Castle Vista, Midnight Madness and Blackberries: Ole Bull State Park, Potter County, Pa.

Castle Vista edit

View from the summit of Castle Vista, the site of Ole Bull’s home in the New Norway colony.

I’d like to share with you a little bit about the last stop we made on the Pennsylvania Park Hop back in the summer; on our last full day, we paid a visit to Ole Bull State Park in Potter County.

There are quite a few hiking trails that run through the park, several of which are also graded as snowmobile trails in the winter. (In fact, in this part of Pennsylvania, you’ll see quite a few road signs marking snowmobile trails.)

The park is included in the Susquehanna Trail System – it’s an entire network of hiking trails running through the Susquehanna River Valley in Maryland, New York and Pennsylvania. So you’ll find one of the trails (orange-blazed) running through the park, one of the longer walks here. There are a number of shorter walks, including the Castle Vista Trail, the Daugherty Loop and the Beaver Dam Nature Trail, all three of which we checked out.

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Auld Lang Signpost

IMG_5438Another year gone by already – well, that didn’t take long. And it’s apparently that time of year again to reflect on how 2015 was for hiking.

My hiking time this fall was a bit limited, especially due to a rather brain-draining graduate school project that I had to wrap up over the last few weeks. (It’s also the reason why the blog’s been a little quiet of late. So I beg your indulgence on that one, oh trail heads.)

All things considered, it was a pretty awesome year for outdoor pursuits.  I got to take on a short chunk of the Appalachian Trail back in June, during a National Trails Day gathering up at Bear Mountain. Took a first run out on some cool multi-use trails, including the Columbia Trail out in western New Jersey and the Pine Creek Rail Trail out in central Pennsylvania.

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Urban hikes and other ramblings

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Belvedere Castle in Central Park.

Happy December, everyone. It being the last month of the calendar year, I should be getting ready to do the “really great hikes I did in 2015” entry. Or its evil, eerie-in-a-Doctor-Who-sort-of-way twin, the “all the hikes I still haven’t gotten to yet” entry. (Yes, your trail-head-in-chief is a bit of a Whovian: I’ve got the season finale playing even as I type.)

It’s a short-ish entry tonight – it’s not about any specific hiking trails, but rather a few introspective pensées about walking and hiking.

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Ice cream in the Tuileries, mobs of football fans, and other memories of 24 hours in Paris

Now, I’d meant to do this week’s blog posting about what everyone’s favorite trail food and snacks were – and just what the meaning is of that mysterious ambrosia called “gorp.” (Some people think it means “granola, oatmeal, raisins and peanuts,” while other people go for “good old raisins and peanuts.” But that’s neither hither or thither.)

The truth is, the attacks yesterday in Paris are on everyone’s minds, and mine too. So I’m going to devote tonight’s piece to une rêverie parisienne.

I’ve been to Paris exactly once, so far. It was several years ago – the family and I were on a trip to England (mostly London, with side trips up to York and out to Bath), our first trip overseas. We decided, before flying home to the U.S., to take the Eurostar over to Paris and just take in the city for 24 hours.

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Watcher of the Skies: Stargazing in Pennsylvania (and elsewhere)

A view of Scorpius over Coudersport, Pa. in August 2015.

A view of Scorpius over Coudersport, Pa. in August 2015.

It was a good summer for stargazing, it seems like. We had a few conjunctions, with different planets (Venus, Jupiter, etc.) dancing fairly close to the moon. Back in July, I got to join the North Jersey Astronomical Group for a moon-viewing party in Verona. And there was a lot of excitement on the astronomy front about the Pluto flyby photos.

But let’s face it, being this close to New York, as I am, your chances at being able to stargaze are a bit limited.

Earlier in the year, I’d had a co-worker tell me about Cherry Springs State Park out in north-central Pennsylvania earlier in the year. Now, a lot of people come to this part of the Keystone State for one reason: stargazing. And we’re talking stargazing as an Olympic-level sport: this part of Pennsylvania has been designated as Dark Sky territory. What that means is, the levels of light pollution from nearby cities and towns are virtually nil.

So that’s what we did out in Pennsylvania in August, in addition to checking out rail trails and state parks. We’d timed the trip so that it would fall around the time of the Perseids meteor shower in early August.

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It’s fall – what are your plans for hikes?

Close-up of a local maple tree with its leaves in full blazing scarlet.

Close-up of a local maple tree with its leaves in full blazing scarlet.

Just a quick one for tonight, trail heads, since your blogger-in-chief is up to her ears in five million different things.

