Every year, the organizers of the Great Blue Heron Music Festival in southwestern New York hold their annual May Day party. The purpose is to be sort of a meet’n’greet for the volunteers of the festival. This year, myself, Nathan and DPM are volunteering for the festival, and were very excited about making some friends this weekend. Unfortunately, the forecast was ominous and we got the call from our friend and Queen Bee of Heron, Julie, that the May Day party would no longer be happening. But not wanting the weather to spoil a good opportunity, she invited us up for the day anyways. So before long, Nathan and I were in the Toyota heading north.

This scraggly, patchy and downright ugly ram was discovered on our way towards the Allegheny National Forest. The poor thing seemed happy enough, but clearly needed some grooming.

Typically, the quickest way to get to the Heron grounds is to take route I-79 from Pittsburgh to Erie, this makes the drive time a very manageable yet terribly boring 3 hours. So in typical Smarto and Bober mentality, we opted for the more scenic route with more opportunities for adventure. Also, this was a great opportunity to try out my new Holux M-241 GPS Logger and snap some pictures along the way (like the haggard ram pictured above).

The scenic route we chose would bring us up through the Allegheny National Forest, 800 square miles of mostly unadulterated forests, rivers, waterfalls and trails. I have lived in western PA for the past 14 years, but had somehow never took a trip there, so this weekend served as a terrific excuse to check out the scenery.

One of my summer goals will be to explore this area a little more. In the National Forest, provided you keep the area tidy, you can pretty much hike, fish or camp anywhere you’d like, and while there’s thousands of trails and conventional park areas, it’s possible to go have a uniquely individual adventure with a backpack and a GPS.

While we didn’t have much time to explore the area, I took the opportunity to find a Geocache to plant the Travel Bug I brought back from Japan. The little guy was plucked by me from a cache in the overwhelmingly busy Shinigawa area of Tokyo, so it only seemed fit to dump him in a desolate area in the middle of Pennsylvania.

After finding the Geocache, Bober and I took a short hike to a nearby overlook. (We had the choice of two very nearby overlooks, I would later find out that had we gone to other, we’d have seen a very different vista featuring river-bends and rolling mountains). Still, the view we did see was far from disappointing.

After all that scenic driving, we shortly thereafter crossed in to New York and arrived at the Great Blue Heron festival grounds. We met up with Julie and helped perform some grounds-maintenance. Our first task was to take apart the old may pole:

Several pounds of streamers are harder to remove than you'd think...

After that, we moved a bunch of piles of wood in to one massive burn pile in preparation for the rain-day for May Day, May 16. Since I had some tractor driving experience, Julie allowed me to drive their large C.U.T. John Deere around the property as we gathered wood. It has been a while since I had used a compact utility tractor, but it felt pretty good after I got used to the equipment again.

We were working around 6 hours, but the time flew by. Using my new GPS logger, I got a log of our motion around the property:

In the typical fashion of Nathan and I, we brought dinner, including Nathan’s famous hamburgers and pepperoni rolls from the pizza shop:

It was very nice to get some one-on-one time with the Rockcastles; their busy schedule makes their time very valuable and we appreciated their hospitality. We were bummed that May Day got postponed, but  I think we ended up have more fun getting our hands dirty. (I make a very good lookin’ famer). I’m excited about going back in two weeks for May Day, and overall, it was a great weekend.