The h2g2 Traveller: Punxsutawney Pilgrimage

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A travel experience.

Punxsutawney Pilgrimage

Map of Punxsutawney
A long time ago, there was an evil sorcerer who made everybody miserable. A brave Lenape warrior was sent to stop him. Long and hard they fought, until finally, the evil sorcerer was vanquished. But as he died, the sorcerer played one last dastardly trick on the people of the forest: he exploded into a million sandflies (punxseds) and infested their summer campgrounds. The place became known as the Town of the Sandflies, or Punxsutawney.

It's all about Lenape lore, really. You see, they had another folkloric figure, Grandmother Wojek, a wise, patient creature. From Grandmother Wojek, we get…er, woodchuck. Also known as groundhog or whistlepig. And then the Germans and Scots Irish came, who liked to predict weather by watching the hedgehog or badger. But we don't have any hedgehogs or badgers in Penn's Woods, so…

We got Phil the Groundhog. He tells people whether we'll get a long or short winter. At least, if the guys in the tophats interpret him correctly.

I have already explained why I didn't go to see Phil on his glory day, 2 February. It's too cold. It's too early. Gobbler's Knob is two miles outside of Punxsutawney. (Yeah, it didn't look like that in the movie. The movie was filmed in Illinois.) Oh, and there were 10,000 people there on 2 February. Parking was a nightmare.

On my birthday in March, we had our pick of parking spots behind the Civic Center. Going to see Phil was my birthday treat. Well, they asked what I wanted to do…

Groundhog at Home

Phil's Burrow.

Where does Phil live the other 364/5 days of the year, when he's not telling people if he saw his shadow? In the Punxsutawney Memorial Library, of course. The awning used to say 'Punxsutawney Zoo', but visitors kept demanding giraffes, so they changed it. That's according to the local newspaper, The Punxsutawney Spirit, which added that they had also improved security. That is, they'd added a ceiling to the habitat where Phil and other groundhogs live. You see, he's restless, and prone to escape. Groundhogs have been found in the library stacks. They stay put better now. I'm sure the librarians are relieved.

Phil's home is next to the children's section of the library. He must be a great reader: the librarian told us that he often comes out during story hour and reads over the shoulder of the children's librarian. We suspect he's a major draw, and the library is excellent.

However, when we visited, not much was going on, and Phil was doing what groundhogs do best:

Punxsutawney Phil.

Over at the souvenir shop, I acquired some Phil-related fridge magnets. I also bought a t-shirt with some groundhog wisdom:

Eat your greens. Make a comfortable burrow. Trust your instincts. Keep a low profile. Don't be afraid of your own shadow. And remember to take long naps.

This is all good advice. I suspect Phil got some of those from Grandmother Wojek.

Gobbler's Knob.Wayside marker for Groundhog Day.

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