Yesterday, I decided to go for a quick hike and I found myself in Ricketts Glen State Park. It has been years since I hiked the famous and popular Falls Trail; I now spend more time exploring the little-known areas of this large and diverse park. Regardless, the Falls Trail was closed. With snow on the ground and fading daylight, my options were limited. I was going to drive up to Lake Jean, but as I drove over Kitchen Creek along PA 118, the forest floor was shrouded with a dense layer of mist. I had to check it out.
The mist was formed by the warm and humid air over the snowpack. The mist congregated along the creeks and hollows. I began my walk on the Evergreen Trail, an easy, overlooked trail that is a pleasure to hike. It is perfect for kids. The icy walk down to Adams Falls took some care. The falls were flowing great with roaring water surging through a chasm in the red bedrock.
The trail took me across the creek and into the “Hemlock Temple” of the Evergreen Trail. This trail features an impressive old-growth forest that is serene and beautiful. However, the hemlocks are dying from an invasive species, the wooly adelgid. The largest and healthiest trees are now the white pine and tulip poplar. The veil of mist that was draped across the floor of this ancient forest was both eerie and beautiful. Massive white pine trees soared into the air, towering over 120 feet. The dead standing trees were stripped of their bark, leaving a silver sheen over the damp wood. As the sun tried to fight the clouds, a translucent light spread through the forest, illuminating the mist.
The trail passed a huge tulip poplar, the park is near the northern limit of this tree’s range. These trees can grow to incredible proportions, and they create a sap that is sweeter than maple syrup.
Once I hiked out of the mist, the temperature became much warmer and my glasses briefly fogged up. I hiked a little further, gazing at the large trees, and returned to my car. It is hard to believe some of these trees are older than the United States.
It seems the greatest temples are made by nature.