a mile on East 2nd Street when we needed go about 3 miles.  It’s amazing what a difference the placement of a decimal point can make.

A month or two ago M did some research online, finding and booking the cabin for us.  The name of the cabin is  Blue Skies Lodge.  It wasn’t difficult to get to this time of year but you would need a 4-wheel drive vehicle during the winter months.  The dirt and gravel road leading up to the cabin would be impossible for our car with snow and/or ice on the ground.

The cabin is, as described, “nestled on a hilltop” and relatively secluded.  There are a few other cabins in the vicinity but nothing up close.

It’s a beautiful cabin in a beautiful part of the country.  As I mentioned yesterday, there are none of the modern technological services we tend to take for granted (no cell phone coverage, no television reception, no internet connection) and there is no air conditioning, something else I take for granted and wish we had had since it was such a hot and humid weekend.

The “outhouse” pictured above is mostly decorative (I think it covers the well).  It is full-sized but sitting there in between two big trees makes it look smaller.  We did have running water and flush toilets inside.

The cabin does, in fact, have many modern conveniences, including a lovely kitchen downstairs and a bar area upstairs.  There are three bedrooms and two full bathrooms.

(Downstairs, near the kitchen area.)

It also has bears.  Lots and lots of bears decorating pretty much every area of the cabin (see the bear climbing the wall to the right in the above photo?).  It’s cute.  It should be noted that the woods outside contain bears too, but they are not the decorative kind.  M saw a huge black bear coming towards the cabin on Saturday afternoon.  Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it) he scared it off before I could grab the camera.

I would imagine that the fans throughout the cabin normally keep things pretty cool inside.  We just happened to pick an unusually hot weekend for our stay.

The woods around the cabin are lush, green, and thick with ferns.  A walk through the woods and up a small hill takes you to a large meadow, some of it mowed and some of it filled with wildflowers.  We must have missed a lot of the wildflowers in bloom.  There were a few daisies and morning glories blooming, with the goldenrod starting to dominate.

The meadow would be a great area for stargazing at night.  The full moon on Friday night and the clouds on Saturday night made it difficult for us to see anything during our visit.

There are great views of the hills/mountains from the meadow.  There are also a number of mowed paths that take you through the meadow and into some of the surrounding woods.

I would like to go back sometime in the fall and explore some more.  The fall foliage is probably stunning.

We took a few early morning walks during our stay.  J, one of our friends, got some great photos of the mist in the meadow (I was not up and out early enough for it) and a young buck coming towards him on one of the trails.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more about our trip.  I need to make myself useful for a little while and get caught up on some of the laundry and gardening.

(A light in the window.)

Road Trip!

(Church steeple along PA State Route 66 in Lucinda, Pennsylvania)

This time of year is so busy for us that it is tough keeping up.  It’s especially difficult to do when we spend the weekend in a cabin in the woods and in the mountains where there is no cell phone coverage, no television reception, and no internet service.  It was wonderful and felt great to be disconnected for a little while.  One of the things I liked about the disconnect was not knowing about weather watches and warnings, in particular a tornado watch.  Without the information, we watched the rain and lightning and listened to the thunder and wind without panic or worry.  Life, for me, is better that way.  If I’m destined to die in a tornado or other weather-related event, I think I’d rather not know about it.  Instead, let me enjoy the moments leading up to it, including the show that the storm brings with it.

For those wondering about Saturday’s blog post, I scheduled it before we left.  That’s one of the beauties of WordPress.

Before I start rambling about our weekend trip, I want to say a big THANK YOU to Cismonok, aka The Pickle Lady, for pickling all those cucumbers.  Everything looks great and I was happy to see that there were no vampires anywhere near the kitchen garbage.

For those inquiring minds that might want to know what that message is all about (and it obviously isn’t too private):  The Gherkin Gods spoke on Thursday afternoon.  I got a call from Hilgert’s that they had 2/3 (or possibly more) of a bushel of small cucumbers picked just for me and The Pickle Lady.  The Pickle Lady makes some fabuloso pickles with those little cukes and I wanted to learn how she does it so we got together and ordered a couple of pecks.  Apparently the small cukes are a pain to pick (or maybe to sell).  The good folks at Hilgert’s were willing to do this for us.  A big THANK YOU to them as well.

