Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Watkin's Glen pt. 2

Watkin's Glen Pt. II

While hiking The Gorge Trail at Watkin's Glen, one can't help but marvel in the sheer power of it all.  You look up to see cliffs of nearly a hundred feet, and possibly more, all carved from the power of this mighty river that flows so majestically down the different steps and cascades.  Anyone who is a lover of nature would be happy to stay at Watkin's Glen for months on end.  I know I can't get enough of it.  It's now my favorite waterfall place to be, surpassing the once favorite Rikket's Glen. 

The trail is a medium level intensity hike.  We had no problem with it.  The steps of the trail are kept in great shape, unlike Rikket's.  My only negative criticism about the place is that they are lacking in litter control.  Everywhere we stopped to take a break, and just enjoy whatever particular fall we were looking at... we had to clean up where we were.  On an editorial note, I find it disgusting that anyplace like this would have to have people clean up after the visitora to begin with.  I am quick to remember the old commercial of the Native American man, who cries at the sight of people littering out their car window, on the highway.  If that got him upset, seeing tons of beer bottles, cans, cigarettes and wrappers of all kinds, littering this place of immersurable beauty, would give him a stroke. 

At one point, I hopped over the wall to get down further into The Cathedral Fall.  I know you're not supposed to, but I wasn't going to be happy with the same touristy photos of Watkin's that I'd seen a million times.  I needed a better perspective.  I doubt I'm the first to have done it, but I still needed a bit more creativity out of my shots than the same angle from the trail that anyone can get. While I crossed the creek, and hiked up the side wall to the base of the fall, I was disgusted to see the amount of trash that littered the entire area.  This place must take in tons of revenue every day.  WHY they can't pay someone to pick up after the idiots who are forced to litter the place up, is beyond me.  It was sad.  I sent my son back over the creek to bring me back some bags.  We always bring plenty of shopping bags with us on hikes.  Mostly to pick up trash we encounter along the way, but also to protect the cameras in wet situations.  I was sacrificing that protection now, to use strictly for trash removal.  I filled three bags with crushed cans and bottles that I picked up along the creek, and some in the shallow waters of the basin.  I know it was barely a dent in the huge amount of litter that scarred this gorgeous area, but at least The Cathedral was now clear of any debris, for at least a day.  :)  I'm not trying to pat myself on the back, but I really can't understand why EVERYONE doesn't feel the way I do about nature, and preserving its beauty?  If everyone would bring a bag of some type with them, when on a hike, and pick up a little trash left behind by the assholes who DON'T appreciate the beauty of nature, places like Watkin's Glen would be nearly pristine.  Okay, off my soapbox.  :) 

Continuing along the gorge trail, the sun finally began to show it's face.  We'd managed to get a lot of good shots on the way up, so I wasn't too upset about it.  We got to the top, and took a nice, relaxing break at the park.  We enjoyed some ice cream after kicking off our hiking boots and letting our feet breathe and relax a bit.  After about an hour of relaxion, we began our way back.  With the sun shining so strong now, we decided to take The Indian Trail back instead.  It's not right along the gorge, but has many nice overlooks along the way.  It also has a huge suspension bridge that goes 80 feet over the river, which I was NOT looking forward to.  I thought I'd be taking a detour back to The Gorge Trail at the point of the bridge, but I'm dedicated to overcoming these two phobias of mine.  Fear of heights and spiders has long overcome much fun in my life.  Living and working at a campground has brought me into the most day to day contact with spiders I've ever had.  I like to think I'm making progress with that battle.  I no longer shriek like a little girl and dance around in a fit, when I see one.  Now, I just dance in a fit if one gets on me.  Definitely getting better.  :)  As for heights... not as easy to fight.  I get the shakes just getting on a ladder, so crossing this bridge was NOT easy for me, but I managed to do it.  The bridge was far wider than I thought it was, and the slats of wood were much closer than I originally thought they'd be, so it was easy to just look forward and get the job done.  Had I looked down, or over the edge... I may have panicked. If that had happened, I would have probably frozen and I have no idea what it would have taken to get me off the bridge.  Luckily that didn't happen.  :) 

