Cherry Springs State Park

About 2 years ago, I got Michael a telescope for Christmas.  Shortly after, I found out about Cherry Springs State Park and have been wanting to take him there.  It is supposedly the darkest place, East of the Mississippi, for viewing stars.  Unfortunately, light pollution prevents us from seeing most of the stars in the sky from our cities and towns, so if you want to see what’s really up there, you have to find a very dark location. Lucky for me, it’s only a little over an hour away from home. So, I reserved 2 nights in the campground and prayed for clear skies.  I had a really hard time finding out about the logistics of this place.  I like to be prepared when I am going to be away from home, but the park website just doesn’t have a lot of detailed info. I scoured the internet for info and read a lot of reviews on Trip Advisor to help me prepare. I thought I would share what I learned from our trip.


I found a cool site called Clear Dark Sky, which gave me a detailed forecast of the expected viewing conditions.  We had decided that if conditions looked bleak, we would just skip the trip. Fortunately, it looked like we might have good viewing conditions. So, we packed up and headed out.

My first piece of advice is to look at a map before going and plot out a few different routes.  The roads that go into the park are long and winding and your GPS will not help you.  We had planned to take route 44 the entire way, only to find out that a section of it was closed for road work.  We were lucky that they allowed us to pass through with an escort, but it was a dusty, bumpy 5 miles, and set us back about 1/2 hour. We plotted a different way home.

The park at Cherry Springs has 2 observation fields.  One is for serious astronomers only (not sure on the criteria for that) and there is a fee to enter.  You can set up a tent or camper and stay the night, but it is gated and once they shut the gate, you are in for the night.  They don’t allow people to walk into the field after dark and there is no light (except for red light) allowed on the field.  They have some observation domes that can be rented for the night, but again, they are for “serious” astronomers only.  If you fall into this category, I probably can’t offer you much more advice for your trip.

Gated Observation Field

If you have kids and just want to marvel at God’s creation (or if you have a cheap, amateur telescope like we do), keep reading.  On the other side of Route 44 (just across the street) there is a public viewing area, where you can park and view the stars in the field. Bring a folding chair or a blanket, whatever makes you comfy.  It will probably be chilly, so bring a sweatshirt.  There is no rule against white light in this area, but I would highly recommend bringing a flashlight with a red filter or just put some red cellophane over your flashlight and secure it with a rubber band.  People get cranky when you shine white light in their eyes and it really does mess with the experience. There are port-a-potties, for your convenience.

We headed into the field around 8:30 or so, to wait for the sun to go down.  I really thought Evelyn was going to be bored, but Michael gave her an iPad and we used an app called Sky Watch to find where planets and constellations would appear in the sky.  She was literally giddy each time a star emerged in the sky. When we arrived there were several people already set up with some pretty serious telescopes.  We were very fortunate to meet a couple who had traveled from Maryland and they allowed us to look through their telescope and helped Michael to figure out how to use his.  We were able to see Jupiter and 4 of its moons, Saturn, and Mars. We even got to see the International Space Station fly by. I realized later that we never actually made it into the viewing field.  We ended up viewing the stars from the parking lot.  Ha ha, amateurs.


By 9:30 or 10:00, Evelyn got really tired and wanted to go to bed.  I put her in the back seat of the car to lay down and sat with her until she fell asleep, but she wanted me to wake her up to see the Milky Way.  By the time she fell asleep and I left the car, the Milky Way was making it’s appearance. I did wake her up for a time so that she could see it, but she fell back to sleep pretty quickly.  I wish that I had taken this picture but sadly, I did not.  However, I wanted to find a picture that would closely represent what I saw…stars forever and a white swath across the sky. You really have to forget about your problems and realize how insignificant they are when you witness something like this.

Photo Credit: Mink Mingle

There is also a campground that has 30 sites.  They are rustic, tent only, with vault toilets and no showers, and no dish-washing station, so in my opinion, this is not a great park for long-term stays. Aside from the star-gazing, there is not much to do here.  We reserved a camp site for 2 nights, but I think we could have been fine with just one night.  Most of the campers around us only stayed for one night.  It really seems like this park is designed for short-term stays. However, if you want to stay for a few days, I would highly recommend staking a claim on sites 1, 3, 5 or 8.  They are partly shaded so that you can escape the sun during the day.

