The frantic pitter-patter of squirrel paws foraging through the dry fall leaves occupies my very first thought as I awake to my uncommon surroundings. The damp morning dew still holds the calming scent of last night’s campfire. I roll over in the coziness and perceived security of my tent, briefly relishing in the idea of waking with no schedule, no alarm clock, and no Zoom meetings. These soothing, comforting thoughts are quickly replaced by the excitement of another day riding the backroads of western Pennsylvania, and I happily acquiesce to the idea of going back to sleep.
I am nestled in one of Pennsylvania’s largest and most popular offerings, Raccoon Creek State Park, which sits just 30 miles west of Pittsburgh. This park stretches over 7,500 acres including a 101-acre lake primed for swimming, fishing, and non-invasive water sports like kayaking, canoeing, and hydro-biking. Much like motorcycle camping can range from low-buck, spartan, single night getaways, to high end, gadget-filled glamping, Raccoon State Park provides accommodations ranging from secluded tent sites to modern cabins and lodges. While current pandemic realities have increased camping’s popularity exponentially, Raccoon does offer a large number of available options. Even the 172 remote wooded locations are furnished with access to warm showers, flush facilities, picnic tables, and fire rings. Additional amenities include a clean, sandy beach for catching some rays, year-round fishing, 5,000 acres of hunting opportunities, 42 miles of hiking trails, boat rentals, and a 314-acre wildflower preserve playing host to over 700 species of plants.
Before packing up your site and heading off to explore the twisting ribbons of backroad that encompass every direction exiting the park, make time to restore yourself in the healing waters of the Frankfurt Mineral Springs. The intriguing history of Raccoon Creek State Park harkens back to a nineteenth-century Victorian era health resort featuring exclusive access to these springs. The Frankfort House Hotel and Resort was originally constructed in the 1800s, where it welcomed wealthy guests to drink from springs that were believed to hold curative health powers. The resort closed after a devastating fire in the late 1920s, but visitors can still hike to the old hotel ruins, mineral springs, and nearby waterfalls.
I cannot personally attest to any ailments being alleviated by these particular waters. What I can suggest is that simple idea of a great motorcycle on great roads, interrupted by an intermission drenched in the solace and tranquility of nature. Pandemic or not, these are what I can fervently consider healing waters.