Turkeys fly, elk graze and fog scares us

Posted: Friday, August 01, 2008

After visiting New Hampshire, Maine and Stockbridge, Mass., we traveled west on Highway 80 to DuBois, Pa., and then south through Punksutawney where Punksutawney Phil hibernates and comes out of his den every Feb. 2.

Courtesy Of Don Harris
Courtesy Of Don Harris

We continued south and surprised our friends Karen and Allen. We found our way to the rural village of Rochester Mills and the Ryen house without calling for directions.

Our visit started with a tour of the Creek House that has been in the Ryen family for three or four generations. Karen collects antiques and loves to go junkin'. The Ryens have an apartment above their large garage for guests and family.

The extended Ryen family owns a number of buildings and properties. One line of the Ryen family received a land grant dated 1796. The Ryens have lived in the Rochester Mills area about 10 generations. Among the buildings that Allen and his siblings own are an old general store with old inventory in the attic, an old church, a restored schoolhouse, a number of old family houses and a new hunting camp.

Don and I have been friends with the Ryens since 1970-'71 during our Army days, when Don and Allen were assigned to the Presidio in San Francisco. Both men were assigned to the psychology clinic at Letterman Hospital. Karen was a civilian nurse at Letterman. I worked in the hospital's post exchange.

On our second day with the Ryens, Allen drove to his office in DuBois. Later in the morning, Karen drove us to DuBois and dropped Don off at Allen's office. Karen and I visited an antique shop and a frame shop. Karen had seven pieces to frame including two Rie Munoz posters that she bought several years ago when she came to Juneau for the Fourth of July.

At that time, I told her that the fireworks started at 11:59 p.m. on July 3 and that it never rained on our parade. On that Fourth of July, fog obscured the fire works on the Juneau side and rain fell on our parade.

In the early evening, Karen and Allen took us to Mary's restaurant in DuBois to celebrate my birthday. The restaurant is in one of the dry areas of DuBois; however, Mary's is allowed to serve each adult a complimentary glass of wine. Diners can bring their own bottles of wine to the restaurant. Because it was my birthday, my meal was 65 percent off the menu price. The food was delicious.

The next morning, Allen roused us out of bed at 5:30 a.m. to go to the Ryens' hunting camp and watch the wild turkeys come down from the trees where they roost at night.

Before the turkeys come down from the trees, they call back and forth. The males fly down first. When they are on the ground, they walk very fast. Actually, they run. The hens did not show up for some time. The hens appeared to have no interest in the dominant male. Watching turkeys is a unique tourist experience.

The extended Ryen family shares the hunting camp. The hunting camp cabin is large and quite comfortable. They use natural gas to run the generators. When property owners sell their mineral rights to coal and gas companies in Pensylvania, the property owners are provided with free natural gas.

In the afternoon, we left Creek House. Allen drove 60 miles so Don and I could see elk. Allen was disappointed that the elk were not where they usually grazed. We found the elk in a small village. Some of the elk were resting and chewing their cuds and others were grazing on the lawns around the houses and buildings. The elk had no fear of humans.

When it was too dark to take elk photos, we went to the tavern for dinner. Karen, I and another woman were the only women in the smoke-filled tavern. The good old boys sitting on the bar stools did not like strangers in their tavern. The tavern was the only place to eat, we were quite hungry and we were 60 miles from Creek House. The hamburgers were mediocre. Elk country was an adventure.

Driving back to Rochester Mills was scary. It was dark, rainy and windy. The roads were narrow and twisting. At the top of a mountain, we encountered dense fog. When we were finally out of the dense fog, we had to watch out for the Amish horses and buggies. The black buggies only had reflectors and were difficult to see. Allen told us that the Amish were going home after a meeting at one of the farms. When we finally returned to Creek House, we relaxed and discussed our day.

• Alma Harris is a retired Juneau-Douglas High School English teacher who loves to travel and write.

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