If you can’t get something out of what you have, then you got nothing! The Fall season kicked off great with high expectations for a spectacular nature fest. I pored over many DCNR reports and decided to do one of those fall drive in central Pennsylvania. The reports reported near peak colors during the first week in October and I went ahead and made hotel reservations well in advance. I even moved it a week earlier due to the changing report. That weekend, the first stop was Shikellamy State Park near Susquehanna university. Two hours of drive on Rt. 80 and we ended up in a quiet park by the river.
The water was way down even though there had been enough rain over the past month. The views turned out be less than spectacular compared the possibly photoshopped images on the park site and on the internet. The drive then up to Lock Haven via Williamsport was a little better and appeared promising for the afternoon drive.
Lunch stop at the hotel and the group had a great home-made lunch. We then headed to what is known as the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania – the Pine Creek gorge. The drive would have been so much more enjoyable if not for the nearly 80 degrees outside. We did make a few stops by the road side and got down to the water once. Certainly DCNR needs to work on its accuracy of the fall colors reports. There was probably 90% green where the report had predicted peak fall colors in the region. Two plus hours on the drive and we ended in Ansonia close to Rt. 6. An early dinner for the children and we started to Cherry Springs State Park.
The park is rated one. of the top 10 spots for star gazing in the United States. The area being far off from urban areas and in the midst of mountains reflect little light back into the sky. It was just about a New Moon a few days back and we had our expectations set correctly. There was a period of twilight between sunset and the moon rise when we wanted to be to see the most of the starts. Got a good view of Saturn in the telescope the park had setup. We had once seen Saturn on our home telescope back at home when the planet was nearest to Earth some ten years back and it was mesmerizing and divine feeling. On the more professional telescope, the rings were much more clear and I could see the gap between them and the body of the planet. Very soon the huge moon started racing up the horizon. It was as though it was in a rush. I was glad I had carried my telescope with me and had set it up. The group enjoyed viewing the moon up-close. For those of us who hadn’t seen dark skies the experience was exhilarating. I remember the wow moment we had had when we had looked up in the midst of Yosemite and the skies on this day wasn’t even close to 10% filled. I remembered the Milky Way literally hanging down the skies at ‘mite.
The drive back from Cherry Springs through the dark night was thought provoking. We saw a motor cyclist parked in the middle of nowhere taking a break not at all worried about a prowling bear somewhere close. You are miles and miles away from help and all alone – it should take a tough heart to be in that spot. I was wondering what we would do if our vehicle somehow ran into a problem. Luckily it wasn’t super cold that night.
The next day the plans got changed. We were supposed to hike at Ricketts Glen State park but due to the rain, the hike was cancelled. We instead decided to drive further north to see some real fall colors. We took Rt. 15N to New York state towards Watkins Glen. This time around the drive was indeed spectacular. Once we were north of Rt. 6 it was color country for about 20-25 minutes. The park has this great Gorge trail that we hiked. It meanders its way through narrow sections carved out in the gorge-side. For the rapidly flowing water down below, it had taken about 12,000 years just about to carve out half the depth. Given it was a Sunday, the trail was almost jam-packed. After the hike, it was time to celebrate a wedding anniversary of a dear couple in the group. No better setting than a colorful park. Lunch was again well received compared to restaurant or fast-food. Some of us decided to head back home, the rest of us decided to stop at the Sringeri temple in Poconos. And it was worth the while. Festivities around Sakanst Chauthi, an auspicious day around Lord Ganesha’s festival was going on. We listened to the chantings and participated in the mini-procession within the temple complex. Dinner was served and was most welcome. The Fall drive was over, though it was another 90 minutes to home.