Pennsylvania Hiking Journal

Posted on May 27, 2010

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Journal of hiking Pennsylvania State Parks

Famously (to our friends) Rick and I have been recording visits to Pennsylvania state parks for the better part of a decade. We had already been hiking the gorgeous Keystone state when we attended the 50th birthday party of our friend Eric Smith, where we met a couple who had been working through all the U.S. national parks (a much bigger logistical challenge, given Michigan’s Isle Royale, Guam, Alaskan parks, etc.) We decided to visit all our own dear, local state parks and have been haphazardly doing it ever since.

On Wednesday night March 16, 2010, at the Lakeside Lodge in Raccoon Creek State Park, one of the two or three western-most parks of Pennsylvania’s park system, Rick and I inventoried (three ways—by the count in this journal, by the Pennsylvania State Parks and Forests maps, and by the list of parks on its reverse side) all the parks in which we have hiked, slept, or which we have visited (occasionally just a drive-through) to date. The count is now 92 parks we have visited out of 118 parks; we visited Keystone, Yellow Creek and Prince Gallitzin – coming back from the Redd’s Mill graveyard on March 18, 2010. There are assorted Pennsylvania state forests (and one national forest in the “wilds” of PA) and “natural areas,” but we have gone by the count of PA state parks on the official map that the PA park service publishes. It’s currently our plan to make the piece d’resistance Allegheny Island, renting a boat or finding another way to get out to this “undeveloped” northeast of Pittsburgh. We will stay in Moraine for a few nights, visit its neighbors, McConnell’s Mills and Jennings and then get a fancy hotel downtown in Pittsburgh and end the journey with a flourish at Allegheny Islands.

Allegheny Islands State Park – undeveloped – The park we intend to do last, because of the challenge of accessing it http://sites.state.pa.us/PA_Exec/Fish_Boat/watertrails/alleg/trailguide.htm#con3 and http://www.fs.fed.us/r9/allegheny/offices/summary.html

Archbald Pothole State Park  – in Lackawanna County, nine miles north of Scranton – we backtracked on the way home from Syracuse on December 27th 2007 to see … yes! a 38-foot elliptical hole in the ground.  Don’t say “Archibald,” like Arkady’s name in English. Say “Archbald”—with just two syllables

Bald Eagle State Park June 20, 2005 – we strolled in the meadow here on our 2 ½ day trip to central PA. We choose the “Butterfly Trail” and Arkady (our son, born January 19, 2003) walked on his own for one of his first times, chasing butterflies, scaring frogs (stepping into a pond after we asked him not to), picking up June bugs and finding a fragment of robin’s egg.

The Pennsylvania State Parks have tent camping (which Bald Eagle has), RV camping, modern (heated with indoor plumbing) cabins and other variations. To see the options go to www.dcnr.state.pa.us/stateparks/recreation/camping.aspx

Beltzville State Park May 29, 2004 – after false start, hiked Christman Trail near Beltzville St. Park. Wild roses filled the air with perfume. Bright sun shone on beautiful views of the creek and a small waterfall. We hiked there again Aug. 28, 2004 – this is a good trail for someone who needs a gentle, even trail surface. First there is mown meadow then springy packed Hemlock needles.

We returned on September 25, 2010. It was a sun-drenched early autumn day with the light just starting to slant low and reflect off the creek and hemlocks as we finished up the hike.

At Beltzville, in September 2010, we saw a baby timber rattlesnake on the trail, the wild first poisonous snake I have seen in more than 40 years of hiking (though I have seen them at educational programs at parks).

Bendigo State Park – visited June 15, 2006 – nothing to do with Wendigos (Ojibwe zombies); it’s named for the Biblical pseudonym of an Irish boxer who accidentally killed an opponent and fled to the U.S.) and Elk. (It’s a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers park on the East Branch Lake, dammed for flood control.

Benjamin Rush State Park – in Philadelphia – an “undeveloped park”  off of Roosevelt Boulevard in Northeast Philadelphia proper. That means it doesn’t have trails or trailhead. It does have a few acres of community gardens. If you want to get a garden plot, go there in early spring and look for leaflets on the trees and bulletin boards there. The plots are allocated in March and then your proximity to water increased each year that you work a plot. Here there is a manifestation of how community gardens are handled in Germany, which is that people not only plant vegetables but they use the gardens as a place to socialize on summer evenings.

Big Pocono State Park—we took Adrienne’s dad (and his dog, Jotto) to Columcille and then to Big Pocono on July 19, 2008. At Big Pocono, Arkady found a nest full of baby sparrows at the fire tower at Big Pocono and held one in his hand. There is a funicular that serves as a ski lift during the winter and which one can ride to the peak during the summer. However, we arrived just as the operator was shutting down for the afternoon and we could not persuade him to give us a ride – a source of great disappointment to Arkady.

Big Spring State Park—stopped at this small park near Fowlers Hollow State Park and the Tuscarora State Forest in central south PA on December 18, 2009 at 5:15 pm, just as darkness was falling.

Black Moshannon State Park June 19, 2005 – Logged to the ground in the 19th century, this hemlock forest nonetheless feels ancient because of how cool, and still and remote it is. The boardwalk allows one to walk very close to the lake to see dragonflies, red wing blackbirds and the distinctive flora of this extinct volcano. We like this park so much that we drove down again from Sinnemahoning June 2008 while we were staying for a week. Black Moshanon has modern cabins, which—like the rest of the state’s park facilities, are orderly, well maintained and clean—at a ridiculously reasonable price.  Go to www.dcnr.state.pa.us/stateparks/ or call 888-PA-PARKS to rent a cabin.

