2017 Heartland Pioneer
2017 Heartland Pioneer
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Ironmaster Mark Bird moved from Philadelphia to a remote part of central Pennsylvania, correctly believing that easier and closer access to the coal mines in that region would give him a leg up on his competition. From there, his enterprise grew tenfold to achieve what would be called an “iron plantation.” The sprawling compound had a couple of dozen buildings, mills, barns, furnaces, and forges. However, when Pennsylvania switched from using coal to anthracite, the move adversely impacted forges like Hopewell, and the enterprise slowly dwindled in size until it shut doors in 1883.
Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site was declared a historic site in 1938, thanks to the efforts of the Civilian Conservation Corps, which was established under President Roosevelt’s New Deal. Since then, several original structures have been restored, and efforts on the remaining buildings are still undergoing. It will take several years to completely rehabilitate the property. Visitors are heartily welcomed throughout the year, and in the summer months, the park officials and employees conduct living-history demonstrations to help better illustrate what life was like in rural Pennsylvania during those years. Some demonstrations include processing coal, working iron in forges, and cooking in a period-appropriate kitchen.
The closest large town is Elverson, PA, which is about six miles south. The small town has a handful of restaurants, a grocery store, and a truly excellent coffee cafe. For more variety in shopping, including a Walmart store, as well as a health center with emergency services, Pottstown, is about 10 miles to the northeast. Search for an RV in Berks County, PA, and set out on an outdoor adventure with family and friends.
The mountains of Hopewell Big Woods encircles Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site in a loving embrace. In the area, Hopewell Big Woods is the largest contiguous forest, covering over 77,000 acres. Though a large majority of the woods was logged in the early 1800s, replanting efforts in the subsequent decades have largely restored the woods. As a result, various flora and fauna have returned to these mountains with a vengeance, and today they’re as robust as they were before man first entered the woods.
Hikers have around 100 miles of trails to explore, all with different features and highlights. Some lead to the top of mountain ridges where the valleys to either side can be viewed, while others, to fresh, bright meadows where deer and rabbits play. Beavers, otters, and minxes can be observed either hard at work or play. Lift a fern frond. With good timing and luck, rare plants like pink lady’s slippers and nodding trillium will be hiding underneath the lush greenery.
Among the many activities that outdoor lovers enjoy is rock climbing. There are interesting granite, limestone, and slate rock walls, and the variety in stone provides a subtle challenge that even the most experienced climber enjoys tackling. Most of the routes are top-roped because the rock walls are too short for multiple pitches. There are a few walls where permanent bolts are placed, allowing for sport climbing. There are a couple of rock-climbing guiding organizations in nearby towns suitable for people who would like to try the sport.
Being a historic site, RV camping at Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site is prohibited. However, there are plenty of RV campgrounds in Hopewell Big Woods and beyond. French Creek State Park, for example, has over 200 sites for visitors to choose from, and 60 has electric hookups. Around 15 have full hookups, too. Restrooms with flush toilets and showers are a short walk from most sites.
Another alternative to consider RV camping at is Warwick Woods Campground, which is found in between Warwick and Knauertown, PA. The campground offers partial hookups, showers, and a swimming pool. Each site also has a fire ring, which is great for roasting s’mores in the evenings. The family-friendly RV campground also has a laundry room and an on-site camp store.
Rent a motorhome, hit the road, and explore the twisting mountain and country roads as you discover the charms of small towns along the way. Keep an eye out for farm stands and stores, orchards, and wineries. In spite of the harsh winters that blights southeastern Pennsylvania, grapevines thrive in the rich, nutritious clay soil. Chaddsford Winery is an award-winning wine producer based outside of Chadds Ford, PA. Founded in 1983, this winery is one of the oldest wineries in Pennsylvania. They specialize in varietals and fruit wines, many of which have racked in gold and silver medals. The winery’s tasting room is open on weekends.
Hit the links! Pennsylvania is well-known for its love of golf. Blackwood Golf Course is located in the picturesque Berks County on gently rolling hills. The fairways, lined by tall oak trees, was designed by acclaimed golf architect William F. Gordon. The course is close to Douglassville.
The rolling, ancient mountains of Pennsylvania and patchwork of scenic farms are a sight for sore eyes. Rent an Airstream and find your perfect idyllic RV camping adventure in Pennsylvania.