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10.20.2019

Brown's Orchard and Cider, McDonald, Washington County

This time of the year is fantastic for one of Pennsylvania's apple growers. Brown's Orchard and Cider in McDonald, PA. It is is one of our favorite places because their apple quality and cider are always on point. They focus only upon apples, and grow fifty different varieties. Their ciders and apple sauces are absolutely top notch. 
Dating back five generations, Brown's Orchard is a local institution. Since 1856, this land has served as an agricultural center. Around the turn of the 20th century, they began growing fruit. In 1933 they purchased a commercial cider press and have since been turning out fantastic cider. As a cider connoisseur, I can vouch that their stuff is the best I have ever had. Brown's Orchard is well worth going out of your way to visit.
For more information, check out their website at https://www.brownsorchardandcider.com

10.13.2019

Brady's Bend Overlook in Autumn: Allegheny River View in Clarion County

The Brady's Bend Overlook, high above the a bend of Allegheny River in Clarion County, is one of our favorite places for a quick afternoon drive from Pittsburgh. The view is just stunning, no matter the season, but especially in autumn. For some more seasonal views and background on this spot, check out this previous article of ours.
I love the way the hills look gently rounded out on the other side of the river. 
Caught behind a cloud for a minute.
Here comes the sun!
Looking out the other direction.
"You haven't lived until you have looked down upon a hawk." I agree! While hang gliding is no longer allowed in this location, you can still look down upon the hawks from this location. Unfortunately, the man who was quoted in this plaque died while hang gliding in this location. 

As always, we highly recommend checking out Brady's Bend, especially in the fall!

When you get down to the banks of the river, you will run into the Armstrong Trail, which runs thirty miles down the old Allegheny Railroad right-of-way in the area. Lots of old rail infrastructure remains, including the remnants of an old turntable, an old and closed tunnel across this horseshoe curve in the river, and more. The overlook also has benches and picnic tables, making it an excellent place to bring a picnic lunch to. It is located near many other great attractions in the PA Great Outdoors Region, including some really good eateries, and accommodations. Clarion River Brewing Company is located nearby, along with the Inn at Deer Creek Winery

10.06.2019

Kennerdell Overlook in Autumn: A View Over the Allegheny River in Venango County

The Kennerdell Overlook, along the Allegheny River in Venango County, is just stunning in the fall. We visited towards the end of October last year and there was just this stunning glow of gold. 
We just wanted to take it in and never leave. This is one of our favorite scenic overlooks in Western Pennsylvania. The drive to it from Pittsburgh is just gorgeous. It is perfect for a quiet and aimless afternoon drive.
The curvy Allegheny River, making aggressive cuts through the plateau geology of the region is so neat to see.
For more information on how to get to the overlook, and a historical background on it, check out our other article on it at this link.

For more awesome scenic overlooks, check out this article.


