Off for a bit

We just got back from a nice little camping trip up into the “mountains” of Pennsylvania.  Rickett’s Glen State Park is just a short drive from our house, but it seems like a world away.

Lake Jean Pa

Lake Jean is near the summit of Red Rock Mountain (2,400ft) and the campground is lakeside.

The kids love to spend the day by the cool clear lake, but Rickett’s Glen is best known for its waterfalls and old growth trees.  Sadly though, after centuries of timeless growth many of the massive hemlocks are now dead and dying.  The newly arrived wooly algeid from Asia has literally sucked the life out of them and the glen is now filled with the gray remains of these crumbling giants.  Better hurry if you want to get anything close to the effect that used to be here even as short as ten years ago, the hemlocks are fading and things don’t look good for the giant ash trees either as the emerald ash borer comes our way.

ricketts glen hemlocks

They’re not as impressive as west coast evergreens, but the Rickett’s Glen hemlocks push 400+ years

One of our first jobs after setting up camp was to head out and collect breakfast…. sort of.  The former hayfields and apple orchards in the park are filled with wild highbush blueberries, and tis the season for blueberries!

-although I couldn’t help but think of the children’s book “Blueberries for Sal” and her surprise run in with a blueberry loving bear 🙂

monarda fistulosa

Monarda fistulosa growing in the former hayfields of Colonel Rickett.

But outside of hunting and gathering the bulk of the trip was spent sitting by the fire, playing at the lake, exploring the woods, and cruising the campground -as part of the children’s biker gang which my kids promptly joined.

playing in the creek

Any running water invites dam building, and here Opa was trying to give a few pointers.

The park ecosystem has a few problems, but for the most part it’s a nice snapshot of the woods which used to be.  There was still a late season bird chorus to wake us at dawn and the woodlands still contained the wild trillium, hepatica, and tiarella which the damp glen protects.  Japanese stilt grass was probably the only non-native invasive plant which was making inroads, a nice contrast to my own overrun neighborhood.

indian pipe

I haven’t seen the ghostly sprouts of indian pipes in a long time. I believe they’re the aboveground flowers of an underground parasitic plant, and not a type of mushroom which I used to think.

Spring is such a busy time but I always say I’m going to get here and see if I can catch a glimpse of the spring ephemerals blooming.  It would also be kind of nice to sneak off here sans children and squeeze in a hike of the treacherous falls trail and see the many waterfalls which fill the glen.  It’s been years since I made the hike, but I just don’t have the nerves to watch the kids teetering near every drop-off and slipping on every mud covered step.

walking tree

Our campsite was surrounded by Lord of the Ring Ent trees. They get their legs when the tree trunk or upended root ball they sprouted on rots away and the new tree’s roots are left behind exposed.

So we’ll stick to the easy trails.  It’s unambitious and tame but it suits us just fine!

walking in the woods

Walking the lower end of the falls trail. We never make it to the waterfalls but the easy walk through the forest is still beautiful.

Next year they’re draining the lake for dam repairs so Rickett’s Glen might be off the list.  We’ll have to venture further,  but I’m sure we’ll find something just as nice and I’m sure it will be just as much fun.  Viva la Summer!

14 comments on “Off for a bit

  1. It was great to see a bit of your family life. You really should make time to see the spring ephemerals, especially before the trees that protect them are gone.

    • bittster says:

      I shall make a point of it next spring! The hemlocks may be dying but I suspect tulip poplars will make a play for the open real estate. I think of them as a more southern tree and I noticed many new seedlings coming up so maybe there’s hope for a new generation of giants.

  2. Cathy says:

    Love all those big trees – looks lovely and cool there. 🙂 Hope you make it one spring soon, I bet it’s beautiful with hepaticas and trilliums flowering!

    • bittster says:

      Deer have wiped out so many of the early spring bloomers, so it’s nice to see them holding on here. I’ll make a point of bringing a camera when I visit in the spring and share what I find.
      … and yes it was nice and cool among the trees 🙂

  3. I enjoyed your family trip through the woods. I am not familiar with the PA park, but will have to stop next time I visit. Too bad for the hemlocks and ash. We have the same up here too, now there is something affecting our maples. Ash and maple make a large percent of NY forests. I was on an nature hike yesterday with the director of Buffalo Audubon. We saw Indian Pipe too. It really is a cool plant.

    • bittster says:

      That would be great if you stopped in there, I would love to see your impression and see the place from a different point of view.
      I hate to think of the maples going. Old red maples are also found in the park and I love how their trunks and branches get all mossy and ferns move in and a whole world lives on their trunks. I bet that takes at least a couple decades to happen.

  4. Sounds like a great family trip. When our kids were smaller we used to take them camping also. Too bad about the hemlocks and ash trees, though. It is funny how much kids love to play in moving water – somehow this does not translate into eagerness to get into the bath.

  5. This trip was a wonderful experience for your children. Do you see many bears in the park. We have them in our woods, and they scare me. I look forward to seeing your pictures of the park in spring. P. x

    • bittster says:

      I think the kids had a great time!
      Fortunately we didn’t see any bears. Years back I ran across a mother with two cubs while hiking alone. The cubs climbed a nearby tree while the mother ran off…. but then I saw her stand up in the bushes to watch me… I had to walk by them anyway, there was no way I was doubling back to get around them, I was ready to drop from exhaustion as it was!

  6. Christina says:

    Thanks for sharing your family trip, I love the trees with legs! So weird. I hope you do go in spring and show us the spring flowers.

  7. pbmgarden says:

    Looks like a great family time.

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