|Tuscarora (47 foot)|
The primary appeal of Ricketts Glen is the fact that it is one of the best waterfall hikes anywhere, with a 7.1 mile lollipop loop hike that passes 22 named waterfalls of at least 10 foot drop. Many of these falls are in the 30-50 foot range, with a 60-footer and a 94-footer as the crown jewel. To quote the Falcon Guide Hiking Pennsylvania (3rd edition): "Here's the bottom line: Ricketts Glen is the best hike in Pennsylvania. It may also be one of the top hikes in the East."
The plan ended up being a travel day on Sunday to get up to the area, stay in a hotel Sunday night, and do the hike and then drive home on Monday. Work commitments for Leo, and an aikido seminar in Reading for Dave meant that we would end up taking two cars and meeting at the hotel in the evening. Dave and I would go together to Reading first thing in the morning, where he would do his thing and I would spend a few hours geocaching. When his seminar ended late in the morning, we would make our way northwest from Reading, geocaching in a few new counties before making our way to the hotel to meet Leo.
We ended up with a couple of beautiful Spring days, sunny, breezy and cool. Perfect for being outdoors. I was actually chilly in the morning while driving around West Reading, finding 20 easy caches by the time Dave was done.
We didn't have a completely firm plan leaving Reading, but I had mapped out a series of caches in half a dozen new counties. We had decided we would set out and see where we felt like going next as we went along. First stop was Elysburg in Northumberland county, where we found two caches. Our choice at this point was to work our way N/NE from here (toward the hotel), or to head west across the Susquehanna. It was still early, we had plenty of time to kill, so we went for the Susquehanna.
|The Susquehanna at Shamokin Dam|
We drove to Sunbury, crossed the river at Shamokin Dam, and stopped for a walk along the shoreline and a trio of caches, including a cool one on the dam itself. Despite the chilly wind, the shore and the dam were packed with fishermen. This checked off Snyder county.
Next we drove north along the west bank of the river to Lewisburg, where we found a Union county cache at the Bucknell University football stadium. The next few west bank counties would have taken us all the way to Williamsport and beyond, so we retraced our route back to Elysburg.
Heading north into hilly farmland, we crossed into the southern tip of Montour county and found two caches there, including one at a quaint little rural cemetery and one atop scenic Sharp Ridge. The view off the back slope of the ridge down into a stream valley and series of secluded hollows was spectacular.
Heading east toward Catawissa, we crossed into Columbia county and found a few caches there, including an odd one in a place called Hooded Grave Cemetery. This was a tiny little roadside graveyard with perhaps 40 or 50 graves, most dating from the 1800's. What made the place unusual were the two "hooded" graves; plots that were covered in wrought iron cages. According to the cache description, some say that these strange graves are simply ornamental. Other local legends say that the cages are to keep vampires in.
|Hooded Grave (Vampire cage?)|
The last cache of the day (bringing my total to 31 on the day in 6 different counties, including 5 new ones) was on a tank at a VFW post in Catawissa. We found this by accident. We had stopped at a market down the street to buy sandwich stuff for lunch on the trail the next day, and stopped here as we drove by just so I could take some pictures of the tank. While here, we found that there was a cache on the tank courtesy of the geocaching app on the iPhone. Finding a small magnetic thing on a tank isn't much easier than finding one on a locomotive but we found it shortly before giving up. I am not up on post-WW2 armor, but a quick check of Wikipedia would seem to show that this is an M48 Patton tank from the mid-50's (the Walker Bulldog was similar in shape but smaller and had 5 road wheels, not 6, and a later low-production heavy had 7...). [Edit 5/17/14 - This is an M60 Patton not an M48, the last US main battle tank before the M1 Abrams. It has the more modern gun, different turret shape, different gun mantlet etc. Definitely an M60]
|"Think Tank!" in Catawissa [M60 Patton]|
A short drive later and we were at the hotel in Mifflinville (near Bloomsburg), where we met up with Leo. The remainder of the evening was spent grabbing dinner at a local sports bar, chatting about the next day's hike, and the inevitable topic of "what next after this?"
Next...Day 2; The Hike