Such contrasts in Pennsylvania. In a span of hours I passed from the birthplace of our nation (and cheesesteaks wit wiz) through Amish country, through a chocolate-themed amusement park, through anthracite country, through an abandoned town perched over a burning coal mine (the highway split and rended from the heat below, covered in graffiti and glittering with broken glass, smoking gently in the morning air), through steel country and rust country, through fracking country, and finally back into Amish country, carriage-laden horses clip-clopping down the rolling roads. The men in the fields wore the expected uniform, suspenders strapping down unpatterned earthtoned clothing, their low beards splaying like sun rays beneath dark broad-brimmed hats. A portly fellow outside Yoder’s Farm stopped traffic (just me, really) so he could shoo a giant black cow across the street.
At Elk Lick township I turned through farmland to the little park around the highpoint, weaving through narrow roads to a picnic area. I could not have asked for a more perfect fall day, a crisp 50F and sunny, the leaves a riotous kaleidoscope below, above, all around.
A tiny snarl of unmarked trails led through the forest. I took turns at random to hike them all, stumbling now and then over unkempt and sometimes inscrutable interpretive signs, shuffling through a thick carpet of sparkling red leaves. An old, narrow metal tower perched near the highpoint.
I tiptoed up the high-set steps of the tower to an overlook of all I’d seen, squinting through the morning sun towards the democracy and cheesesteaks, towards the river and the steel, towards the smoking town on fire; seeing only an undulating sea of autumn treetops under a clear blue sky.
About the beer:
When I think of fall seasonal releases I expect them to be porters or marzens, but Troeg’s clean Hop Knife ale– unapologetically selected for the fantastic label art– surprised me, in a good way. It’s a fresh-from-the-harvest wet hop bomb, but with a subtly sweet nutty backbone and a finish as dry as a crisp fall day.