Posted by: kerryl29 | June 7, 2016

Ricketts Glen: The Longest Day (Part I)

I drove the 600-0dd miles from Indianapolis to the small town of Dushore, Pennsylvania–where I would be based during my time at Ricketts Glen State Park–on Sunday, May 15.  The weather was, to say the least, inclement.  There was nothing problematic as I traversed the eastern half of Indiana and the entire width of Ohio, but just about the time I hit the Pennsylvania state line on I-80, I was met with a sleet storm.  (Did I mention that it was May 15?)  I then saw intermittent sleet and snow for the rest of the trip across Pennsylvania.

After dropping my belongings at my lodgings, I took my gear and, again dodging occasional squalls of sleet, that were alternated with brief bursts of sunshine, I made the 25-odd minute drive to Ricketts Glen.  It was late afternoon and I simply wanted to get my bearings to help me utilize my time the following day.  I stopped at the Evergreen Trail parking area, off state highway 118, in the southern reaches of the park.  Adams Falls is only a few hundred feet from the parking area and I wandered down to see it.  Since there was no precipitation falling at that moment, I returned to the car for my gear, with the thought that I’d make some images.  If nothing else, this would, at least theoretically, be one less place I’d have to visit in the remaining time I’d be in the area.

Adams Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Adams Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Adams Falls is on Kitchen Creek, the waterway that lies below the confluence of streams that form the Falls Trail–where all but three of the 24 named waterfalls in Ricketts Glen State Park can be found.  After photographing Adams Falls from a rocky perch above the waterfall, I descended a few hundred feet on the Evergreen Trail, crossed a bridge and photographed the falls from creek level, below Adams’ final descent.

Adams Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Adams Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Adams Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Adams Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

I then picked out a creek intimate that caught my eye.

Kitchen Creek Intimate, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Kitchen Creek Intimate, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

My plan had been to change to my ultrawide lens and photograph the top tier of the falls with that, but as I was wrapping up with the creek, it started to sleet again, and very, very heavily.  This time, it stuck on the ground, and I was pretty thoroughly drenched.  I retreated to the car and, as the sleet tapered off, drove off to find the jumping off point for the Falls Trail, as it was less than an hour before sunset and I wanted to have a plan in place for the next day.  I vowed to complete photographing Adams Falls before leaving the area on Wednesday.

I found the main entrance to the park, off state route 487, and slowly made my way to the Rose Lake parking area.  This would be the quickest route to the Falls Trail.  I got out of the car and sized things up.  The sun was out again, though it was now quite low in the sky.  It was perhaps 45 minutes until sunset, but I decided to quickly survey the trail system.  Without any gear–which made it very easy for me to move speedily–I made my way down the trail and headed east on the Highland Trail in the direction of Glen Leigh–the eastern part of the two-creek upper tier of the park–1.2 miles away.  I made it to the cut off to the Falls Trail at Glen Leigh in less than 15 minutes and found myself face to face with Onondaga Falls, the northernmost of the eight named waterfalls on the Glen Leigh side.  I sized it up, then walked upstream from there and found a couple of interesting spots along the creek that I thought would be worth photographing.  Then I walked back down the trail, past Onondaga to FL Ricketts Falls.  As I was scouting that waterfall, it started to sleet…again!  I’d had enough.  It was nearly sunset anyway, so I made my way back to the Highland Trail and double-timed it back to the parking area.  The sleet stopped as I hiked back and as I reached the car I saw the sun setting.

The following day was my first full day at Ricketts Glen.  The forecast was for freezing temperatures in the morning, rising into the 50s later in the day, and a mix of clouds and sun–with no precipitation forecast.  I was up long before dawn and made the drive to the Rose Lake Parking area.  It was just beginning to become light as I parked the car in the deserted lot and made the trek on the Highland Trail–as I had the previous evening–this time with gear in tow.

I’m going to divide my accounting of this day into two parts.  I was in the park that day for more than 14 hours and photographed, at least briefly, all but two of the 21 named waterfalls in Glen Leigh, Ganoga Glen and along Kitchen Creek, below the confluence.  There’s simply too much material for a single post.