Blue Knob State Park—we stayed in the Twin Fawn Cabin December 18, 19 and 20, 2009 with Daniela Krausz, David Fernandez and Daniela’s sons, Daniel and Alexander. The first of the four big snowstorms of winter 2009-2010 hit on Friday night around midnight. Daniela and David bravely drove in late that night and we all woke to a dreamy, fluffy wonderland, with the snow still coming down in extravagant clusters. We drove the kids up to the mountaintop, where there is a commercial ski lodge, but it was still blizzarding and just too blustery for the children. So, we all played in the front yard of the cabin, coming in for freshly baked cookies and going back out to play, and going back out to play. The cabin was a private house that is technically not in the park but just outside on the road. It’s one of the “special” cabins of the park system—not a standard blond, knotty pine cabin but a house that accommodates two families for only slightly more than the price of a regular modern cabin. Sadly, some liability-shy state official decided to disable the gorgeous wood stove in the “rec” room of the cabin, so it stood there, empty and cold when we could have most enjoyed it. Also, the living room is configured strangely. It’s just not cozy, with its second, fake fireplace and too-long proportions. Unlike the other state park cabins that allow one to wake in the woods, gaze at the unobstructed sky and occupy the stillness, this one is on the road in a scruffy rural area so it’s sort of the worst combination of the country and development. Nonetheless, we had an idyllically restful weekend with our friends and the three boys. Also, the ranger was, as usual, incredibly sweet proud of his park, had a snowball fight with the boys, and helpfully dug us out on Sunday before we had to check out and drive back to the Philadelphia area.

Boyd Big Tree Conservation Area – April 4, 2007 after hunting morel mushrooms in Reading.

Buchanan’s Birthplace State Park  – my (Adrienne’s) dad reminded us that we actually stopped here on our trip out to Fallingwater in September 2005. We stopped again on December 20, 2009, just as darkness was falling and took a picture of the Masonic-like stone pyramid in the blue snow of dusk.

Bucktail State Park – not actually a conventionally identifiable park but a trail that we visited June 11, 2006 while we were staying at Sinnemahoning the first time.

Caledonia State Park

Canoe Creek State Park—we drove down from Sinnemahoning on June 9, 2008 (Adrienne’s birthday) to see 20,000 bats come out of the belfry of the desanctified church that houses them. One of my personal amusements is the re-uses of churches in rural Pennsylvania, such as the home for little brown bats and the church-as-movie-theater where we saw Kung Fu Panda (twice, since there are no other theaters within reasonable driving distance) in Galeton in June 2008. Bats are in terrible trouble in Pennsylvania and the Northeast now – from White Nose Syndrome  www.batmanagement.com/wns/wns.html

Chapman State Park visited June 15, 2006 and June 17, 2008. Chapman June 17, 2008 — we hiked then emerged from the woods to find the lakeshore. Arkady was happy to come into the clearing that he took off all his clothes.

Cherry Springs State Park – There are so many really special parks in Pennsylvania’s system. We have never fully taken advantage of this one, which is known by stargazers throughout the Eastern seaboard as one of the few remaining “dark parks.” We drove through June 12, 2006 and again in June 2008.

Clear Creek State Park encompasses 1,676 acres in Jefferson County. The park occupies a scenic portion of the Clear Creek Valley from PA 949 to the Clarion River. There’s a lake and a beach. No hiking to speak of.

Codorus State Park —southern York County – we took a 10+ mile bike ride there Labor Day – September 6, 2009.  An easy way to access the York Heritage Trail is simply to put Codorus State Park in a GPS and park at the lot (where there is a bulletin board and maps of the state park itself), which is what we did. The bike trail can be dusty at points and it winds through small towns, so there are parts where one is in (small town) traffic for a moment or two. However, the trail is shaded for much of the portion we were on, level (along a rail line), and there there was a playground with some public sculptures where Arkady stopped and explored for a while. I was a little low energy that day so the highlight for me was stopping on the way back for ice cream at Serenity Station. We were so pleased that it was open pretty late on Labor Day!

Colonel Denning State Park —south central PA – visited December 18, 2009 on the way to Blue Knob. The park is in a hollow between two dramatic ridge lines. It was surprisingly warm (and the ground was bare of snow) though a big snowstorm was coming it. I knew then that Arkady is a “nature boy” because we pulled up and parked and got out to hike and Arkady sprang from the car, shouting, “Hooray! Hooray!” at the prospect of being among the trees for an hour.

Colton Point – visited June 2006 when we stayed at the cabin at Sinnemahoning for a week.

Cook Forest. This park has some of the only deciduous old growth on the East Coast of the United States. Rick and I stopped here in February 2009 on our Presque Isle-President’s Day weekend trip, while Rachel (Adrienne’s sister) took care of Arkady for a few days.

Cowans Gap. We crawled along behind a snowplow on Sunday December 20, 2009 to arrive at 3:45 pm just as night was falling. It was sundown on the solstice and we did not forget that the days would grow longer after that moment.

Delaware Canal State Park. This is the “park” we have visited the greatest number of times (maybe three dozen), biking or walking the canal trail that lies between Bucks County and New Jersey.

