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Amusement Parks
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Getting There

The Melville Coast

Melville Coast
New Bedford
Cape Cod
Driving. From Central Kentucky, we recommend following I-75 north to Cincinnati, I-71 northeast to Westfield Center (Ohio), I-76 east to North Jackson, and I-80 across Northern Pennsylvania. If you're coming from points South, you can follow I-77, I-79, or I-75 northward. From the Great Lakes come South to I-80, then turn eastward. From anywhere West, head roughly toward Chicago and hit I-80. On the Coast, follow your favorite corridor northward, skirt New York City, and meet us at Elmo's Diner.
Cooks Forest. For all those joining us on I-80, we strongly urge you make your last overnight stop before Mystic in the area known as The Pennsylvania Wilds. If you leave Lexington at 9 a.m. you will reach the exit by about 5 pm. Turn off I-80 at Brooksville and take route 36 13 miles to Cook's Forest. This is the largest remaining expanse of virgin timber East of the Rockies. Try to spend two nights here, using the day between to hike beneath the huge trees and canoe the Clarion River. The largest herd of free roaming elk east of the Rockies inhabit these five million acres. 1100 miles of trails wind through the deep shade. 2067 miles of flowing water in rivers and side streams hold trout and other cold water fish. Birds of prey ride the skies. This has been proposed for National Park status, which it will probably achieve as money becomes available. Until then, it is governed as state park, national forest, wilderness, and federal reserve. The oak, hickory, and white pine are among the largest remaining in North America. The seven tribes of the Iroqouis Confederacy hunted here.You will learn of the first oil well, narrow gauge railroads and trappers. Rich industrialists from Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Cleveland came to hunt, fish and vacation. A day or so here clears the mind to appreciate the historical sites of Massachusetts. It is a special place. But make reservations in advance.

The Gateway Lodge is one of America's best forest retreats, offering rooms, suites, cabins, and a great restaurant. Gateway's rooms and dining hall are in a beautiful 1933 pine and hemlock log structure tastefully maintained and updated over the century. Floors are oak. Except for an updated front porch and stairs, and a wing added for the pool, the lodge today stands exactly as it was built. There's an indoor heated pool and sauna. The photo at top left shows the front entrance to Gateway Lodge. Top right is a corner of the restaurant. The panorama above right shows a back view of the lodge extending from the office and restaurant. At right here is the lobby looking down from the third floor balcony. There is a small Tap Room resembling an Olde English Pub The restaurant has a beamed ceiling and log walls with antique rifles, harnesses, snowshoes and other mountain artifacts mounted on the walls. Wagon wheel chandeliers provide overhead lighting while kerosene lamps are on each table. Most of the dishes and silverware are pewter. The food is great and a wine list of 225. They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, so you could stay here for two days, explore the forest and the river, and come back to the lodge for all meals. For couples, families or a small group there could be no finer beginning for a vacation trip than this. If you really want to taste luxury in the wilderness, the Luxury Suites include jacuzzis right next to the fireplaces. From I-80 exit at Clarion, turn left, go straight for 13 miles, turn right on 36 and go south for four miles. Gateway Lodge is on the left 1/4 mile past Cooksburg Bridge.


The cabins are classic backwoods fishing and hunting retreats updated to more civilized quarters for a modern clientele. All have fireplaces and some have jacuzzis. The photo at left shows the Clarion River easing along behind a few of these cabins. The Clarion is very calm along this stretch, but it gets much livelier further downstream. Cabins have kitchens, outdoor fire rings and picnic tables (you can see one peeking around the left corner of the nearest cabin here), and firewood for either the fireplace or the fire ring. These cabins are pretty cozy. The Gateway operates year round, with snowmobilers and cross country skiiers coming in the Winter and a large number of families coming every Christmas.

Unfortunately, Gateway Lodge cannot house a large group. For that you might try MacBeth's Cabins, at the southern entrance to Cooks Forest on route 36. They have 28 cabins overlooking the Clarion River, and some of them hold 12. You could eat over at Gateway, or at nearby Clarion River Lodge. 800-331-6319.

Evergreen Cabins, again on route 36 at the southern edge of Cooks Forest. They have one cabin sleeping 1-10, one sleeping 1-12 and one sleeping 1-13. All have fireplaces, kitchens, and large dining tables. Very nice. 1-800-561-6463.

Cook Riverside Cabins. 800-680-0160. River Road, Cooksburg. On the Clarion River. Good canoeing, fishing, tubing.

