This blog is a diary. But I don’t write it for myself. This is a story of how you, my readers, pushed me to do what my heart told me I should try.
State Game Lands 13 lies a dozen miles west of Ricketts Glen State Park. A State Game Lands tract in Pennsylvania is owned by the Commonwealth and open for hunting and fishing in season. With a few exceptions there are no blazed or maintained trails, no parking aside from roadside pulloffs, no visitor center, no park rangers and no maintained roads.
Which is why despite SGL 13 having nearly as many waterfalls as Ricketts Glen, there are no crowds. The only people who hike to the waterfalls are local residents and people who might have read about the falls on the Internet, or in Jeff Mitchell’s book Hiking The Endless Mountains.
Its Mitchell who coined the phrase “Waterfall wonderland” to describe the seventeen cascades on Heberly, Sullivan, Pigeon, and Orr Runs. Mitchell’s book also details the eight mile hike to see all these falls. However, don’t expect a walk in the park. There are no trails, only an old forest road or two and a lot of bushwacking. And to see all the falls you have to be prepared to scramble up and down hills and hike IN the stream and climb up the cliffs alongside the falls. Mitchell advises allow eight hours for the eight mile loop, never hike it in icy conditions, and never hike it alone.
So naturally, having read all this, I wanted to do the hike. Or at least part of it. Fortunately Raymond, the manager of the Pennsylvania Waterfalls Facebook group and the owner of the Pennsylvania Waterfalls website, offered to meet and guide me on the Sullivan Run leg of the hike. We set aside the last Sunday in April, and I arrived at the meeting place with hiking poles and hip waders. Ray drove us to a gravel lot in the SGL and we headed towards our first waterfall, Sullivan Falls. It was an impressive sight, and I was glad I didn’t have to hike up it.
From Sullivan we followed an old forest trail, crossing a stream and then the top of Pigeon Falls. The water flow was high with runoff, but we had no trouble crossing. Even from the top Pigeon Run, and the falls, were beautiful. I could hardly imagine what they looked like from the glen below.
My problem began with the bushwack down the hill. As readers know I have from time to time trouble with descending steep slopes, and this was one time. I went down a few feet and stood there. Ray had hiked halfway down and he stared at me. Finally he said “We can turn back if you want. Its’ OK.”
I was afraid. I was nervous. But I didn’t want to turn back. I wanted to see the falls. And there was another reason. “Ray, I write a blog about going out and doing things. If I don’t at least try, I’m a liar and a fraud.” A man takes risks, I told myself. And a big risk was in front of me. I told myself when I lost 160 pounds I wasn’t going to live a boring life. Well, time to follow through.
But how to get down the hill? I looked at the ground, the usual Pennsylvania scree and grass, and remembered my Ravenshorn hike. “Ray, don’t laugh, but I’m going to do a controlled slide down the hill.” I sat down and scooted, using my legs to maneuver away from big rocks and trees. By the time I reached a point I could stand and walk down I’d blazed what I called a “big ass trail” and decided Cabella’s is now my official hiking outfitter – those pants can survive anything.
Once in the glen, it was a matter of walking alongside Sullivan Run, walking IN Sullivan Run, and climbing on the cliffs. I was very slow and Ray was very fast, but we managed OK. I think he expected I was a better, stronger hiker when he offered to meet me, but we both learned fast – he that I’m slow but determined, me that I can do more than I imagine. And that includes climbing a waterfall. Or in this case, two.