We found more than just waterfalls Knocking Around Ricketts Glen State Park and Dushore, Pennsylvania
Ever since Melissa and I began writing and posting on Karmel Knocking Around, friends and relatives have asked us what our favorite place is that we have visited. And we have visited some really great places over the last few years – from Acadia National Park in Maine to Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming; from the Everglades in Florida to the spiritual vortexes in Sedona, Arizona; from Wrigley Field in Chicago to the famous shuk (Machane Yehuda Market) in Jerusalem, Israel; from the New Jersey beach town of Cape May to the amazing island of Santorini, Greece.
It amazes everyone that my answer to that question…my favorite trip…believe it or not…Dushore, Pennsylvania. Yup…I said it. We’ve been all over the country, to many National Parks, great cities, and have even traveled half-way around the world. But one of the most fun times, ever, was a destination that Melissa just happened to find, on a lark, when searching for our next great hike, one that included some waterfalls…Ricketts Glen State Park. Ricketts Glen State Park is a 3 ½ hour drive for us, mostly west on I-80 past Wilkes Barre and Scranton, and then north on 487. Melissa made another great find, Endless Mountain Motel, a well-kept roadside motel with a wood cabin décor. For any fan of the show Schitt’s Creek, you would certainly get a kick out of this place. It really is a throwback.
We got there a bit on the late side, after 8 p.m. and we were a bit hungry. The motel proprietor was exceptionally nice and offered that the only place open, and just for a little while, was nine miles back in the other direction. The other option was in the center of town – the Pump and Pantry. What is a “pump and pantry?” The Pump and Pantry was the gas station in the center of town which included a mini-mart and a Subway inside. We ordered a couple of sandwiches and had to wait a bit while the frazzled clerk worked to make our dinners. Apparently it was the first couple of sandwiches he made. At that hour, I didn’t care…so long as he changed his gloves after touching the meat for Melissa’s sandwich. I knew I should have suggested he do mine first.
The next morning we headed into town early to get breakfast at the local diner – Pam’s Restaurant. There was a bit of a wait so we put our name on the list and walked across the street to take some pictures of the quaint little town of Dushore. After taking our pics, we turned around and before we could cross the street, there was a John Deere Tractor just cruising past us. Oh…this is going to be different.
Pam’s Restaurant was definitely where the locals go. You can just tell by the conversations that could be very easily overheard. And it was clear that everyone knew everybody else. They also have an amazing collection of cookie jars on display all over the restaurant. The food was really good, and the service was super. The woman serving us mentioned that we were lucky to get a parking space right in front of the place because she said that there would be no parking later because of Founders Day. What is Founders Day? We “found” out later.
We also found out that Dushore is the home to the only traffic light in Sullivan County…in ALL OF THE COUNTY! It’s actually like a tourist attraction…people were out there taking pictures of a traffic light! OK, I did too.
Ricketts Glen State Park is a Pennsylvania state park and National Natural Landmark on 13,000 acres spread over Columbia, Luzerne and Sullivan counties. It has 24 named waterfalls along Kitchen Creek which flows down the Allegheny Front escarpment from the Allegheny Plateau to the Ridge-and-Valley Appalachians.
By the way, Melissa would say…”Escarpment…ewwww…$10 word! Where’d you pull THAT one from?” An escarpment is a long steep slope, at the edge of a plateau, separating areas of land at different heights.
Another “by the way”…admission to the Park is free. We love “free.”
The Park’s waterfalls were actually a main attraction for a hotel from 1873 to 1903 and the Park was named for the proprietor, R. Bruce Ricketts. Ricketts would build the trail along the waterfalls. Plans to make Ricketts Glen a national park in the 1930’s ended due to budget issues and the outbreak of World War II. The State of Pennsylvania began acquiring the property in 1942 and fully opened Ricketts Glen State Park in 1944. The Falls Trail contains a series of 21 free-flowing waterfalls cascading through rock strewn cliffs. Old growth timber and diverse wildlife can be seen all along the trail. The waterfalls range in height from 11 feet to the 94-foot-high Ganoga Falls. The terrain is rocky, can be very slippery, and even treacherous in some areas. The beauty should not overshadow the need for proper footwear and gear as the trail can be messy, a bit muddy in places, and the rock can be exceptionally slippery.
The trail was easy to moderate to difficult. We admittedly struggled over some of the more rocky areas, but we were in awe of some Amish families, wearing crocs on their feet, and navigating the rough terrain with relative ease.
We took a break for lunch, sitting on a huge rock that overlooked one of the falls. Each waterfalls was spectacular. The rock formations, the crevasses, the growth, the water streaming down the rock along the way…it was all an amazing trek…and truly my all-time favorite hike.
The full loop of the trail is 7.2 miles if hiking both the upper and lower sections. It can be shortened to 3.2 miles and the majority of the falls can still be seen. We ended up doing 4.25 miles and saw 19 waterfalls along the way.
We headed back to town to find the streets mobbed and the intersection with the only traffic light closed off. Why? Founders Day!
And the woman from Pam’s Restaurant was right. There was little to no parking and people lined the streets. This was a huge event. There was the usual street fair with local vendors. Then we noticed down a side street, in front of the local post office, bales of hay stacked and lined up. For what? For two-person keg-rolling races. Yes…KEG ROLLING!
But wait, there’s more!
On the main street there were outhouse races. That’s right..outhouses…toilets…on wheels…one person sitting and four people pushing through the streets of Dushore. With throngs of people lining the streets cheering them all on!
Where ARE we? I felt like I was in some foreign place. People were looking at US like WE were from another planet. You could sense it…feel it. This was a real small town, and the conversations were a bit “different” than we are used to hearing in the New York City area.
As the outhouses were being raced around the turnabout in front of us, I turned to Melissa and said, “You could just drop me in here and they would hail me as the Wizard…”
The people were all nice, uber-friendly, we really didn’t know how to handle all of that. We’re usually in the “we’re not here to make friends” mode. We’ve been conditioned to the streets of New York City, the 7 train, the tumult of the city, the vagrants on the streets and on the subway trains harassing us constantly everywhere we turn. The streets of Dushore were a visit to a much more simpler life. A small town with a view into the past…with stately old buildings, and a lifestyle that is easier on the brain.
It was a great find, and with all due respect to the rest of the world, Dushore, Pennsylvania and Ricketts Glen State Park is a true hidden gem that we found…on Founders Day.