Denton Hill State Park. Like Blue Knob and Big Pocono, it’s a “winter” park with a commercial subcontractor running a ski and snow play lodge there. We drove through in June 2006 when we were first at Sinnemahoning.

Elk. Visited June 5, 2006, trying to traverse some of the mountainous country of northwestern Pennsylvania. I suppose we are wimps and not ready for the expanses of the North American west.

Evansburg State Park – just west of the would-be arts colony of Skippack (north west of Philadelphia suburbs). We walked there at least once in 1994-1999 when we lived in Lansdale. The trails are uncharacteristically rough and ill maintained. Interestingly, Pennsylvania’s wet, comparatively mild climate produces “temperate jungle” that was nearly as bad as anything an Amazonian explorer has ever had to bushwhack with a machete. It’s to the credit of the park system that the trails are ordinarily as clear and well blazed as they are.

Fort Washington State Park. We had not begun this hiking journal and were seeking paved paths when we tried to walk there in 1994-1999. It’s very close to Dalea’s (Adrienne’s daughter’s) alma mater, Germantown Academy and Arkady’s nursery school used to have its summer picnic there, so we’ve been there many times. At this point, it’s more of a suburban oasis than a truly woodsy retreat so we often turn up our noses at it when we are picking a place to walk locally.

Fowlers Hollow State Park  – Passed through around 5 pm on December 18, 2009 on the way to Blue Knob.

Frances Slocum State Park. We hiked here in the late afternoon on Oct. 9, 2004, part of a Columbus Day weekend trip to the top of the state. It was a little gray that day, which got us down, though the sunset was lovely. The park is named for a Quaker girl kidnapped and adopted by Miami Indians. Later in her life her brother re-established contact with her.

French Creek State Park. We have created two memories of a lifetime here. Our first major hike took place September 5, 2005. The five of us (Chris, Rick’s brother, Rick, Arkady, Herzog, our then 11-year old German Shepherd dog, and Adrienne got a late start and then got lost on the trails. We actually hiked out of the park boundaries and found ourselves at a fire tower. We ate up all the food and drank all the liquid in Adrienne’s day pack (including electrolyte solution for baby Arkady) and hiked until the brink of darkness in which we could see neither the blazes on the trees nor the trail. We were facing the prospect of spending the night on the trail when Chris trotted ahead of us to find the way back to a road. Because of splitting up, we got separated from him. Rick, Arkady, Herzog and I made it to the road just as darkness fell and hitched a ride from a motorist back to our car. Chris had found some rangers and went down near their station to wait for us. We rigged up a note with glow sticks to leave for him where the car had been parked but were quickly reunited (good thing that the brothers think alike!). We were on the trail about 4.5 hours that night and estimated that we walked about 11 miles. We’ll never hike again without more food, more water, more flashlights, a reliable compass, and space blankets. We were grateful for what we had in Adrienne’s day pack. Later when we hiked at the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon and told a ranger the story, he commented, “Oh, yeah. So many people get lost at French Creek. The maps there are terrible!”

For our family reunion of 2007, Adrienne, the natural concierge had looked up all sorts of county festivals and museums to visit, but all we all wanted to do was walk down to the pool every day and cook dinner outside each night as darkness fell and the children played flashlight tag. We brought the bikes and trailers, but pulling all the kids on the steep hills of French Creek was a lot of work! Adrienne and Andrea (with kids in tow) stopped in at a sheep farm and gift shop on one of our bike excursions.  One night we walked over to an open field and played with Coryon’s glow-in-the-dark disk. Another night we walked over to the same clearing to lie on our backs and watch for the falling stars of the Perseids meteor shower.

Gifford Pinchot State Park – we walked here on Saturday September 3rd, 2005 on our Labor Day weekend trip to the Frank Lloyd Wright house, Fallingwater with Adrienne’s dad. It was a pleasant woodland trail; nothing spectacular. Arkady walked the entire way for the first time. The park has very well kept campgrounds. Gifford Pinchot, a naturalist on par with John Muir, was the visionary who believed all Pennsylvanians should have a park within an hour’s travel and thus laid the foundation for the keystone state’s magnificent park system.

Gouldsboro State Park – Hiked about six miles on the afternoon of Saturday May 21, 2005 with Adrienne’s dad and Jotto, but not Herzog since we had driven up to Syracuse the night before for Rachel’s 40th birthday party. There were extremely rough, uncut trail at some points and rocky climbs at others. The trail finishes with old 611, now lined with dying apple trees.

Leonard Harrison/ Grand Canyon of PA — Sunday October 10, 2004. The trail was too vertiginous for Rick with Arkady in the backpack so Adrienne hiked 1.06 mile down and back in 54 minutes (with Herzog, the dog). The trail drops (800 feet) in that challenging mile.

Greenwood Furnace State Park  – it’s predominantly a historical site though in June 2005 we did walk with Arkady on the trail for about half an hour and then come back around to the playground. Adrienne watched the film on the early 20th century furnace and looked at the artifacts.

Hickory Run State Park – Adrienne visited as a teen, mostly with friends during summer of 1978. We hiked the lake trail June 17, 2005, getting in our hike and just beating a summer storm. This is the park with the famous boulder field, a 20,000 year-old geological oddity that’s fun for kids to climb over.

Hillman State Park – It’s not really a separate park from Raccoon Creek. It’s adjacent and the management for the two is out of the same ranger station. Adrienne and Arkady drove through March 16, 2010.

