With Ava being on spring break for the week of the 19th, I decided to use the vacation opportunity to take her and her cousin to my home state of Pennsylvania. I have been wanting to get her back to meet family including her aunt "Shelli" as well as give her a first hand look at the life that I once knew. Despite the limited amount of time and inability to see all the people I had hoped we would, we still covered a tremendous amount of ground. The trip was emotionally overwhelming because the last time I visited was to say goodbye to my mother. As a result, I wasn't very relaxed but did play around with a few photography ideas as well as ensure that the kids' experience was documented.
Big Dipper over Indiana, finally an out of state sky shot lol.
Wednesday night and not too long after we arrived, we visited Negley Park located in Lemoyne PA. It is a scenic overlook that offers a fantastic view of the Harrisburg skyline. A night shot from this area was on my list of things to get and the timing couldn't have been better due to the calm wind and low cloud helping to capture the light. The bright building is the Capitol Rotunda.
Thursday afternoon I would take Ava down to the Hershey area so to visit my grandparents. While there, it was like looking back at myself for a visit to their house in the woods on the outskirts of Hummelstown was always an enchanted one. Among the high points besides having the opportunity of seeing Ava meet her great grandparents who are in their early 90's, my grandmother shared a sobering piece of history. Both she and my grandfather are from England and served during WWII. He was a mechanic with the (British) Royal Air Force (RAF) and she was a nurse. I could write a book on their experiences but will stick to one.
Kingston upon Hull is my grandmothers hometown and suffered catastrophic loss during the Hull Blitz of 1940 through 1945 when the Nazi's reduced this England city to rubble. She was there during this period and distinctly recalls the chilling whistle of bombs falling. She noted that on several occasions she believed they would be hit for it was common practice to identify the proximity of sound as potentially being the last that one would hear. On an overnight raid in May of 1941 when she would have normally been asleep, she was miraculously on duty while her barracks were destroyed. I was taken aback by this piece of information considering how easily she could have become a casualty like many both her and my grandfather once knew. She shared a book covering the wartime history of Hull and though her building is not shown, it was next to the one in the second image.
Upon leaving we stopped at nearby Bullfrog Valley Park which has changed dramatically since I was Ava's age though the stream for which she played along still runs through the same as I remember. I would then take her by the Milton S. Hershey Hospital where I was born, Hersheypark, The Hershey Chocolate Factory and finally, my father's resting place.
That night we toured downtown Harrisburg to pay an up close visit to the Rotunda. The city was captivating to those who were with me yet it did not appear much different than I remember. It was disappointing to have learned about the financial woes plaguing Harrisburg knowing how the city was trying to grow when I left several years ago. Later this night I would meet up with an old friend at Grindlab Skatepark though I was not interested in riding as I believe those days might finally be behind me.
On Friday we headed up into the mountains and a location familiar to me from my youth being the Pine Grove Furnace State Park. Nestled in the Michaux State Forest located just NNW of historic Gettysburg, this is probably the one recreational area I miss the most. The vernal forest was still waking up when we visited but temperatures in the upper 70's were perfect for exploring.
Kylar got to experience several firsts including a gelatinous mass of frog eggs.
Surprisingly, for she is not much of a tomboy, Ava held a snail as well.
I knew it was inevitable that they would end up getting wet but what they didn't realize till it was too late was just how cold the spring fed waters of Laurel Lake really were! Below, it's all fun and games till someone gets sand in their eye lol.
Golden Palomino Trout at Fuller Lake.
I've always known they were here so another item on my photography list was to hopefully find a hatchling Musk Turtle and shoot macro. Worried that it might be too early, I was fortunate to locate one. Fresh out of the egg, the shell is no larger than a dime.
I seem to have a thing with losing shoes for not long after this shot, Kylar yells "I lost a shoe!" It was one of mine that was obviously too big for him and no match for the current lol.
Eastern Red Backed Salamander from further down 233 at Caledonia State Park. Though this was not the species that was on my list while Kylar and I poked around under decaying logs in the forest, it was a satisfying first score since I have not found them in Illinois and they also don't like to hold still lol. We would also find a beautiful spotter salamander that right as I was going for the shot, disappeared into a hole. We were disappointed but it just gives us another reason to visit again some day.
Kylar holding an Eastern Red Spotted Newt
Also on the trip agenda was to take the kids through historic Gettysburg. Saturday's weather was less than favorable with moderate rain falling through the day associated with the same pesky system to slowly drift across the US earlier that week. I wasn't very concerned with shooting on this visit but prior to leaving I saw a scene that appealed to me from inside the Gettysburg National Military Park.
Afterwards, we would head up to Camp Hill to make the most difficult stop thus far which was the first visit to my mothers resting place. For as frustrating as the precipitation had been throughout the day, the raindrops helped mask the emotions that come with a heart still heavy. Regaining composure and with the trip mission nearly complete, we zipped down Interstate 83 to past my old high school that looked small to me but massive to everyone else. Our final destination was to see my stepfather who resides in the house outside of Newberrytown that we once all shared and was its own difficult encounter. Spending the balance of our time in good company and conversation till the very last minute, we left out late and drove straight through the night. The 14.5 hour journey back to Illinois didn't seem to take nearly as long as going to but I attribute this to my mind that was deep in thought and never really left.