Thursday, May 28, 2015

RoadAbode's Hidden Gems: Frances Slocum State Park Wyoming, Pennsylvania

RoadAbode Hidden Gem: Frances Slocum State Park
View from the Lake Shore Trail
The RoadAbode Crew usually does not try to camp on popular holiday weekends. In the past, we have found those weekends the traffic is crazy, the campgrounds and state parks we go to are crowded, and there seems to be more "yahoos" ~ those that are there more for partying and craziness than relaxing and enjoying nature. This Memorial Day weekend, we decided to give it a try. Our other weeks in May were filled with volunteering with a local Youth Theater, Our eldest's College graduation, work projects and helping at our church. If we wanted to get out to relax with RoadAbode (and we needed to!) it would have to be Memorial Day weekend. To add a little bit of adventure to the weekend, I had decided we would check out an area of Pennsylvania called "The Back Mountains," and stay at a new to us campground ~ Frances Slocum State Park in Luzerne County

About the Park's Namesake

Frances Slocum State Park is so named in honor of a woman abducted when she was five years old by Delaware Indian warriors at the Slocum family farm near Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Slocum was raised among the Delaware nation, which moved to what is now Ohio and Indiana. Not until she was in her 60s did her siblings find her. By then she had married the chief of the Miami Indian Nation, and had four children. She had no recollection of her previous life, or even her former name. She chose to stay with her Native American family, Slocum’s story is one of a rare individual who fully assimilated into the Native American culture that surrounded her, and was accepted as one of its members. To read more of her history and legacy, check here

About the Park

Frances Slocum State Park consists of over 1,000 acres in northeastern Pennsylvania’s Luzerne County. The park features a horseshoe shaped, 165-acre lake which is great for boating and  fishing. While on the hiking trails, there are many species of birds, fish and wildlife to see.  There is also a pool.
For those that like fishing, bring your boat (or rent one) to try your luck catching the various species in the lake; including crappie, bluegill, perch, catfish, muskellunge, pickerel, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, walleye and stocked trout.
This park is great for the novice hiker. Most of the trails we hiked were well marked and on flat, even terrain. Many of the trails intersect together, and use portions of inter-park roadways as part of the hike. The four miles of mountain bike trails are designated with red trail makers. The short Frances Slocum Trail loops to and from the boat rental parking lot. On this trail hikers can enjoy the hardwood forest and will come upon the rock shelter where it is thought American Indians temporarily hid and held their small captive (Frances Slocum).
The temperature during our visit was a bit cool for us to enjoy the pool at Frances Slocum. There were some kids in the pool, and it looked like a great place to take a swim on a hot day. We did visit the concession stand outside the pool, as this is where campers can pickup firewood and ice. Though the building splits the road on the way to the campground, there is no longer a store for campers located there.

About the Campground

For we RVers, the campground consists of two loops, Hemlock Hill and Stoney Point. Stoney Point is preferable as each site has electric hookups, and more water spigots dispersed throughout the loop. There is also the Rocky Knoll loop for walk-ins tent campers that want to get their wild on. Both RVing loops allow pets in designated sites. Below is a photosphere we created of our campsite on the Stoney Point loop.

When we were there, the bath house was clean and usable. Plenty of hooks to hang our showering things, a bench to hold stuff or sit on, but no curtain between the changing area and shower. (There is a door for each individual shower/changing area combo) the shower was operated by a push button that had to be periodically held in to continue your stream of water. The park did lose water pressure on the third day of our stay, but that was due to a water main break on the main road - out of the staff's control. Water use was back again the next day. We frequently saw park rangers pass through the park, and even more so after the water issue - making sure everyone knew of the problem. The camp hosts were also visible, stopping to chat with people and always picking up any refuse along the roadways. Was great that they were checking in with guests and keeping things clean!
Trails, fishing and even a boat launch are all easily accessible walking from the campground. You could hike to the pool, but probably would be better to take the short drive over. The pool is centered in the "horseshoe" of the lake, with the campground to the outside of one of the legs of the horseshoe.

