On The Road: Sunhearth Trails

 "But in looking back at the
  places I've been
  The changes that I've left
  I look at myself to find
  I've learned the hard way
  every time."
         ~Jim Croce~

The Cove

On a recent road trip, we came upon a slice of central Pennsylvania we’d never before had opportunity to visit. We were just passing through this time, but were impressed enough to know that we’ll soon return for a deeper exploration of the area.

Morrison Cove—also known as Morrisons Cove, Morrison’s Cove, or the ever-easy, The Cove—is a fertile valley checkered by farm fields and populated by four main communities: Roaring Spring, Martinsburg, Williamsburg, and Woodbury.

There is a quaint feeling of timelessness and security in The Cove. It’s encompassed by the rugged and rolling Allegheny Mountains, which are a section of the vast Appalachian Range. Morrison Cove eases across Blair and Bedford counties—from Evitts Mountain near New Enterprise, north to the Frankstown Branch Juniata River.

The Cove is eight to fifteen miles wide and thirty-nine miles long, but for those who appreciate sunrises and sunsets, its self-contained beauty extends far beyond its geographic boundaries.

Somewhat isolated, the valley is almost enclosed by Tussey Mountain on the east to the chain of Dunning, Loop and Lock Mountains on the west. The only ways in or out of The Cove are at Loysburg Gap in the south, McKee Gap in the west, and at Williamsburg to the north.

The place whispers tranquility—it was soul-soothing to be there. We found ourselves thinking nostalgically as we longed for times past when life wasn’t a fast-paced, headlong rush to one deadline or another.

Perhaps that’s just escapist drivel or a desire for childhood which cannot ever be truly recaptured—even so, sweet memories are always nice to consider.

Mountain Music

Roaring Spring is a principle borough of The Cove. It came into existence and was established as a community around a dependable spring of clean, fresh water.

The Big Spring from which the town gets its name is a natural limestone spring that churns out eight million gallons a day. At first it was used to power a grist-mill, but since 1866 when the initial paper-mill began operating, pulp and paper products have been manufactured.

Sunhearth Trails Bed & Breakfast is located one mile south of Roaring Spring off Route 867 S. It faces Halter Creek on a little over five acres of woods and natural landscape.

The property has a storied history. A home was built in the 1930s by the Martin family, and it got named Sunhearth.

In 1971, after a high school teaching career along with adventures of building and driving race cars, Walter Martin founded Sunhearth Folk Instruments. Walter had no particular musical prowess—however, he enjoyed good music and when introduced to its unique sound, he rapidly developed an abiding passion for the Appalachian dulcimer.

Walter was an artisan with a keen attention to detail. He researched the instrument with a thoroughness that resulted in a design that became world famous in folk-music circles.

Sunhearth Folk Instruments was an almost legendary gathering place for those practitioners of traditional mountain music. The grapevine was an efficient form of communication. News about who’d be at Sunhearth and when kept it a hotbed of musical happenings.

Impromptu jam sessions would often develop into special times of deep connections. If it was a chilly evening the fireplace would be crackling and spreading its warmth. Songs filled the air until the wee-hours of the morning, with pickers and singers circled around the large living room.

Walter nurtured and encouraged these connections and relationships. He valued the pure sound and artistry of Appalachian music.

Before reaching retirement at the age of eighty, he had made a thousand dulcimers. Amongst those who play, a Walter Martin crafted instrument is highly prized and much respected.

A Walter Martin crafted dulcimer.
A Walter Martin crafted dulcimer.
A tree gnome welcome.
A tree gnome welcome.
A display of dulcimers & artwork.
A display of dulcimers & artwork.


Stuff happens in life. Time forges ahead and changes all it touches. After Walter Martin passed away, the homestead was eventually abandoned and fell into disrepair.

It sat empty for three years. Nature took its toll, creeping up to overrun the building. Then two visionary business partners came along, and caught a glimpse of what could be—Tina Burman and Paula Sato Maior immediately saw the potential in the fixer-upper.

There was much to do. With significant investment of finances, the help of contractors, along with many long hours, tasks on the to-do list were slowly but surely accomplished. Cleaning up the interior woodwork alone required heavy doses of faithfully applied elbow grease.

The transformation from gone-to-wild disarray into the beauteous place it is nowadays is chronicled in a photograph album. The pictures bear testimony to the fact that there had to be moments of discouragement in the process, but they persevered and stuck with it.

It took a full year and a half to restore and refurbish the home. The result is Sunhearth Trails Bed & Breakfast, a jewel of comfort and hospitality. Every room is large and spacious, decorated with crafts and antiques. It is well-appointed and classic in its feel, but Tina insists that restoration remains a work in progress.

Note the restored brick & woodwork in the kitchen.
Note the restored brick & woodwork in the kitchen.
A view from the south deck with steps leading down to Halter Creek.
A view from the south deck with steps leading down to Halter Creek.
Sitting on the south deck in full relaxation mode.
Sitting on the south deck in full relaxation mode.
Be sure to ring the entrance bell.
Be sure to ring the entrance bell.

Highly Recommended

It was early evening of a perfect summer day as we sat on the south deck overlooking the woods. Birds were singing a blend of various notes that shaped one of those soft, easy feeling songs.

