July the tenth, 2010 I set off in my VW with my husband Matt as my passenger to visit a state park or two south & west of Wellsboro, Pennsylvania and check out the camp grounds. This trip planted a seed in my mind and became Tour #1.
For the better part of twenty years I have camped at least once each year at World’s End State Park. World’s End was the park my father took us to on those hot, muggy summer days. We weren’t a camping family but the picnic and swimming area bring back fond memories of my childhood. My own family began camping at World’s End when our daughter was a toddler; therefore the park will forever hold fond memories of that (and this) chapter of life as well. I have come to know the beautiful park, the ever-changing Loyalsock Creek and the surrounding Loyalsock State Forest well and their voices pull at my heart when I am not there.
In June of 2010 I visited Ricketts Glen State Park on a day trip with a group of young women I had advised for eleven years in Girl Scouting. I had previously visited this park a number of times throughout my childhood and as recently as 1997 while camping at WESP. Ricketts Glen is all the guide books & DCNR web site say it is. The falls are a National Natural Landmark and the hike along them is spectacular. It was a beautiful day filled with hiking, picnicking and the usual laughter and good times with this group.
A week or so later I decided to visit a few new parks within a short drive of my home in Corning NY just a few short miles from the PA border. The first park on my list was Ole Bull State Park and before we reached there I realized I had left my camera at home. Luckily, Matt had a camera with him so all was not lost. We hiked a short trail at the park and saw the remains of the stone foundation of Ole Bull’s home and had a nice view of the small town below. The campground at Ole Bull was nice but lacked the vegetation between sites that we so like. After leaving OBSP we headed to Kettle Creek, missing a turn and ending up in Renovo before turning around. Along this route we passed the Sproul State Forest Office, twice! Our visit to Kettle Creek State Park began at the Alvin R. Bush dam and a spectacular view of Kettle Creek below. The interpretive signage at the other end of the park near the park office left us in awe as to how high the water raises. I personally do not prefer flood control dam parks as the landscaping is generally less mature and I am left with a stark feeling. While my main goal at this point was to look at campgrounds, I did not fall in love with the camp ground at Kettle Creek either. Both parks I found to be beautifully maintained with great signage and a lot of recreational opportunities. Definitely parks I would spend time in if I lived close by.
Somewhere along those roads leading back into canyon country from the “black forest” of Pennsylvania, past camps and cabins and through farmland, I had a thought. The thought began with my birth in Pennsylvania, my upbringing in a small rural Northeastern Pennsylvania town and my decision to attend college in New York State. The thought flowed through to my decision to remain in NYS, to make it my home and how that affected my new found love of Pennsylvania’s public lands. Jokingly, I said, “I should visit every state park and have my picture taken next to the sign, then send those to the DCNR (Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources) with my birth certificate and high school diploma and ask if I may please camp at PA resident prices for the rest of my life.” And thus the seed was planted. Due to the idea being planted after leaving the two parks on our tour, I had to leave both parks on my list to re-visit at a later date.
Pennsylvania has one hundred and twenty state parks and 2.2 million acres of) state forest land (20 state forests .) The state park system won “Best Parks in the Nation” award 2009-2011. All state parks and forests are public land and are open at no charge for day use (some swimming pools may charge a fee.) In my opinion, the Pennsylvania DCNR does a superior job of ecological conservation and environmental education. The DCNR web site is, by far, one of the most useful tools I have used online and can tell you more about the parks and forests than I could possibly remember.