The Surrounding Area

RoadAbode Crew at Seven Tubs
Resting along the stream at Seven Tubs
We only left the park twice ~ to grab some supplies (someone forgot headphones) and to grab a bite while out; and to visit a Luzerne County Nature Area.  Both a Super WalMart and Aldis Grocery store are only 20 minutes from the campground in the city of Pittston. The state park is also close to larger of municipalities Scranton and Wilkes Barre. There are plenty of local eateries for us to check out in subsequent visits.
The nature area we visit is called Seven Tubs. A trail follows series of small waterfalls carved by glacial waters.  It was a beautiful and shaded hike. Most of the trail is well marked, but watch for roots, loose soil and slippery rocks when first crossing the bridge to start your hike. We would recommend checking the area out, and plan on going back ourselves. To learn more about Seven Tubs, the most informative link seems to be at Wikipedia

Final Thoughts

We really enjoyed Frances Slocum state park. Even for a busy holiday weekend and full campground, we did not feel closed in or crowded. There is still plenty to explore, or maybe just relax and read a book or two as we did this visit for our holiday weekend.
Reservations are completed through the Reserve America website, and for most include a photo of the particular sites.
For more information on Frances Slocum State Park, check the PA DCNR website

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

RoadAbode Fun: How to Make a Photo Sphere

We love documenting where we've been and sharing with others. Nothing helps tell the story better than including a picture. This year, I discovered with the right App, I can make Photo Spheres. Though I've only made a few, they really are fun, and give people more of a feel for a place we've been.
Photo Sphere of Pine Hill RV Park in Kutztown, PA 

What's a Photo Sphere?

 it's a Google-centric special photo you can link to Google Maps that gives visitors a 360 degree view of the location you took the photo. You can link the photo to Google Maps through the Geo-location data that is embedded in the photo's metadata. You can even create Photo Spheres inside buildings, and link them together to move from one room, to another.
For some cool Photo Spheres, check out the collection created by Minh T. Nguyen
The app to create photo spheres is available for both Android and iOS operating systems. As the RoadAbode Crew is Android-centric in our handheld device choices, the information will be from the perspective of an Android user, but most tips should work on iPhones and iPads as well.

How to start with your Photo Sphere

After installing the Google camera App, open and swipe right to open the menu to select the photo sphere icon
Photo Sphere Icon in the Google Camera App
Before creating your photo sphere, take time to select your location and decide what will be the most interesting feature in your 360 degree view.  You'll want to take the least interesting part of your photo first, that way the more interesting parts will have less issues being stitched together.
As you take your photo, remember to keep the lens of your smartphone's camera as the "pivot point."  Remind yourself as you work that  the lens of the camera is at the center of the sphere, I find it easies to hold the phone in both hands, about chest high. As you pivot around, dots will lead you to where you need to photograph next. If you take a shot that does not fit well to the last shot, you can undo the last photo taken in the Photo Sphere and try again. Try to move slowly so the camera can take clear shots. Take center photo, then take up and down and circle right. Keeping your pattern consistent will help with the quality of your photo sphere. When taking my photo spheres, I try to take the photo when not too many people are around (early morning) so that I don't get a lot of movement or distraction of people in the photo.
To understand how to take a photo sphere better, check out this YouTube Video about the process by Mark Bruce

I think Photo Spheres are a great way to share a place you've visited, and perhaps give more of a sense of "being there." Here is a  link to my Photo Spheres

If you have questions, or want to share some Photo Spheres you've created, please leave a comment and link below!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

RVing RoadTrip: 5 FREE Concerts to check out in Pennsylvania

Free Concerts - RoadTrip to Pennsylvania

OK, we lied. There are MORE than five concerts to check out! But with such diversity in musical tastes, we figured we'd list five venues in Pennsylvania that have multiple opportunities to enjoy some awesome bands and performances, with great food and drink close by. So in no particular order, here are the five places to point your RV to in Pennsylvania to catch some live tunes for your summer RoadTrip entertainment.
EDIT: Thanks to Visit PA for a suggestion via Twitter added to the end of this post!
Musikfest Poster

SteelStacks, Bethlehem PA

We were awed on our recent visit to this town. The Arts have give a rebirth to Bethlehem, and music had played a large role in the city's "Phoenix Rising from the Ashes" story. Riverjazz, Musikfest, and other events should be on your calendar, but you can count on almost each week through the summer to catch sensational sounds, and always at everyone’s favorite price ~ FREE! Check their calendar of concerts here.