After the hike was done, we had lunch in the parking lot, and headed back to the campground.  The campground at Watkin's is also gorgeous.  Big, beautiful sites abound.  Again, my only complaint would be the high amount of litter.  I might also add that the bathrooms were definitely subpar.  After working here, at Canyon Country Campground, where the bath houses are as immaculately clean as one's own house, it takes me back a bit to see webs and dirt all over a bath house.  Since it IS camping though, I can overlook it for a few days.  :) 

We went down to the pool for a nice swim to cool off from the now brutal heat.  Luckily we got in for about a half hour before the sounds of thunder were heard in the distance.  The staff immediately got us out of the pool and we headed back to the campground and back to the van, to nap during the downpour.  And nap we did.  The rain lasted for hours, and so did our slumber.  We probably slept for about three hours, to awake to the sun creeping back out from behind the clouds, just in time for dinner.  Even with the moisture, we managed to enjoy a delicious dinner and a nice campfire before retiring for the night once again. 

Even after getting a nice long nap in, all four of us were asleep as soon as our heads hit the pillow.  We switched things up the final night, with Ceej and I taking the bed and letting the twins have the front seats.  They were much more comfortable in the seats than I was, but they're a bit smaller than me, so it kinda makes sense.  I got a great night's sleep in the bed that we had slept in for two and a half months, on the first leg of Jones's Journies, last fall and winter.  It was nice to reminisce a bit, but I wouldn't trade my camper's bed for anything now.  :)  We got up kinda early, broke camp and made our trip back to Scranton, Pa. to drop off the kids at their house.  Along the way, we found a few more waterfalls that we stopped and enjoyed for a minute or two.  I'm including a few shots of them in this blog as well. 

As always, I hope you enjoy the pics.  If anyone has any questions about where we've been, where we're going, how we live this way, questions about campers, campsites or anything in general... ask away.  :) 

Thanks for reading.  :)   

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Watkin's Glen pt. 1

Since I've become addicted to waterfall photography, I've been able to shoot many different areas that are filled with very dramatic and beautiful falls.  I've shot Rikket's Glen, Child's Park, and other gorgeous falls in Pa. and New York.  One of my dreams has been to shoot the falls of Watkin's Glen, one of the most beautiful places on Earth, located in the midst of The Finger Lakes, of New York State.  Finally, that dream has come true.  :) 

We had two of our children, Damian and Raven, with us here for about two weeks.  It must have rained nearly every day they were here.  It's not been the best weather for these last two months.  Most rain I think I've ever seen in my life.  I'm really not going to complain though, since it's keeping rivers, streams and most importantly... WATERFALLS, running at full strength.  :)  Inclement weather is usually what you want when you go to photograph waterfalls.  The more overcast it is, and the wetter the rocks are, the better your shots come out.  Sadly, this doesn't go well with camping though. We decided to risk it anyway, and we booked a campsite at Watkin's Glen. 

The evening we arrived, it was beautiful.  It had been a very warm and sunny day.  Even if the sun didn't help my photographs, I figured I could always come back and get better shots another time.  With some of our kids with us, it would be fine by me if the sun shined the whole weekend. All was going well, until we went to set up the tent.  D'OH!!!  Someone left the poles to the tent back home in Pa.  Not in the camper, but back at home.  So now we were going to have to all sleep in the van.  Damian and I took the front seats, while Carol and Raven got the bed to crash out in.  Not the most uncomfortable set-up, but because it was going to be very hot that night, it didn't lend to the best of sleeping situations.  Everyone took it like a trooper though, and we set up the van, and made a great campfire to sit around before hitting the sack, to get ready for the next day's hike. 

After a few very hot and uncomfortable hours of sleep for me, I woke to the sounds of rain on the roof of the van.  Perfect.  I heard the rest of the gang snoring and just felt horrible that I was going to have to wake them.  So, I decided to go back to sleep for another little bit.  :)  That little bit was about two more hours.  Carol woke me up and we got ready to hit the trail after a quick D&D stop, for coffee. 

