Ricketts Glen, the Almost National Park

I happened to stumble across Ricketts Glen when researching “things to see in PA” for a Christmas present I was putting together for Shane. I knew it was important that he and I make “He and I Time” in our new marriage, so although not married last Christmas, I gave him a gift of various parks I basically made a report out of that we could do short weekend trips to. The only thing missing was the MLA citations.

Most of his vacation days would be used up on our honeymoon, then what was left over was to be split with his family vacation and time off at Christmas time for my family and muzzleloader, so these had to be trips I researched had to fit into three days. Out of all the places I looked into, Ricketts became the first park we traveled to together that neither of us had ever seen before. Okay, so technically Leah joined us on our travel there. Actually, to get even more specific, she and I were in her car belting out musical tunes and Shane followed us, after all, Ricketts Glen was on her way home, so she might as well join us for a hike.

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And what a hike it was! We hit the big one right off the bat, the Falls Trail that guided you down stone stairs and over wooden bridges to view some of the most picturesque waterfalls you could ever imagine. There were a few options for starting this trail, and we began ours from the Lake Rose parking lot and traveled counterclockwise on this 3.4 mile circular trail, it was a suggestion we had seen on line, and it said by doing this you’d be taking some of the steeper parts descending rather than climbing, and it did seem that way. Our other option would have been to begin the hike on the Kitchen Creek Falls Trail to take us to the loop of all the waterfalls, but it would add a few miles and therefor time.

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I won’t go on about each fall, and I’m not going to post a picture showing each one of the 17 waterfalls featured on that trail alone. You really can’t grasp their splendor in the pictures, and it is something you just have to see for yourself. It is crazy to think that this gem of a park was almost a national park, but now Pennsylvania gets to call it its own. Something Pennsylvania should be proud of! It was neat to learn that bit of history about this place too.

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We really hit it out of the park the first evening going on this hike. The next day was filled with other walks, but the seeing all the falls was definitely my favorite part. It was a hike that you could do multiple times on one weekend trip and still see something new.

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Frances Slocum

When I put together this weekend, it didn’t feel last minute. I got the idea to plan this little trip over Memorial Day a little over a month ahead of time, and Shane and I were really excited by the idea. I pulled up my laptop to reserve a dog friendly camping site at Ricketts Glen and was out of luck. The place was booked solid. Okay, so not entirely solid. I think there was a tent site or two available, but they didn’t allow dogs, and dear Jagger would be coming with us.

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I searched other camp sites near Ricketts Glen, and although places came up, I couldn’t get a sense of what they were like. I expanded my search to other state parks near by, and I was lucky enough to discover Ricketts Glen had a next door neighbor called Frances Slocum State Park. It looked tiny, but with a body of water at it’s center, and a dog site available, I booked it.

Arriving in the evening at site 61 after one hike at Ricketts, the Frances Slocum campground seemed tight, but well kept, and the sites had ample room. The big trees that were on our site is what we needed for our tentsile tent to hover above the ground. We discovered the next day as we took Jagger on a walk that we were the last dog friendly site, so we could walk to the lake and the amphitheater with him, but not beyond us to the group tenting area, which was fine. The night we arrived, it was fairly quite, and we seemed to be one of the only fires that went on until dark, but the next day lot’s of families descended, and soon our quiet little camp ground was full of squeals and giggles from kids, nods from neighbors walking by, and an occasional dog bark, normally from Jagger himself. People still didn’t stay up very late, and everyone really respected the 9 pm quiet time, which made our evening fires very peaceful.

Saturday was spent exploring Ricketts Glen, a very cool state park I will get into in another post. Saturday evening, we did go to the amphitheater and enjoyed the music of Jay Smar, a folk singer who picked and crooned old folk songs and mining songs. Sunday was spent at Frances, beginning with a very long, slow breakfast of breakfast burritos at the fire. I had pre-made these yummy wraps before we left, so we sat at sipped our coffee while the foil wrapped mummies warmed up in the fire.

After breakfast, we searched the country side for a bait shop to get minnows for some bobber fishing in the Frances Slocum Lake. This became a meandering drive of at least an hour, if not longer because we couldn’t find a bait shop. The first one that Google took us too was not a bait shop, the address it dropped us off at was someones house; they didn’t even have a sign on their garage that said bait. Off we went to the another bait shop below 118 in Hunlock Creek called Bait Buddies. He had everything we needed and also had some cool handmade arrows and knives that his son from Maine created.

Back to Frances Slocum we went to do some bobber fishing. Shane commented that maybe once a year he would go bobber fishing usually, but he’s already gone twice this year and he said he can see why people like it. It is indeed relaxing and doesn’t take much effort. In fact, we played cards most of the time. We did get three bass, but lost them right before they were in our grasp, and beyond that we got a crappie and a big blue gill.

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At the end of the weekend, Shane was trying to make a pro and cons list of coming to this particular state park over Pymatuning State Park, and what was really decided was that the proximity to Ricketts Glen made this one appealing, otherwise Pymatuning is bigger and closer. Between the two, Frances Slocum would not win if we were to pick between the two for a weekend of boating and fishing.

But, the history of Frances Slocum was really neat, and gave the little park another point on the pro’s list. Apparently on of the trails, there is a rock shelter where five year old Frances Slocum was kept an evening by the Delaware Tribe Indians who took her from her family in 1778. She grew up as Maconaquah and stayed with her Indian family even after her brothers, who never gave up the search, found her as an adult.

Over all, I am glad we found this little gem of a park. We enjoyed live music, fishing, and got to try out our tentsile tent for the first time. Jagger was able to join us because they had dog friendly sites, which resulted in him enjoying his own tent. We weren’t far from Ricketts Glen, and although it wasn’t our original intent to stay there, we did and found out some great Pennsylvania history.

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The Pace of Nature

“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

This weekend was one where Shane and I could sit back and adopt that pace. Back before the wedding bells, during our counseling and through books and conversations I had, it was made pretty clear that Shane and I should carve out time for just us. Knowing we both find relaxation in nature, I gave Shane as a Christmas present a packet of information I had gathered on state parks and sites neither of us had been to. This was the weekend that I would get to work out my planning skills and Shane and I could get away together.

Our spring has been hectic, but not by any fault of our own. It just seems that the pace of life really took off on us. Before we got married, things seemed to drag on as I planned what centerpieces should look like, he picked out our honeymoon location, and we figured out groomsmen outfits. Then we said “I do” and time has gotten away from us. This spring has really been a time of learning for us, and there isn’t a pause button on life to help us get our bearings, just each others hand to hold as we keep moving forward.

Even the week leading up to our little getaway was jam packed. Leah came down for a visit getting in on Tuesday, a day I was still working, then Wednesday she and I started our morning with a Bible study, a craft store stop, then off we went to the zoo followed by a concert that had been meant for her and Scott. The next day was a slow morning that included the gym, grocery shopping for the camping trip, then an evening of just enjoying everyones company and some ice cream. Friday was some last minute packing, a few more business calls for Shane, then it was off to Ricketts Glen State Park to get in a hike before Leah had to head back to Connecticut.

Back at home, thinking back to the weekend, part of me wishes we could’ve been there longer, but looking around, I know I can’t suspend reality for forever. There is so much to do at our little homestead, but being out in nature is a good reminder that great things take time. Trees don’t touch the sky in one morning, rocks carved out by water don’t happen overnight, even a good breakfast burrito cooked by the campfire need not be rushed.

“Let your hope keep you joyful, be patient in your troubles, and pray at all times.” Romans 12:12