Long's Park Logo

Long's Park, Lancaster, PA

For over 50 years Long’s Park has been treating music lovers to Sunday nights of free tunes on the Long’s Park amphitheater stage during the summer. The 80-acre city park boasts other outdoor amenities including picnic pavilions, a petting farm, children’s playgrounds, and a three-acre, spring fed lake. The Summer Music series is what we're here to learn about - and features a variety of musical genres. If you really want to get in on the small, hometown patriotic feel, check out the concert happening July 5th featuring the U.S. Army Concert Band. Food and drink are available to purchase, but if we're being frugal, bring your own, and make sure to include a picnic blanket and/or chairs. For more information on Long's Park and who's performing, check in here

RiverStage, Penn's Landing in Philadelphia

Various Locations, Philadelphia, PA

Philadelphia has multiple venues that offer free concerts through the summer. Known both as the Cradle of Independence and City of Brotherly Love, music and other performing arts can be found at Penn's Landing River Stage, nestled between the nightspots along the Delaware River. Or check out Philly's rotating Beer Garden Series happening in a different location weekly throughout the summer. For the most bang for your free dollar, visit the city during the First week in July, and take part in the city's all-encompassing Welcome America Celebration. Fireworks, food (even some free!) and music happening throughout the city - celebrating the nation's birthday in its birthplace.

Pennsylvania Arts Council Logo

Parks in Berks County, PA

Though Performing Arts in the Park is not Technically free, You definitely get your moneys worth for a $5 donation per carload. We don't know for sure, but maybe it's free if you hike or bike in? Either way, enjoy a variety of not just musical performances, but Shakespeare, dance and more at the various locations administered by the Parks and Recreation Department of Berks County. Check in here for more information on the specific venues, artist or performances happening thorough the summer.

SummerSounds Greensburg, PA

St. Clair Park, Greensburg, PA

SummerSounds - Concerts in the Park emphasize high standards of contemporary musicianship in a family atmosphere. This yearly series has been called "the best outdoor music series in Western PA." Music ranges from jazz, rock, to bluegrass, with a taste of folk, new age and country thrown in. Dine at a close downtown restaurant or bring a picnic basket dinner if you wish bring a blanket of lawn chair to dine alfresco under the stars. Catch all the information here.

Three Rivers Art Festival Pittsburgh Cultural Trust

Three Rivers Arts Festival, Pittsburgh, PA

When Visit PA saw a tweet about this post, they awesomely suggested we check out Three Rivers Art Festival held in June. Ten days of music, theater, dance, public art installations, gallery exhibitions, a visual artist market, creative activities, food, and more. Billed as among the largest and most-celebrated FREE arts festivals in the world, Three Rivers Art Fest is made possible by the non-profit Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, which collaborates with sponsors to produce the festival. The fun begins on the first Friday in June and takes place at the confluence of Pittsburgh’s famed three rivers in Point State Park, throughout picturesque Gateway Center, and in the city’s world-renowned Cultural District. To find out more and learn the schedule of performances, check the informative portal

The RoadAbode Crew think those are the best venues in Pennsylvania to catch some awesome performances in Pennsylvania, without having to dig into your wallet. Did we miss a favorite? Got something to sharer about the ones we selected? Let us know in the comments section below!  As always - if you have any questions on the RVing Lifestyle, whether places to visit, equipment to have or carry, or something else we haven't thought of - let us know - we'd love to hear from you!

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Battling the One Thing that Creeps us out when Hiking

Battling the ONE thing that Creeps us out Hiking

Wherever we go RVing, the RoadAbode Crew love to hike in woodlands, grasslands and forests. Some of our favorite hiking spots are right here in our home state of Pennsylvania. Great marked trails, interesting geological features, and many not too far from the comforts of civilization.
 But one thing will get the whole RoadAbode Crew creeped out. They are quiet, determined and literally will suck the blood out of you. It is waiting in the woods for the right host to saunter by. the hideous appearance is like some thing out of a ghoulish movie, and it can infest even the most proper of lawns. It's not just the vampire-like qualities, but the debilitating diseases they share with you that should really scare you.
This parasite is non discriminatory, attacking your pets and children. It seeks out all types of animals for one thing. Blood. It's offspring start with smaller animals and as they grow, work their way to bigger prey.
I remember as a child one attacked me, attaching itself to my underarm. My father came to the rescue, as he skillfully removed the blood-filled beastie (my blood!) and threw it into the campfire with a victory cry...

NOT "The TICK" ~ that Cute Cartoon Bug of Justice.