I also want to try to give you a sense of what the hike that day was like, by leading you from the top of Glen Leigh, down Kitchen Creek below the confluence, and then back up the steep trail alongside Ganoga Glen.  Today’s accounting will over the day’s experience at Glen Leigh, where I started photographing.  The next entry will cover the area at and and below the creek confluence and back up Ganoga Glen.

First, some brief background to the Ricketts Glen layout.  The Falls Trail forms a kind of Y-shape, with Ganoga Glen forming the left-hand arm of that Y, Glen Leigh forming the right-hand arm and the area below the confluence of the two glens serving as the base of the Y.  If there were a line between the two upper points of the Y, that would be the Highland Trail.  The map at this link shows the layout of the falls trail quite clearly.

Because of my scouting of the first two Glen Leigh waterfalls the previous evening, I knew I wanted to photograph at a couple of spots above Onondaga Falls, but I shot Onondaga itself first.

Onondaga Falls Black & White, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Onondaga Falls Black & White, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Onondaga Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Onondaga Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

The trail runs upstream past Onondaga Falls to the right of the waterfall.  There are a number of very photogenic spots along the creek, which is spanned by a footbridge, above Onondaga.

Glen Leigh, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Glen Leigh, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Glen Leigh, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Glen Leigh, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

I then made my way back downstream, past Onondaga .  I was very careful with my footing as everything was soaking wet and there were still remnants of the previous day’s sleet storm visible on the ground.  I descended to waterfall number two–the 38-foot tall FL Ricketts Falls (Onandaga, by comparison, is 15 feet high).  There was a great deal of debris in the stream below FL Ricketts, but I tried to put it in context when composing.

FL Ricketts Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

FL Ricketts Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

From a spot below and to the right of FL Ricketts, as you face it, I found a number of fallen blossoms from a nearby tree on a rock in the stream, and used that as a foreground.

FL Ricketts Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

FL Ricketts Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

FL Ricketts Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

FL Ricketts Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Below FL Ricketts in Glen Leigh, there’s a fairly lengthy stretch of very photogenic creek before coming to the next waterfall and I stopped several times during my descent downstream to photograph stretches of it.

Glen Leigh, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Glen Leigh, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Note that the leaf-out process was still underway in mid-May in this part of Pennsylvania.

Glen Leigh, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Glen Leigh, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

30-foot high Shawnee Falls is next on the waterfall parade, followed very shortly by 41-foot-tall Huron Falls.

Shawnee Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Shawnee Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Shawnee Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Shawnee Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

It was right about this point in my hike that I began to face two complications.  The first was that the sun was now high enough in the sky that, coupled with the relative lack of clouds at this point of the day, sunlight began, in points, to directly fall on the scenes I was trying to photograph.  As I mentioned in the introductory post to this series, I generally disdain photographing waterfalls and creeks in direct sun, so my choices were to either wait for a cloud to act as a giant diffuser or simply move on.  (I will cover this matter of “best light” in greater depth in a later, thematic post in this series.)  Given that there were signs of clouds pretty much all day, I generally opted for the former.  This made for quite a bit of standing around.

As I was standing at the base of Shawnee Falls, waiting for a cloud, I encountered my first group of Mennonites.  There are quite a few Mennonites in this part of Pennsylvania and, for some reason, every last one of them decided to visit Ricketts Glen State Park that day.  At least it seemed like every last Mennonite in the state came through.  In all, I counted more than 100 before I stopped tallying, in dribs and drabs–groups of four to eight, mostly, but in at least one case they came through in a cluster of about 15 people.  They were friendly enough (even if some of the kids felt the need to toss large rocks around here and there), but many wanted to hang around the waterfalls for awhile.  That’s their right, of course, but such a large series of groups of people coming one after another–and it became clear pretty quickly that there were a lot of groups, and they were all coming down Glen Leigh, in the same direction I was hiking–made it difficult for me to photograph.  At first I tried to move on and stay ahead of them, but they kept catching up to me so eventually, at RB Ricketts Falls–two waterfalls below Huron–I waited them out.  In fact, I moved back upstream, so that I’d be moving in the opposite direction, in the hope of clearing things out more quickly.  That proved to be the right move and, before long, I was back up at Shawnee Falls as the last of the Mennonite groups passed me heading downstream.  I descended the short distance to Huron Falls as the Mennonites moved on and waited for yet another cloud.

