Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania
So this may sound like hyperbole, but I swear it's genuine. This weekend I visited one of the most beautiful places I've ever experienced in the United States, and it sits right in the heart of good old Pennsylvania: Ricketts Glen State Park, located in Northeast PA (a little west of Wilkes-Barre for those of you up on your PA geography). Ricketts Glen SP is best known for it's 22 waterfalls that cascade down two different glens (Ganoga Glen and Glen Leigh) and converge at Waters Meet and then continue through Ricketts Glen, all forming what is called the Falls Trail System. The park is breathtaking in it's natural wonder; an amazing treasure trove of beautiful, old growth forests with an incredible variety of waterfalls that weave through, giving us a living display of the geological dance of water and rock that has been happening for hundreds of thousands of years.
After a cool night of camping in 35 degree weather, I started my hike on Saturday around 9am with the sun just rising up the tree cover. The light began to illuminate the trees in the midst of their color change, creating a brilliant stained-glass tableau of yellows, greens and oranges that were seemed psychedelic as their positions shifted in my eyes while walking. The air was crisp enough to see every exhale and the forest was coming alive with faint sounds.
The hiking trail into the glen was mostly flat and weaved to the left and right side of the creek courtesy of several wooden bridges and plank crossings. I was hiking on this trail for about a mile and half before even seeing a waterfall. Farther in the trail ceases being flat and becomes thin and rocky with lots of exposed roots and mud. The park classifies it as "challenging" but it didn't seem that it would be overly labored to anyone. There were many people in varying shapes and obvious physical conditions, so perhaps it's only challenging in relation to the flat trail entrance.
After approximately one mile, you encounter the three falls in Ricketts Glen - Murray Reynolds, Sheldon Reynolds and Harrision Wright - all of them impressive in their own right, but they're just teasers for what lies ahead.
When you reach the Waters Meet area you have the choice to go left up the Ganoga Glen or right up Glen Leigh. I chose to go up Glen Leigh and all of the following photos are of waterfalls on that side. I was photographing these falls with my Fujica 690 and my iphone. By the way, all the photos here in the blog are taken on my iphone. The wide shots are done with the pano setting. I ran out of battery after Glen Leigh so I didn't photograph any of the falls on the Ganoga Glen side.
These trails are wet, and not just from the falling water. There is water seeping down the sides of the valleys, through the rocks, up through the ground, ... it's everywhere. In some places the trail can be dangerous because one slip and you can fall 30, 50 even hundreds of feet into the rocks and glen. There are no guard rails or railings, and when the trail is crowded, people are navigating on the narrow wet stones going both ways.
This weekend camping trip was organized by the Mid-Atlantic Hiking Group, who took care of securing the camp sites (which I heard sell out for most of the summer and autumn) and hosting guided hikes both days. The camp sites were located on a peninsula on one of the park's lakes, which made for beautiful sunrises, sunsets, and shots of Saturday's full moon!