Where ticks are found

Ticks live in humid and somewhat damp environments. They hide out in or near woods, underbrush or grassy areas. You may come into contact with ticks during outdoor activities around your home or when walking through leaf litter and near shrubs. Thier life cycle actually leads them to start with smaller animals and work their way up through each change they go thru.

Blacklegged tick By US federal government Center for Disease Control (CDC) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Blacklegged Tick ~ US federal government Center for Disease Control (CDC) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Why ticks are dangerous

Besides the obvious "ick" factor of having something in the same family group as a scorpion or spider feeding off you, there's a high risk of disease. Diseases that you can get from a tick bite include (listed alphabetically):

Anaplasmosis ~ causes fever, headache, chills, and muscle aches.
Babesiosis ~  infects red blood cells, can cause hemolytic anemia
Ehrlichiosis ~ causes Fever, Headache, Chills, Malaise, Muscle pain, Nausea / Vomiting / Diarrhea, Confusion, Conjunctival injection (red eyes), Rash
Lyme disease ~ causes Erythema migrans (EM) or "bull's-eye" rash, Facial or Bell's palsy, Severe headaches and neck stiffness due to meningitis, Pain and swelling in the large joints, Heart palpitations and dizziness and other lingering symptoms even after treatment
Rocky Mountain spotted fever ~ causes Fever, Rash, Headache, Nausea, Vomiting. Abdominal pain, Muscle pain, Lack of appetite, Conjunctival injection (red eyes)
Southern tick-associated rash illness (STARI) red, expanding “bull's-eye” lesion 

These are no joke - I have seen first hand what an undetected or untreated tick bite can do to some of my friends. If not cared for right away, the process to get better can be a long one, and draining both physically and mentally.

Attempting to be a less desirable tick target

When the RoadAbode Crew is hiking, we always try to remember to walk in the center of trails in order to avoid contact with ticks. Keep your kids out of the underbrush or piles of leaves, and teach them why it's important. Ticks are on the ground, starting low and crawling up. Ticks can't jump, fly or ninja drop from trees. They are down on the ground and keep crawling up until they find a good spot to hide out and attach. If you are going into a heavily wooded area and into underbrush, wear long pants, and tuck your pant legs into your socks (even though it looks pretty dorky).  Long pants and long sleeves when working or hiking in close underbrush or tall grass is a good way to keep ticks on the outside where they can be seen or get brushed off.
Use a repellent with DEET on skin. Repellents containing 20% or more DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide) can protect up to several hours. Always follow the product instructions. Parents should apply this product to their children, but be sure to avoid the hands, eyes, and mouth. For detailed information about using DEET on children, see recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
There are products to use for dogs as well. Most work for fleas too. Be careful to read the instructions. Some products can be used on dogs, but not other animals. Some doses are by dog size or weight.
There are hikers or workers that are constantly in the woods, or more at risk. These folks use products containing permethrin - which kill ticks - on their clothes. We need to caution we don't use this toxic insecticide ourselves. Though commonly used to treat head lice, it is a strong inorganic chemical, and can induce burning, itching, numbness, rash, redness, stinging, swelling, or tingling if not used properly.  Permethrin sprays should only be used to treat boots, clothing and camping gear. The plus - after treatment your gear will remain protected through several washings.

What to do if you find a tick on you

First off, don't panic, but be aware. If the tick is crawling on you, grab the intruder and burn it, douse it rubbing alcohol or cover it completely with a piece of tape. If a tick does latch on, some people have success with putting a just extinguished match on the ticks rear. We have had 100% success on both ourselves and Molly our pup using a special tool - TickEase Tick Remover. It's special design gently (to you) prys the little bugger off so the tick cannot hold on, and pulls it away from your skin. Once off, dispose of the tick as above. Wash the area thoroughly with peroxide,rubbing alcohol or if that is not available at least soap and water. Watch the area for the next few days to week for any signs of rash. Some small redness after extraction is common, but watch for it to grow or not go away.
TickEase Tool
TickEase, A prybar specially made to get a tick to let go.
If you follow the above recommendations and tips, we can't guarantee a tick-free hiking or camping trip. But being knowledgeable and understanding what to do will improve your chances of beating these pests.
Do you have a tick horror story, or how you have vanquished ticks from your camping trips? We'd love to read your stories or solutions in the comments below!

For more information on ticks, check the CDC's Tick Portal