My daughter said it perfectly: “Now this is my idea of window shopping!”
This was a much anticipated weekend I had planned for my daughter’s return trip to college after winter break, and I wanted to have some fun with her, so we booked a room for two nights of woman-empowerment, touring the hills and parks, and night time movies. I had projections of Happy Valley covered in snow and the youthful zeal filling the streets of State College, Pennsylvania, with the even more lively resort behavior of a ski lodge hosting an international competition on cable television. I planned this for weeks to become part of the college crowd, another red-cheeked student lugging a heavy backpack, walking through the packs of kids to find a quiet corner and pretend to study, charming dinners at cafes in the alleys, and maybe crash a pregame tailgate party or cultural event. Ahhhh…….fun.
That was the plan.
What really happened? It rained on that day I had envisioned a bonfire and handsome European visitors parading around town, and instead I witnessed many slushy mud puddles and watched fishermen wade icy waters in rubber suits. We had just returned from touring a charming mountainside town, Bellefonte, in Central Pennsylvania. In the rain we walked up and down some streets with steep enough hills to rival San Francisco, and wishing through the windows of shops. She’s a college student, I’m a single mom just trying to get caught up in bills from my 3 year work hiatus, so neither of us had extra play money. We left the shopping district empty handed, but not empty hearted. The afternoon was still wide open.
I swear my daughter and I can both smell and find water everywhere we go and we float right to it like droplets drawn to a bigger puddle. She did get that gene from me. Down a hill at the south base of town flowed a shallow river with some undoubtedly freezing fly-fisherman in rubber suits trying to find the fish. It was near 40 degrees outside and raining, and the men did not seem to care. But the fish did, and they swam mightily upstream towards the dam and away from the lures of death. We decided to not tell the fishermen that the fish were hiding out on the other side of the road and let the fish live.
Alongside the river was a nice park – but it was covered in slush and ice. This silly mom forgot her good-tread warm arctic boots for the trip, so we had to forgo the park. (so much for touring the snowy hills like in my dreams too because I forgot my arctic boots!) The whole time we visited the small city, we spent half of it alongside the river rather than shopping or eating, thanks to a gigantic Belgium waffle with whipped cream and strawberries with a side of sausage.
On the way back to the college town we had passed a road sign for an intriguing town name, or what we thought to be a camp or some sort of state park. Fisherman’s Paradise, PA. It was begging for a visit from two bored women on a rainy day who wanted to wander the countryside, so we made that turn with our ‘innocently lost’ grins on magnified – just in case we wandered (ahem) onto a private road. Oops.
No worries. What is really a tiny hamlet on the bottom of a windy road off Route 26 turned into an afternoon adventure trail that neither one of us wanted to stop exploring. I could feel both of us sigggghhhhh the remaining stresses we may have had that seemed to jump into the shallow creek and we felt at home. Moving water was home for us.
“This is my idea of window shopping!” Because it was raining and cold, we had to enjoy the scenery through car windows, but it was revered much more than our shopping trip in town, as cute as that town was. We are outdoor tomboys and proud of it!
Cottages and cabins lined the pine-heavy windy road along the wide creek and the smell of mountain fresh nostalgia filled the air – burbling water reached my ears and settled my restless spirit. I wanted to find a place to hunker down in and write a novel – and have a cheesy fondue like I planned for dinner that night. This detoxification and dieting was going to be painful when I returned back to real life.
I did get to see a snowy pine ski mountain though. At least, on the way to one of the three parks and lakes we visited that weekend, my daughter showed me where the ‘ski hill’ was located not far out of town on west 322. I had pictured it a little differently in my mountain-getaway dreams, but thankfully the place was hopping with a lot of exciting energy from little kids – and big ‘kids’ like me – learning to ski with red-cheeked smiling faces. I did get my Nordic fix for the weekend.
Later that day when the rain stopped, she almost killed me by leading my very out of shape roundness up a steep hill. That big breakfast still weighed heavy somewhere in my lower hemisphere. At each of the four stops I was forced to do on the trail or hyperventilate, I bent over and admitted to myself I am no spring chicken! And the worst part was that made me hungry – for chicken – after all, it was almost dinner time. It was a defeating moment for me as I saw my daughter waiting impatiently, shaking her head in pity at poor old Mom. This stuff is for the youth here in Happy Valley who regularly walk a mile across campus for classes, then sports, parties and grub within a few hours of each other. I would need a nap in there somewhere, or a Segway – or both.
No more waffles and sausages for awhile for this Mama! No more Crunch Berries or Apple Jacks either. A nice box of organic whole grain oatmeal sat in victorious silence on my kitchen counter at home waiting.
But it was not about that widow-maker hill and yummy breakfasts. The most basic and important part of the trip was a success – bonding time with my new young- woman daughter, learning about the area, and some laughs. All were plentiful, along with a new waffle-top for Mama to work off on a killer hill near home!
Another reason to stay here – free exercise and ‘window shopping’.