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Karmel Knocking Around chasing waterfalls at the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area

We’re always looking for a great hike and we love to find trails that have moving water. What is it about the moving water that is so enticing? We had been to the Dingmans Ferry area before having gone to Raymondskill Falls a couple of times. There are a lot of trails, and a lot of waterfalls in the area, and Melissa found a nice Airbnb in the woods for a quick and quiet getaway.

The Airbnb was a retro-looking mobile home/cabin in the woods. It was up on a mountain off the beaten path, up a chewed up road…I don’t know if you can actually call it a road…the paths we hike are more even than this was. If you attempt it without a truck or SUV you’re coming back minus an axle.

Our cabin in Dingmans Ferry

But it was really a nice place and decorated perfectly. It was like taking a step back in time.

Dingmans Ferry is quite small with not much there, even though it is home to the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. You want something…go to Milford. That’s what the locals tell you. Go to Milford.

We ended up getting a quick dinner at the Milford Diner after our ride up. And we were planning to turn in early as we wanted to get an early start on our search for the beautiful waterfalls in the area.

Melissa wanted to go to Sisters Deli – a real local joint – right on the corner of the intersection of the main road…but I made an argument for Dunkin Donuts in Milford instead. I knew Melissa was disappointed because she, even more than me, loves the local vibe. But…something told me…

We got to Dingmans Falls Visitor Center just in time to see a Park ranger raising the American flag up the flag pole. The Center looks like something out of a storybook from the outside and has a lot of educational information inside to offer, along with a gift shop that has some items that we haven’t seen in other NPS gift stores.

Dingmans Falls Visitor Center

The ranger we spoke with was very helpful, although she was kind of new to the area as she told us it was her first season. So it is understandable that she would go over the maps and diagrams with us, and let us know the ease of the trail, according to what the NPS’s Guide to the Gap states. It became obvious to us later on that she apparently studied the guide…but did not experience and study the terrain.

Dingmans Creek Trail and the path to the falls is definitely family-friendly and handicap accessible…it’s made up of wide planks and is very spacious just like a boardwalk. It passes through a forest of hemlocks and huge rhododendrons. It’s an out and back, totaling 1.25 miles. The elevation is listed as 59 feet. But we would learn that we should have checked on what that elevation was referencing specifically.

Trail to Dingmans Falls

To get to Dingmans Falls you have to pass the lesser-known Silverthread Falls just a few hundred yards in. It has a drop of about 80 feet and, unfortunately, a lot of it is covered by a lot of fallen timber due to powerful storms that tore through the area. This seems to be common on recent trips to the National Parks…we’ve seen the aftermath of nature’s power.

Siverthread Falls

We continued on to Dingmans Falls under the cover of the rhododendrons which, in some places, almost formed an archway or tunnel of trees until you come to the end which is the base of the falls. There are stairs constructed that can lead you to the top of the falls to look down.

Dingmans Falls

A woman had just made her way down and for some reason said to Melissa, “I was counting…it was 200 steps…” We’re not here to make friends. But the sound of 200 steps…leading straight up?

Stairway to…

Of course we were going to see what the fuss was all about so we had to make our way up those stairs. And I began counting. “What are you doing?” Melissa asked. I said, “Counting the stairs.” And she said, “Whyyyyyyyyyyy?” in that voice when I know she’s thinking how ridiculous I am.

The stairs were steep, and I was counting, but stopped when I got to 140…stopped counting stairs. I kept climbing. When we got to the top, already drenched in sweat, we were both thinking that it wasn’t really worth the climb. I mean, you couldn’t really see much from that vantage point. The view of the falls…is from the bottom. And the elevation? 157 feet. So tack on another 98 feet from what is listed in the NPS Guide.

Look…it’s simple math…that if Dingmans Falls has a drop of 130 feet…and you’re at or near the bottom and you set out on stairs to get at or near the top…the elevation would have to be somewhere in the neighborhood of…wait…130 or so feet? Whomever wrote the NPS Guide forgot that tidbit.

We had been to the area a couple of times and went to Raymondskill Falls and Hacker Falls right across the road…well right across the road and then about a mile in. We were going to forego seeing it again since we were really trying to see falls that we hadn’t already seen and there are so many in the area. But we’re here…we want to get in as many falls as we can…so let’s do it and get a quick picture to add to the story, right?

Raymondskill Falls is actually a three-tier cascade falls and is the tallest waterfall in the State of Pennsylvania at 178 feet, making it only a few feet shorter than Niagara Falls Horseshoe Falls’ 187 feet.

The trail to get to the bottom of Raymondskill is short…just about ¼ mile in and then a ¼ mile back from the parking lot. But that’s the thing…a short distance from the parking lot. What they DON’T tell you is that they have closed off the two parking areas on the side of Raymondskill Road and only allow a shuttle to bring you back and forth from a huge lot two miles up Route 209 between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. on the weekends. Nowhere does it mention that. So there is no real way to plan your day around that little inconvenience.

