Memorial weekend called for a serious hike. Headed north on 476 towards Hickory Run State Park. Nearly 16,000 acres of green land waiting to be explored here with over 40 miles of trails. Was trying to garner a few people to go to the hike with us and ultimately it became quite a group at 15 with a mix of young adults and like. Driving up north on 476 gets you away from the buzz of the city and you start to see this lush greenery that rural Pennsylvania is known for.
It was hard to get up early in the morning on a long weekend. I had set my alarm to 7:00 AM. But the night before was terrible with my bronchitis attacking me and depriving me of good sleep. The yard work I had done the previous day and the walks in the chilly weather over the past few days had contributed to the build-up inside my lungs. I pulled myself off the bed forcefully. Unless you are determined to get something done, there will always be obstacles that keep you from getting there. We stopped at a local Walgreen on the way to pick up a chest decongestant and we were on our way.
The 1 hour 10 minutes ride as indicated on Google maps took us a few minutes less and we were at the Hawk Falls parking lot at 9:01 AM. The earlier message to be on time had done its work and all the folks were there by 9:10. It was surprising to see a good bunch of young adults as well. Everyone was in great spirits. The small parking lot was getting filled up. I first wanted to take the Boulder field trail to the boulder field, but somehow started in the opposite direction. We ended up walking along the Hawk run and ended up at the bottom of the falls. There were some nice photo opps on the way and everyone enjoyed it. It took us about 45 minutes to be back at the parking lot.
The Boulder Field trail is a 3.2 mile hike to the file one-way. The path is stony and surrounded by woods. There is a slight elevation gain as you get towards to the boulder field (about 500 ft over the distance). The trail is rated at moderate difficulty and kid and pet friendly. This depends on the physical condition of the hiker. I would say if you do go on regular hikes, it wouldn’t be challenging. Even if you regularly go on walks on the occasional long walk, you can do it. Children might find the distance more of a challenge as opposed to the difficulty itself. Half way into the hike, there were challenges with some of the children feeling tired and it took quite an effort to keep them motivated. We did stop for breaks. One negative of the trail is there are no rest rooms anywhere. Despite all the challenges, I was impressed with the youngest of the lot who had her Fitbit on and was aiming to get 20k steps for the day. I guess she was 9 or 10.
After some wet patches and log and fallen-tree crossings, we finally ended up at the Boulder field after 2 hours of hiking. Considering the terrain and the size of the group, this wasn’t bad. I had read a solo hiker had taken 1 hour 45 minutes. The boulder field is a 13 acre field full of boulder varying up to 1 1/2 feet in diameter on average. One can cross over the boulders to the other side which has a park office. Crossing the field would have added 30 minutes one way. Some in the group ventured out for a short distance. One needs to be careful on these boulders as they can be slippery and your feet can get stuck or hurt. There were numerous spiders popping up. I had read snakes would do as well, but didn’t announce.
After some time resting at the field and snacks, we headed back. My plan originally was to start the morning hike at 8:30 AM, do the Boulder field trail. This would take about three hours and then we would head back to the parking lot and decide if we wanted to do the Hawk Falls trail. Even if we did this, we would be back at the cars by 12:30 in time for late lunch. However, we ended up finishing both the trails and back around 2:45 pm! The size of the group many of them children will be the reason you want to plan some extra hour or two into your schedule.
There are many other trails in the park. Many Youtube videos describe these visually. Here are few things to keep in mind if you are new to hiking:
- Don’t take the trail description and difficulty ratings lightly. If you are just two fit people, the times will be accurate
- Plan extra time if there are children in the group. Plan to stop occasionally. Let them rest a good amount of time. They need to enjoy the hike and not consider it a drag
- Wear longer clothing to keep ticks from getting onto your legs
- Pack plenty of water and snacks
- Don’t forget to start your activity tracker for records sake. And don’t forget to restart if you pause it during a rest. I forgot to restart at least a couple of time and think I lost track of about 1/4 of a mile
- Check the weather on the days leading to the hike and on the day before and decide if you want to proceed. If there is a possibility of rain, pack a light jacket.
- Check the terrain before the hike. If it is going to be in the open, have sun block handy
- Prep children if there is going to be a lack of rest areas on the trail
- Motivate children about hiking and being with nature.