Back in 2020, during the height of Covid-19, my family went to the northern tier of Pennsylvania to “leaf peep.” We were initially going to go out of state for vacation, but after a lot of trouble with scheduling, especially due to Covid-19, I suggested that we go leaf peeping. The trip was planned during the eleventh hour, but I did research it on the internet. The trip had us traveling along the upward swath between Scranton and Erie, primarily along U.S. 6. The trip was fun, but took a long time. We spent precious little time in a small town, Wellsboro, only stopping at a small park called The Green on the way to the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon, which was a last minute addition. Mom saw small shops that she thought looked interesting that we didn’t have time to stop at.
This fall, we decided to go leaf peeping again. We modified the trip. At Mom’s request, we added Wellsboro to the trip so we could check out the shops. She also discovered a farm that offered horseback riding in the area. Dad and I planned the trip. We planned to start the trip in Mansfield this time, so that we would have time for the little shops.
The day we left to go on our trip was gray. It was one of many days where it had rained. The rain was annoying, and made it gloomy, but was nothing compared to what the poor folks had to put up with in Florida and the Carolinas recently with Hurricane Ian. One thing we noticed as Dad drove farther north was that the trees still had their green leaves. Did we take this trip at the wrong time?
The forecast assured us that we’d have good weather for the trip. A website about leaf peeping, told me that the first full week in October was the best time to look for leaves in the upper swath of Pennsylvania. So, what would happen?
Eventually, we drove out of the rain, and we had the nice weather promised by the forecast. The trees still had their normal leaves. When we reached Mansfield, we checked in to our hotel which was a Hampton Inn situated by both U.S. 15(the road we took to the area) and U.S. 6, the road that’s supposedly a good place to look at leaves.
On the trip to Wellsboro, I noticed that there was a mix of green leaves as well as colored leaves. We reached the town. After parking, we took a walk down the main street. We arrived at Karen’s Country Store. The store was a two story building. Both floors contained merchandise. They had a Christmas Tree with ornaments for sale. I saw a pine sprig hanging in the corner. Mom bought a cute coaster with a cat design. Dad found two cookie cutters he liked. Dad likes to use cookie cutters to make shaped pancakes for different holidays. The store had a cookie cutter in the shape of a rabbit (for Easter) and one shaped like a hummingbird. Dad enjoys watching hummingbirds. An interesting note about the store is that every year at Christmas time they reorganize the store so that they can put a Christmas Tree in every room. It must take a lot of work, but who can have too many Christmas Trees out during the Christmas season?
Soon we came to the Main Street Creamery, which was a homemade ice cream shop. They had a number of original flavor ice creams. I had two scoops of a lemon honey comb ice cream which was tasty. My parents liked the architecture of the shop.
Mom found a store with a Christmas Tree in the window. She thought it was a little Christmas store. In the window was a cute knick- knack, featuring two cats and a pine tree in a wagon. We weren’t supposed to go in that door. A sign on the door said, to use the door by the 1905 Café. I thought that seemed a little strange. We then saw the store, Dunham’s Department Store. A sign on its door said the same thing. We walked down to the door by the café, and entered the building. I couldn’t figure out why they wanted people to enter at the café. I had no interest in going there. As it turns out, the café, the Christmas Shop, and Dunham’s Department store were all at the same place. The cat knick-knack was expensive, and it would be one more thing to find space for. They had a 500-piece puzzle that featured an array of crayons. The picture on it was neat, though I find puzzles with large numbers of pieces difficult. Even 250-piece puzzles can be difficult for me. Mom thought it looked hard, since it contained numerous areas with similar colorations. The store also had other departments such as an area with Vera Bradley products, and an area with toys.
Outside on the main street, the town was decorated for autumn. They had corn shocks standing up for decoration in the median strip of the street. We continued to walk along the street.
The town had a candy store which Mom had researched, called Highland Chocolates. In this store, much of the candy was made by people with disabilities. It is a non-profit store. All proceeds go to workers who made the candy for their wages. They had a wide assortment of chocolate, fudge, and gummy candy. Since I have autism, we wanted to buy from the store. I found fruit ring candy (similar to a gumdrop only ring shaped). Mom bought several types of chocolate as well as peanut butter fudge for Dad. Very popular, and delicious was a chocolate candy called Tree Stumps. It reminded us of Snickers. Dad, found a hat from the store.
Located a few stores over, was Seniors Creations and the Main Street Olive Oil Co., where the wooden products were made by senior citizens. They had a number of different kinds of vinegars as well as olive oils. The store also had a section of various spices. I found a number of interesting spices including Lime Pepper, General Tso’s Secret, and Jalapeño Pepper Flakes, all of which I purchased. Dad went into a store, Stained Glass Reflections, that sold stained glass creations. He thought they were neat, but didn’t buy any.
