PA Wilds Day 1: Coudersport & the Ice Mine (a.k.a. Dark Skies)
Travel time: ~ 2 hours
It was late May, and our Pennsylvania Wilds vacation finally had arrived. Day 1 had already begun, but we were still preparing for the days ahead – packing up the last of our camping gear, clothes and accessories, and – of course – our hard copy travel plans.
With the car nearly bursting at the seams, we were ready for a week in the Wilds.
We got off to a late start – but that wasn’t a problem on this trip. Driving less than two hours to Coudersport, we planned to go see the internationally-recognized Dark Skies Landscape at nearby Cherry Springs State Park – but we had plenty of other items on our checklist.
This was to be a relaxing vacation, so as we drove through the Allegheny Mountains on Route 44 – a.k.a. “the Coudersport Pike” – we took our time and stopped at some of the scenic overlooks along the way. These pull-off points included the Pine Hill Summit at 2,175 feet, Water Tank Hollow Vista, and Cherry Springs Vista. Each provides spectacular views of the region’s iconic rolling hills.
We checked out the Coudersport Ice Mine, a natural marvel just a few miles outside of the main borough. There you’ll find a quaint chamber where ice oddly forms in the summer and thaws in the winter.
Yes: ice in summer, thawed in winter… in North Central Pennsylvania.
How does this occur?
We learned about how air travels through loose rocks on the mountainside and mine shaft. Warmer air enters in the spring, forcing colder air out and forming ice – and cold air is drawn in during the winter, forcing out the warmer air and melting the ice.
The natural ice mine attraction is accompanied by a gift shop. The knowledgeable staff tells you about the history of the ice mine, and how it was first discovered by locals seeking the location of silver used by Native Americans.
We shopped at Olga’s Gallery, Café & Bistro (an eclectic shop and eatery featuring creations made by shop namesake and local artisan Olga) and the Potter County Artisan Center (which offers unique wares and products made by a number of county artisans), and had a quick bite to eat for dinner at Kaytee’s Family Restaurant before settling in for the night at Laurelwood Inn & Steakhouse, which is conveniently located along Scenic Route 6 (as is all of Coudersport!).
Cloudy evening skies and rainy weather prevented us from making the free program at Cherry Springs that evening; however, we knew the hidden getaway is close enough to return any time.
We were simply eager to see what the next day in the Wilds would bring.
[This is the first article in a five-part series, entitled “5 Days, 5 Distinct PA Wilds Experiences,” written by PA Wilds Center Outreach Specialist LaKeshia Knarr. Read more about the series here.]