Visiting with Tina over a cup of tea—which by the way, if one happens to be a tea snob, be assured that tea is brewed properly at Sunhearth Trails—we learned a bit of the story. It is evident that she appreciates the past. With reverence in her voice she spoke about the unfolding discovery of bits and pieces of the history embodied on the site.

Her decision to get off the business-world merry-go-round means that she’s tapped into a heritage of music. Reconnecting with the old network of pickers and singers is beginning to happen. She’s being intentional as she pursues leads, and is hopeful that soon Sunhearth Trails will once again be the destination for foot-tapping musicians.

Sunhearth Trails provides a homey atmosphere and relaxation in the midst of the majesty of creation. It is highly recommended—a definite Five-Star rating. Wireless Internet connection is available, and in an almost unheard of policy, Sunhearth Trails is pet friendly.

Just a word about what to do upon arrival at Sunhearth Trails—do not simply knock. Make sure to ring the entrance bell. And then be prepared to be warmly welcomed to a place of peace.

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Comments 33 comments

dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

Sounds great. I've never been in that part of the county but I've an interest in traditional music and mountains are always appealing. Thanks for showing this.

Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

dahoglund - You're welcome. It's a real neat place. Very peaceful & relaxing.

breakfastpop profile image

breakfastpop 6 years ago

Sounds and looks lovely. Thanks for the heads up. My husband and I have stayed at many wonderful B& B's in PA and I always love the experience.

Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

breakfastpop - You're welcome. Hope you & your husband get a chance to visit Sunhearth some time. You'll surely enjoy it.

CMCastro 6 years ago

Thanks so much for sharing. Perhaps my husband and I will visit someday.

Keith 6 years ago

Awww Man! You made me want to go there. I love that area and you describe it perfectly.

Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

CMCastro - You're welcome. Hope you do get a chance to visit it someday.

Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

Keith - Thanks, man. From a native Pennsylvanian that is high praise. Blessings.

Daryl Climenhaga 6 years ago

I did my fourth grade in Woodbury (while my parents travelled during a missionary furlough in 1959) in the heart of the Cove. My mother came from Martinsburg, and these names are all familiar to me, even if I have not lived around there. Thanks for writing about it.

Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

You're welcome, Daryl. It's a beautiful area.

JJ (pachuca)` 6 years ago

That sounds like a wonderful trip.

Vladimir Uhri profile image

Vladimir Uhri 6 years ago from HubPages, FB

Great trip, was it?

Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

JJ & Vladimir - Yes, it was a wonderful trip.

bayoulady profile image

bayoulady 6 years ago from Northern Louisiana,USA

Interesting hub. I love B & B s! Sounds like you found a jewel!

Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

bayoulady - Thank you. Glad you stopped in for a visit. Yes, it's a jewel of a place.

Kaie Arwen profile image

Kaie Arwen 6 years ago

Sounds beautiful........... I do love Williamsburg. Thanks for this! Kaie

Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

You're welcome, Kaie. A very beautiful place.

Micky Dee profile image

Micky Dee 6 years ago

Nice write Ken. Very pretty place and interesting!

Dim Flaxenwick profile image

Dim Flaxenwick 6 years ago from Great Britain

Oh , that place sounds sooo good. Thank you for all the information and the great pictures.

Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

Thanks, Micky Dee.

Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

Dim Flaxenwick - You're welcome. It was a neat place. We hope to return for a longer visit soon.

ericsomething profile image

ericsomething 6 years ago from Charleston, SC and Riverside, CA

I don't often wander above the Mason-Dixon line, but this sounds like my kind of place. Really cool that the owners are trying to bring back the traditions of the place along with the actual buildings. Too many restorers fall short on the tradition & atmosphere side.

Ya know, from looking at the pictures, that south deck does look like a nice place for some front-porch pickin'.

Good Hub, well done, especially in tying all the aspects together.

Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

ericsomething - Thank you. You're right about the south deck being a fine place for front-porch pickin'.

Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 6 years ago from Texas

Gee, Ken...you really had me wishing that I could have come along with you especially when you began to talk about the music. This is a time in life when I definitely long for that type of tranquility yet welcome something as authentic as the music of the mountains. I envy your trip but thanks much for sharing in a very well-written article that I thorooughtly enjoyed! WB

carolina muscle profile image

carolina muscle 6 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

It looks like a cool place to visit!!

Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

Wayne - Thanks. Yes, I think you would love to see the original dulcimers displayed. I hope to return some time soon & stay connected to find out if some of the old time musicians start coming.

Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

It's a real neat place, CM.

Deborah Demander profile image

Deborah Demander 6 years ago from First Wyoming, then THE WORLD

This looks like a beautiful place to spend some time. Thanks for the pictures.


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

Deborah - You're welcome. It is a beautiful place. Blessings.

sweetie1 profile image

sweetie1 6 years ago from India

Beautiful pics.. thanks for the hub ken.

Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

Thank you, Sweetie1. And you're welcome.

freecampingaussie profile image

freecampingaussie 5 years ago from Southern Spain

looks like a lovely place to visit especialy in winter & have a log fire !

Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 5 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

freecampingaussie - Yes, a truly lovely place. Thanks for stopping in. Blessings.

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