Ricketts Glen State Park has some of the most beautiful waterfalls in Pennsylvania. I had spent much of the summer traveling around many of the waterfall locations in the Finger Lakes in New York, and decided to travel around my own state to see how our selection of gushing wonders stacked up. I was not disappointed!
The journey begins at the very top of a very tall, forested hill. The top has some smaller waterfalls that bring their own brand of beauty. I spent some time on these, but I had a long hike ahead of me and I wanted to see the big ones. It didn’t take too long before they started to appear.
The Falls Trail can be quite treacherous sometimes. There isn’t much to separate the photographer from the steep cliff in many places. Carrying a tripod made my balance a bit lopsided as I edged my way down some of the trickier portions of the trail. But what awaited around each corner was another astounding sight. Ricketts Glen State Park boasts 22 named waterfalls, and each one is more dazzling than the last. After traveling for a couple of miles down the gorge, I came to a loop that started to ascend back up the other side…
…or so I thought! It turns out that the ascent has a completely new set of waterfalls! I had already been more than impressed by the sights I had witnessed coming down the Falls trail, and I couldn’t believe that a whole new set of photo opportunities awaited me on the return trip! But I must confess, I was out of shape and quite exhausted from my exertions. Also, time was ticking and I didn’t really want to get caught in a perilous and unfamiliar spot after dark. So I had to make haste back up to the parking lot. I really didn’t cover the park thoroughly, which makes another adventure here is a must! Although I would warn any travelers that caution and a good pair of hiking boots is advised (and possibly an aerobics class) it is definitely worth a little risk to see this splendid park and its wonders.
The Search for the Snowy Owl
Snowy owls are fairly rare in Pennsylvania. So when the sightings begin to happen, it’s a motivating experience to get out there and get a great photograph. I had already gone up to Presque Isle State Park in Erie earlier in December, but I seemed to be a little ahead of the action that day. No snowy owls. This time, things would be different!
So I eagerly drove up to Beach 10 to start my journey. Gull Point Trail is 1 1/2 miles of sand and frozen mud. Not the easiest walk, but at least it’s a flat one. This was just before New Year’s Eve, and it was chilly, but surprisingly there was no snow that day. I felt confident leaving my shooting hand bare whilst covering my left hand with a glove and wearing my knit hat. That was a mistake, but we’ll get to that shortly.
I trudged up the trail and passed a park ranger heading back down the trail. Apparently, there were quite a few people out to see the owls. At least the birds should be easy to find! As I ascended the slope to Gull Point, I noticed several large tripods pointed at a large log. There was a snowy owl seated there, mugging for the cameras. Further down the beach, there were two more snowy owls in flight together. I decided to go for the easy target first. I eagerly pulled my right hand out of my pocket and got ready for the log owl photoshoot!
The first owl was very cooperative and the pictures were very easy. With some good shots out of the way, I decided to see if I could get the trickier flight shots of the more active owls. But as I approached the flyers, my right hand started to feel the effects of the biting wind blowing across Gull Point. The wind hadn’t been nearly as bad at the parking lot, and I hadn’t even bothered to take my right glove with me. I tried to get some pictures, but my hand got so numb that I was forced to stop shooting and put my left glove on my right hand, backwards. Of course, that was right when the owls decided to fly over my head!
Despite missing the premiere shot, I did get some great photos. I got a small chuckle as I left for the day. There were some other people on the beach trying to locate the owls. I could clearly see an owl from where I was – he was maybe 30 yards from the bystanders, and they had no idea he was there. The clever bird was hiding in plain sight! I can’t wait to go back and hopefully capture some more flight shots of these magnificent birds.