Philadelphia Reflections

The musings of a physician who has served the community for over six decades

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Central Pennsylvania
"Alabama in-between," snickered James Carville, "Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Alabama in-between."

Wellsboro: Grand Canyon

Mary Wells

Robert Morris bought a million acres of land in upstate New York and north-central Pennsylvania at the end of the Revolutionary War, and sold it at a considerable profit. Unfortunately, it gave him the wrong idea about real estate investment, which led him on to his bankruptcy and spell in debtor's prison. Benjamin Wister Morris managed the section around what is now called Wellsboro, named after his wife, Mary Wells. Because of the path of westward migration and the flourishing of the lumber industry, the area prospered, so the town grew to a population of 54,000 in 1890, although it looks to be about half that at the moment. However, it is the local cultural center, attracting hunters and fishermen to its nice hotel and numerous restaurants. Wellsboro has schools and stores, a movie house and annual festivals promoted by the Chamber of Commerce. There's an annual auto race, for example, and periodic art displays. With the coming of the Marcellus shale gas industry, Wellsboro is likely to become the local center of activity, but at the moment, the locals are too busy renting out their rooms to truckers to have expanded their cultural dreams much further. In another five years, this town might well blossom.

Pine Creek Gorge

A few miles away is the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania, more officially known as Pine Creek Gorge. There are now several lookouts on the rim, with quite an exciting view from above of eagles, buzzards, ospreys and similar birds of prey, soaring over a thousand-foot canyon down below. Naturalists and environmentalists since Gifford Pinchot, Teddy Roosevelt and other more recent ones have been attracted to this mountain scene. It has its own local author of note, George Washington Sears. Pine Creek runs for sixty miles through this gorge, particularly attracting trout fishermen; easy access to the creek is found at Colton Point Park. Access to the outlooks on the rim, as well as the creek at the bottom, is fairly easy but is not particularly well marked. Right now, it's best to drop in on the Wellsboro Chamber of Commerce, or at least to the AAA, before you go there.

{Boal Mansion in Boalsburg}
Boal Mansion in Boalsburg

There's an interesting short movie provided in the lookouts, telling the history of the place, and the abundant wildlife; well worth seeing. Like the Copper Canyon in Texas, this canyon tends to disappoint visitors expecting something like the Grand Canyon of Colorado, because it is covered with trees from top to bottom. In addition to the fish, game and birds the attraction of this canyon is to see the creek winding seventy crooked miles through the mountains. Unless you get up high enough to see over the tops of trees, the vista may be hard to make out, so do what you're told and go visit the places the park rangers have provided. Other places to visit "nearby" are the Cherry Valley Astronomy Center near Coudersport, the Asylum for Marie Antoinette near Towanda, and the Boal Mansion in Boalsburg near State College. It's a two-day trip, and whether you think it is worth it will depend on how interested you are in some grand views, your interest in seeing for yourself what the Shale Gas uproar is all about. And in the case of Boalsburg, some perfectly astounding history. Where else can you find history about Robert Morris, Marie Antoinette, Christopher Columbus, and the origin of Memorial Day? Have you seen the place where Joseph Smith wrote the Mormon Bible? Do you know what a Scotch-Irish diamond is? Stay at home and watch football on TV if you must, but a two-day trip around Central Pennsylvania is something you wouldn't soon forget.

Originally published: Wednesday, August 03, 2011; most-recently modified: Friday, June 07, 2019