Site #5 in Campground

The other sites are more in a field location with a few trees that dot the landscape. I was glad for our shady spot that bordered the woods, but if you are only planning to stay one night, I think that any site would be fine. Sites were very inexpensive (under $20 per night) and we reserved online, but I think that as long as the campground is not full, you could probably get a site if you just show up.  If you want to go that route, stop at the little building on the way into the campground to pay for your site.  I would arrive early (3-5pm) because the sites fill up quickly.  That would give you plenty of time to set up camp, have a meal over a fire and head up to the observation field as the sun is setting.

A few things to keep in mind:

  • Try to go when there is a new moon.  If the moon is bright in the sky, it will be hard for you to see anything else.  Consult a moon calendar.
  • Prepare to stay up late….at least 11:00 or so for the best viewing.
  • You don’t NEED a telescope.  The skies are gorgeous enough on their own.
  • Keep in mind that some of the pictures you see online might not be an accurate representation of what you will actually see.  Sometimes the camera can pick up colors and depth that the naked eye cannot see.  Also, so much depends on the weather conditions and the time of year that you go, and how late you are willing to stay up.
A view across the campground from our site.

After our first night, we had a full day to spend and a 4-year-old to entertain, so we drove about 8 miles to Lyman Run State Park, where there was a lake and a beach. They have a concession stand and boat rentals and they also have showers there, if you are so inclined, but we decided to rough it and go natural for the whole trip. This was also a very nice park and I think that the star gazing would probably be awesome here too, but you would have less protection from white light sources and there is no specific place set up for stargazing.  If you wanted a longer, more kid-friendly trip, it might be better to stay here and then drive over to Cherry Springs to view the stars at night.

Lyman Run State Park


Lyman Run State Park



After a long day of heat and too much togetherness, we decided to take a little drive over to a country store that was only about a mile down the road.  Keener’s Kountry Store offered ice cream, gas (in ancient pumps), and firewood for $6 a bundle.  Next time, we will definitely stop here for wood after we arrive, instead of dragging it in our car.

Ice Cream at Keener’s Kountry Store

I have to say that my campfire cooking skills are improving.  We made foil packs and corn on the cob.  The foil packs had chicken breast, potatoes, onion, and carrots.  I seasoned everything with salt and pepper and a nice chunk of butter.  They turned out so good!


While we had a nice time and enjoyed our stay, I think the guy in this orange tent had the right idea.  Arrive late in the day, pop up a tent, and sleep with the rain fly off so you can drift off under an amazing sky.


Tent Camping at R.B. Winter State Park


I have no idea why (probably my new mom nerves), but I was always afraid of camping in a tent when Evelyn was a baby.  I had done it myself many times, but just needed some extra security when she was younger.  Since her first summer, we have always done our camping in my parent’s pop up camper or a cabin.  But, now that she’s a bit older, I felt ready to try camping in a tent.  So, for our first tenting adventure, we reserved 2 nights over the 4th of July weekend at R.B. Winter State Park.  My dad, aunt, and cousins were also staying in the park and my brother and his girlfriend decided to join us on our site.  We also decided to take our dog (something that we have never done before).  I was praying that it would all work out.  Fortunately, I can report that everything went pretty smoothly, aside from a flat air mattress and a scraped knee.

We arrived in the afternoon on Saturday and set up camp.  The weather could not have been better.  We had two tents and a few hammocks with lots of camp chairs.  I always keep a few extras around for my pesky nephews, who like to steal a chair the second it’s empty.  We had site #56, which sits on the side of the hill, so it has a lower level for parking with some steps that lead up to the elevated tent pad and fire ring.  There was also a picnic table and lantern hook. My only complaint about this site was that it was a little too close to the neighboring site.  We were talking about trying to get both sites for next year, so that at least we will have family next door.  Fortunately, our neighbors for this trip were friendly enough.  I couldn’t help but giggle one morning as I watched the chipmunks fervently scramble to eat up all the food that had been left sitting out on their site, after we were so careful to put everything away in our car, so as not to attract bears.



Our three days at camp were just relaxing and fun.  We went for walks, played in the sand on the beach by the lake, cooked over the fire, made s’mores, and picked on each other. I love that Evelyn can be entertained with barely anything “to do.”  She finds her own fun. She loved just going in and out of the tent and curling up inside the sleeping bags, staking a claim on her sleeping spot right away. The kids enjoyed playing in the creek, lounging in the hammock, and exploring the paths. I even got in on the fun. I think that our dog, Moxie, didn’t quite know what to make of all of it, but she was very well behaved and I would definitely take her again in the future.







