It was a different place. The barn was round. The houses all had names like Jack Frost and The Cabin With No Name. The roads were well-maintained, but twisty and long. Welcome to Micheaux State Forest in south central Pennsylvania, home to a rugged patch of the famous Appalachian Trail, and one of the most scenic rides in Pennsylvania. What better way to spend a Sunday afternoon in Pennsylvania than on a Vespa, tooling down back roads? Click To Tweet
C’mon, I’ll show you.
Micheaux State Forest: A Working Forest
Micheaux State Forest, named for the French botanist, Andre Micheaux, who discovered and named numerous plants during the 1700’s. Covering more than 85,000 acres, the forest ranges across Cumberland, Adams and Franklin Counties in the South Mountain area of PA. The forest itself is a working forest with active timber harvests, deer enclosure fences, and prescribed fires. Protections are in place to preserve a vernal pool, local streams and areas are set aside to conserve the wild character of the forest and the rare plants that grow here in Micheaux.
The area is quiet and peaceful, even at the height of summer’s humidity, the air beneath the canopy of oaks is cool and refreshing. Keep your eyes open for varieties like Chestnut, Scarlet, and Northern-red, as well as Black and White Oaks. Following Route 233 heading south, the road is well-paved and wide-open. Trees fill in the landscape on both sides of the road, and drivers taking a little extra time are treated to a picturesque stream at the base of a shallow ravine. It is overwhelmingly, deliciously silent.
Pine Grove Furnace State Park: Midway on the AT
This same area is home to Pine Grove Furnace State Park, and marks the famous halfway point on the Appalachian Trail, running from Georgia north to Mt. Katahdin, Maine. In addition to verdant trails and whitetail deer, the remains of Pine Grove Furnace share the history of the region’s contribution to the manufacture of charcoal iron. While in years past, you may have seen smoke billowing upward from the furnace, today the skies are clear and blue. The halfway mark of the AT provides visitors a closer look at the history of the trail and its construction, at the Appalachian Trail Museum, housed in a beautiful natural stone building. Close by the original mansion on the property has been transformed into hostel housing for through hikers. Tradition dictates that through hikers stop at the camp store to treat themselves to a half-gallon of ice cream to fortify themselves for the remaining journey.
Mister Ed’s Elephants
Continuing onto Route 30, also known as the Lincoln Highway, you may be surprised to come across a herd of elephants at Mister Ed’s Elephant Museum & Candy Emporium in Ortanna, PA. Offering more than 900 varieties of candy, you’re certain to find an old favorite, like Lemon Heads or Fireballs, along with every kind of elephant you can imagine. Towering concrete statues with upraised trunks, all the way down to miniature glass renditions. My personal favorite is the truck parked out front, bedazzled from roof to floorboard, a spectacle in and of itself. It’s the perfect place to wander down Memory Lane, and refuel your tank with Cow Tales and chocolate caramel creams.
A few miles later, and one town over, leaving Route 30 in favor of Route 234, the forests have given way to apple orchards, stretched in neat rows over the rolling hillsides of Biglerville. Pennsylvania is known for its farms and produce, and apples are no exception. Local orchards and fruit stands are the rule in this area, not the exception.
Next Stop? The Historic Round Barn & Market
As if rows and rows of perfectly picked apples and produce weren’t enough, the Round Barn is also a rustically beautiful wedding venue. Climb the wooden stairs to the top of the barn and find yourself surrounded by vintage wooden floors and walls, twinkling lights, and a magnificent view of local orchards and neighboring farms. It is both magical and simple. Want more? The old-time gas pump out front has been upcycled into the perfect backdrop for spontaneous selfies, and wedding portraits. Three donkeys are also on hand in a second small barn, eager for a gentle pat, and perhaps a treat or two.
Back on the Vespa, it was time to head home, following Route 234 to Rou5 North. I wasn’t the only one enjoying this Sunday ride on two wheels, passing and greeting a number of motorcyclists on adventures of their own. Considering I managed to ride through a beautiful state forest, stop at the mid-point along the Appalachian Trail, encounter a herd of elephants while heading down Memory Lane, and visit one of the few remaining round barns in the Commonwealth, it was a day well spent.
If you have two wheels, or four, or maybe just a hiking staff, come out and play. You’ll find some pretty amazing things.