The Best Hike In Penn’s Woods
For being a populous eastern state, much of
is still wooded and wild. This makes for a lot of good hiking trails. I have walked many of them with my fine traveling companions Brad and Chris. This is the story about our most recent hike on the best of all possible trails. I am speaking of the Falls Trail in Rickett’s Pennsylvania . It is in the northwest corner of Luzerne County, north of Bloomsburg, west of Wilkes Barre, just in case you want to go there. Glen State Park
I first hiked it in 1996. Chris got there in July 2011 and liked it so much that he thought we really needed to get Brad there. Thus our November trip took us to Luzerne County. Chris had reservations at a campground about a half hour away from the park. I got there just a few minutes after he did. We got the RV set up and just as the welcome mats were put out, Brad showed up. We set out from three diverse places over a hundred miles away and over 130 miles apart and still managed to meet within a half hour of each other. We are good that way. Here’s our campsite on the frosty Saturday morning.Friday night we had a nice dinner of Brad’s chili, my salad, and of course, beer. I won’t bore you with the details of the inevitable Cinch tournament that night. In the morning Brad made French toast and then we were off to the park for an all day hike.
It was a sunny day but not all that warm. We were wearing hiking boots, carrying packs, and using trekking poles. We walked past a ranger in his truck and after a cursory nod, he looked at our feet. The trail is steep, muddy, and can be dangerous and the park strongly recommends good footgear. I guess we passed. Of course, even this little bit of inspection brought out a minor rant from me. It went something like this.
“Bleep. What’s with that ranger? Couldn't he see that we were very serious well-equipped hikers? Hell, I was probably hiking this trail when he was still in high school. Bleep. Where does he get off checking us out? Bleep bleep." My anti-authoritarian rants never cease to amuse the guys. They try really hard to keep me away from rangers. There was severe flooding there recently and much of the trail had been rebuilt with that last week judging from the fresh gravel and the Bobcat tracks that were still obvious.
This is what is called a “lollipop” trail. That means you hike up the “stick”, loop around, and come back down the stick. It is flat to start with easy hiking in a forest of virgin hemlocks. Then you have a choice of taking the high road or the low road. Unlike in
, taking the high road gets you there faster. Scotland
The two trails converge just below the first of the falls. From there it is alternately flat and steep. And it is very very scenic if you find waterfalls pleasing to look at. And who among us does not like looking at waterfalls? There are 22 of them on this hike, hog heaven for the falls enthusiast. Given the recent rains, they were all running quite nicely full. In a dry summer the flow is somewhat less than that provided by a Super Soaker. In winter only registered ice climbers are allowed in the gorge.
As we passed each falls, Chris or I would take a picture. I was packing the beater camera so my stuff was not wall hanger worthy. I also shot some video so I can hear the falls when I want to. There are three falls on the “stick” part of the trail. Just before we got to Waters Meet where the two glens come together, we passed a number of stacked rock
While we made some pictures, a couple of guys came up and asked what that was about. They would not know me as a historian who deals strictly with facts so I gave rein to my inner storyteller. I explained that there had been some serious flooding in the area recently and there was a small group of New Age believers who felt that the erection of such
, the burning of incense, and the chanting of the proper incantations would keep the stream from flooding in the future. I explained it was quite a colorful ceremony and that dozens took part with even more looking on because the culmination of the ceremony was a young couple conjugating in the stream. The guy’s response to this pack of preposterous lies was “really?” cairns
There is a wooden map at Water’s Meet and this picture might make it more clear about what the trail is about.