We had so much fun that we are planning to do it again sometime, and trying to talk even more of our family into joining us.  Meanwhile, we’re getting ready for this summer’s next camping adventure.


Photo Credit: Sheelah Brennan
Photo Credit: Sheelah Brennan

Today, I turned 39 and I’m eating cake.  Tomorrow, I’m embarking on a year-long journey to be in the best shape of my life by the time I am 40. Yikes. I’m “saying” it out loud.

There is just something about 40 that incites fear…and loathing…and panic, but I figure I have (God willing) at least a much time ahead of me as I have left behind me, so I might as well spend it well.

For the past few years I have been struggling with my weight and with just feeling unhealthy.  My body is definitely on the decline.  I am sore and tired most of the time.  My back aches.  Anybody who knows me knows that I hate exercise.  I can diet until the cows come home, but I really, really loathe breaking a sweat. To my dismay, I have been thinking recently that I really need to add it into my life, even if it’s just baby steps at first.  I work in a building that houses a senior center and on a daily basis, I see seniors, some of them withered and barely moving, walking laps around the building to get exercise.  Every day they faithfully appear, pushing walkers and limping along.  I have this daily reminder that I really have no excuse.

If they can do it, I can do it.  What’s wrong with me?

I’ve also been somewhat down in the dumps and I am fully blaming it on facebook and social media.  I have a serious addiction and it has been impacting the way that I interact with my family.  It also keeps me from doing anything productive.  It really needs to go.

So, I have decided that this is going to be the year that I pull myself together.  I am going to give myself one year to get into the best shape of my life…I’m not just talking about my physique. I feel like I need a total overhaul.  I haven’t decided if I am going to document the journey as I go (maybe monthly?), or when the year is over…I guess we’ll see.

I am 39 and 40 is looking pretty good to me.

The Next Big Thing

next big thing

I haven’t been posting much over the past few months.  Truth be told, there is not much to post about.  We’ve fallen back into a working parents’ routine of routines.  Get up, go to work, come home, make/eat dinner, get ready for bed and to start it all over again. Weekends are either busy, busy, busy with family gatherings and other events, or just taking care of the ordinary chores and errands that will keep us going for the week.

I haven’t talked much here about my return to work.  About two years ago, I was preparing to leave my job so that I could be at home with my daughter. I was excited and I got lots of positive feedback from family and friends who all told me it would be hard, but so worth it and it was an awesome thing to do for my daughter and our family.  Evelyn and I had a little over a year together before some financial upset in our family forced me back to work.  I was not happy about it. I wanted to return to work on my own terms.  But, the year that I was at home was a hard one.  I suffered several miscarriages and we decided to stop trying for another baby.  I was sick a lot during that time and probably very depressed. Once I came to terms with the idea of going back to work, I started looking forward to it. Now that summer is approaching, I find myself missing my long days at home with Evelyn.  I miss packing up to go to the park or the beach.  I miss some of my mom friends and their kids.  I miss having a (sort of) clean house. I sometimes think I failed at the stay-at-home mom thing, like I wasn’t very good at it.  And even though I miss it sometimes, I know that God put me where I am right now, so I am trying to give the best I can to both my job and my family with a much more balanced approach.  So far, so good.

It feels strange not to be waiting for the next big thing.  We’re at a place where life is pretty ordinary.  No weddings to plan, no houses to buy, no babies to expect, no new jobs on the horizon.  I’m not really sure how to be here.  It’s a nice kind of calm, but it’s also kind of….boring.

I feel like I have hit a mid-life crisis of sorts.  Now that all the “big things” have come and gone, I’m not really sure what I want to do with the rest of my life.  I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up and I’m sad to say I don’t really have much ambition either.  I guess years of school and work have left me just wanting to take a nap.

At least with this new calm, I can focus on some hobbies that I have been putting on the back burner for so long.  We have some camping trips planned for this summer (3 to be exact) and some vacation time coming up. There is work to be done on the patio and around the house. I guess this is a season to just kind of roll along with the current and enjoy the scenery as it passes by. There are glasses of wine to be consumed, camp fires to enjoy and songs to belt out with my daughter. There are dance parties to be had and road trips to take.  It’s time to slow down…at least for now.  I think it was the wise Ferris Bueller who said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.”

