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At the Woods Cabin & Campground

Knotty Pines Restaurant & Bar

  Forest Friends: Timothy Hawley

Forest Friend Timothy Hawley recently sent us this fantastic essay:

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Recollections of Camping at Cook Forest State Park in the Early-Mid 1950s

[These reminiscences are written over 50 years after the fact, so it should be understood that there are inevitable distortions and imperfect memories embedded in this narrative. It may not be absolutely accurate from a factual point of view, but it is an accurate report of what I remember.]

I grew up in Sandusky, Ohio, the son of a Presbyterian clergyman. The tradition in the 1950s was for clergy to get a full month’s vacation, and my father always chose to use that month to go camping – one of our favored sites was Cook Forest State Park, where we camped for three or four summers in the early- and mid-1950s. I was probably about four years old the first year that we went to Cook Forest.

We would pack everything into our 1949 Oldsmobile (later switching to a 1952 Buick) with a top carrier where the tent, tarps and other paraphernalia were stashed, the trunk jam-packed with clothing, an icebox, a little cook stove, lantern and other necessities. My father, mother, two brothers (with a third brother being added in later years) and myself would head off on the drive of about 210 miles or so, which would take in those days some four to five hours. We would always pack a picnic lunch, and would stop at the same little triangular roadside park about midway on the trip to eat our baloney and peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches.

While a long drive like this was not much fun for a bunch of little kids, we did always look forward to driving through the long tunnels that we would have to traverse in Pennsylvania as we approached the park. These narrow tunnels would seemingly go on forever, my recollection being that you couldn’t even see the light at the other end when you entered them. There were at least two, and possibly three tunnels on the trip, and they were always the highlight of the drive.

Arriving at the park was always a big thrill, and we wanted to immediately revisit our usual haunts. We would pull into the Ridge Campground off Route 36, which at that time consisted of a single circle of campsites around the perimeter, with a circular gravel road and a large open field in the middle. My brother, David, tells me that a gravel road led into the woods at the far end of the loop, where additional campsites were located, but I have no recollection of that – I think that I never ventured back into that area, or perhaps I’ve just forgotten. Immediately on the left as you turned into the campground was a large log building that was a ranger’s cabin. As you entered the campground, the bathrooms were on the left – we appreciated the fact that the bathroom had regular flush toilets, because many of the places that we camped had only outhouses. The bathrooms did not, however, have any accommodations for bathing – no showers. My recollection is that the bathroom building was a log-cabin building, but it may have been just made out of wood. Outside the bathroom was a drinking fountain and a spigot from which we could draw water.

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