I wondered where The Green was, as it was the place, we visited last time with the pretty trees. I took several pictures there, last trip. The Green happened to be a simple walk further along the street.
As it turns out, it sits at the intersection of the main street and PA 287 south. It’s a large park. Besides containing many trees, it also has several paths, benches and a fountain.
It started to get late, so we decided we wanted to find a place for supper. On our trip on the main street, we walked past the most popular restaurant in the town, The Steak House. It opened at 5:00 PM. Though it wasn’t time to open yet, people were already outside the door, waiting for it to open. When we decided to go there, we went ahead, and made reservations at a suggestion by one of the other people who was waiting.
I enjoyed the restaurant. On the day we went, they happened to have a special that was both a sirloin steak and a skewer of grilled shrimp. A diner was served more steak than shrimp, but this was a steak house so it would be expected. Being a steakhouse, it was no surprise that they had good steak. The meal also came with three sides, instead of the normal two. A noteworthy point is that they had sweet corn as a vegetable. I was able to get a starch, a fruit, and a vegetable easily. Normally, no such luck.
As a person with autism, I don’t like a number of common foods— or maybe I’m just picky?! Many vegetables don’t make the cut. Of course, I don’t like salads either. Here I was able to get apple sauce, corn, as well as a starch (in this case, mashed potatoes).
The restaurant had another surprise. They had a picture of the mill located in Babcock State Park in West Virginia. I have never visited the mill, but it has meaning to me. My maternal grandparents had a mural on their wall featuring this mill. When I was a young child, I pretended that I was sitting on the rock at the mill.
The next day we went to Tioga Trail Rides to go horseback riding. It was around thirty minutes from the hotel, and located south of Wellsboro. The rides were in one- or two-hour increments. We booked a one-hour ride. I found it difficult to get on the horse, and get my balance, although I have ridden before. I have ridden in Alaska and into the ocean on Grand Turk.
The ride itself was quite pleasant. It followed a trail that meandered through the woods. Liking trees and the color green (prevalent in a forest), I thought it was fun going through the forest. While we were inside the forest, we saw wildlife. We saw several deer including a buck with a big rack.
The ride did have some difficulties. I had trouble staying on the correct part of the saddle. It would shift to the left. The man leading the tour, had to keep telling me to move right on the saddle so I wouldn’t fall off. At the end I had considerable difficulty with both the saddle, and the horse wanting to stop to eat grass. At the very end of the ride the guide determined I needed help getting off the horse (I did). The lady who worked there helped me.
My knees felt as if they wanted to give out, so I needed to sit. I normally have bad pain in my knees. I went to the car to wait for my dad to give the guy a tip, and for Mom to get off her horse.
For lunch we went to The Roost, which was the second most popular restaurant in Wellsboro. They served pub-style food. For lunch I decided to get a beer. They had a chocolate stout which I found interesting. I had a fried haddock sandwich. In keeping with the theme, the restrooms had barn doors on them.
The next phase of the trip was leaf peeping. We followed U.S. 6 a lot of the way. There were many areas of colored foliage on the trees. In Smethport, we went on PA 59 where we saw a flock of wild turkeys. There were numerous pull off spots for photo-ops. We went by the Kinzua Dam. We thought it was pretty. Mom and I were trying to get good pictures of the water. It was hard to do in a moving car. Mom didn’t get a picture, and mine weren’t perfect, but better than none. What we didn’t know was that the dam had a pull-off spot ahead which saved the day. We were able to get out of the car and get closer to take pictures. This time, we had good pictures. PA 59 met back up with U.S. 6 in Warren, PA. We traveled the highway for a while again, before leaving the highway again in favor of a diagonal route that took us to Erie. This time we went a slightly different route to Erie.
We stayed in the same hotel by Lake Erie as last time. This time we didn’t see as many dogs there. At the restaurant, I found an interesting menu item that I didn’t remember, Walleye fish. They had a blackened walleye fish sandwich, which I had for supper. After supper we went back to the room to relax for the night, as we had a long trip back home the next day.
One interesting thing Mom noticed was the number of steps she had taken during the course of the day. Her step count seemed high for the fact that most of the day was spent riding in the car. My parents both wear devices that count steps. When Dad looked down at his Apple watch, he noticed that his steps seemed high too. What we discovered was that many of the steps counted were from the horses that we rode walking down the trails, not steps that we had actually taken. It explained why the step count was artificially high. These extra steps were dubbed, “horsey steps.”
It’s interesting how two similar trips can be so different. We went leaf peeping in the same area twice now, but each trip was very different, and had its own “flavor.” Walking through the town, and visiting the stores added a different flavor to the trip compared to doing simple peeping and The Grand Canyon. The horseback riding also added to the trip. My point is that a person can repeatedly take a vacation to the same location and get different things out of it each time. Both trips were good in their own ways, though each one was different!
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