I came to use the bathroom. I stayed to hike. That’s how I met Hills Creek State Park.

I’d arrived in PA very late after a six hour drive from the Catskills, and spent the night sleeping in the back of the car at a Wal-Mart parking lot. I’d hurt my back two days before in a fall on a hiking trail. I was grubby, sore, cranky, and tired. And when sore, cranky, and tired I hate being grubby. So after visiting an overlook on 15 South and finding the restrooms not suitable for giving myself a ‘birdbath, I searched the map for the nearest state park.

Hills Creek State Park sits on 407 acres of land and water, astride Hills Creek and containing the lake created by damming. The lake features boating and swimming at your own risk, and had I brought my swimsuit with me I might have gone into the cold water. Instead I located the bathhouse, found it open, and made myself more presentable and comfortable. On this October day I had the place to myself.

Now feeling better and in a better mood, I hiked. I was still tired, and so my determination and stamina were nowhere to be found. I stuck with a ramble along the lakeshore. I hike a mile, perhaps more, but I don’t know the total, and don’t care. The day was overcast, but not gloomy, cool but not cold. Fall was around me, and it was fall in Tioga County, my favorite spot in the state, and perhaps the world. John Donne wrote “In heaven its always autumn”, and even though he never visited the banks of Hills Creek I can’t help but think this day is what Donne had in mind.

 After the hike I sat on a bench and had lunch, staring out at the lake, wishing I could be here forever. Unfortunately I knew I had to find a place to stay that night, and my plans didn’t include camping at Hills Creek. So I headed back to the car, refreshed in body and spirit. I’d been searching for a place to refresh, and in more than one way I’d found just that.