Hills Creek State Park – we rented a cabin there April 15 and 16, 2006. Rick bought fishing equipment (never miss an excuses to spend money on outdoor equipment) and a license and he and Arkady tried to fish but had the wrong gear, wrong bail, wrong timing and wrong attitude to catch anything.

Leonard Harrison State Park – Grand Canyon of PA – Rick carried Arkady down (1.06) and Arkady walked whole way up on his own; we also made a stop at Colton Point that weekend. It looks like it was clear-cut 75 years ago; now is tall stands of hemlock.

Hyner Run State Park—visited both of these when we rented a cabin at Sinnemahoning State Park June 2006

Hyner View State Park. It’s a heart-stopping view. I can’t believe that people hang glide from this height.

Jacobsburg Environmental Education Center  – Sunday May 29th a gentle walk with Adrienne’s dad (some steep parts) along the Bushkill Creek – deciduous wood on one side; hemlock on the other.

Jennings Environmental Education Center —western central.

Joseph E. Ibberson Conservation Area – after quite a challenge in finding it, we hiked here June 24, 2010 on the hinkin trip that included Knoebel’s Amusement Park. I photographed a red spotted newt that day and Arkady said on seeing it, “This is a healthy place…”

Kettle Creek State Park—We drove down from Sinnemahoning on June 11, 2006. I have a slightly bitter taste in my mind about this park. One of the unfortunate dimensions of trying to visit all 118 of the state parks is that we have rushed through a few of them. Out in the country, it’s amazing how long it can take to drive from point A to point B and sometimes being in the car for an hour or several hours just to reach the next park can be really draining and dulling to the very senses that one wants to enliven by being out in nature.  I remember feeling that way about Kettle Creek. We got there and there was nothing much to see —shabby play equipment on a slightly balding lawn—and then onto the next park, anticlimactically.

Keystone State Park — Visited March 18, 2010 on the way back from Raccoon Creek.

Kinzua Bridge State Park—visited June 15, 2006 (arrived late in the day in 2006 to see the bridge just before sundown) and June 14, 2008. In 2008, we talked to a man there who works in Bethlehem and he took our picture. For geeks who love the drama of post-industrial, post-primary extraction Pennsylvania, this destroyed bridge is worth seeing.

Kooser State Park  – southwest in the Laurel Highlands

Kings Gap Environmental Education and Training Center.

Lackawanna State Park—we stopped there on the way back from Syracuse on December 27, 2008. It was pretty cold and gray so we only walked for about a half an hour, just to see the park.

Laurel Hill State Park—SW one of the unique modern cabins—Laurel Hill Lodge. We are still interested in staying there and should visit Kooser, Laurel Summit, Laurel Mountain and Linn Run, which are nearby—nearby  in the sense that anything in the rural, mountainous Pennsylvania countryside is “near” anything else.

Laurel Ridge State Park  – we stopped at the park office on the way back from visiting Skip Leeds in Bethel, Ohio July 4, 2005

Lehigh Gorge State Park  –  We walked about four miles late Saturday afternoon July 1st, 2006 from the Rockport access with Adrienne’s dad. No dogs that day since Herzog and Jotto were getting too old for a long walk or hike. We had a picnic dinner at a table about an hour’s walk out from the parking lot and saw a bizarre feathery caterpillar like something out of Dr. Seuss.

The walk follows the Lehigh River, which was rapid, high and muddy from all the rain in June. This waterfall is at the start of the walk.

At this point, at age 3 ½ Arkady was walking on his own for more than half of our walks or hikes and was carried in Rick’s back for the rest of the time.

Leonard Harrison State Park – see Grand Canyon of PA

Linn Run State Park

Little Buffalo State Park

Little Pine State Park. This is the only or one of the only of the State Parks with a bad vibe. We visited a grocery store in a soul-sick town near there and stopped at the playground in Little Pine. There were creepy tattooed people who looked like skinheads or White supremacists hanging around the swing set with a thin, sickly-looking toddler—the sort of people who might come after you with a sharpened ballpoint pen.

Locust Lake State Park—visited July 7, 2006—a magically still creek runs through the woods—puts me in mind of the wood between the worlds in C.S. Lewis’s The Magician’s Nephew.

The park is just outside Mahanoy City, however, on a road past shattered fields of clear-cut trees and former mines—filled with that scrubby, low, unkempt transition growth that follows the destruction of northeast mature forest.  It is a sad, gray, hollowed-out post-primary extraction town in which everything is coated with a thin, yellow layer of ancient grease and dust. We ate the deadest, heaviest food imaginable in a huge but deserted diner, served by a gentle, obese, almost solicitous cook-server-cashier. There was a sort of ill-lit flea market at the back of the restaurant with a combination of crappy mis-matched glassware and what looked like some of the equipment that had been used in the diner. Much of the equipment was covered with plastic sheeting to protect against the ubiquitous greasy grit. Arkady was teething and the sadness of the town and his crankiness was hard to escape. The solitary proprietress recommended that we look for Anbesol at the big box drug store across the street. I did find some but the sadness of the waddling and hopeless customers there just contributed to the inescapable heaviness.

Later, teaching Media Studies at Arcadia University, I learned that cable television was invented in this mountainous town when a television salesman erected a high antenna and set up a repeater so that townspeople could get the signal.

Lyman Run State Park is 15 miles east of Coudersport and seven miles west of Galeton on Lyman Run Road.

