As we departed the Loleta Recreation Area, our journey took us out of the Allegheny National Forest before connecting to PA Route 6, named by National Geographic as “one of America’s most scenic drives.” We passed a sign for Route 666 (cue the AC/DC music in the background), saw a place called Inferno Tattoo, kept driving past a sign for Burning Well, definitely did not stop at the Wolf Den Motel, and soon wondered where exactly this scenic route was leading. A large wooden sign eventually loomed in the distance, but as we approached it merely indicated we were entering Potter County, while an equally large second sign hanging below the first proudly proclaimed the area as “God’s Country.” Seemed like quite a change in sentiment over a relatively short distance.
After first stopping to restock our groceries, and then stopping again to check out a small farm store and leaving with a box of cashew brittle, we eventually entered the Ives Run Campground in Tioga PA. The campground is located along the eastern shore of the 680-acre Hammond Lake which is popular for boating and fishing. While Raystown Lake was heavily populated by ski boats, speed boats, and houseboats, Hammond Lake is smaller and caters more to fishing boats, kayaks, and inner tubes. People still use the lake for water skiing and jet skiing, as there are no boat size or horsepower limits on the lake, but seeing larger, faster boats on Hammond Lake is not as common as Raystown.
We had a site reserved in the Pine Loop, which is a mile outside of the main camp and suited more for tents. Our RV fit nicely in site 141, which we chose based on the review from another RVing blog. The campground review on the Wheeling It site is very detailed and covers everything you might want to know about staying at the camp, so I’m not going to rehash the same info here. If you’re curious, check out their review for more information.
Hammond Lake is connected to the Tioga Reservoir and adjoined by the Hammond Dam, all managed by the Army Corps of Engineers. The reservoir is fed by the Tioga River, which is roughly 58 miles long running from western New York through northern Pennsylvania. The river drains ridges through the Allegheny Plateau as it contributes to the watershed of the Susquehanna River, which eventually leads to the Chesapeake Bay. This waterway was put to use in the 19th century as trees logged in the Tioga Valley were floated down the Tioga River to the Susquehanna and finally into the Chesapeake Bay before being crafted into ships in the Baltimore shipyards.
The Hammond and Tioga Dams were constructed by the Corps of Engineers between 1973 and 1979 in the aftermath of the floods caused by Hurricane Agnes in 1972. The Hammond and Tioga Lakes are connected through a channel so that Hammond Lake can store excess flood water from Tioga. The dams are also meant to help decrease the acidity of the downstream water of the Tioga River, which is elevated because of acid mine drainage (which we also mentioned in this post about our time around Johnstown). I realize we’ve barely started our journey, but even this leg of the trip through Pennsylvania clearly illustrates the complex connections between seemingly distant locations. The Chesapeake Bay Program released a study in 1998 stating that “acid mine drainage from abandoned coal mines is the most severe and extensive water pollution problem in western Maryland, West Virginia, and northern, central and western Pennsylvania”. Even today, the waters of the Bay are impacted by abandoned mines in the hills of Pennsylvania that ceased operation over 100 years ago. But before this post takes a more environmental slant, let’s get back to our time at Ives Run.
Our campsite along the lake made us both wish we were currently traveling with a kayak because of the ease of access to the water. Kids and adults alike were in and out of the lake fishing, tubing, paddling, and swimming during our entire stay here. We too enjoyed the water, spending some time on the designated beach area and wading into the lake when the sun got too hot. We attempted to take some photos of ourselves on the beach, but I don’t think either the internet or our readers are ready for those shots. Shallow sections of the lake behind our camping loop provided an endless source of fishing excitement for some of the kids in neighboring sites.
Ives Run also features a handful of hiking trails, of which we explored a small section on an overcast, drizzly afternoon. We followed a piece of the C. Lynn Keller Trail through a wooded hillside to the Stephenhouse Trail, which showcased a number of native trees through informative signs sprinkled throughout the hike.Ives Run Trail Map
This campground was by far the busiest we’ve visited yet, with nearly every space in every loop filled over the weekend. We also had the pleasure of actually meeting some of our campsite neighbors during this trip, which hasn’t happened in other campgrounds due to the distinct lack of actual people (or at least very many of them, anyway). A large family group from New York was visiting the camp for the fifth year in a row, and one of them spotted me playing my mandolin by our RV one night. We were soon invited to join the group that evening, as they played songs on their guitars around the campfire and I clumsily played along, trying not to embarrass myself too much. I even enjoyed a visit one morning with a member of the family group, as he played his guitar in the finger-picking style while tolerating my mandolin tinkling along with his accomplished playing.
On their last night in camp, they invited us over to join them for a fantastic chicken dinner. As chicken quarters sizzled over a bed of charcoal burning inside a halved steel drum grill, I was immediately transported to my younger days at my Grandpa Rebuck’s chicken barbecues complete with the open pit he built in his backyard. While I did briefly indulge in a bit of nostalgia for days past, I certainly enjoyed the present company and delicious food. Ashley even made some new friends as she discussed knitting, crocheting, and other crafts with some members of the group who also enjoy the same activities. As the night passed and conversations grew, we learned the family was involved in Boy Scouts and one member of the family started a small hop farm close to Rochester NY.
Connections exist not only physically, as water from northern PA flows to the Chesapeake, but also spiritually, as we find commonalities among each other – from shared hobbies like music, crafts, and homebrewing, to experiences in Boy Scouts, not to mention the strong memories associated with food. Ashley and I enjoyed our week at Ives Run, but the experience was thoroughly enriched as a family tribe of four generations invited two strangers into their midst for a few summer nights. If anyone from the group happens to see this post, Ashley and I want to thank you again and we sincerely hope we cross paths in our future travels.
We’re looking forward to the next ten days as we travel through the Finger Lakes, temporarily trading out the campground for the sights of wineries, breweries, farms, and small towns. The Ives Run Campground has a range of options for any camper – from full RV hookups (water, sewer, electric, paved parking strip), to rustic camp sites (no electric, gravel parking) – but do yourself a favor and bring some kind of watercraft if you visit. And who knows, maybe you’ll be lucky enough to make some new friends with your temporary neighbors.