Saturday, October 01, 2011

Falling Waters

 Kitchen Creek Headwaters

The Glens Natural Area in Ricketts Glen State Park is now world famous for it's Waterfalls Trail which passes 22 wild and free flowing waterfalls in a pair of steep sided ancient glens complete with old growth timber and wild brook trout. The last time I hiked this trail was 30 years ago when I was in my mid twenties, now that I'm in my mid fifties I decided I was long over due for a return visit. The record rains that poured down on us here in Pennsylvania during the month of September only underscored that notion.

Never have I had a more difficult time getting a proper exposure and adequate depth of field on flowing water, so I'll apologize in advance for the sucky shots. Sunny skies combined with a dark ravine and raging whitewater made for super high contrasts and challenging shooting conditions. As a result I lost a lot of detail in the highlights of the cascading water. I know, I suck. So be it, I enjoyed this hike tremendously and it definitely won't be another 30 years before my next visit. Hopefully the ambient light will be better when I do.

Mohawk Falls

Small scale lumber baron Colonel Bruce Ricketts purchased this land in 1868 to harvest the timber but soon learned from local trout fisherman that the two branches of upper Kitchen Creek head-cut their own deep gorges in a series of impressive waterfalls shaded by giant pines, oaks and hemlocks and then united at Waters Meet. Col. Ricketts built trails up into the glens and they soon became known as the Glens Natural Area.

Kitchen Creek

A member of the Wyoming Historical and Geographical Society, Col. Ricketts named many of the waterfalls after American Indian tribes.He also named a few after his family and friends. At one time he owned or controlled around 80,000 acres of land in this area.

Oneida Falls

At one time, back in the 1930's,  the Glens were even considered for national park development but World War II brought an end to that plan and in 1942 the Ricketts family sold the Glens to the Commonwealth for a state park, which it became in 1944. The Glens became a natural area in 1969.

 Ganoga Glen Trail

I first hiked through these glens way back in 1980 and they look pretty much the same today as they did back then excepting that the area seems to be a little more popular today. Even the old gravel trailhead parking lot at Lake Rose has been paved, expanded and modern restrooms have been added. Back in 1980 you could count the number of other hikers you would meet in a day on one hand. On this day, a chilly weekday in late September, I stopped counting at around 20. You would be smart to avoid popular holiday weekends when hiking here, and don't attempt this steep, wet, rocky trail in the winter without your ice axe and crampons.

Ganoga Falls Precipice

Ganoga Falls is the highest of the 22 falls with a single vertical drop of 94 feet. Ganoga is an Iroquois word that means "water on the mountain". Kitchen Creek was an impressive sight to see as well as hear with it's waters still raging from recent rains.

Ganoga Falls from the Trail

The colors of the fall foliage here in the Endless Mountains are running a little behind Potter County in intensity. The leaves here are just starting to color up but they should be at their peak in another two weeks or so.

Ganoga Falls

I don't know who actually put these stepping stones in place (possibly Col. Rickett's trail builders?) but they were a welcome relief on this steep and rugged trail. The vertical drop from the Lake Rose trailhead to the Waters Meet is about 1,000'

Ganoga Falls Plunge Pool

There was so much mist and spray coming off the falls at this volume that you had to constantly clean your camera lens and keep your camera body dry with a bandanna. Even at this distance. This is where you want to be on a hot, humid summer day in Pennsylvania.

Ganoga Glen Trail
You'll want your hiking boots for this trail, a challenging 7.2 mile loop trail if done in it's entirety so make sure your in good shape and leave your flip flops back at the car. Every year hikers fall and are injured and have to be rescued by one means or another. I would imagine that rescue here is very time consuming, arduous and expensive.

Whitewater and Black Forest

The elegant sound of the flowing water filled the entire gorge and was impossible to ignore since the trail runs so close to the stream.

Silking Water Over Red Shale

Kitchen Creek

The fly fisherman in me even spotted quite a few tan colored mayflies about a size #18 emerging from the turbulent flows, and at one point an honest to goodness nice sized brook trout jumped completely clear of the foaming froth while chasing an emerger. Downstream of the Waters Meet, Kitchen Creek is classified as a Class A wild trout stream by the PFBC. It's all a moot point though since fishing is not allowed here in the glens. But it's still nice to know they're there.

Delaware Falls

As falls Kitchen Creek, so falls Delaware Falls

Sidehilling in the Glens

Down through the Allegheny Front, this trail has to be one of the most magnificent hikes in Pennsylvania, if not the entire East.

Mohican Falls

For my money, one of the prettiest falls in the park. A beautiful and timeless scene.

Mohican Falls

The last of the Mohican Falls shots.

Stepping Stones

The sheer volume of water in this creek was unbelievable for such a small first order stream, and the stone steps and well graded trail bring you right up close to the edge of the waterfalls and creek.

Fast Water in Early Autumn

Dead Wood

 Large Woody Debris

The Waters Meet 

The junction of the Ganoga Glen and Glen Leigh branches of Kitchen Creek. Ganoga Glen is on the left and Glen Leigh comes in on the right. The pleasant lassitude that the water induces here makes this one of the better spots in Pennsylvania to enjoy your sack lunch. Which is exactly what I did this day.