Someone in our group was behind, really way behind. We've just finished the 7.2-mile (11.5 kms) hike deep in a Pennsylvania forest and we were waiting for the stragglers at the trail head. At past 6 PM someone asked for the men in the group to help. We backtracked into the darkening trail and found this woman, about 50 years old, lying on the ground, weak but conscious. After being given a tube of glucose gel, she felt better but still unable to walk. A Forest Ranger came with a stretcher and we helped carry her back to the parking lot until Paramedics came - a real emergency situation which truly stretched our already long day a bit more longer. Instead of leaving at 5 PM back for New York (about 3 hours away), we ended up going some two hours late.
a map to guide me
I almost didn't join this trip, worried about the dire weather forecast of a thunderstorm. What I didn't expect was a medical emergency in the wilderness. When I called Nic of Hinestours the night before, he was quite upbeat despite the weather prediction. So I ended up joining at the last minute. I've hiked with him last year during his exploratory trip to the Shawanguks but this was the first time I joined one of his trips with a larger group of about 20 or so diverse people. Our goal was to hike the 7.2-mile Falls Trail within Glens Natural Area, to see not one . . . not two. . . not three . . . but 21 waterfalls. It's not often that I get a chance to see that many waterfalls in a relatively small area so I really looked forward to the experience.
In 1868, army officer Col. R. Bruce Ricketts bought this piece of land in Pennsylvania for its timber. Thankfully, he must have been awed by its sheer beauty as the trees were saved from being sawed. He named many of the waterfalls after Indian tribes and some after his family members. Eventually, the Ricketts heirs decided to sell much of the land back to the government paving the way for its protection and preservation. It became a National Natural Landmark in 1969 and the natural state of the land was kept as it is. Many decades later, we find ourselves walking in a park still so pristine that it felt like Col. Ricketts just discovered this paradise only yesterday.
Harrison Wrights Falls (27')
As with all groups doing a hike, the pace varied from person to person. Nic was leading the group but he encouraged us to do our own thing in the next 4-5 hours. I soon found myself walking alongside Robert and Nena, avid Pinoy hikers/mountaineers. We walked ahead of everyone, including the other Pinoys who were in our group. The Forest Trail is actually the most difficult of the several trails available but we were up to the challenge. My ever-reliable Rocky Gore-Tex boots helped me navigate steep, slippery paths and kept me from falling off ledges as we ogled at cascading waterfalls. Varying in height from 11 to 94 feet, the waterfalls are spread far enough from each other to engage our legs in some really serious walk.
some of the waterfalls
Ganoga Waterfalls (94')
my hiking boots
It also helped that there are plenty of waterfalls as it allowed plenty of opportunities for us to catch our breath. We stood in awe just as the others before us must have been, fortunate to see this watery paradise and experience one of life's best natural soundtrack: the sound of rushing water. For once, we were happy the weather forecasters were wrong as the skies opened up and the sun shone brightly, its rays seeping through the canopies. The ponchos Nic lent everyone was never used, dry as a bone. What wasn't dry was my back getting wet from sweating out - but I didn't mind at all as I had fresh clothes in my daypack.
Ganoga Waterfalls (94')
After reaching Ganoga Falls, we knew our trek was almost done. At 94 feet, this was the park's highest. We walked down to the base and walked up to the top which really has been a real treat for the most part of this hike as all the paths ran along the sides of the waterfalls. We passed by Mohawk, our last waterfall and into a trail that led us back into the parking lot. Robert, Nena & I were the first in our group to complete the hike and so we waited for the rest. And waited. And waited some more. And then we heard the cry for help. Luckily, the woman survived her ordeal with a big lesson learned. Nature can certainly be breathtaking but don't let it literally take the breath out of you.
Philly cheese steak (from Pennsylvania, of course)