It’s officially fall around here – the temps are decidedly cooler, the trees are turning to various tones of red, orange and yellow, and the apple tree in the backyard is producing at full tilt. (We’ve been making a lot of applesauce, apple crumb and apple pudding.) On top of that, the annual obsession with all things pumpkin spice is in full swing. (Does half that stuff even contain any actual pumpkin, I wonder?)

But I digress. I now pose you the question: what is everyone doing for fall hikes?

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Looking Over the Overlook Trail: Leonard Harrison State Park, Tioga County, Pa.

The Pine Creek Gorge, seen from the Otter View platform on the Overlook Trail.

The Pine Creek Gorge, seen from the Otter View platform on the Overlook Trail.

Well, trail heads, rumor has it that it is officially fall. And considering the sudden plunge in temps that has necessitated getting my turquoise down jacket out of storage, I believe it.

So at this time of year, the blog should be talking about things like fall foliage hikes, winter gear and what the heck is up with that whole pumpkin spice thing. And I’ll get to that, I promise.

But I’m going to give you a last little taste of summer with another feature from last August’s Pennsylvania park hop.

In between Cherry Springs and Darling Run, biking, stargazing and the occasional bear sighting, we paid a quick visit to Leonard Harrison State Park, near Wellsboro in Tioga County.

This park, part of the Tioga State Forest, has a handful of hiking trails – the Pine Creek Rail Trail down at the bottom of the gorge, the steep and winding Turkey Path trail, and the Overlook Trail (which is the one we hiked). But the reason that most people come is the view – and what a view it is.

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Big Boys, Swizzle Sticks and Swampers: Lessons in Trail Maintenance

The participants in the Intro to Trail Maintenance: Trail U 1000 workshop assemble in the parking area off East Shore Road as Peter Dolan (center, green shirt), gives start-of-day instructions.

The participants in the Intro to Trail Maintenance: Trail U 1000 workshop assemble in the parking area off East Shore Road as Peter Dolan (center, green shirt), gives start-of-day instructions.

One recent Saturday morning in northern New Jersey, a group of people went outside to do some yard work.

In this case, however, the “yard” was a loop trail going through the Long Pond Ironworks State Park in West Milford. And the group of people, yours truly included, was out to learn the basics of keeping a trail in hike-able condition.

This was one of the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference’s series of Introduction to Trail Maintenance workshops. And it was a milestone, too: the 1,000th scheduled course. So there was a hint that the day could cap off with some sparkling cider.

Our target for the day was the Jennings Hollow loop trail (yellow-blazed). It looks kind of like an elongated lollipop on the map – on its southeastern edge, the long connector trail will take you over to the Highland Trail as it heads toward upstate New York.

The trail was in need of some serious TLC, having not had very much in the way of maintenance since Hurricane Irene.

So this is where we came in.

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Pine Creek Rail Trail: Darling Run to Tiadaghton, Tioga County, Pa.

A horse-drawn wagon tour comes down the Pine Creek Rail Trail at Darling Run.

A horse-drawn wagon tour comes down the Pine Creek Rail Trail at Darling Run.

Did you know that Pennsylvania’s got its own Grand Canyon? I wasn’t either, truth be told, before we came out there earlier in August. But this particular Grand Canyon runs north-south down Tioga County in the north-central part of the state, the result of glaciers having run roughshod over the area back during the Ice Age. The result is the Pine Creek Gorge.

Pine Creek was an important travel route in the area for a very long time; the Senecas had a well-traveled footpath along the creek banks. Starting in the nineteenth century, the Jersey Shore, Pine Creek and Buffalo Railroad (which connected to the New York and Central Railroad) ran down through this gorge along the banks of Pine Creek, as the region became home to a thriving lumber industry.

The train tracks, the stations and the rail towns are (mostly) gone now, but the rail bed still exists, repurposed as the Pine Creek Rail Trail starting in the 1990s. The trail and the two nearby state parks are all part of the Tioga State Forest.

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The Pennsylvania Park Hop

Well, trail heads, I’ve just returned from a week-long jaunt out to north-central Pennsylvania – Potter and Tioga counties, to be more or less exact – with the family.

Tonight’s blog posting is going to be short, since I’ve got stuff to take care of, so I’m going to give you a preview of some future postings.

Our trip, I think, is best described as a park hop – we’d spend a few hours, or a day, visiting a different state park. And they’ve got some fine ones out there – Mom’s still singing the praises of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

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