This past weekend was not a particularly good weekend for The Pickle Lady or for me but we have no choice other than to accommodate the demands of the Gherkin Gods.  While in the midst of getting the house and self ready for a road trip and a meet-up with old friends, the call came in and I ended up spending a good five hours or so cleaning those little buggers.  I didn’t realize the clean-up of small cucumbers would be so, well, cumbersome.

My friend The Pickle Lady came by after we left and processed the cukes and we now have (split between us in an uneven manner) over 20 quarts of pickles.  She said the pickling and canning process is easier than the cleaning process.  I’ll have to take her word for it.  But I’m happy it’s done and that the Weather Gods didn’t decide to knock out the power before the pickling could be done.  Storms moved through after we left and sometime during the pickling process.

As soon as I feel up to posing those beautiful jars of pickles, I’ll post a photo.  In a surprising move for me, I didn’t take any photos of all the little gherkins when I had them floating in water, either to be washed or on ice while waiting to be pickled.  That’s a good indication of how rushed I was feeling at the time.  Usually the camera goes everywhere and records everything.  The cucumbers were a beautiful shade of green sitting in their bucket of ice water after all the washing was completed.  They would have made a pretty picture.  You’ll have to take my word for it.

(Through a rainy windshield on the way home today.)

The weekend was great fun and I want to tell you all about it but it’s getting late, I’m tired, and something must be done about dinner soon.  We haven’t eaten since breakfast so we’re both pretty hungry.

I will tell you that the weekend was hot and steamy, weatherwise.  It was also great fun.  If all goes well tomorrow, I’ll tell you all about it.  Or partly about it.  It might require more than one post.

In addition to no phone, no ‘net, and no TV, there was also no air conditioning.  I’m afraid I didn’t feel as at peace with that lack of technology as I did with the rest.  This past weekend brought a pretty brutal heatwave to the northeastern part of the U.S. and it was hot, humid, and physically miserable when you’re without a means of cooling off.  It’s all about the mindset, though.  We were with good friends and having a good time so the wilting in the heat and humidity was merely a small part of the big and better package.

Except for the first photo (which was the first photo I took on our trip), I’m working backwards by giving you some pictures taken today, on our way home.  The heavy rains that we encountered are, I think, part of a front that is going to give us some slightly (80’s) cooler and drier weather.

Side note:  I did a quick check at just now and instead of looking at what’s currently going on and what’s to come, I found myself clicking on “Tonight’s Beauty Forecast.”  WTH???  Beauty Forecast???  Are we that ridiculously vain that we need a special forecast?  For those that are, you should know that tonight’s check list includes lip balm (because it isn’t humid enough?), UV protection (in case moonlight is too much for you), and a light jacket.  I would not need the light jacket.  Tonight’s low of 60 degrees sounds heavenly after a weekend of not being able to cool off because the humidity was so high that sweat does not evaporate.  I suppose that statement explains my lacks of enthusiasm for the Beauty Forecast.   Comfort is more important to me than whether or not I need lip balm.

(Traveling through the storm)

There is also a Frizz Alert (frizz likely), but you’ll be happy to know dry skin is unlikely.  I’m guessing (but could be wrong) that the folks who think we NEED a Beauty Forecast think we’re too stupid too figure out that high humidity equals frizzy/curly hair and moist skin.

(Trying to see the road through the heavy rain)

That was a heck of digression.  It was my first visit to TWC since they went into their new (Beta) version.  I will explore more later, when I can devote a whole blog post to the subject.  Maybe in the winter.  I’ll have more time then since I won’t be dealing with frizz alerts and the possibility of oily skin due to high heat and humidity.  More likely it will be static alerts (when the hair goes straight, stands up and crackles) and extreme dry skin problems due to lack of humidity.

(Fungi –What happens to dry skin in high humidity)

I’m getting silly now, a sure sign that I need to move away from the computer, sit out on the back porch or deck, and watch the sun as it makes its way below the tree line.

I’ll leave you with something pretty that I found along the way on our trip.