Monday, July 2, 2018

I Have Returned From Wellsboro... and Pop's Culture Shoppe

ViscountEric has returned from a long, hot extended weekend up in beautiful, scenic Wellsboro, Pennsylvania with the family.

I lived in Wellsboro for awhile, our wedding was in Wellsboro, and there is still a legitimate old-timey feel amongst some of the yuppie tourist traps that dot the town.  I might cover the crazy amount of swimming the kids partook in, my lamentations on the aesthetic decline of The Timeless Destination Restaurant, or the sheer nirvanna achieved by eating a simple BLT Club at the Wellsboro Diner, but I will start with the blog-related focus of the trip: yet another visit to Pop's Culture Shoppe.

I say this everytime: If Pop's had opened before we got engaged, there would be a far greater chance that we would be raising our kids in Tioga County.  There are certainly larger stores, better stocked stores, and better organized play stores, but Pop's manages their space for hobby gamers, locals, as well as the massive foot traffic of "mundanes" created during tourist system.

Of course, the most disturbing thing for me was that most of my budget reserved for them was funneled through the children through putty, toys, and travel gadgets.  I ended up a copy of Mayfair's  Five Points: Gangs of New York, the OGRE dice from the Designer's Edition, and lone pack of Magic cards.

I could have gotten much more, but the kids (and a replacement windshield after a well-placed rock on the highway) changed my priorities.
That copy of Space Opera would have been mine under different circumstances.
After six years of visits, I finally got to witness some of the organized play, but literally like a child staring in the window of the candy shop, I watched the Friday night boardgames fill up the store as I walked by with the family from watching Incredibles 2 at the Arcadia.
Nothing has changed at Pop's, and not in the timey-whimey, stuck in the past way some of the town is.  Anja and Julian Stam have a specific business plan, a successful process, and are constantly slowly evolving the store into something that works from the multiple angles needed to succeed in a small town.  They're not your Magic: the Gathering den of iniquity.  They're not just a bunch of tables and no stock.   And perhaps, the most important factor, they're not a place your "normal" friends and family feel uncomfortable in.
I'm a huge fan of scratched, dented, sun-damaged, and clearance items.
The only flaw I see in their operations right now, is that they still haven't filled the position of their resident Magic Expert  (Dr Magic).  They have additional employees to help out, but any store with an active tournament scene needs a "Magic Guy" to keep events and stock flow operating smoothly.  I got the sense that the position is still open.

While not a pure rubber stamp, it's still a no-brainer that Pop's Culture Shoppe continues to earns the coveted Five-Out-of-Five Gnome Rating.
2012, 2013, 2016, 2018
Outside of the multiple visits to Pop's and the gastrointestinal delight of the local restaurants, we achieved another first for the family.  

Maja completed the the Turkey Path... and Dad didn't die. 

When I was six or so, my Dad took me up to Wellsboro for the first time.  We camped out at Leonard Harrison State Park in a pup tent, checked out the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon, and walked the Turkey Path, a switchback trail leading from the observation area above down the Pine Creek.  It was narrow, slightly harrowing, and as I discovered later, my Father's warnings of people dying by going off the path were not exaggeration (Someone had hiked solo, obviously gone off the path, slipped and ended up face-first into a tree). 

I've done the trail a number of times since, most recently pre-kids with my wife and a bunch of her (our) friends.  The trail has gone though a number of safety improvements, a number of rail fences up top, a few well-appreciated benches during the hike back up, and a long series of steps to replace a washed-out area near the bottom.  
Pine Creek
With my wife's poor balance (she's a masochist who does better hiking back up) and little Millie's newfound fear of rattlesnakes (thanks to the educational material posted), they turned around at the second switchback, leaving Maja and myself to conquer the path. 
This is the first time I've done the path in my 40s. 

Good God, I'm old and fat. But I'm not typing this from the bottom of the canyon, so I made it back up.   Maja performed admirably, earning herself extra swimming time to soak her tired legs.  I took advantage of the hot tub at the hotel. 

When we visit my mother, Maja often repeats a version of a story I've always told them.  "When Daddy was a boy, he had nothing but corn for miles to play in!"

Not exactly true, but the Turkey Path follows that rule with my nostalgia.  There are plenty of natural springs trickling down the hill, creating lots of slippery and muddy spots.   The stairs at the bottom have negated a rather treacherous section, and the new benches probably cut down on rangers needing to rescue the overeager and under-conditioned.

But what most people don't notice is that the DCNR (State Park System) has altered the actual path over the years.  New switchbacks were created, but I could still see the much steeper old trail continue on past the well-placed bench.  Trust me, the idea of starting an uphill hike with dozens of steps doesn't make the trail any easier.  Any nerfing of the path is used to improve access, not take away from the intense, relatively quick hike. 

Then again, the condition of the path in the late 70's was probably a kiddie carnival ride for the old timers compared to when they scaled down the side of gorge "back in the day."

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