Maurice K. Goddard State Park—northwestern corner of the state—visited it February 2009. Goddard dreamed that every Pennsylvanian could be within an hour of a PA state park. He is Pennsylvania’s John Muir and served 24 years as a cabinet officer for six governors of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in the United States.

Marsh Creek State Park—this is a  beautiful park on a lake with boats to rent and lots to do. Sadly, it was terribly cold in April 2007 when we stopped there on the way back from renting the cabin but we were grumpy from a week of wet, chilling weather.

McCalls Dam State Park—just north of the center of the state

McConnells Mill State Park—extreme west central – one of the clustered three that we have planned as part of our last stay in a cabin to finish up Pennsylvania State Parks. We’ll stay at Moraine, which has modern cabins and then the finale will be to rent a boat and visit Allegheny Islands Park – northeast of Pittsburgh.

Memorial Lake State Park

Milton State Park—just north of the center of the state

Mont Alto State Park—to be reached through Caledonia. Saw sideways to a moment in time there on June 23, 2012.

Moraine State Park—extreme west central – see McConnell’s Mill.

Mt. Pisgah State Park – a  beautiful, special park in the Endless Mountains at the top of the state. We visited on October 10, 2004 but were only able to walk for about half an hour because it started to rain.

Nescopeck State Park Nescopeck is 41 mi. from Deerhead Inn

Neshaminy State Park – visited and walked a little on Sunday April 24, 2005. This is primarily a boating park with a big, free public swimming pool. The other playground has been taken out and the park itself is otherwise a bit unkempt. The walk on the water is lovely though and compatible with a stroller.

Nockamixon State Park – walked there or tried to walk there a few times in 1994-1998 when we first lived back in Pennsylvania. It’s a boating park predominantly with mediocre trails and maps. Swam there at the public pool on June 15, 2005. It’s a magnificent new, clean, well-outfitted pool in a pleasant setting.

Norristown Farm Park  – the other park left to visit in the Philadelphia area. We pass it biking the Art Museum to Perkiomen trail all the time but have yet to make the detour.

Nolde Forest Environmental Education Center—Reading-morel area—believe we have walked there – no record of it.

Ohiopyle State Park. – we walked here on Sunday September 4th, 2005 after visiting Fallingwater. The trail looks over the Youghiogheny River and is hardly ever out of the sound of the falls.

Oil Creek State Park is the site of the world’s first commercial oil well. Oil Creek State Park tells the story of the early petroleum industry by interpreting oil boomtowns, oil wells and early transportation. Scenic Oil Creek carves a valley of deep hollows, steep hillsides and wetlands—9.7-mile paved bicycle trail through scenic Oil Creek Gorge is a major park attraction. Trailheads are at Petroleum Centre in the south and Drake Well Museum in the north. Trail users may rent bicycles at the park office. (The other four northwestern parks are Presque Isle, Erie Bluffs, Pymatuning, and Maurice K. Goddard)

Ole Bull State Park—visited while staying at Sinnemahoning in June 2006. Interesting old “modern” log cabin that can be rented.

Parker Dam State Par

Patterson State Park – 6.5 miles south of Sweden Valley on PA 44

Penn-Roosevelt State Park – June 20, 2005– this small (41-acre) park in inside a huge state forest and only accessible by remote forest roads so it is very quiet and private. It was built during the Great Depression by one of only a handful of African American Civilian Conservation Corps teams. Arkady and Rick are standing by the outdoor oven in which conservation workers cooked food and warmed themselves.

Pine Grove Furnace State Park

Poe Paddy State Par

Poe Valley State Park

Point State Park – This is where Ohio River begins at the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers at the Point in Pittsburgh, Pa., and flows 981 miles to join the Mississippi. Egla (our nanny) took Arkady’s and my picture there in November 2003 after I attended a Fielding research session.

February 2009 Presque Isle State Park —Rachel took care of Arkady for President’s Day weekend and Rick and I took a winter hiking trip. There, on the edge of Lake Erie, Rick and I looked at the frozen chunks of lake the size of cars and heard the thing none of us hears often enough – silence. Just the wind sweeping over the icy, pale blue lake.

Prince Gallitzin State Park – visited March 2010 on the way back from Raccoon Creek.

Promised Land State Park  —we’ve hiked there many times, but most memorably in November 2006 when the last golds and warm colors of autumn were fading into gray and death. It’s at that moment that the red of a blackberry leaf seems most precious.

Prompton State Park – hiked Saturday afternoon August 12, 2006. There is almost no signage leading to the park. It’s another U.S. Army Corps of Engineers park created the purpose of creating a buffer around the dam (built 1958-1960 to control the Lackawaxen River). The land belonging a farmer or farmers must have been appropriated by the state and it apparently contained an apple orchard which one hikes through. We were there on a lovely clear, crisp day with golden light on the clear lake in the early evening. Sunset about 8:06 pm.

Prouty Place State Park  – it’s a little, undeveloped 4.5 acre park with a water pump, trailheads to the Susquehannock State Forest and fire rings—in the wilds of PA, near Sinnemahoning.

Pymatuning State Park—on the Ohio state line—25 modern cabins. We drove through in February 2009.