As we arrived at the main entrance of Watkin's Glen, the weather seemed like it was going to be perfect.  It was overcast and threatening more rain.  We got our backpacks on and began the uphill climb.  The very first fall you see, is even before you enter the park.  It's gorgeous, and just knowing that it's not even close to being the most gorgeous one there, had me in goosebumps.  I couldn't wait to get in there and get going.  We took a few shots of the first fall, and then entered the cavernous entrance to Watkin's Glen.  I took a lot of shots that day, so I'm going to break this into a two part blog. 
Here's some pics of the first few waterfalls for you.  I hope you enjoy them.  If you ever get a chance to go to Watkin's Glen, YOU MUST!!!  I've never seen a more beautiful place in all my life.  :) 

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

First Flight... KINDA. :)

     When we arrived here, at Canyon Country Campground, we were informed about where the particularly great sights of the area are located.  One of our favorite attractions in the area is the Eagle's nest, which is on the bank of Pine Creek, at Darling Run.  This is a part of the Rails to Trails.  We have spent a few evenings down there, watching the Mama and Papa eagles soar back and forth along the river, while the near-fledgling babies would bop around in the nest.  It's an amazing experience.  The other night we went down and the experience got even better, which I didn't think possible.  :)

     Our kids are staying with us for a few weeks, so we took them down to see the eagles.  We're on the East side of the creek, which is really low now.  I guess nothing feeds Pine Creek, except the water from the previous Winter's ice and snow.  The water level is actually higher than normal for this period of the year, because of the high amounts of rain we've had in May, and already in June.  Not complaining though, since this area has experienced three years of horrible Summer droughts.  The creek is low, but it's still not dry, which is fine by us.  We went to the usual spot along the trail, which is perfect for viewing the nest and seeing some fly-bys by Mom and Dad.

     The nest was very inactive today, though.  We couldn't see any of the juvenile eagles bouncing up and down as usual, so we took a very small trail that leads down to the actual river bank, just to get a little closer.  In the pictures, you'll see that there's a small "island" area in the middle of the creek.  We were looking at this particular area, when we noticed a very large bird "flying" horribly bad on the other side of the creek.  It crash landed into the top of a tree, after a very bad attempt at landing gracefully.  As my kids were asking "What is THAT???", it dawned on me that it was one of the baby eagles.  I assumed that perhaps they'd all fledged, and that we'd missed it.  The baby eagle, which by the way... is HUGE, sat at the top of the tree, just staring around.  I took a few pics, but I wasn't happy with what I was getting.  I only have a 250mm lens, and it wasn't doing the job I wanted.  There was no way around it... I was gonna have to get closer.  :)

     I always carry my hip waders with me, since you never know when you're gonna find a new waterfall, which is my favorite thing to photograph.  I kept an eye on the eagle, while I sent my son back to the van to get my waders.  Soon I was starting to cross the river, which was only about three feet deep, at the deepest part.  As I was nearing the tree that the baby eagle was in, I heard my wife yelling... "Ken... look out!!!".  I turned to the right quickly, to see a very angry Mama eagle coming straight at me.  I was stunned.  I should have been scared out of my wits, but how many times do you see something like this?  The Mama shrieked as she flew directly over my head, maybe four to five feet over me.  I couldn't react quicly enough to get a good shot, but I'll include one of the blurry ones I got of it after it passed by.  I also have a few far away shots from a previous night of eagle watching that I'll include in this blog.

     After that experience, I kinda had a feeling that baby was being watched, and that was a warning to me, to not get too close to him.  I had no plans of climbing the tree, or disturbing the baby at all... but there was no way I was leaving without getting a few shots.  With the sun setting behind the tree that the baby was in, they aren't the best shots.  I had to add plenty of fill light to get the pics up to decent enough to post.  Normally I wouldn't post shots like this, but it was such a unique experience, that I just had to share some of it with you.

     As I was nervously looking around, for Mama or Papa eagle to give me another warning, a Park Ranger approached my wife and the kids on the bank.  I couldn't hear what was going on, but I guess he explained to Carol that the baby had FALLEN out of the nest.  They had not fledged yet, but this poor guy had taken a premature trip out of the safety of his nest.  With me being so close, there was no way that Mom or Dad would come get him.  So I backed off and went back to the shore.  We waited there for about another hour, but he just sat there.  I'm sure his parents returned to him after we left.  It was quite an experience.  I feel that we were quite blessed to have witnessed it. :)  We'll be going down again to check out the rest of the babies, and see if they've fledged yet.    We'll keep you all posted.  :) 

