A Cloudy And Dreary Autumn Hike On The Bear Walk Trail In Ricketts Glen State Park

A Cloudy And Dreary Autumn Hike On The Bear Walk Trail In Ricketts Glen State Park

Lake Jean (10 of 18)
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It’s been a few years since I visited Ricketts Glen State Park in Luzerne County, Sullivan and Columbia Counties.  This large, scenic,  park , over 13,ooo acres, almost became a National park in the 1930’s . Although it is only an hour from my home I’ve only visited it once since my college days. On my previous visits, I always hiked the Falls Trail to see the many spectacular waterfalls which attracts so many visitors to the park. It was cloudy on Saturday, not a good day for photographing wildlife. So I decided to head to the mountains and check out the  Fall foliage, and visit Ricketts Glen State Park. 

Even under the low clouds, it was a nice ride through the farm countryside and wooded hills of  Pennsylvania. I heard on the local news station the Fall colors were at their peak in this area but I was disappointed to find this wasn’t the case. There were still more greens than colors as I approached the park. 

When I arrived at the park I drove to the trail head for the Falls Trails. The parking lot was packed with folks hiking down on this popular trail, even on this cloudy and dreary day.  I decided not to hike on the Falls Trail, instead I began my hike on the Bear Walk Trail. 

It was dark under the cloudy skies and the   thick canopy of the large old trees that surrounded the  trail. The forest was mainly beech, oak and maple with a  large black cherry, eastern hemlock and Douglas fir trees. 

I knew it would be difficult to take photographs in these conditions. My Sonny  RX 10 iv mirrorless camera is no good in poor light conditions. I heard a few birds, and saw them fluttering in the tree tops but could not identify them or get good photos. It was hard to even photograph the black-capped chickadees which flew closer to the trail. This was the best I could do in the dim light of the trail. 

Even without the ability to get good photos I enjoyed the dark conditions of this old forest. I imagined this was how the forest were when the Native Americans and first settlors  first roamed these woods. 

It was a wet and warm September and the dark conditions under these large old trees made for perfect mushroom growth. I was surprised  to see the many old decaying honey mushrooms (they are know as popinkies to us Polish folks and stumpers to other folks in the coal region) scattered along the trail.  I could have harvested bushels of this delicious edible mushrooms if I had picked them in their prime. 

I did find a few that had just recently popped up, these are at their prime for eating. 

There were also some other species of mushrooms growing along the trail including some puffballs,

some red russula mushrooms, 

some bolete mushrooms and,

 these shelf mushrooms which I think are turkey tails. It has been one of the best mushrooms I ever experienced in Northeastern Pennsylvania this year. 

Also growing on the ground along the trail were large areas of interrupted clubmoss. They look like miniature pine trees to me. 

There were also a lot of cinnamon ferns growing along the trail, some still mostly green, 

and other already brown and yellow. 

A lot of the leaves on some of the trees were also changing into their Fall colors,  including the many beech,

and maple trees, many of which have already fallen top the ground and covered the trail

The trail continued under the old trees for about a mile where it ended near  the modern cabins that are located in the park.

Once the Bear Walk Trail ended and I left the old forest I saw some wildflowers growing on the  more open trail leading to Lake Jean. These included, I believe late purple asters,

panicled asters,

 and these wilted grass-leaved goldenrod flowers. 

I continued my hike on a trail that took me to the beach along the shores of scenic  Lake Jean, also a main attraction of Ricketts Glen State Park . It has been many years since I visited this pretty lake situated atop these highest mountains in Luzerne County. 

Here I did notice that the trees have almost reached there peak Fall colors. 

I had hoped to see some water fowl or other birds on and around the lake but it was quiet Saturday morning. The lake was deserted. I walked along it’s shores enjoying the views of the cloud covered waters. 

After walking along the lake I followed the Beach Trail for about a mile,

Here I saw a small flock of migrating white-throated sparrows.

They were fluttering in the brush along the trail and I was able to get some photos of these pretty birds despite the overcast dim conditions. 

Shortly after seeing the white-throated sparrows I found this delicious edible mushroom, lions mane or bearded tooth mushroom , growing on a tree along the trail. I prepared it and it has a taste similar to shrimp or lobster. A delightful  bonus from my visit to Ricketts Glen. 

The trail  soon returned to the shores of Lake Jean. Still no water fowl, but I took in some beautiful  Fall scenery.  After enjoying the view, I left Lake Jean and followed a road and then a trail that led back to the Falls Trail. 

Here is a link to a gallery on my website with more photographs from my walk along Lake Jean. Ricketts Glen State Park Lake Jean October 09  2021. 

Along the road that led to the Falls trail I saw this ancient apple tree, which was still producing a large crop of apples. 

And further along the trail I found another edible supple, an old  oak stump surrounded by prime honey mushrooms!! I picked a nice bag of the mushrooms, leaving more than half of the mushrooms behind, hopefully to find a home with another lucky hiker.

A little further along the trail I found some nice puffball mushrooms which I added to the bag of honey mushrooms. 

I hiked back to the parking lot for the Falls Trail, completing my five mile hike. I didn’t see a lot of wildlife but I enjoyed hiking in the peace and quiet of the old forest, loved seeing Lake Jean again and was glad to be rewarded with some nice edible wild mushrooms. It was a good day at Ricketts Glen State Park and I hope to return soon. Here is a link to a gallery with some more photographs from my hike in Ricketts Glen last Saturday. Ricketts Glen State Park October 09 2021. 

“One may lack words to express the impact of beauty but no one who has felt it remains untouched. It is renewal, enlargement, intensification. The parks preserve it permanently in the inheritance of the American citizens.”
― Bernard DeVoto

 

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