R. B. Winter State Park—Kathleen, Teresa, Anne and I rented the singular log cabin and stayed there November 5-7, 2010.

Raccoon Creek State Park. We bid goodbye to the winter and greeted the spring in the unique Lakeside Lodge on March 15, 16 and 17, 2010. The lodge is one of a handful of distinctive modern cabins in the park system (along with the cottage on the lake at Shawnee State Park, the log cabin at Ole Bull, and the farmhouse at Sinnemahoning, and about a dozen others) Raccoon Creek also has ten other modern cabins

March 15-16 are dates of pain and poignance (the beginning day of Rick’s mother’s short, sad life, and the end of the life of his first high school sweetheart), and March 16 is the day that Rick and Adrienne first met. We often try to be in the woods on these dates, to distract Rick from sad memories, to celebrate the coming of the solstice and to acknowledge Rick’s anniversary of sobriety, 20 years on March 19, 2010.

I awoke shivering at 4:30 am on St. Patrick’s Day in Raccoon Creek State Park and spent several hours updating the hiking journal and kicking around the silent cabin, watching a mouse in the kitchen and going outside to look up at the startlingly piercing stars, then going back to the work on the laptop—and suddenly noticing that the sun had come up

I love Sinnemahoning in the Wilds of PA, up until now my favorite park and cabin among the Pennsylvania Parks. However, the Lakeside Lodge is a close rival. The house is perfectly private, on a road that terminates at the lodge and is supposedly forbidden (although a curious visitor drove past the gate and sign last night). I’m writing this at 7:30 am on Wednesday March 17, 2010, having awakened at 4:30 am, shivering and my body aching because Arkady jumped onto the middle of my back as I lay luxuriating in the warm fragrant grass in front of the cabin.

Being up in the pre-dawn was surprisingly pleasurable, though the fire had gone out and I needed to warm myself up with a cup of cocoa. I walked outside and looked up a the stars which are clear, blue beacons when one gets away from the lights of cities and suburban sprawl. The entire big dipper was perfectly visible with all the little stars scattered behind it and Orion was beginning his retreat from the Scorpion who rises in the spring to pursue him across the summer sky.

The night was completely still, only an occasional plane flying over Pittsburgh, twenty miles to the east as the morning approached. I heard a little scuffling in the kitchen. I thought at first that it might have been the raccoons who live under the house (according to an entry in the lodge log) but it was a tiny, bright-eyed mouse scouting for something we might have left for him. I sat motionless on the floor and watched as he came within about five feet of me. I called him, “Wee, cowrin’ beastie” and told him I would not chase him.

I sat at the table and worked on this journal and then noticed all at once that the cool light of dawn had given way to a flash of gold on the pines outside the southern window of the cabin. I ran to see the sun coming up over the lake. A thrush was singing outside (Arkady and I saw him yesterday evening in the very top of the evergreen under which Arkady made his own “camp” with a “fire” (pick of sticks, “food” (pieces of pine bark) and a “wreath” (one of many downed evergreen branches from the heavy winter snows))

After a two-hour hike on (an abandoned wagon track) Nichol Road, we three came back to the cabin for lunch and then Arkady and I left Rick at the cabin to sleep (he had the tail end of a bad cold and a hurt shoulder from snow tubing a few weeks ago) and we went down to the beach to kick around. There appeared to be a theme of getting naked in the state parks. I allowed Arkady to take off all his clothes and skinny-dip in the cold lake. (It was in the high 50s). He made sand-mud castles, played with a boy named Moses who showed up after a while (conveniently, just as Arkady had decided to get dressed), and the two of them had a cattail sword fight and swung on the swings.

After that, Arkady and I drove through Hillman State Park (our 89th by my count as of March 15) and walked just a little, climbed the rocks and gathered some firewood at Frankfort Mineral Springs and then came back to the lodge and lay on the grass in the late afternoon sunshine. We built a fire on the gorgeous patio beside the cabin, but were not able to get it going. We were able to get a fire going in the wood stove inside after scrounging some pine cones, paper from the kitchen and a bit of cooking oil.

This is the very best cabin we have yet been in. It’s the only cabin I know of with a washer and drier, which is a huge boon. (It’s amazing how grungy one can get in one day of hiking and one is grateful to be able to launder clothes). The stone hearth is huge and beautiful and the wood stove has an amazing draw. In fact, it has a bit of an air leak so it’s hard to cool it down; it burns very hot and goes through the firewood fast.

Everything was immaculate when we arrived, prepared with the standard dose of loving pride that fills all the Pennsylvania Park facilities. There is one twin bed and two bunk rooms, each with four beds, so technically the house sleeps 10, but that’s not really spacious enough for two sets of adults, only two adults and kids stacked up in the bunks. The mattresses are the standard, hard ones with “slippery” covers. Bring a mattress cover. It cushions the hard bed and keeps the sheet on better. There is firewood for sale in a locked chest by the cabin (that you unlock with the cabin key) and an honor system to pay for it—$5 per bundle. You can gather some deadfall for kindling but bring a little paper to get your fires started.

The kitchen has everything one could dream of (except a dishwasher). There is a table with ten chairs, spotless refrigerator, oven, range, microwave, toaster, coffee maker and plates, glasses, pots and utensils. (This is true of Shawnee and Sinnemahoning and some of the other special cabins, but not all of the modern cabins—ordinarily, you have to bring your own cookware, forks, plates, mugs, etc.)

Ralph Stover State Park –First hiked there (in the mud!) Nov. 30, 2003, then Sept. 4, 2004 (with Chris Bunker and then went to Allentown Fair), Jan. 9, 2005 and March. 27, 2005, and several times since. High Rock Vista is a beautiful place from which to start and many raptors can be seen above the cliff face there. The view over the creek is quite dramatic. Hiking the opposite side from High Rock Vista affords the bow-shaped hike down along the creek.