Cooks Forest has over 400 commercial campsites. We recommend one of the following :

Shiloh Resort. 814-752-2360. This campground also has a small restaurant. Along route 36, inside Cook Forest.

Kalyumet Campground. 814-744-9622. Right off I-80 at Exit 62 (route 68) 8630 Miola Road. Large sites, shaded. Also a small motel and luxury cabins.

Pine Crest. 814-752-2200. Route 36, 2 miles south of Cooksburg Bridge. Also mini golf, go carts and cabins.

Hiking. The 140 mile Baker Trail, a 90 mile section of the North Country Trail, 30 miles of Cooks Forest trails and 25 miles of trail in Clear Creek State Park invite you deep into the big trees. The Ox Shoe Trail will take you about an hour and a series of displays shows the history of the logging industry. If you stop here in early June as we recommend, the mountain laurel and rhododendron will be in full bloom.

Canoeing. The Clarion River is a federally designated Wild & Scenic Waterway. Standard two hour and five hour trips are available for one day visitors. Pale Whale Outfitters, 800-680-0160.

Biking. The Clarion River Little Toby Rail Trail currently extends 18 miles from Ridgeway to Brockway. It follows the Clarion River to the ghost town of Carman, then comes down Little Toby Creek to Brockway. There are parking areas and picnic pavilions at both trailheads. The tree cover extends the length of the trail, so you are rarely in the sun. This is an old railroad bed, so rises and drops in elevation are very gradual. The trail never crosses a road or street and vehicles have no access to it.

If you would like to take a day and ride this beautiful trail out and back, for a total of 36 miles, you can rent bikes from Love's Canoe & Bike Rentals in Ridgeway. 814-776-6285.

Horseback Riding. 300 miles of riding trails are available along the Clarion River. There is also a complete facility that offers horses, meals, cabins, one day trips or overnight pack trips deep into the forest. Cook Forest Ranch, 814-226-5985. Pine Crest Ranch, 814-752-2200.

Cook Forest Sawmill. 250 local artisans produce their work in front of you. The quilting, weaving and carving are especially impressive. One hour classes are offered. A summer theatre stages evening shows. The 200 year old sawmill alone is worth the visit.

Construction is under way on the National Elk Research Center, located here, and by next summer it should be open. There will be a visitor center, educational facilities, labs, a library and other features involved with studying these magnificent creatures who were native to Pennsylvania and are now protected in this northern forest. Elk are not confined, however. They roam wild over the hills and forests, and can often be heard bugling or crashing through the brush. You want to drive watchfully when off the interstate, especially coming around bends or over the tops of hills, because encounters with Elk have frequently totalled vehicles. These are not deer. They are very, very big animals. Fortunately, a high fence keeps them off the interstate.

Continue Eastward on !-80, I-81 and I-84 across Pennsylvania and New York. This will bring you to a late lunchtime stop at Newburgh, just before you cross the Hudson River. Alexi's Diner is the largest original diner still operating in America. Only 12 originals remain, and none are as impressive as this. It has been beautifully maintained and restored. And the food inside is hard to beat. Alexi's offers Greek, Italian and traditional American. People drive up here on Sunday afternoons from New York City just for the pizza, quiches and pies.

Alexi's is open 24 hours a day so even if you're coming through on a different schedule than ours, you can always stop. They serve breakfast round the clock. Several websites and magazines rank their waffles and french toast the best in New York. We don't order french toast enough to judge, but Dan is a lifelong waffle conneisseur and he agrees these are among the best. Dave loves Greek food and spent a year living in Greece, and he considers these Gyros in his top 10 anywhere. The menu is extensive and includes many salads, soups and main dinner courses, so Alexi's becomes a stop to satisfy all the varying tastes in your group.

Once you cross the Hudson, an amazing vista opens out. The skyscrapers of New York City are on the Southern horizon, but you are suddenly in a rocky, pastoral landscape. After climbing a five mile hill, pull off at one of the viewing areas for a look at the Hudson River Valley little changed since the days of Washington Irving. It is hard to believe that this scene remains this close to America's largest metropolitan area. Continue on I-84 into Connecticut. Take 891, 91 and 9 down to I-95, and follow it into Mystic. If you left Cook's Forest at 9 am you should reach Mystic at 5 pm unless rush hour traffic through New London delays you. You want Exit 90, which puts you on state route 27. Six motels are at the exit, the campground is half a mile North. A quarter mile South brings you to the historic district and beyond that is the downtown. The U.S. Submarine Base at Groton is a few miles West on state 184.

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