WHY GO: The “Endless Mountains” in northern Pennsylvania are no hype. The mountain range does seem surreally endless; green and rolling, sculptural and shadowy, mostly following the course of the twisty Susquehanna River. Traversing Pennsylvania’s northeastern border is quite a beautiful ride. Begin where the Mavens left off in Hawley PA, then drive 140 miles west for the following bucolic escape:
Along the Way On US Route 6 PA From Hawley to Wellsboro
STOP: If you’re into glass history or collectibles, you might want to investigate the Dorflinger Glass Museum and Wildlife Sanctuary, White Mills, PA – just 4 miles from Hawley. This one-room museum is a must-see for those who cherish high quality cut and etched glass pieces – it contains the largest display of Christian Dorflinger glass, considered among the finest lead crystal in the country (produced between 1852 and 1921).
The fun, too, is getting there. It’s a ¾ mile jog to the right off 6, on Elizabeth St. a road that gives the impression of being angled 90 degrees straight up. Though it seems as if you will flip over backwards on the ascent, your car will make it. The museum and glass shop is located within a beautiful nature preserve, so even if glass isn’t your thing, the drive to it might be of interest.
EAT: Back on Route 6, if you’re hankering for a hunk of meat, a cylinder of sausage or a disc of worst, drive 2 miles and pull in to the kitschy yet yummy German deli/restaurant, Alpine Inn, 1106 Texas Palmyra Highway, Honesdale, PA, closed Mon., open lunch and dinner.
From Alpine Inn, it’s 2.5 miles into downtown Honesdale, PA where Route 6 runs parallel to the main shopping streets. You’ll wheel past eye-catching grey stone churches, shops and galleries. Honesdale seems to be emerging from a slump – becoming what it once was. Famous for a few reasons, it is purportedly the impetus for the Christmas song, “Walking in a Winter Wonderland.” Secondly, according to the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania website, the first train in America operated out of Honesdale; “On August 8, 1829, The Stourbridge Lion, imported from England, was experimentally operated by Horatio Allen on the Delaware & Hudson Canal Company’s railroad at Honesdale, Pa. It was the first steam engine to run on commercial railroad tracks in the United States.” Honesdale is also the location of the fictitious “Schrute Farms” of television’s The Office fame. For a laugh, look it up on Tripadvisors.com where you’ll find hundreds of “reviews” for the nonexistent rundown B&B.
Drive almost 14 miles to Business Route 6 then through the clogged, stoplight ridden commercial strip beginning in Carbondale, the terminus for the first Honesdale Gravity Railroad. From Carbondale, it’s 15 miles to the outskirts of Scranton where Route 6 joins with Route 11 climbing 4 miles up to Clark’s Green. Seven miles further, in Factoryville, keep your eyes pealed for the sign “Christy Mathewson Highway, or ‘Big Six’” as it is known here. The highway here is dedicated to hometown hero, Hall of Famer Mathewson.
EAT: In Wyalusing, take a right onto Bridge St., drive a block or two and stop for a bite at (or to at least behold) the big yellow Wyalusing Hotel with basic, old fashioned rooms $79-$119. Sandwiches, like the marinated grilled chicken sandwich ($5.99) are decent. A popular hotel for drilling crews, the newly tapped Marcellus Shale is right beneath your tires here.
STOP: For a tantalizing view of the area and a bit of French/American history, pull over at the Susquehanna River Overlook. It was here that Americans sympathetic to France’s Royal Family hoped to settle refugees during the French Revolution of 1790’s. They purchased land along the Susquehanna, called the settlement the “French Azilum” and according to legend had hoped to whisk Marie Antoinette to safety. But no such luck for the cake-obsessed gal.
It’s another 15 miles to Towanda from Wyalusing. Commerce reigns as you pull into the little railroad, artsy town of Towanda. Route 6 crosses the Susquehanna River (which overflowed its banks in the Fall of 2011, making national news) then abruptly turns right. You pass the very photogenic Red Rose Diner – definitely a photo op.
EAT: Park your car and walk a block to the old Train Station transformed into the “organic restaurant,” the Weigh Station Café, where chefs strut their stuff.
TOUR: Drive 20 miles from Towanda, and if you time it right, you’ll experience the joy of rummaging through the Bradford County Farm Museum and Historical Village, in Troy; about ½ mile off Route 6 (on 14), Drive down the ramp to the County Fairgrounds and the massive barnlike structure and expect to spend at least an hour.
There are a bewildering number of everyday objects exhumed from attics and basements, recalling a simpler time. This low-tech place preserves a certain former lifestyle in a very interactive way. “Pick up that iron,” a docent says. It’s least 10 lbs of real iron. “Can you imagine having to use that daily to press your long skirts? It must have taken all morning.” Every one of the thousands of items is worthy of comment.
Ruminate over a wooden goat or sheep treadmill used to churn butter (as well as barrel and swing churns), devices to turn flax into linen, and a piece of wooden water pipe excavated from beneath the town. An adjacent “Village” incorporates a maple sugaring house, a barber shop/doctor’s office (once situated in the same place), a one-room schoolhouse, a massive carriage house, and the famous (featured in the April 17, 1939 issue of Life Magazine) “Chicken Coop” Church created in 1937 by a 12 year old preacher who was fed up with the “highfalutin” ministers in the area.
The Mitchell House on property is stuffed with 1800’s clothing and cabinets brimming with dainty china tea sets (used for tea parties). On the Underground Railroad; slaves were hidden beneath floorboards. You’ll learn about symbols sewn into quilts (thrown over the front porch for “airing”) to indicate how the slaves were to be moved (ie – a circle meant they’d move out by wagon, parallel lines, by train). Volunteer guides offer a stimulating and interpretive stroll down Memory Lane – a very worthwhile way to learn about day-to-day small-town history. April 30-Oct. 30 Thurs – Sat. 9-4, Sun 1-4, $7, children $3.
STOP: Four miles west in Sylvania stop at Connie Stickler’s Settlement House Fine Arts. It’s right on 6 on the far side of “town” – and quite the find for craft hounds. In a gorgeous contemporary timber-frame home (her husband’s design and business), there are three floors of fine arts, funky jewelry, fun gifts and Connie’s own wonderful animal paintings. Tues-Sat. 10-5.
Route 6 remains woodsy and scenic 13 miles west into Mansfield home of to the State University known for its Music Department, and another 13 miles to Wellsboro. Tourist line up for the Hot Roast Beef and Gravy Sandwich at the iconic Wellsboro Diner, a mainstay of this harmonious stuck-in-40’s downtown USA.
STAY: The Wellsboro area is replete with lodges and motels, though you might want to consider the budget-priced historic (possibly haunted) Penn Wells Hotel, just for the location itself. In the center of town, the Penn Wells is “historic” in every sense. The rooms in the older hotel (the Lodge is much newer) are spare but clean, the bed comfortable not plush (no pillowtops here), and the bathrooms are small. Radiator heat and exposed sprinkler system pipes overhead are call to mind another era. But despite the “rustic” accoutrements, it’s a good night sleep until 5am when the street sweeping trucks start doing their thing. Wellsboro takes its charming “stuck-in 40’s” identity very seriously, (which includes the cleanliness of its streets) and this hotel’s location just can’t be beat. It is the perfect place to stay if you want to walk outside, and down the block to eat at the iconic Wellsboro Diner. Rooms from $75 per night.
STAY: Arvgarden. For a more pastoral experience, head a few miles out of town to this exquisite Swedish-style home. Four rooms, with hardwood floors and quilted bedspreads, are just $105 per night and include fresh-from-the-garden gourmet breakfast.