Visit to Redd Family Graveyard in Washington County, PA March 17, 2010 after Raccoon Creek State Park

We ate the last of our food and packed and left the lovely Lakeside Lodge at Raccoon Creek State Park a day early so we could head out to Redd’s Mill in Washington County to look for an old Redd family cemetery and homestead. We tried a combination of my cousin Pam’s directions, Google maps through Rick’s PDA and the GPS. We on aimed for the intersection of Glemba Road and Bentleyville Road in Charleroi, PA

We arrived in the small town near the family graveyard just before lunchtime and found Redd’s Mill Road. We drove the length of it, looking for anything that might be the homestead, but were worried that if the house had been near a millstream, that it might now be replaced by a newly built water processing plant that we passed. At the end of Redd’s Mill Road, we came into the town of Fallowfield. We saw signs for the municipal building and Arkady and I went in to ask where to look for the old graveyard.

The police officer behind the window suggested we talk to Wayne Ray, the tax collector and history buff. He drew a little map and advised us to talk to the Glemba family—that there were two family cemeteries nearby—one on the Glemba farm and one back up in the woods where Spring Road ceases being a road. He also told us about a history of the town of Van Voorhis entitled From the Furrows to the Pits (1986) by Charles Gershna. It’s a history of families in that part of Washington County, PA. We’ve put in an order for it on Amazon marketplace.

We had a greasy lunch at the Dairy Queen, but I was so excited about getting a lead that I didn’t mind the pasty hamburger roll and flavorless onion rings. We read the handwritten but corny St. Patrick’s Day jokes posted above the booths to one another and Arkady played with a Lego set by our table.

We headed back the short distance to the intersection we had found before and down Bentleyville Road to the house Mr. Ray indicated.

We turned up the road to a rough, steep, unmarked driveway to a completely nondescript ranch house. I got out of the car with Arkady, knocked on one door, got no answer and then went around to the side. The man pictured at left, Paul Glemba answered the door and I told him that my family name is Redd and that I was looking for the Redd family graveyard. He brightly said, “I know exactly where it is. I’ll take you there.” He walked outside and asked where I was parked and then told me to have Rick come up the driveway. He opened his garage and put air in the tires of an old golf cart and gave Arkady a ride over the hill, with me and Rick following in the Nissan. We both pulled our vehicles off the dirt road and there was the little graveyard on the hill

The gravestones are extremely worn. Some are merely jagged limestone stubs and even the ones with visible lettering are very hard to read. John Redd’s grave and Thomas Jefferson Redd’s grave are identifiable among the dozen or so stones. As we stood there looking for “Redd” on the stones, a second man showed up. (Rick said later that he has seen us from his house and came up to see what we were doing.) He identified himself as Paul Glemba’s brother, Joe Glemba and that he owns the adjacent property and has kept track of some of the Redd family history. Joe was friends with the late author of the Van Voorhis history and corroborated some information, saying that he has some original documents. He said that Nathaniel Redd was the first settler in Washington County and that he was part of the Whiskey Rebellion in response to the federal excise tax of 1791 during George Washington’s presidency. He says that he has copy of a liquor license that Nathaniel Redd subsequently obtained in 1797 (and that Nathaniel Redd was a revolutionary era soldier.

Joe Glemba showed us how to pick up handfuls of dirt and rub them on the gravestones in order to bring up the letters more legibly. He pointed out the grave of Sarah Redd Qualk, daughter of John Redd. She was the mother of several children but died in 1834. Her widower, Jacob Qualk moved out to California and remarried, telling his children that their new stepmother was their natural mother. Not until years later did the descendants of Sarah Redd Qualk realize that she was their actual great, great, great grandmother. Joe says that they visited her grave relatively recently.

The grave of John Redd is one of those that is still somewhat legible. We would still like to better corroborate that he is the brother of Andrew Redd, grandfather of our direct ancestor, Andrew Jackson Redd. He ran the mill, according to Joe Glemba. The mill and the red brick farm house (built by Nathaniel Redd) stayed in the family until 1934.

Arkady really did not know what to make of seeing the graves. He had been joyful and tractable the day before and that morning of March 17, but really started to become agitated as we arrived at the little cemetery. We had to ask him more than once not to walk on Sarah Redd Qualk’s grave (which is already cracked) and then he began to slip balls of dirt in Rick’s pocket as he stood there and tried to talk to Joe Glemba. I think that it’s possible that the idea of his ancestors there under the ground and a realization of mortality was disturbing to him. He was quite sullen for the rest of the day.

Ravensburg State Park  – February 16, 2009 on Presque Isle-Presidents’ Day weekend hiking trip.

Reeds Gap State Park

Ricketts Glen State Park – May 30, 2004. We hiked the whole (three-hour) loop down past the falls and back up again. Arkady was a bit cold and cried for the last part of the hike back up which was hard on Rick (because Arkady was crying in Rick’s ear), but otherwise the day was sunny, crisp and glorious and a stranger we met took this picture of us, capturing one of our favorite hiking memories. The second picture is from March 14, 2009, taken at FL Ricketts Falls. Robert Bruce Ricketts, for whom the park is named, enlisted as a private in the U. S. Army and moved up to become a colonel. He led Battery F during the Battle of Gettysburg.

Ridley Creek State Park – walked there Sunday July 23, 2006 with Alix James, her sons and three dogs.

