The Conservancy’s operations manager in Delaware, Katie Majewski, lovingly calls the family’s cottage the “Forks All-Inclusive Resort” even if it doesn’t look as grand as the title implies. Built in 1936 by her great-grandfather “Papap Willis,” the 0.14-acre property lies in Forks, Pennsylvania -- along Fishing Creek in the foothills of the Appalachians' Endless Mountains -- a little oasis which has served as a well-loved escape for her family for four generations over a period of more than 75 years.
Papap Willis' daughter, Arlene Willis-Wisniewski, remembers going there as a child.
“I bathed in Fishing Creek before we had indoor plumbing,” recalls Arlene. She also has fond memories of “learning how to handle crayfish, salamanders and assorted critters including bats,” and “hosting summer clambakes with family and friends.”
When Arlene married husband Bob, it didn’t take long for him to love the family’s mountain escape with its coal stove, tough canvas awnings, and little outhouse. They even spent their honeymoon there in 1958. Eventually, they introduced their children to the cottage and the surrounding beauty.
“The children learned how to survive without television and telephones,” says Arlene. “Mother Nature provided the entertainment: spring peeper frogs and katydids in concert; water snakes, turtles, lightning bugs and the screech owls we communicated with.”
The family also explored the country dirt roads on their bikes.
“My brother and I pushed our bikes up the steepest hills and glided back down at breakneck speed, with never a car in sight,” recalls Arlene's daughter, Andrea. “Our favorite destination was the Twin Bridges, two identical covered bridges – the only ones in the country – which have since been replaced with a single, modern, steel and concrete bridge. We, of course, preferred the originals.”
The love of nature inspired by the cottage endures in the family, which still spends summer days lounging by the creek, riding bikes, fishing and just being outside. Even as an adult, Katie Majewski jumps at the chance to go rock climbing, backpacking and engage in other outdoor activities. Her brother Steven enjoys similar activities near the deserts of Southern California.
“It’s been such an important part of my life,” says Majewski. “I can’t imagine a summer without the cottage. It’s a wonderful way to spend time with my family – enjoying each other without distraction – just ourselves and our beautiful surroundings.”