9.29.2019

Hidden Waterfalls by Ricketts Glen State Park in State Game Lands 13

On several glens heading off of the same area as the glens in Rickets Glen State Park, State Game Lands 13, immediately adjacent to Ricketts Glen State Park on its western flank at the top of the ridge, is home to another set of waterfalls that you do not often hear about. While not as numerous or as large as those within Ricketts Glen, several of the falls are just as beautiful. Another plus is that very few people explore these. On our first day on our last visit, we opted to visit these instead of maneuvering through the crowds on the Falls Trail at Ricketts Glen State Park. 
Sullivan Falls is 36 feet tall and located on the Sullivan Branch of East Fishing Creek. The leaves were just starting to turn already, creating the start of a beautiful autumn scene. One of my favorite aspects of these falls was the presence of some red bedrock, adding a really neat look to the falls. Additionally, the layering of the water as it rolls over those rocks is so beautiful. We sat and watched these stunning falls for a while.
Accessing these falls is pretty easy. You simply have to take Sullivan Falls Road/Jamison City Road, either from Jamison City, or right from the top of the ridge near the entrance to the recreation area at Ricketts Glen State Park. If you head down to the bottom of the falls and head downstream to where the creek is more shallow, and follow the difficult and rugged hike/climb upstream, up the side of the creek, you can get a view of some of the smaller falls upstream and branch off onto Pigeon Run, where there are a few decently sized waterfalls. For more directions on this, check out the awesome pawaterfalls.com
Just up Sullivan Falls Road/Jamison City Road from the parking area at Sullivan Falls, there is a 15 footer on Big Run, a tributary to the creek that Sullivan Falls is on, that is almost immediately roadside and difficult to miss.
Lewis Falls on Heberly Run. With this glen being referred to as "Waterfall Wonderland," I have to say that my expectations were much higher for it. Heberly Run is beautiful, no doubt, but it did not blow me away like it has with other people. My recommendation for getting to these is through following a hike at the bottom of the glen at the base of Grassy Hollow Road, or by cutting across the ridge from Sullivan Falls. Grassy Hollow Road itself is basically impassable without a vehicle that has extreme ground clearance. There are major logging operations on the road with huge equipment that has torn up the road, creating a crown in the road that looks like it can be as large as 1.5-2 feet. The easiest way to get up this glen is through hiking it, which involves bush whacking and walking through the water. If you are looking for a walk in the creek, scrambles up hillsides, and bushwhacking for ok waterfalls, then be sure to check that out. If you are looking to see the finest waterfall in that area, check out Sullivan Falls and take a nice picnic lunch, maybe even with a fantastic sandwich or meal from the nearby Fishing Creek Lodge. These falls are great to explore if you want to avoid the falls at Ricketts Glen State Park on a busy day.

GPS Coordinates to Sullivan Falls. From this point you can launch off into any of the adventures into the waterfalls of State Game Lands 13, immediately adjacent to the western edge of Ricketts Glen State Park:
41.335133, -76.338967

9.22.2019

Ricketts Glen State Park Guide: Epic Waterfall Hike, Camping, & More

Ricketts Glen is a fantastic place to spend some time and relax. The park is best known for its premier hiking loops with the Falls Trail, which covers over 3.2-7.2 miles, depending upon your route on the loop, and goes through two different waterfall glens, with 24 different waterfalls, ranging from a few feet in height, to up to 94 feet tall. Also contained within the 13,050 acres of the State Park are other trails, including one that leads up to an abandoned fire tower with views off of North Mountain. Natural beauty abounds at this treasure of a state park that straddles the borders of Luzerne, Columbia, and Sullivan Counties. 
One of the many beautiful Hemlocks at Ricketts Glen.
On this visit, we camped at the park's beautiful campground. The camping area is largely surrounded by Lake Jean and has many campsites that can accommodate tents and campers. The campground also has some modern cabins. Fishing, kayaking, and more are easily accessible from the camping area. The beach and food concession, and falls trail loop, are also located within easy reach of the campground. Be sure to take in a sunrise, or sunset, do some birding, and look up at the stars when you are at the lake. 
An osprey out on a little island in the lake.
Approaching sunset...
I did not quite have enough juice with my lens to get a good shot, but out on that dead tree you can see a bald eagle on top.
A look up at the stars..
And a campfire!
Heading over towards the beach area from the camping area. Picnic areas abound alongside the pretty lake.
The beach area is home to a boating concession that has canoes, kayaks, stand-up paddle boards, and more available for rental.
Along with a decent food concession and bathhouse.
The beach area is especially pretty and can accommodate large crowds. What better way is there to cool off after a hike than taking swim in the lake? 
The Hayfields. This is located near the northern boundary of Ricketts Glen, which is a pretty meadow that is a noted birding spot. We saw some hawks, eagles, and some small birds, butterflies, and dragonflies. 
In the background you can see the FAA radar station, which is a remnant of the Cold War Era Air Force Station that was once located in this spot. Many of the buildings are now part of the Red Rock Job Corps Center, which offers free vocational training to young adults from ages 16-24.
The Grandview Trail leads out to where Ricketts built a lookout tower. The site is now occupied by an abandoned fire tower. While views are not super easy to get, with lots of the area fully grown in, the park would be wise to invest and develop this area of the park. This section was one of the initial draws to the area for Ricketts when he first welcomed tourists to the area. DCNR would be wise to rehabilitate this fire tower and make it a popular attraction, like the ones at Cook Forest State Park and Mt. Davis. It would be very helpful to the park in spreading out the crowds from the Falls Trail. The park has lots of room to develop on in each direction of the property.