Ryerson Station State Park  – July 4, 2005 — what an interesting park and how difficult to get to it is! Stopped here on the way back from Ohio, where we visited Skip Leeds. The dam runs a compressor station for natural gas and I suppose the state decided to build a park around the station because they needed to manage the land anyway. We hiked the Lazear trail finishing along a deciduous woodland stream. We saw filberts, wild roses, sweet woodruff, and ostrich ferns.

S.B. Elliott February 16, 2009 — Rachel took Arkady so we could take a weekend to go to Presque Isle in the winter and not chill a little boy to the bone. We drove through while “collecting” parks in the western part of the state.

Salt Springs State Park  – May 21, 2005 – one-hour morning walk on the bunny trail. The trail description promised views but it was a woodland trail lined with violets and sweet woodruff — gentle and slow (good for Adrienne’s dad and Jotto, his 10-year-old dog).

Samuel S. Lewis State Park — Rain was predicted for Saturday April 23, 2005 and it dawned gray with a light rain, but then it cleared. We drove to the morel park in Reading where it cleared and then we wandered by car to this lovely high meadow of a park where we kicked around on the trails a little, watched some people fly a kite, played on the play equipment with Arkady and enjoyed the lovely day as it cleared and the sun came out.

Sand Bridge State Park — My records on a map of the PA State Parks I dug out this morning (updating this Saturday June 12, 2010) indicate that we drove through in June 2005. At three acres, it’s the smallest PA State Park.

Shawnee State Park – we took a little walk here by the lake on Saturday September 3rd, 2005. Stayed in the gorgeous cabin April 2007 the week before Easter but it was terribly cold. We managed to get out every day and visited Lincoln Caverns and a number of parks in the area.

Shikellamy State Park  – short visit April 2006.

Sinnemahoning State Park — stayed at the cabin there June 9 – 16, 2006. The cabin is delightful – a house rather than a standard, one-level knotty pine state park cabin, it has 2 bedrooms that have queen beds, and two more with 8 bunks total and there is also a cot on the first floor. Technically it is just outside the park (and dam) in Elk State Forest. We hiked the Ridge Trail, both the most technically difficult and the most ascent of any hike that week. This is Rick just finishing the trail, probably the most technically difficult trail we have ever hiked.

This park has a pair of breeding bald eagles, of which Pennsylvania now has 155 pairs. Through a scope set up just before dusk in June 2006, we saw the parents and three eglets — across the lake in their ancestral nest, the size of a hot tub. www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2009/03/bald_eagles_spread_their_wings.html

Sizerville State Park – hiked the nature trail and in Elk Forest on June 12, 2006 while staying at Sinnemahoning cabin.

Susquehanna State Park – This 20-acre riverfront recreational area is in the city of Williamsport. The modern paddlewheeler, Hiawatha, offers river excursions May through October.

Susquehannock State Park  – arrived here on April 23, 2005 in the last hour of the light of the day just to glimpse the spectacular view of the Susquehanna River. We hurried over to the look-out as thunder was already rumbling in the sky and when the lightning and the rainstorm we ran back to the car just before the rain came.

Swatara State Park  – Hershey- Harrisburg area – the Swatara multi-use Trail runs about nine miles from the Lickdale Interchange (Exit 90) of I-81 to the Pine Grove Interchange (Exit 100) of I-81. You may make a 10-mile loop by starting at the Waterville Bridge and using the Swatara Multi-use Trail and Old State Road.

Tobyhanna State Park – didn’t really walk because it started to sleet Nov. 19, 2006 – Tobyhanna is 20 mi. from Deerhead Inn www.deerheadinn.com, where we go to see Zen for Primates sometimes. We walked five miles around the lake Saturday September 19, 2009, the last day of summer 2009.

Trough Creek State Park Trough Creek Lodge sleeps 10 people 2 single beds 1st floor, 2nd floor 2 sets of bunks, 2 other bedrooms w/ double beds. A number of the modern cabins of the state are unique, in that they are not just the standard knotty pine cabin but the “lock tender’s house,” or a log cabin or a cottage on a lake. Trough Creek is on of the parks that has one such “special” cabin.

Tuscarora State Park – near Knoebel’s www.knoebels.com – drove through April 16, 2006.

Tyler State Park  – first walked the 5- or 6-mile paved loop here on Sunday April 24, 2005. It is a really well maintained park with new and creative play equipment and a little mock-up of a barn with a maze and sand box. There is horse rental and seeing the horses on the trails is fun, (though we have seen at least one person losing control of their mount). The big, broad ford (where there are many people fishing) is the visual highlight. Hiked there again May 15, 2005. This park has a nice energy in terms of the families and people who are there.

Upper Pine Bottom State Park – June 2006.

Varden Conservation Area

Warriors Path State Park April 5, ’07

Whipple Dam State Park  – stopped by on June 17, 2005, mostly to check it off our list.

White Clay Creek Preserve State Park – actually a preserve on the Pennsylvania side and a park on the state of Delaware side. Walked there (on the Delaware side) for about 40 minutes (Easter) Sunday April 12, 2009. I hauled a 100-pound piece of quartz about half a mile and brought it back with us.

Worlds End State Park  – hiked June ’06 on the way back from Sinnemahoning. One of the loveliest hikes in the state. Stopped at a Native American gathering and also drove through Amish country and stopped at the roadside stands.

Yellow Creek State Park – one of the state’s “lake” parks – stopped there March 2010.

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