RB Winter State Park


This was our first camping excursion of the year.  I have been coming to this park since I was a kid, so it has a special place in my heart.  I have never really done much camping here though.  We would mainly go to picnic and play on the beach and in the lake, since the park isn’t that far from where I grew up.  Since it’s still early in the season, I opted for a cottage instead of a tent and I am so glad I did.  It was COLD.  I always forget that it’s about 10-15 degrees cooler at the park than it is at home.  So, even thought the forecast was calling for temps in the high 60s, it was much cooler than that….and it rained.  Blah.

We arrived on Friday evening and we decided to eat dinner before heading to the park, since it was supposed to rain all night and cooking over a fire would have been difficult…and miserable.  Thank goodness the cottage had heat and a table with benches.  At least we could spend the evening playing games and munching on snacks…and Evelyn was super-excited that she got to sleep on the top bunk for the very first time.



Saturday was slightly better.  It only rained for a little while in the morning, mainly while we were trying to boil water for coffee over a fire.  That didn’t turn out very well.  Two lukewarm and barely brewed cups of coffee later, I was kind of grumpy.  We took at nice walk around the lake, but it was too wet for Evelyn to play in the sand.



We lounged around, made some lunch and then I couldn’t help myself…I suggested that we find the nearest coffee shop for a real cup of joe, a little bit of warmth, and for something to do.  So, we drove about 15 miles, took care of my caffeine craving, and also stopped at Walmart to buy a camp stove.  I’m not giving up on trying to cook over a fire, but it’s nice to know we have a back up now if we need it.   26901293765_7548839ec0_k

So, it definitely wasn’t my favorite camping trip. It was cold and rather boring.  Michael and I agreed that if we hadn’t paid for the cabin, we probably would have packed it in and headed home. We made the best of it.  But, we have a few other trips planned for this summer and I am looking forward to them.  I’m really hoping that our next trip to this park, over the 4th of July weekend, will be more fun. We will be tenting for the first time with Evelyn and we are also taking our dog, which we have never done, so it should be an adventure. We will have several other family members camping at the same time, so that will make things at least more interesting.

The Crayola Experience

The middle of winter always inspires in me an urge to escape.  Yes, a tropical destination would be lovely, but, since we’ve been together, Michael and I have yet to find ourselves in a position to take a week-long vacation in the middle of winter.  So, we make do with little weekend jaunts to nearby attractions, just to break up the monotony a bit.

This particular trip was inspired by a statement Evelyn made in the car one afternoon on the way home from work/school.

“Mom, I never stayed in a hotel before.”

“Sure you have, you’ve stayed in a hotel three times before.”

“Yes, but I don’t remember it.”

A few days prior to this, my co-workers had a conversation in our shared office about staying in hotels just for the heck of it, just for something to do in the middle of winter, even if it’s right in your own town.  My practical (and wandering) mind could understand the appeal, but has a hard time justifying spending the money for a hotel, when it’s just down the street.  I also really like to travel and see new things, so I thought, sure, let’s stay in a hotel, but let’s do something new too.

So, I started looking around online for some ideas.  Enter, The Crayola Experience.  Evelyn is the perfect age to enjoy this right now.  We have a 3 day weekend for President’s Day.  Let’s Go.


Let me preface this review by saying that I am not particularly fond of crowds.  On their website, Crayola does give some tips on how to avoid the crowds.  Basically, go on a weekday, after lunch time (2:00-5:00pm is ideal).  We went on Valentine’s Day (a Sunday this year).  As we approached the building and entered a nearby parking garage, I could tell that my crowd anxiety was going to be kicked into high gear.  There were families with little kids everywhere, braving the coldest day of this winter.  I mentally prepared myself for the afternoon and  I think I managed to keep it together for most of the time.  We spent about 3 hours there and only got to experience about 1/3 of what they had to offer.  There were long lines for many of the activities and Evelyn spent a lot of time at just a few activities that she enjoyed.  The trip was for her entertainment, so it really seemed pointless to pull her away from the things she was enjoying to make her try other activities that she might have had to wait a long time to do.

The Meltdown – We decided to go straight to the fourth floor to start, where  there were huge stations full of melted crayons.  The kids could dip long cotton swabs into the wax and paint with it.



Next we ventured into this play area, which was fun for Evelyn, but a nightmare for me.  Once the kids got inside here, it was nearly impossible to see them and instead of only one way in and out, there were at least 4 ways in and out of the thing, on all different sides of it.  My guess is that someone loses a kid in here, if only for a few minutes, on a daily basis.


