It was that time of year again. Family vacation time! This year I had rented a place for an entire week plus a day. We hadn’t been able to do that since 2011. I spent months searching for the perfect house, making lists and comparing pros and cons. I interviewed each child and found that they didn’t care as much about the house as they did about the land.
They wanted to be far enough away from other people that they could shoot BB guns and have camp fires.
We finally settled on a farmhouse in Liberty, PA. It had 6 bedrooms and 130 acres. I was hoping it would provide the perfect peaceful retreat.
The week preceding our vacation, Chris had transferred to a new building at work. He is a UPS driver, and they had moved a lot of the routes to this new building. His 10 minute commute became 30. Not too bad especially since he had gotten his own regular route for the first time since he started 4 years ago. However, the days proved to be much longer, threatening to overtake his 14 hour limit.
“Did I tell you I saw an eagle at work the other day?” he asked me at the end of the very long week. “It was right there, flying over the Target parking lot.”
I marveled at that! Chris had gotten a very busy route in the heart of retail businesses. Not a place you would expect to see an eagle. Eagle sightings had become a sign of God encounters to me. I have written about it in many articles starting with A Hawk, a Vulture, and an Eagle and continuing with Part 2, This is a New Season, and A Surprise Visit from my Marine. Wow! I really have seen a lot of eagles! I took this fresh eagle sighting as a sign that this new position for Chris was part of God’s plan.
Though it seemed that it would require endurance and long hours, God would meet him there.
I was also fully expecting God to encounter us on our vacation, and I was not disappointed!
It sure took a long time to get 10 people packed up and ready to go. We filled a rental trailer with all of our essentials. Half of it was food! By the time we were ready for the long drive, the rain had cleared away. The journey toward northern Pennsylvania was beautiful, the golden sun playing on the autumn leaves, weaving in and out of the rolling hills. We listened to the CDs I had checked out of the library, The Penderwicks in Spring. It was the fourth book in the series that we had come to adore, and it seemed just perfect for our family right now. The oldest girl was away at college (just as our oldest daughter is away at missionary school), the neighbor boy was away in the army (as our oldest boy is away in the Marines) and the other Penderwicks were of many different ages, just as our children are.
We finally arrived! It was quite remote and the land was beautiful. The house was very interesting with an old, quirky charm. Everyone got unpacked in their new rooms. Then we cooked hotdogs and s’mores over the fire outside. Such a lovely evening.
Chris drove most of the children to the PA Lumber Museum and they enjoyed the antique vendors, the demonstrations, and the exhibits.
Chris purchased a book published in 1901 titled The Life of William McKinely. Many times in the next week I would see Cadin enjoying the solitude of his own room and reading this book.
Since the Lumber Museum wasn’t handicap accessible, I stayed home with Ashlyn and Aria. They were so sweet and we spent a happy morning outside in the sunshine.
That evening Chris grilled hamburgers and we all ate outside. It was cold! Chris decided to zip Aria into his jacket. He still was able pass the football with his boys.
I wanted to hold these family moments forever in my memory!
We drove to the Lenard Harrison State Park. They had a beautiful overlook to view the PA Grand Canyon.
Soon however, we encountered stairs and Ashlyn could go no further. We found an employee who showed us on a map the two Handicap Accessible trails. We stopped for lunch first at the playground.
Then we drove to the Pine Creek Trail which was at the bottom of the canyon. The path was wide and flat, good for bikers and horses. It was gorgeous! We saw a covered wagon tour pass by.
We continued the adventure by driving to the other side of the gorge to access the Barbour Rock Trail. Most of the children were tired of walking and just wanted to stay in the van.
“We came this far, I am going to walk to the vista!” I announced.
Chris came with me along with three of the children. Chai stayed with the rest in the van. It was only .7 miles to the Vista and what a lovely walk. All of a sudden we came upon the vista and it was breath taking.
I wanted to linger there just a little longer than the boys would have liked. My patience was rewarded as Chris and I got to see a large bird circling over the gorge. When the sunlight flashed on the white tail feathers, I knew we had seen a bald eagle!
Oh to be an eagle and to soar over such a sight!
The entire day felt like a gift from a loving Father.
We took the morning and drove to Mansfield, my father’s hometown. First we visited the house where he had grown up.