Breakfast time with some donuts from the Red Rock Corner Store before heading out on the trails.
Descending to the Falls Trail, I like the way this shot came out. I had forgotten to adjust the speed on this shot and I really like the final result. 
Heading out on the trail! A slight threat of rain loomed on the day, which was great for keeping the crowds down on the trail. We opted to explore other places at the park on our first day because the crowds looked pretty heavy. It was a great choice, for the cloudy weather, with intermittent sun, was wonderful for taking photos. 

he Glens Natural Area was designated as a National Natural Landmark in 1969, and was slated to become a National Park in 1935, but the financial struggles of the Great Depression and World War II ended up in the plan not coming to fruition. The area became a State Park, along with the other areas with similar plans in Pennsylvania, including Blue Knob, Raccoon Creek, Hickory Run, Laurel Hill, and French Creek.
The 37 foot tall Mohawk Falls
As stated earlier, the Falls Trail is 3.2 miles long, and depending upon the route, can go up to 7.2 miles and passes at least two dozen waterfalls, ranging from a few feet tall, up to the 94 foot tall Ganoga Falls. Twelve of these falls are over 30 feet tall and the trails run right through the steep glens. Due to this, it is HIGHLY IMPORTANT that you exercise caution while hiking. While not an excessively challenging hike, common sense has to be exercised, with the use of STURDY SHOES, ideally HIKING BOOTS, along with STAYING AWAY FROM THE TOPS and BASES OF THE WATERFALLS and STAYING ON THE TRAIL. I cannot stress this enough. This is a scenic and stunning place to explore, but the lack of common sense exercised by some of the visitors, that we saw on this trip, has me highly concerned that this place may face the same fate as Glen Onoko Falls, which had to be closed down because visitors did not exercise caution and severe injuries and death frequently occurred, leading to the state having to close down access to the location.

With that being said, my goodness the Falls Trail is so beautiful. It should be tops on the list for anyone who is into hiking, sightseeing, photography, and overall natural beauty.
Oneida Falls is only 13 feet tall, but it is one of my favorites on the trail. 
(From another visit last fall, on the cusp of winter) With higher water, it looks almost completely straight with some slight bumpy layering. 
With lower water, like on this trip, the layering is just stunning. Note just how much less water there was on this visit compared to that other visit. 
Cayuga Falls, 11 feet
I am a huge fan of the definitive book, Pennsylvania Waterfalls by Scott Brown, but he describes these falls, Cayuga Falls, as just "not photogenic," but I have to disagree. The two eccentricity of these falls, coupled with the moss covered stones on the left side of the falls, make these falls one of my absolute favorites on this hike. 
Looking down from the top of the 94 foot tall Ganoga Falls.
A look at the park's tallest falls, Ganoga Falls. The majority of the falls were named by Ricketts in honor of Native Americans, who highly revere the beauty of the Glens. 
I didn't bring any of my zoom lenses with me, but here is a bees nest!
The geology of Ricketts Glen is unique, with the falls heading down the Allegheny Front with different rock formations being made visible by the waters that are slowly wearing away the landscape. 