Of all things, this was probably Evelyn’s favorite feature.  It was a series of interactive videos projected on the floor.  For example, the floor appeared to be covered with leaves and as the kids walked around on it, the leaves moved away from them, as though they were really walking through them.  The picture changed every few minutes to something new (balls that they could “kick”, etc).  We had a hard time dragging her away from this one.


She enjoyed a variety of other features…a computer-generated display of her own artwork, watercolors, a water/boat feature, a diy puzzle, and we got free crayons with our names on them.  Overall, she had fun.  It was a bit too crowded for my liking and the long lines at many of the activities made it hard to do everything.  We were exhausted by the end of it all and since she was so looking forward to staying in a hotel, we didn’t have to fight with her when it was time to leave.





Michael put me in charge of planning the itinerary for this trip, which was awesome, by the way.  I’ve always fancied myself a travel agent or a tour guide.  Anyway, I found this great little Lebanese restaurant for dinner.  It got great reviews online and it was something very different from what we would find in the culinary desert that we inhabit.


I know, “Daddy’s Place” sounds a little…I don’t know…   BUT, the food was amazing…AND apparently it was named as such because the owner’s 4-year-old daughter thought that’s what it should be called.  So cute.

We got a mini pie sampler and every single one was delicious.  Michael got the lamb shawarma and got the falafel/hummus plate.  There was seriously enough food to feed six people and every single thing was so amazing. I had to finish it off with a Turkish coffee. If you ever find yourself in Easton, PA, definitely stop here.  Did I mention that they have 250 beers to choose from?

PicMonkey Collage

And finally, Evelyn got to stay in the hotel.  We went for a swim and had some Valentine treats before heading off to bed, which turned out to be a two-hour long process.  I’m going to blame it on the coffee that Michael let her guzzle before dinner.  She told me multiple times that wanted to stay there for at least 10 days. Maybe next time, love.



And Then She Was Four

It’s been a little while since I have contributed to this space.  We got all caught up in the holiday madness, with places to go, people to see, guests to entertain.  Now that things are a little calmer around here, I can take a breath and reflect on the past year.  What a crazy year it’s been.  Every day, when facebook shows me my memories from the past years, I find myself half smiling/half dying inside.

Last year at this time, I was pregnant and expecting a little boy.  After losing him tragically at 16 weeks, we decided it was too much bear.  We couldn’t go through it again.  While we have decided that we are fine with leaving our baby days behind, I am still coming to terms with Evelyn being an only child.  We are so very blessed to have lots of families in our lives.  Evelyn started preschool this year, so she gets to be around other children all day.  She’s also been cared for by family friends before and after school, so she gets to play with their children as well.  Truly, she’s had the best of both worlds…surrogate siblings with friends and the perks of being an only at home.  Still, she caught me off guard when she asked my why God made three babies for our friends’ family and He only made one baby for our family.  The tears welled up in her eyes as she asked and I don’t know exactly why that would make her sad, but she seemed sad about it.  I could only tell her I didn’t know why and fight back my own tears.  It amazes me how much she has grown and how the questions come when I least expect it.

Aside from the sad memories on my facebook news feed, things are pretty good around here.  I returned to work a few months ago after our financial situation was upended a bit.  Now, Michael and I are both doing work we love and Evelyn seems very happy at preschool.  She seems to have grown so much since she started school, from toddler to a true preschooler.  She’s still having the occasional terrifying tantrum, but they are fewer and farther between and I have been really trying to change my own response to her, which I think has helped a lot.  I am trying to be more patient and positive and she is learning some calm-down methods at school that she actually tries to employ at home.  She will sometimes stop in the middle of a screaming fest to take a few deep breaths and calm herself.

Every day I see updates from friends on facebook….babies growing up, rolling over, sitting up, and crawling for the first time.  It makes me a little sad that those days are over.  Maybe I would have cherished them a little bit more, I don’t know.  But, even though I am sad to see her baby days passed, I am also having quite a bit of fun with this spunky, dramatic little girl that she’s become. Instead of babbling and cooing, we’re playing Uno (and she’s winning) and telling made-up stories at bedtime.  She helps me to cook scrambled eggs for breakfast and rushes the grab the dustpan when we give her dad a haircut. It’s fun to have a little partner-in-crime.

Even though this past year has been a difficult one, I prefer to look back on the fun moments with my 3-year-old girl that I will never get back.



PicMonkey Photo



And, just like that, she was four.


Evelyn is 4