In trying to get to the parking lot, which is right by the trail, we were rebuffed by a Park ranger and told to use the shuttle. We decided that we didn’t want to use up so much of the time with the whole shuttle thing so we trudged on…bitching and complaining to each other. Well, we were also hungry and Melissa was upset about not having breakfast from Sisters Deli so we went to another local place, Arnold’s, which is the deli/convenience store in the local gas station.

There’s not much for a non-deli meat eater in a deli other than breakfast foods like eggs. But they said that they couldn’t make eggs because it was after 11. And then I happened to notice that they had peanut butter and jelly on the menu board. So being that I virtually lived on PB&J throughout my life…I figured that was safe. So I ordered it. Then there was the discussion among the three people behind the counter. How do you make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? Get out the handbook? Search on Google? Apparently my sandwich was the woman’s maiden voyage because she said it was the FIRST peanut butter and jelly sandwich she ever made.

PB&J…a team effort

If anyone calls me Boujee…a peanut butter and jelly sandwich from a gas station…I’m just living the life.

Okay…next stop would be Hornbecks Trail to the Lower Indian Ladders Falls. The Park ranger at Dingmans Falls had let us know that there was some storm damage along Hornbecks Trail which ultimately divided the upper and lower sections, leaving the area unpassable. So in order to see both the Upper and Lower Indian Ladders Falls, we would have to divide it into two separate hikes.

The trailhead to Hornbecks Creek Trail would be right on 209, and we parked in a lot across the roadway from the trailhead. I didn’t realize that we could actually drive our vehicle closer to the trailhead, that there was a small lot back in the woods. I guess I just followed what others were doing. We discovered that there were a few cars there when we walked about 1/10 of a mile in. That’s ok…just add it on to the total distance we were hiking. Who’s doing these calculations anyway?

The Lower Hornbecks Creek Trail is listed as an easy to moderate one-mile trek, making it two miles in and out, with an elevation of 110 feet along a shaded stream.

Hornbecks Creek Trail to the Lower Indian Ladders Falls

The hike was picturesque and the stream was beautiful with cascading waters in many spots. There were also a lot of downed trees interrupting the flow of the stream which was even more disruptive when we got to the Lower Indian Ladders Falls. The Falls were beautiful. But there was so much fallen timber that you almost had to be a gymnast with great dexterity to be able to get close.

Lower Indian Ladders Falls

We managed to climb over the tree trunks and scale our way over some rocks to be able to get near the water. And there were two families there taking pictures and making their way into the pool under the Falls. We weren’t quite prepared for anything more than dipping our feet in the cool waters.

We spent a little over an hour on the trail, parts of which were almost like an obstacle course with rock stairs, mini-bridges built with old timber, and carved logs placed over moist, slippery soil. It turned out to be 2.7 miles in and out with an elevation of 331 feet.

Now what about the UPPER Indian Ladders Falls? We had to drive a few miles to get to the other end of the Hornbecks Creek Trail. And on the way we stopped in at the Pocono Environmental Education Center (PEEC) as we knew there were some more trails right there with some additional waterfalls. The PEEC has educational programs and camps, as well as facilities for camping.

One of the rangers recommended the Tumbling Waters Trail, saying that there was a beautiful waterfalls around the midway point. And she said it was around three miles and rather easy. We looked at each other and decided that we would move on to find the Upper Indian Ladders Falls to complete that journey and do the Tumbling Waters Trail the next day.

The ranger said that finding the other end of the Hornbecks Creek Trail would be difficult. “It’s about six minutes up the road immediately after a really sharp winding S curve and right after a brown mailbox.”

She was pretty accurate on that…just wish she were as accurate about the Tumbling Waters Trail…but I will get back to that later…really the next day.

There was a very small area to park, to leave the car, we were actually the only ones there. This end of the trail, the landscape, looked much different than the other end. The Guide indicated that it was 8/10 of a mile one way, moderate to difficult, and an elevation of 332 feet. Um…we were not prepared for anything “difficult” but we were there…and we can always turn back. Let’s just do it.

The beginning was easy…like a nice walk through the woods with pine needles all over. And we were going down. Down means that you are going to have to go back UP. At some point the path was closer to the creek which had a LOT of fallen timber in and around it. The path became a bit tough to navigate, there were raised root systems and large rocks, and it was steep in sections.

Upper Hornbecks Trail

Then we came upon the dreaded steps. And down we went. At the bottom of the stairs there was what appeared to be an alcove with a lot of fallen trees. After climbing through the trees, there was a beautiful run off of water that formed a mini waterfalls that is not mentioned anywhere. It’s very close to the Upper Indian Ladders Falls and it’s a shame that it appears to be forgotten.

Hidden waterfalls on UPPER Hornbecks Trail

And then there is, of course, the Upper Indian Ladders Falls and once there you can see the result of the huge storm that apparently raged through the area. There are fallen trees all over the place. We looked…took a couple of pictures…and lamented over the climb back up.

Upper Indian Ladders Falls

The return to the trailhead was difficult because of the incline. The elevation turned out to be 100 feet LESS than indicated as was the distance which turned out to be a TOTAL of 8/10 of a mile out and back. But the incline of the trail from the bottom of the Falls to the top was what I would term “difficult.”

