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Susquehanna Life

Five Places to Play this Fall

Oct 13, 2014 06:17PM ● By Erica Shames

Waggoners Gap, courtesy of the Cumberland Valley Visitors Bureau

Story and photographs by Suzanne  

Waggoner’s Gap—Hawk Watch

Audubon Pennsylvania designed a bird gazing area specifically to watch and count the 15,000 to 20,000 golden and bald eagles, red tail hawks and eight other types of raptures that pass through this region every autumn. The rocky overlook, perched on the summit of the Blue Mountain 1,476-feet above sea level, provides a 180-degree view of the patchwork masterpiece below known as the Cumberland Valley. To reach the overlook, hike through the boulder garden following the orange raptures painted on the rocks. When you approach the top edge of slanted boulders, watch your step as you peer over the brim. You can continue on the trail through the scree slope and back to the parking area or turn back a short distance and follow the trail around the side of the ridge to the stone bleacher and picnic area. Take along binoculars for viewing. Boots with good ankle support are recommended. From Carlisle, take Route 74 north 10 miles to the top of Waggoner’s Gap. Continue down the other side a short distance to the parking lot on your right. Although raptures can be spotted anytime, August through December is the highlight of the migrating season. Open dawn to dusk. 

Winsome Farms and the Cumberland Valley Rail Trail (CVRT)

Enjoy an afternoon of horseback riding through winding woodland pathways, across the expansive ranch pastures and along the CVRT with trail guides Sabrina, Chandra and Wes. There are nearly 50 horses (and Molly the Mule) that live at the farm. Winsome Farms is located in the outback of Cumberland County alongside a portion of the 11-mile CVRT. Call ahead to make a reservation to assure there will be enough horses for your group. Rides are kept to a maximum of six people, not including your guides. Classes are offered on therapeutic trained horses for special needs children. From Newville take Route 533 west and turn right on Neely Road. For more information, or 

Meadowbrooke Gourds

When Benjamin Bear started playing with hard-shell gourds 20 years ago his life was changed forever when he discovered how easy they were to grow and what he could do with them. Today his farm grows a variety of shapes and sizes of hard-shell gourds that are dried, power washed, sanded, sawed, dyed, sealed and inspected by hand. Artists hand-carve designs and puzzle-like-pieces which produce gourd creations of Frankenstein, pumpkins, witches, snowmen, angels, bunnies, candy dishes and much more. It takes nearly a year for each gourd to go from seed to the retail shelf. Watch the artisans in action when you take a free factory tour offered every Tuesday at 2 p.m. Or try your hand at crafting a gourd by signing up for one of their classes. Meadowbrooke Gourds is located just east of Bloserville on Potato Road. Check their Web site for hours, directions, classes and tour information.

U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center and Trail

A unique way to experience the life of soldiers at the education center is a self-guided museum filled with army and war imagery. Stop at the security desk and pick up a “dog tag.” As you move through the museum the story about your soldier is told by sliding the dog tags into slots. Take a ride in the parachute chair, shoot at the target range and hide in a hut. Outside, take a walk along the one-mile Heritage Trail with life-size trenches, tanks, helicopters, bridges and forts.  Admission is free, donations are welcome. Café Cumberland is located at in the Education Center and serves lunch. For more information on hours and directions please check the Web site at

Children’s Lake

Located in the Historic District in Boiling Springs lies a seven-acre lake with a long history. The crystal-clear springs, from subterranean caves nearly 1,800 feet below, produce 22 million gallons of water per day. In the 1750s the lake was dammed to produce power for the iron works and later used as swimming hole for a local resort. Today the lake that gave the town its name is surrounded by beautiful pathways, relaxing benches and Victorian gazebos. Fishing is permitted in the lake that is graced with white swans and Mallard ducks. Cross the street at the old tavern in the northwest corner and look for “The Bubble” where you can see the water bubbling up from an underground spring. Across the street from the southeast corner you can see remnants from the ironwork era. Several parking lots surround the lake. For a map of the area, visit  


Suzanne is a Perry County-based freelance writer and photographer. 

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