Huron Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Huron Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

The distance between Huron Falls and the fifth waterfall in Glen Leigh–RB Ricketts is fairly long so, again, my attention turned to the creek itself.

Glen Leigh Black & White, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Glen Leigh Black & White, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Glen Leigh, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Glen Leigh, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

And then I reached that fifth waterfall–Ozone Falls.  This set of falls proved to have numerous compositional options and given the frequent need to wait for clouds, it took me awhile to shoot out this location.

Ozone Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Ozone Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Ozone Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Ozone Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Ozone Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Ozone Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Ozone Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Ozone Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

RB Ricketts Falls, located in a little glen of its own, was next in line.

RB Ricketts Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

RB Ricketts Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

RB Ricketts Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

RB Ricketts Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Below RB Ricketts, there are only two more named waterfalls in Glen Leigh:  Wyandot and B Reynolds.  RB Ricketts is first as you move downstream, but–because of the sun–I actually descended to Wyandot first.  While I was at Wyandot, surveying the scene, a large cloud bank moved in, allowing me to shoot Wyandot Falls.  The clouds were so extensive that I had time to ascend to B Reynolds and photograph that waterfall as well.

Wyandot Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Wyandot Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Wyandot Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Wyandot Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

The trail runs past the left-hand side of Wyandot but crosses a footbridge above the waterfall and passes by B Reynolds Falls on the right-hand side.

B Reynolds Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

B Reynolds Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

There are a number of different spots from which B Reynolds can be photographed–it’s even possible to get on the left-hand side of the creek without too much difficulty (as I would do the next day).

B Reynolds Falls Black & White, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

B Reynolds Falls Black & White, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

RB Reynolds Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

B Reynolds Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Just a few hundred feet below Wyandot Falls is the Watersmeet area, where the Glen Leigh branch of Kitchen Creek meets the Ganoga Glen branch.  It was early afternoon by the time I reached this area and paused, before descending Kitchen Creek to photograph the three waterfalls below the confluence (to be covered in the next installment).

The Glen Leigh section of Ricketts Glen had proven to be quite beautiful.  The trail down Glen Leigh was steep in places, but not too bad (particularly on a descent, unsurprisingly).  Access to the waterfalls and creek ranged from good to excellent.  I wouldn’t have minded having my knee-high rubber boots in several spots, but given the length of the hike (I conservatively estimate that I did 10 miles of hiking this day, given the sheer length of the trail and the considerable amount of doubling back I did on a number of occasions) and the steepness of the trail in many places, there was simply no practical way that I could have donned them.  In any case, access was so good that I scarcely missed having them.

By the time I reached the confluence, I had been in the park for nearly eight hours.  It would be roughly seven more before I left.  I’ll tell the rest of this first full day’s story in my next post.

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Responses

  1. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. It makes me happy that you have the vision, patience, and skill to really bring out the best in your subjects so we all can enjoy the trip along with you.

    • Thanks very much, Ellen.

  2. […] the last entry, I related the experience of hiking, and photographing, the Glen Leigh side of the Falls Trail at […]

  3. Kerry, I always love reading your accounts of what it takes, and what you are willing to do, to capture such amazing photos. Thanks as always for taking us along on your adventures!

    As for the photos, I switched to my iPad so that I could study them closely. Your technical expertise is only surpassed by your poetic vision, my friend. I became fascinated by the curving geometry of so many of these images of water and stone that seemed both bold and delicate. I imagine that both sides of your brain are sparking at once, seeing artistic possibilities and problem solving all mixed together. The results?Extraordinary!

    • Thanks very much, Lynn, for the extremely kind words.

      One of the nicest things about Ricketts Glen–beyond the compelling subject matter–is the ready access that’s available to just about all of the named waterfalls and many parts of both branches of Kitchen Creek, which opens the door for compositional creativity.

  4. […] Park (the first two installments covering my time there can be found at the following links:  Part I and Part II), I want to take a moment to discuss the notion of “good light” and how it […]

  5. […] my first full day at Ricketts Glen State Park, I photographed more than 90% of the named waterfalls on the Falls […]


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