At the top.

At least once a year for the past few years, a few of my friends and I have made a point to hike up a mountain and camp over night. We always go to the same spot in Blackwell, Pa. It’s called Gillespie point. We hike up to the top on Friday afternoon and enjoy the scenery from the rock overhang. It only takes us about 45 minutes to an hour with packs on. It can be steep in spots but the trail is easy and well defined. As a matter or fact it is along a section of the Mid State Trail which runs north/South cutting Pennsylvania in half.

From the overlook you have a grand 180+ degree view overlooking three valleys that come together where Blackwell sits deep in their junction. To the southwest you can see down through Pine Creek as it meanders down to Cedar Run in Lycoming County. To the North, you look up through the Pine Creek valley which forms the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon. And to the north east you see the quiet valley funneling Babbs Creek into Pine Creek.

Climbing...almost there.

Known locally as the “Matterhorn of Pennsylvania”, the view from Gillespie point is breathtaking and enormous no matter what season. To see the juncture of three beautiful valleys coming together at the sleepy village of Blackwell is well worth the short climb.

After we take in the view we head to our secret campsite a short distance away that is just perfect. Hidden from most foot traffic, the site flattens out and provides protection from the wind. We usually set up camp and the campfire site. The campfire site has been at the same exact spot every year. The first year I went, the site hadn’t been used in a number of years. My friend, Phil, and I were the first to get to the site and he started looking around and kicking away leaves. It was amazing, we found black charcoal under years worth of forest detritus! He was as excited as I was amazed.

Morning campfire.

The usual fare is hot dogs and brats over a fire with a few toppings. I usually bring the coffee, fresh ground that day, and somehow manage to bring up a french press without breaking it. Stories, memories,  reflection, and lots of laughter fill our conversation around a warm fire. As we crawl in our tents, we wonder how loud one of our friends will snore that night and joke about how he has been the one who keeps the bears and various varmints away.

The morning comes with a woodsy silence. Stiff bodies emerge from tents along with long loud stretches.  The fire is re-stoked and wood added. Coffee is first on the agenda while breakfast is planned out. We always manage to spoil ourselves with treats like the fresh ground french pressed coffee and real maple syrup, but hey, why not. It’s only one night. If we want to lug it up there, then we can enjoy it.

Morning Campfire

Breakfast is enjoyed and somehow is always plentiful. We take time getting everything cleaned up, tents packed away, and backpacks packed. We make a short ascent to the rock outcropping again before heading back to the bottom in Blackwell.

Morning fog looking south west down Pine Creek.


Above pic used from

Above pic used from

Yes, I know, you say “Another project??”  Well yes. I started this business last spring (2008). It all started when I was at a mens leadership conference conference in Lancaster, Pa. During lunch one day there was a man at our table that told us he was a window cleaner. We were mildly interested until he told his story. We were all ears. He said he used to work some high-level corporate job and never had time with his boys. One day he decided he’d had enough and quit. He went to Home Depot and bought about a $100 worth of supplies and started cleaning windows. He claims that he now works half the time he did before and makes more than twice what he did before….not only that, but he is working WITH his boys!

So needless to say we started asking more in-depth questions about the details of his business and he freely spoke. He offered to send out start-up kits at no cost! He said he would go buy the buckets, rags, squeegees, and scrubbers and mail them out to everyone (4 of us) along with notes on what he learned. There was nothing to loose. He didnt want any money or recognition. He said that the Lord blessed him and its just a way to pass it along to others. Now, one thing has to be mentioned about his success…he lives in Texas. we all live in Pennsylvania. The climate in Texas is a bit more suitable for year round window cleaning.

Never-the-less, I went at it in the spring. At first it went slow. I looked up some techniques and read a lot of forums and learned what I could from those already in that kind of business. During the summer it really began to pick up steam. I was only doing this part time, on the side. Before I knew It I had 30 businesses and a few residential customers. I am looking to start a web site for the business, which by the way is called Tioga Window Cleaning. I will also be looking to hire some help come springtime. I have a few large jobs coming up and will need all the help I can get. I am also hoping my brother can move up by me and we could expand the business with more services such as power washing..which I have done  a little already.

One of the things I have kept foremost in my business outlook is that I want to provide a professional service to businesses mainly, and to residential customers. I don’t want my customers to feel like the are hiring Joe Shmoe with a bucket o’water and a squeegee. I provide much more than that, and the results show it.

I’ll keep you updated as things progress. Below are some of my customers.


Wellsboro Diner


Lambs Creek Food and Spirits

The Fifth Season

The Fifth Season


The Wellsboro House

Ledger Books and reciepts.

I was happily invited to be one of few people to access the vault in an old building in downtown Wellsboro. It was in a building which was/is William Binghams Land Office. William Bingham was a wealthy merchant from Philadelphia who lived in the latter part of the 1700’s to the early 1800’s. He owned much of the land here in Northcentral Pa and also into New York (hence Binghampton) and about 2 million acres in Maine.

He was a wealthy states man and merchant, of which he made his fortune. At one point he was known to be the richest man in the U.S. and held many different offices. He also funded the Louisiana Purchase. You can read more about him here and here.

In Wellsboro, facing the serenity of The Green, sits a pale yellow building housing a small walk-in vault containing millions of handwritten notes of transaction, deed descriptions, maps and personal letters of the Bingham estate.

Land reciepts and deed descriptions (1800\'s)

All of these are originals and are extremely well preserved. I was honored to be in this room looking through these items. Someone had enough forethought to label most everything so anyone researching would have an idea what a certain packet of papers or a drawers contents were. I was so surprised as to the quality of many of these documents. It felt almost as if he didn’t live so long ago as I read and handled hand written letters which he composed by candle light at some desk.

We came upon this vaults existence through a boundary research project our county is doing. We are finding the real county boundary lines and all the Township boundary lines within. There are quite a few that are still a mystery even after weeks of research and field work, finding and surveying old stone markers and what not.

That is where, somewhere in this vault, lies the answers.