The trail is in red. The falls are all named. I wonder who Murray Reynolds was. You might expect Indian names like
and Mohawk, but not Sheldon Reynolds. We decided to take the left fork so we would be going uphill on the steeper side. The highest waterfall, Ganoga, is on this side. It is 94 feet high. So if the creek falls 94 feet the trail must rise 94 feet. The trail is narrow, rocky, and wet in many places. We were happy to have the trekking poles. Only a very few were using them. Since it was later in the season and a bit on the chilly side, we didn’t see the kind of hikers you will find in summer. I have seen Gucci loafers, gold slippers like old female urbanites wear, Chuck Taylors, flip flops, Doc Martens, even barefoot. Evacuating an injured person out of the glens has to be a real chore. For my part, I would let the ravens and buzzards clean the carcass and then pack out the bones in spring. Well, you know I don’t really mean that but I am sure that the chore is difficult enough to require a designated curser, hundreds of feet of rope, a Stokes litter, and a Coast Guard Boatswain's Mate to accomplish. Oneida
Brad took a picture of Chris and me in front of a falls. You can see how we were dressed and geared. I think one might guess we had hiked a bit. Or as Bill Eppright might put it, we looked like we had true crust.
Given that it was sunny there were a fair number of other hikers on the trail. Many of them seemed to be students from nearby
. There were also many Asians, mostly Koreans. We saw their vehicles and it looked like a Bloomsburg University veteran’s group with spouses. Some of those ladies were doing some fast paced hiking. Of course, it is easier to get 100 pounds up the hill than it is to get 240 pounds up the hill. Republic of Korea Marine Corps
Dogs too. And small children. We saw one way too cute little girl, couldn’t have been more than four, gamely ascending Glen Leigh. She was all in pink and I have no idea how she was going to deal with the big rock steps ahead of her. I suspect the pink would be replaced by mud before she got to the top.
The other side of the gorge was sunlit and there was enough colorful foliage to make for some pretty scenes. Chris found one near the top. Once at the top, the trail across is mostly flat. Still, it is not a good place for very large people as the photo below will show.
This is the aptly named Midway Crevasse. Just a short way down the train we found a very large flat rock just off the trail. We settled in for lunch. Brad made a bowl of Rachael Ray’s tuna with artichoke hearts, celery, Greek seasoning, black olives, and olive oil all wrapped up in a tortilla. As I am wont to say, it was tasty stuff. And the traditional bag of spice drops for dessert. You might ask, what about the Little Debbie Nutty Bars. Of course we had some of those. They take on the character of emergency rations and if there is no emergency, we eat them.
After lunch we played a game of Cinch. It was fun to watch how the passing hikers dealt with seeing us there. Most walked by with just a furtive glance. Some gave us friendly greetings which we returned. Despite it looking like there was a scenic vista (there wasn’t) only one couple came over to see what they could see. I believe Chris won the card game.
From there it was largely downhill into Glen Leigh. This gorge is narrower and there are several bridges, none of which I bothered to make a picture of.
It’s all downhill to Water’s Meet and on a couple of occasions I was very happy to have the poles to keep me upright. Toward the end of the hike I photographed the guys on top of one of the Reynolds waterfalls.
Arguably, this is the most photogenic one with an aesthetic marred only by the two guys standing at the top.
Back at the campground we had a hearty dinner of goop mélange followed by more cards and lots of conversation. In the morning Brad made his legendary pretty and yet tasty omelets and then it was time for the obligatory group shot.
Chris’ RV is a Winnebago Minnie Winnie. We decided that we will refer to it as the Tin Can instead.
I cannot speak too highly of this hike. If you are wandering about Penn’s Woods and looking for a natural site you won’t find anywhere else, you can do no better than Rickett’s
. And just to connect my favorite hike with my favorite Civil War site, Rickett was an artillery captain in the Army of the Glen State Park Potomac whose men held off a Confederate charge by whacking the Rebs about the head and shoulders with rammers and other implements. They have a fine monument on Cemetery Hill under the watchful eye of General Hancock’s equestrian statue.
Speaking of which, the next story to come will be an extended rant about a famous American battlefield being encroached upon by forces of evil commercialism. Do I speak of Walmart’s desire to build on the
Chancellorsville battlefield? No. Perhaps I am thinking of the suburban sprawl encroaching on Bull Run Battlefield? No. I refer to the Ghost Tours that have become omnipresent in . Gettysburg
Until then, be safe, enjoy. Ray