We were exhausted. We hadn’t eaten – fueled properly (insert a Melissa eye roll here) – for three hikes with significant climbing in 80+ degrees heat. But we wanted to make one more effort to go to  Raymondskill…without the need for the shuttle.

So we drove all the way back to Raymondskill Road and made the climb up only to find…the same Park ranger standing like John Candy at the entrance to Wally World: “I’m sorry. We’re closed. The moose out front shoulda told ya.”

We’re tired. We’re sticky. We’re HUNGRY. We’re not doing any shuttle.

We went back to the cabin and got washed up and changed. We went, again, to Milford and had dinner at Apple Valley Family Restaurant. It wasn’t bad. I had passed the place so many times on the way back and forth to take Beckie to camp in Honesdale, but had never stopped to eat. It’s very family-friendly with a pretty diverse menu..something for everyone. It ain’t cheap, but it’s not unreasonable either. It’s cute and casual. And that’s all we needed after a exhausting day.

What really felt good was building a fire back at the cabin…and relaxing right beside it. We ended up sitting there for nearly two hours. The feel and smell of the fire, and the air surrounding us, listening to the deafening quiet was just so perfect.

Our fire

The next morning we were determined like two rebels to get to Raymondskill before they closed off the parking lot near the trailhead. We got up early and got out and…third time’s a charm…SUCCESS! We parked, made our way to the first lookout near the midway point of the Falls, and then headed down the stairs and the path to the bottom of the Falls.

Trail to the bottom of Raymondskill Falls

We took pictures and were back in the car in less than 12 minutes and well before the 10 a.m. time that they close off the lot. It was worth it.

Raymondskill Falls

I knew Melissa was disappointed that we didn’t get something to eat at Sisters Deli the day before so I suggested we go try it. But she reasoned that since we did all that we did on Saturday, and we were up early and already accomplished Raymondskill, let’s go back to check in on the local gossip at the Milford Diner.

The breakfast was good but the gossip was “eh” and so we went back to the cabin, checked out, and we did stop at the corner and go in to Sisters Deli. Wow. It’s been there a while. The bait is right next to the Lays chips and they are selling t-shirts for Cambridge Chemical Cleaning (What?) for $20. I don’t get it.

Sisters Deli…I don’t get it

Melissa: Going for breakfast at Dunkin Donuts yesterday instead of here was a good choice.

I LOVE affirmation!

We went back to the PEEC to park for our trek on the Tumbling Waters Trail. The sky looked very gloomy and we both looked at each other. We both felt some trepidation but we wanted to get in that one more waterfalls.

Melissa reasoned that the hard stuff wasn’t due for a while and it was supposed to be a relatively easy trail. The Guide said that it was a 2.8 mile “moderate” loop with an elevation of 254 feet. Apparently we hadn’t gotten the memo yet about the Guide. IT’S NOT ACCURATE. Neither was the guesstimate about the weather.

The Tumbling Waters Trail begins on one side of a busy street and eventually crosses over to the woods and a huge pond. And it is used as an educational trail for children, and there are numbered signs marking spots along the way. It meanders through some heavily wooded areas and, like the other trails, has a LOT of fallen trees scattered about.

Tumbling Waters Trail

We started out and we kept looking at each other as to whether it was a good idea to continue. But we did, as the rain started. We did not bring our rain gear. We were not dressed for hiking, let alone bad weather. We did not have our hiking poles. Because this was going to be a quick, and easy, loop…get a couple of pictures…and get some lunch.

Wow…whomever authored the Guide really needs to get out there and do these hikes because it is clear that they never did them and they are misinformed.

Hey Peter! We found a newt!

The Tumbling Waters Trail IS what I would consider “moderate” but there are also places that I would call it “difficult.” In NO WAY is the elevation only 254 feet. The waterfalls that you get to is about 1.6 miles in if you start at the trailhead closest to the parking lot and do the loop counter-clockwise. Nowhere does it tell you that you have go down over 150 STEEP steps that turn a few times to the bottom of the falls there, and then have to climb back up those STEEP steps. Only to find that you have climb about 200 feet on a very STEEP incline and, eventually, come to a lookout with a park bench that you never knew was there.

Tumbling Waters Waterfalls

The elevation? 761 feet…NOT 254 feet. BIG DIFFERENCE.

Check the elevation!

By the time we got to the lookout, we were in the midst of a torrential rainstorm. And we were ONLY 1.9 miles into the loop. We hiked in and out of the woods for 1.7 miles in such a downpour that there was RUNNING water…okay…TUMBLING WATERS…on the trail. We were trudging through waters ankle deep.

Melissa: Good thing I’m not wearing a white shirt.

Me: Yeah…good thing. Oy…

The picture does not even come close to capturing how wet we were…

There is no way to convey just how wet we really were. We were soaked as if we had jumped in and swam across a pool. We finally emerged from the woods and made our way to the parking lot and grabbed our bags out of the car and ran into the PEEC building where we got changed in the restrooms.

Tumbling Waters…looking for waterfalls…cascading water. We found it. Yup…we found it.

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