The last time I had been there was for my father’s internment in 2013. The home had looked small and barren, stripped of the magic it had possessed when I was a child. The current owners must have poured a lot of love into the property, because it looked so charming again. What relief that brought me!
Right down the street was Oakwood Cemetery. I couldn’t remember where the family grave-site was, so we just got out and started looking. After a few minutes I caught sight of two stones decorated with flowers and birds, the prettiest in the cemetery. They belonged to my Grandmother and Grandfather!
And right behind them was my Dad’s and a stone for my mom, ready for her but not yet needed (thank goodness!) As a child, I had always been very bored when my relatives took me to pay respects in a cemetery. Now it was a very meaningful part of my family history.
We drove to the History Center on Main St. and were greeted by the woman who runs it. She talked to us and showed us around.
She showed me a picture of my Dad in her Mansfield High School display. She remembered him! She said that if I donated something of his, she would put it in her display. I loved seeing the history of the small town and felt honored that my Dad had been a part of it. The children mostly just loved the little dog Amos who considered the museum his home away from home.
We ate lunch at a park that had a swing just perfect for Ashlyn. It sat in the shadow of Mansfield University where my grandfather had been a professor. Grandmother and Grandfather had passed away when I was still in elementary school. Before they died, we would travel to Mansfield only once or twice a year. We always came for Thanksgiving, and it was always cold, wet, and dreary.
But on this sunny fall day as I watched my children play at the park, my view of Mansfield was being redeemed. It was a gorgeous little town! I felt the sunshine make its way into my memories and brighten up my view of my father’s side of the family.
Being the first rainy day, we decided to stay at the farmhouse. There were so many books and games in the library and a large collection of toys and coloring materials in the loft room.
As Chris was reading about the nearby Penn Wells hotel, he decided that he should take me there on a date that night. I was actually hoping to return, since it had been the place that my grandparents would take us for Thanksgiving once Grandmother decided that she was too old to cook.
We drove through the hills and low lying clouds to get to the charming town of Wellsboro. I recognized so much about the Penn Wells, and I enjoyed being there again. Memories of my grandparents warmed my heart; Grandmother asking me to sit by her at the meal because she wanted to get to know me better, Grandfather insisting that I turn in the $2.75 in quarters that I had found in one of the payphones in the lobby.
After we finished the meal, we walked up and down the main street and took in the display windows of all the little shops. Dark had fallen and nothing was open, but it was still fun!
The children were so anxious to get out of the house and use some of their spending money, that Chris took most of them to Wellsboro that morning. I stayed home again with the girls and enjoyed the relative quiet of the house.
That evening we took a walk and gathered wild flowers for the table. We listened to Frank Sinatra on the CD player while we made supper.
The children had taken every opportunity this week to play outside and explore the woods, the fields, and the 5 tree stands. They had conducted target practice with BB guns. They had honed their skill with the bow and arrows. They waged laser tag battles. This day they decided to craft a tepee/ wigwam!
The week had come to an end. We had to get packed up and set all things back in their proper places; no small feat with many small hands constantly grabbing and relocating! We pulled away at 11 am and told the children that we had two surprises for them. The first came after an hour of driving. We stopped at the Country Cupboard to partake of their lunch buffet. This was a special place because we had spent two Thanksgivings there. I groaned inwardly when I saw that most of my children’s idea of enjoying an all-you-can-eat-buffet meant getting a plate of rolls and mac and cheese followed by two plates of dessert. Finally we issued the proclamation: a meat and a vegetable must be eaten before dessert is consumed.
After the meal we had fun walking around their large greenhouse and gift shop. The second surprise was just 20 minutes away. We drove along the river to find our way to the Joseph Priestley House. I looked up and saw two large birds circling directly above the street.
A pair of bald eagles!
We arrived at the lovely house built in the 1700s. A tour guide was just starting the tour, and we learned all about Joseph Priestley. He is famous now for discovering oxygen. He also discovered many other gases and created carbonated water. First and foremost he was a man of faith and believed that science both confirmed and validated his faith.
After we departed the historic site, all that was left to do was drive home. Such a stunning drive! I pondered why God had allowed me to see three eagles on this trip. What was His message to me? I think I simply saw them because I was always watching for them. I expected to see them. Most of the rest of the family hadn’t spotted them because they just weren’t looking.