Tag Archives: pennsylvania

Waterfalls in Ricketts Glen State Park

Roaring Forest WaterfallRicketts 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 Forest Waterfall with Rockstop 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.

 


 

Waterfall FantasyThe 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 Waterfall Paradise with Stone Stairwayset 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.

 

Snowy Owls at Presque Isle State Park

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!

Snowy Owl on LogSo 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.

Snowy owl in flight around Lake ErieI 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!

Snowy Owl on Coast

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!

Snowy Owl on Lake ErieDespite 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.

 

An Outing with the Elk

The Natural Wonders of Benezette, PA

It was a slow Sunday when my parents contacted me.  They wanted to journey over to Benezette and see if the elk were around yet.  For those who don’t know, the elk come out in the fall, during their mating season.  It was early yet, but there was an off-chance we could get lucky.  After all, Benezette is the elk mecca of Pennsylvania!  So we decided to try our luck.

Town Elk
An elk visits the neighbors in Benezette

And luck out we did!  The elk enjoy walking around town just as much as the forest, and we were treated to some bull sightings the moment we arrived.  I wasn’t sure if I would get another chance to photograph a bull that day, so I decided to get a few shots in town.  It’s very strange to observe an elk weaving between parked cars and wandering around on people’s porches and backyards.   But in Benezette, that is just a typical day!

A fawn in the brush
This fawn saunters through the brush

Of course, I like to get more natural-looking photos, so we headed up to the nature center next.  There was some question whether or not it would even be open on Sunday, and they close the gate when the center is closed.  But we were in luck, and the center was open.  On the trail in front of the center, we didn’t see any elk.  But we did see a fawn making its way through the forest.  It stopped and posed for a few shots.

A mother and baby elk
A mother and baby elk stroll across the field

Next, we traveled to the giant field behind the nature center, and that’s where we found our quarry.  Not just one elk, but a whole herd!  There were many cows and small elk there.  There was one little guy that was particularly vocal the entire time.  It was very exciting, but the best was yet to come.

A bull elk nose to nose with a cow
The bull elk shares a moment with a potential mate

While I was busy trying to get some shots of mothers and babies, my parents excitedly informed me that there was a bull nearby!  And he was a lot closer than I thought he would be – he was standing maybe 20 yards from the trail!  He was quite a large one, and was a magnificent site to behold.  I should point out here that I had my telephoto lens on the camera.  Everyone else was trying to get closer to the bull, and I kept trying to back up!  I did manage to get a few shots of him filling up the frame imposingly.  I also got some neat shots of him interacting with the other elk.  Very cool.

After that, we drove up to the top of the hill and were treated to a vivid sunset with an elk herd grazing in the foreground.  All in all, it was quite a day.  I’m sure we’ll be back again when the leaves start to change colors and the rutting season is in full swing.