This hike was a failure or a success, depending on what you are looking for. I’m still not sure which it is.
The last weekend in April I spent in Pennsylvania’s waterfall country – the northeastern part of the state. Due to quirks of geology this region has waterfalls cascading all over. And the crown jewel is Ricketts Glen State Park.
The park is named for Colonel Ricketts, hero of Gettysburg and lumber baron. Wikipedia has an astonishingly detailed account of the history and geology of the park, and I have nothing to add. I’ll just state that hiking alongside 22 waterfalls isn’t something to be missed. And I tried not to miss it.
My trip north was delayed, as once again I had to work late the night before. I arrived at the park about five PM and set out to hike the abbreviated version of the Falls Trail. The complete Falls Trail is a balloon or lollipop hike, starting at Adams Falls on Route 118 and heading north to Waters Meet, at which point you hike up either Kitchen or Fishing Creek. When you reach the Highland Trail you head to the other creek and hike back down to Waters Meet and return to your car. This is a hike of over seven miles, but you can cut four miles off by starting on the Highland Trail and hiking along both creeks, but skipping the trip down to Rt 118. You miss a couple of waterfalls, but you see the bulk of them.
In fact what happened is I missed the bulk of them. That afternoon I tried to hike down the Ganoga Glen side of the trail and I had my fear of heights kick in at the top of the steps down 33 foot Mohawk Falls. Knowing that navigating century old slate steps would be what I’d face the entire hike, I turned around.
The following afternoon I tried again. I was in a good mood, having not only hiked alongside waterfalls that morning at State Game Lands 13, but up their faces as well. This time I started from Adams Falls and headed north. determined to get as far as I could. The trail along Kitchen Creek is level as far as the first waterfall, sixteen foot Murray Reynolds, but the trail gets rougher as you approach the second, 36 foot Sheldon Reynolds. Once again the steps deterred me, this time due not only to a fear of heights but joint swelling. Climbing up waterfalls is hard work, and I’d worked hard that morning. My body was telling me I’d had enough.
So, was the Falls Trail a bust for me? Some might call it a failure, but I can’t. I saw four marvelous waterfalls – Adams, Mohawk, and the two Reynolds – and had a great hike along Kitchen Creek. As for those stairs, I feel confident I can do the entire seven mile loop if I start fresh and rested, and take the usual care I do when hiking. Ricketts Glen is a marvelous place to hike, and I will be back to do the Falls Trail.