This is the ninth installment of a travelogue of the summer road trip starring Artificially Sweetened (AS), her daughter, Cupcake, and me, the Nittany Turkey.
The best laid plans of mice and men oft times run amok. As we had left it, we were going to take two cars to Ricketts Glen State Park so that our waterfall hike could be mostly downhill. However, when I came downstairs, Toejam advised me that he woke up with hip pain, so he wouldn’t be hiking all the way with us and he could therefore perform shuttle duties. Thus, we would need only one car.
“Who’s driving?” I asked.
The girls arrived on the scene and groggily began loading up the Sienna. All my hiking stuff was already in there, which meant that all I had to do was wait for them to settle down, and we’d blast off for another adventure in the Keystone State.
Hmmm, the Keystone State, eh? Well, Cupcake thinks that’s stupid, too.
“Why do they call it the Keystone State? It doesn’t look anything like a keystone!”
“What does a keystone look like?” I asked her.
“It’s like a building thing,” she said.
All right, so Pennsylvania doesn’t look like a building thing, I guess. Whateverrrrrrr.
Ricketts Glen State Park is a wonderful place. This would turn out to be my third time there. The main attractions for us are the 22 named waterfalls and the hiking trails alongside them. In addition, there is also a large lake and a beach, plenty of camping, and lots of other, diverse hiking trails. As you would imagine from the presence of so many waterfalls, the park occupies one side of a mountain. Accordingly, some of the trails are quite strenuous, but they are well worth the effort, particularly in June when the mountain laurels are in bloom. That trail through the laurels leads to a fire lookout tower at one of the high points. The tower is fenced off, but there is still reward at the top in the form of lots of blueberry bushes.
Alas, it was too late for the laurels, but AS and Cupcake hadn’t seen the main attraction yet, which meant that we would be spending most of our time close to the waterfalls. The trails alongside the waterfalls form a “Y” with a connector on top to form a closed loop. Water flows downward over waterfalls along both branches of the “Y”; the streams forming the branches come together at “Waters Meet”, then cascade over several additional waterfalls on the way to the valley beneath. Our plan was to hike down the side of the “Y” with the largest falls, and continue down to the bottom, where Toejam would await with the van.
Last year, Toejam and I did something similar. We took only one car and were prepared to walk down one side and back up the other. However, when we reached the trailhead, we saw a flyer on the sign board that advertised a shuttle service running from the bottom trailhead back up to the top. Thus, we altered our plan, making it a one-way hike to the bottom. When we got to the bottom, we waited for a while, but saw no shuttle. I called the park office to ask when the shuttle might be arriving. They said that it ran only on weekends, and we were there on a weekday. It damn well hadn’t said that on the sign! I was pissed! They had to send a couple of rangers down there to pick us up.
This year, knowing that we would be there on a weekend, we thought the shuttle option would be available to us. It wasn’t. I called the park and got the word that the shuttle had been run by a private contractor and he hadn’t done very well last year. So, no more shuttle. That’s when we hatched the Judy “coolie” plan, which obviously didn’t work out; it evolved into the Toejam “coolie” plan.
We piled into the van, with an air of anticipation (or perhaps that was the residual gas in the air from last night’s sausages). The girls were in the back, Toejam had shotgun, and I was the chauffeur. It was about an hour’s ride to the park, but we would stop a couple of times.
The first stop was for fuel. I pulled into a busy gas station in a small town not far from Ricketts Glen. It was busy because it was the only pit stop for miles around. I didn’t want to run out of gas and get stuck at the park. We might not be as lucky finding friendly rangers as we were last year. After all, there have been budget cuts.
Gassed to the hilt, I exited the station, which was close to the center of the little town. The speed limit on the main street onto which I had to execute a left turn was 25 mph; the road seemed clear, so I made the turn. Meanwhile, some jerk zoomed toward us from the left and jammed on his brakes and his horn simultaneously. He had to been going 50 mph, as he was two blocks away when I looked left before turning. Being a drama queen, he kept the horn blaring for 30 seconds or so, just so everybody would look at him in appreciation of his Oscar-whining [sic] performance. I swear that he had to speed up to make it look like I invaded his space or something. I, of course, gave him a greasy smile as I blocked his cacophonically challenged path and slowly completed my left turn, much to the embarrassment of the Cupcake.
“Lots of idiots out there today,” I offered to my rapt audience.
“The biggest one is driving us!” countered Cupcake.
True love. [Read more…]