Father’s Day Weekend

The Pict family had a very busy Father’s Day weekend, so much so that we decided that Mr Pict should open his gifts and cards a day early because it was the only way to schedule it in.  In addition to various cards and treats made at school, the boys made up a hamper of fun foods for their Daddy and also gifted him a steel coffee flask plastered in their mugshots.

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Saturday afternoon was spent at a Scouting Regatta hosted at a nearby Swimming Club.  While Mr Pict and I have some reservations about our family being involved in the American version of the Boy Scouts movement, as of now we are very glad that at least one of our children (the seven year old) has committed to joining an extra-curricular activity of any kind.  The people in the local troop are nice and our son certainly gets a lot out of participating, both socially and in terms of experiences.  It is one of those examples of treacherous waters we have to wade through as parents, setting aside our own beliefs and politics in order for our child to benefit.  But I digress … The event was about bringing the families together at the end of the Scouting season, awarding the boys with the badges they had earned and having some friendly competition with racing boats in some guttering.  Meanwhile, the seven year old’s brothers got to benefit from his extra-curricular commitment since they were free to come along and devour barbecued munchies and play in the pool.

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Yesterday, Father’s Day proper, we got up bright and early (perhaps too early for our very tired children who were none too bright about it) to drive up to the Poconos for a day of hiking in the sunshine.  Mr Pict and I had been to the Poconos back in April for a child-free break so had scouted out the places we thought would appeal to our kids most.  We had considered going for an overnight camping trip as a way to extend our adventures.  Sadly (not really – I was nothing but relieved) the busy nature of our weekends meant we could only undertake a day trip.  We, therefore, decided to contain our exploration to Hickory Run State Park.

We started with the Boulder Field as we knew that was a unique landscape and that our mountain goat children would enjoy scurrying and leaping all over the rocks.  Their smaller feet, of course, are better suited to finding foot holds on all shapes and sizes of rocks plus they are pretty much fearless (our five year old is emerging as an adrenalin junkie) so the kids were soon on the horizon line of the boulder field while I was still slowly, very slowly, working my way from rock to rock.  As well as enjoying bounding all over large boulders, the kids also enjoyed finding various spiders basking in the sunshine.  Two of my kids have arachnophobia but they are still fascinated by spiders so long as they are not taken by surprise or have to make physical contact with them. My 8 year old also saw the tail of a lizard whip off between some rocks – so the tail was presumably still attached to an unseen lizard.

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We then took the kids on the Shades of Death trail, which was much more verdant and even more picturesque than when we had visited in April now that Spring has passed into Summer.  The boys loved scampering over all of the tree roots and leaping over streams and bounding over rocks.  The whole walk reminded them of ‘Lord of the Rings’.  What they especially loved about the walk, however, was all of the water since the trail follows the course of a fast-flowing stream and skirts past a weir with a roaring waterfall and then concludes with a large pond.  We didn’t see much in the way of wildlife on our trek.  Some birds, insects and some high-speed chipmunks were all we saw on the trail and we saw deer when we were driving.  My youngest sons were disappointed as they were totally up for a bear encounter.  As I have shared before, however, that is not an American experience I am keen on having so I am glad the bears gave us a wide berth.  What the boys did enjoy finding, however, were tadpoles teeming along the water’s edge, including some godzilla-esque tadpoles that must have been bullfrog babies.  The American word for a tadpole is polliwog.  I like it.

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We left Hickory Run State Park and detoured via the General Store called Country Junction that claims to be the world’s largest general store.  Mr Pict and I thought it would be a brilliant experience for the boys and sure enough they were spellbound as soon as they walked through the door, saw the yellow brick road, ‘The Wizard of Oz’ playing on a loop and the buckets of brightly coloured, bizarrely flavoured popcorn.  They loved the place!  Getting them to leave without a puppy or a pet ray might have proved a challenge but unfortunately no sooner had we arrived then a voice on the tannoy announced that the shop was closing so we had to abandon the yellow brick road, pay for our watermelon (!) popcorn and shoofly pie and return to the car – via the adjacent petting zoo that is also part of the general store.  My kids are already demanding to go back to Country Junction to see the rest of the store and have an adequate amount of time to poke around its incredibly eclectic wares so I think another jaunt to the Poconos will be in order this Summer.

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Poconos Day 3 – Shades of Death

We got up early and packed up so we could fit in one more Poconos excursion before heading back to the Philadelphia suburbs and our four kiddliwinks.  Since there was so much more to see and do in Hickory Run State Park, we decided to head there and do a different trail.  The one we chose was called Shades of Death.  Thankfully the gloomy, doom-laden name was not indicative of the trail itself.

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I was initially disappointed as the trail was very close to the road, and even had us skirting along the side of the road at one point, but then the trail began to curve away from the roadside and we lost the traffic noise at the same time the walk became far more scenic.  The rocky trail meandered along the banks of the Sand Spring Run.  The rock formations created lots of attractive waterfalls and there was an appealing dam weir at the midway point of our hike.  Logging and tanning were once undertaken in these woods and whether from that period in time or some other, we could see the remains of various stone built structures.  These included a narrow flight of steps.  Despite my initial reservations, it was actually a very picturesque hike.

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Driving through a town named Lehighton, we came across Country Junction, “The World’s Largest General Store”.  Well, how could we pass up the opportunity to partake of that gem of Roadside America?  We parked up and entered.  When we entered, there was a fudge stall on one side and a screen playing ‘The Wizard of Oz’.  This was my kind of place!  It transpired that Oz was a theme throughout the store.  The instruction was to “Follow the Yellow Brick Road” which was useful advice because I am pretty sure I could have become lost in the store amid all the amazing clutter had I not clung to the painted yellow bricks on the floor.

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The store was crazy.  It sold anything and everything.  Hardware and DIY items, elaborate taxidermy, garden sculptures on every scale and for every taste, jewellery, hand bags, pickles and jams, toys, pets …. Anything and everything you could think of.  There was even a petting zoo but we skipped that until a time when we would return with the boys.  It was ludicrous, brilliant, awesome and bizarre.  It was the perfect conclusion to our getaway in the Poconos.