Monday, April 28, 2014

Ricketts Glen SP - Day 2 - Recap (Part 4)

Adams Falls and a Recap
As a short side trip from the parking lot before leaving, Adams Falls was a very pleasant surprise. Despite being perhaps jaded by what we had seen so far, this was one of the most interesting falls due to the incredible geology. The constricted entrance to the falls channeled the water into a relatively narrow cascade that had carved out a very nice plunge pool at the base, including one easy to see bowl where the water had scoured out a near perfect circle.
Adams Falls with plunge pools

The rock walls surrounding the falls pinched in from all sides.
Adams Falls

Even though swimming isn't allowed anywhere in here due to the danger, I'm thinking this would be a great place for a dip on a hot summer day...
Adams Falls

Of all the photogenic spots we had seen during the day, this was one of the best. 
Adams Falls pool, side feeder stream and cave (w/ice)

After spending a few more minutes admiring Adams, and not wanting to leave, we headed back to the cars, packed up and headed home. We were on the road by 2:35pm and home before 6.

The quick summary is that it is hard to imagine a much nicer hike within such a modest drive from home. Virtually every step of the hike was a good one. I am partial to water of any kind, and in that respect this gets unbelievably high marks. Its also perfect for photography, with non-stop opportunities for great shots.
Stream and rocks

The level of trail design and maintenance that you see here is certainly different from what you will see in many if not most places. Due to the traffic it gets, and the fact that it is one of the gems of the Pennsylvania State Park system, it is extremely well maintained. It has had a ton of work done over its 100-plus year existence. Most inclines have stepping stones or in many cases actual stone stairs. Solid bridges accompany any stream crossings. Paths range from well groomed dirt all the way to flagstone paths. Things are very well marked and it would be practically impossible to stray off the path (unintentionally).
The best paved path section

The trail, while I would not consider it difficult at all, is not a stroll down a country lane. There are a lot of steps, and slippery spots where the stones are wet and muddy. People with a fear of heights would have unavoidable issues in some places, with narrow rock ledges and exposed stone staircases climbing up rock walls being a frequent part of the trail. From an elevation standpoint, it was only about 150 feet up from the parking lot to Waters Meet, a stretch that contains three named falls, and that section could be done by anybody. The more difficult part is the 700+ feet of elevation gain up each of the two glens to the plateau at the top, but that happens in pretty manageable stages.
Huron with stone stairs

I don't know a whole lot about geology (despite having taken a college class many years ago), but I am fascinated by it. This is one of those places where the rocks in and of themselves are almost as cool as the water.
Geology above Shawnee

I would love to see this at different times of year. I am sure there will be less water in the stream in the summer, but everything would be green. For this trip, Spring hasn't really come to the glens yet, and the only significant green stuff we saw were the hemlocks and other evergreens. While things at home are well on the way to leafing out, they really aren't here as of yet, so the hardwood forest parts had not gotten over that bleak winter look. I'm sure Fall here would be amazing as well, but fallen wet leaves could make the footing pretty treacherous. I completely understand why the trail gets closed in winter. Way too dangerous.

Final verdict - In its own way, this is as nice a hike as I have been on. The Blacks Hills of SD and the Badlands of ND were a very different kind of beautiful, and Acadia is a different kind of magnificent water treat, but it is hard to imagine a more lovely waterfall/mountain stream hike. Especially within three hours of home. Scenery and photo ops get top marks. Climbing (which I am not a huge fan of) is very manageable and almost goes unnoticed. You won't get sweeping vistas here, nor will you get that otherworldly western terrain, but the rewards here are immense, and this has to be as good as it gets for eastern forest hikes.

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