Harrison Wright Falls, 27 feet tall
Harrison Wright is the first set of falls down from Waters Meet, where Ganoga Glen meets with Glen Leigh. So far, we have gone down Ganoga, and now we are heading down Ricketts Glen proper. 
This waterfall is just gorgeous, with the top looking like a straight fall, but then multiple layers making themselves visible as some of the water partially free falls down, while the rest of the water tumbles off of protruding rocks, creating some very pretty layering. 
Sheldon Reynolds Falls, 36 feet. 
Sheldon Reynolds Falls is a beautiful mix of both a straight waterfall, and a bridal veil falls near the landing pool..
A butterfly wanted to come along on the hike with me.
Brit at Sheldon Reynolds Falls
I did end up running into the "not photogenic" falls issue that Scott Brown talked about in his book, but in this situation, it was not the falls, but rather the people that opted to risk a 16+ foot drop off of the top of Murray Reynolds Falls. I would not mind if they put in a little split rail fence near the top of some of the falls to prevent people from taking falls of their own. 
My lens was so often trained upon the falls. The trail itself is just beautiful. 
Just off trail, across the road and further down the glen, you can find Adams Falls. This is often missed because it is not part of the main falls trail loop, but it is well worth checking out. You can either follow the trail to the parking area at the bottom, or if you are parked at the bottom, you can just keep following the creek. It is very similar to Murray Reynolds Falls, but almost twice the height. This eccentric waterfall is really neat and worth checking out. 

Now we head back up through Glen Leigh. On this trip, we opted to go back up Ganoga Glen to take in the views from that direction. On our prior trip, we went up Glen Leigh and across the top. We will do that for the remainder of our virtual hike on the Falls Trail.
The end of Glen Leigh has a stunning view of its first few falls, Wyandot Falls at 15 feet, and Benjamin Reynolds at 40 feet. On this visit, it was technically still autumn, and signs of this existed with the freshly fallen leaves, but the first snow of the season had also fallen and the first signs of freezing were occurring. It was so beautiful! Frigid, but stunning. The trail was closed for regular hiking within the next week. Ice climbing and hiking equipment and registration at the park office is required to do any hiking on the Falls Trail when the freeze starts to set in. 
We probably spent the most time in the lower portion of Glen Leigh. Here is Brit on the first bridge.
B. Reynolds Falls is just stunning.

The opposite view of the first photo, with a look towards Waters Meet. 
A look back down the glen, showing the beautiful wooded setting in the mountains.
The falls named after the namesake of the park R. B. Ricketts. His distinguished life included fighting for our freedoms for the Union Army and fighting in Gettysburg, and creating a lumber company that had the foresight to save the old growth forest that now makes up much of the land of the state park that was named in his honor. He created the first version of the Falls Trail from 1889 to 1893, and also brought early modern tourists to the area with his North Mountain Hotel.
Ozone Falls, 60 feet. It was named after the Ozone Hiking Club out of Wilkes Barre. All of the curving cascades add up to 60 feet, making this the second tallest set of falls at the park.
The view from the top Ozone Falls. A wooden bridge crosses just above the falls, giving this awesome view.
The top part of Huron Falls. This section cascades and then the rest goes through a slide like chute. It adds up 41 feet total.
Shawnee Falls measures in at 30 feet and basically consists of two sets of straight falls on its descent. 
F.L. Ricketts Falls, at 38 feet tall, is really Pretty. I opted for a high speed shot on this one.
And a slower shutter shot on this one. 
I love the Highland Trail connector between the top of the two glens. It lets you focus upon the beauty of the trees, rock formations, and more. 
You can really tell I got to the roots of it all on this hike.

Some of the old growth on the trail.
Midway Crevasse is a neat rock city at the center of the Highland Trail. 
The sun setting on a crisp and wonderful day.
Now back to this trip!
We had a pretty great lunch at Fishing Creek Lodge. It is not the first place you would think of for a great seafood meal (along with lots of other options) but it is excellent and affordable. 
And back to the campground for a campfire. Ricketts Glen is a wonderful place that you should check out. It has just about everything you could ask for from a destination in the outdoors. Additionally, there are a number of other waterfalls within a short distance, and Worlds End State Park is within short reach. As far as outdoor recreation goes, it is tough to top this region in the state. Be sure to check it out! For more information, check out the state park's website here.

It is that time of year again and we have now released our 2020 Interesting Pennsylvania Calendar! If you enjoy our articles and content, be sure to support us and get one of our 2020 Pennsylvania Calendars.  It is available through this link.
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