Beautiful Trails, A Lake And A Lot of History But No Wildlife At Ricketts Glen State Park

Beautiful Trails, A Lake And A Lot of History But No Wildlife At Ricketts Glen State Park

Rcketss Glen (10 of 47)
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It’s been a year since I last visited Ricketts Glen State Park. This was too long.  I need to visit this wonderful park  more often. It  is about 40 miles,  and a one hour drive,  from my home in  Southern Luzerne County. It located atop the edge of the Allegheny Plateau in Luzerne, Colombia and Sullivan Counties. I could see the ridge and North Mountain on a clear day from a lookout  near my home. I  spent hours as a child  looking at the distant mountains to the north. 

Ricketts Glen State Park is a 13,000 acre park containing 24 beautiful waterfalls, a lake and a lot of hiking trail.  I didn’t see the waterfalls on my hike on Saturday, I was looking for wildlife and mushrooms. I thought I had seen some honey mushrooms (we call them stumpers, or popinkies, a  Slavic word, in Northeastern Pennsylvania ) on my hike last year. Like last year, I parked at the Lake Rose Trailhead and began my five mile hike on the Bear Walk Trail. 

The parking lot was crowded when I arrived  around 8 a.m.  Almost all of the folks were taking the trail to the waterfalls, in fact I was the only one walking toward Lake Jean  on the Bear Walk Trail.

It was a clear day and the morning sunshine filtered through the mixed oak, maple, cherry and hemlock trees. Some of the trees were ancient.  Many areas of the park still have virgin forest and are listed as a National Landmark. The trail was wide and well maintained.  The  surrounding undergrowth  under the large trees was moss covered, 

with   intermediate ferns, 

cinnamon ferns and 

interrupted clubmoss growing in the wet moss and shade. There were no mushrooms and not many oak stumps were honey mushrooms are usually found. I may have seen the honey mushrooms on my visit to Tobyhanna  State Park last year. Oh well,  no mushrooms on this hike. 

And no wildlife either.  I saw few animals , in fact,  the only bird sound  I heard  along the trail was the chattering of black-capped chickadees. There were dozens of them in the trees and I saw and heard them all along my five mile hike. 

I walked on this trail for almost a mile. It crossed a road and there was a clearing where I saw a few of the wildflowers still blooming in late summer. including calico asters, 

pearly everlasting flowers, 

daisy fleabane flowers and

a few oxeye daisies, this one with a tiny crab spider on one of it’s petals.

The trail continued past a campground and here I did find a few mushrooms including  this  small Bear’s head tooth or Lion’s mane a choice edible mushroom, 

this bolete mushroom,

and a few blusher amanita mushrooms, but no honey mushrooms. 

As I neared Lake Jean there were eastern  hay scented ferns and

basket or male wood ferns growing along the trail.

Near the lake I saw a few families hiking and biking on the trail. I left the trail, and shade of the  trees, and  onto the beach along Lake Jean.  Lake Jean is a mad made lake. It was   created by the former owner of the vast timberlands where the park is now located, Colonel Ricketts.   It was built to hold logs associated with his timbering of the forest on his land holdings. I have learned there was a glacial lake  located here before the new lake was created. 

Whatever it’s origin, it is a beautiful lake situated atop the mountain and is reported to be the second highest lake in the Commonwealth at an elevation of about 22,000 feet. 

The beach was deserted on  this last weekend of Summer. I left the lake and walked back up the Bear Walk trail,  passing the nearby camp sites. I loved hearing the voices of the campers and the smell of smoke from the campfires. 

Instead of returning on the Bear  Walk trail I continued on the Falls Trail. It was a wider trail. It was a peaceful walk under another old forest. There was no highway traffic up here. Just the chattering of the many black-capped chickadees in the trees along the trail.

There was a strong northerly wind overnight and during my hike and I think a lot of the migrating birds took advantage of it on their long flights south. I think this is why the woodlands were so quiet. I didn’t see any deer, rabbits, chipmunks,  squirrels  or insects  on my hike either. 

After about a 1/2 mile the trail took me to the intersection of Highland Trail and Cherry Run Trail.

I decided to first hike on the Cherry Run Trail and followed it for about a 1/4 mile. I was surprised to find a large concrete structure along the trail. A stream flowed through a gap in the structure. I later learned it was a dam built across the Kitchen Creek in the early 1900’s. It was built by Colonel Ricketts in a failed attempt to produce  electric power It created Lake Leigh but the dam was breached in 1957 creating a wetlands were  the lake was.

The Kitchen Creek exits the dam and creates the waterfalls in the Lehigh Glen on the eastern side of the Falls Trail. 

Near the concrete dam structure there was a clearing and some wildflowers took advantage of the sunshine the clearing provide, including pretty purple stem asters and , 

white wood asters

There were also many goldenrod flowers , although many folks consider them weeds, they are actually an important source of pollen and nectar for many species of bees,  wasps and other pollinators.  There are dozens of species of goldenrod native to Pennsylvania and I believe  this is a wrinkled  goldenrod

and this a grass leaved  goldenrod.

I hope to hike the Cherry Run Trail on a future hike. I left the dam and returned to the Falls/Highland Trail.

The trail took a steep descent to the Leigh Glen where it met up with the Kitchen Creek again. 

It followed the creek and I enjoyed the solitude , the only sound being the rushing waters of the creek. 

The trail split at a waterfalls, the first on the Falls Trail. There was a group of  Boy Scouts here enjoying the beauty of the waterfall.

They were continuing down into Leigh Glen while I was following the Highland Trail back to the parking lot. 

The trail now entered a groove of beech trees, some very old. 

There were also  some more mushrooms growing here including some edible puffballs and 

a Ram’s head. Someone harvested half of it, I took the other half and enjoyed it and the puffballs for dinner. This is a link to a photo gallery on my blog website where you can see more photos of the plants and  few critters I  saw on my hike. Ricketts Glen flora and fauna September 16 2023.

The trail  took me to a ledge with some large rocks,

and I soon came to the Midway Crevasse. This interesting rock formation  is found on a narrow passageway through blocks of sandstone along the trail. 

I encountered a few folks here  crawling through the crevasse or photographing the massive rock formation. 

The trail continued through some rocky area.

and I eventually came to the trail that led down to the  Ganoga Glen where the more spectacular falls are located. The trail would  create a loop following the Leigh Glen trail back up to the Highland Trail. I had already hiked almost seven miles so I wasn’t going to see the waterfalls this morning. I do need to hike the Falls Trail again. it has been at least 15 years since I last hiked it. 

After passing this trailhead the trail widened as it continued upward through a dense grove of hemlock trees. Here I encountered dozens of hikers  going to view the beautiful water fall created by nature during the last ice age. I hope to visit them again soon. I finished my five mile hike disappointed that I didn’t find many mushrooms or see  any  wildlife. I was still glad I decided to visit Ricketts Glen State park  and enjoy the forests atop the mountain, the scenic lake, the waterfalls and rock formations. I hope to return soon. Here is a link to a gallery with some more photo from my hike.  Ricketts Glen September 16 2023.

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.” – John Muir

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