Monday, June 6, 2011

Two Turkies Tackle the Turkey Trail. :p

     We’d planned on getting to Leonard Harris State Park by dawn, to take pictures of the mist rising in the canyon, but that wasn’t in the cards.  As usual, it had been raining all night, and was quite dark and damp.  This might kill most people’s hiking plans, but that’s the preferred weather for waterfall photography, so even though we slept in a little past sunrise, we were still up and out quite early.  After a quick breakfast and some coffee, we packed our gear and water and headed out.  All we had to stop for was some chicken for lunch.  We arrived at Leonard Harris by 8am.  The weather had at least dried up a bit, but it was still quite cloudy and overcast.  We enjoyed some time just checking out the canyon from the many different lookouts.  What a beautiful sight the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon is.  The river below, which is fueled by snow and rain only, was ripping through the canyon.  I SO wanted to be in a kayak, but I don’t have the skills for that kind of movement.  It’s normally a class 2-3 river, but at this point, it was easily a four.  Not for me.  Maybe in a few years, I’ll be ready for that.   :)

     We found the entrance to the Turkey Trail and took a deep sigh, as we contemplated the hike before us.  It says it’s a 1 ¾ mile LOOP, but I’m not too sure about that.  I’d say it was easily a mile and a half just one way.  Regardless, the going down is beautiful and kinda easy.   The decline is pretty steep, and you feel it in your shins as you descend.  The painful part, is KNOWING what it’s going to be like on the way back.  :(   Still, with what we knew was ahead of us, we took that deep breath and began the descent.

     Within a short while, we saw the first waterfall.  As a waterfall geek, I’ve seen a lot of breathtaking ones.  The pictures I’d seen of this one, hadn’t really impressed me much.  I imagine that the pictures I’d been able to see had been taken during regular flow.  On this particular Tuesday morning, we were not looking at regular flow for late May.  We had been suffering WEEKS of torrential rains, so this river/runoff was moving at FULL THROTTLE.  She was GORGEOUS.   I set up the tripod for the first of many times through the day, and was in my glory, as I captured shot after shot of the first waterfall that I could get a clear shot at.  I’m not the best climber yet, so I stayed on the trail at this point.  Going off-trail to get closer, would be suicide for me.  The steep decline to the water was nothing but soggy mud.  No tree roots to grab hold of or any secure rocks, just mud.  We sat on the bench for a bit and enjoyed the sights and then proceeded down the trail.

     The hike is one gorgeous waterfall after another.  I couldn’t get shots of some, because of the mud, but as we got further down the trail, I finally was able to get my waders on, and get right in the water for some decent compositions.  Carol was taking video of the waterfalls and the trail as we would stop almost every ten minutes for another fall.  It was second to only Rickett’s Glen, in my opinion, for sheer beauty and number of falls.  Sadly it’s not a constant flow.  I’ve heard that it turns to a trickle within the next few weeks.  :(

     After a three hour descent, we finally arrived in the canyon itself.  We were exhausted, but so exhilarated at the beauty of what we’d just experienced.  We looked around for a nice place to have lunch, and found a nice, big, flat rock along the river to set up.  Another beautiful hour or so was spent here, enjoying our lunch and conversating about how gorgeous the place is, and how much we’re going to love it here.  Oh, and as we set up for lunch, the clouds parted, and a long forgotten stranger finally showed up.  We’d not seen the sun in nearly two weeks, and here he finally was, making the day beautiful.  Luckily, I’d already gotten about two hundred waterfall pics, so I wasn’t cursing his arrival.  :P

     We finished eating, packed it all back up and decided it might be best to just call in for an emergency rescue, rather than risk the potential heart attacks we were sure to suffer by climbing back UP the Turkey Trail.  Oh wait… that was just what I SUGGESTED to Carol.  She told me to grow a set, and pushed me, kicking and screaming, all the way back up the ridiculously steep Turkey Trail.  ?  We took many breaks and talked to some other people who were trying to survive the hike.  After about two hours, we finally made it out without any scrapes, or need for artificial respiration.  A MIRACLE I tell you.  ?  We headed straight to the water machine to purchase some more bottles of water, as we’d kicked ours halfway up the trail.  I pounded two full bottles in about three chugs.  I was quite parched.  Then I stole Carol’s bottle as well.  ?  We then headed to another lookout and just relaxed a bit, enjoying the scenery some more.

     WHAT A DAY!!!  Enjoy the pics.  :)