Hike With Us!
This New Year’s, my family and I had the good fortune to spend three wonderful days hanging out with great friends in the Pocono mountains in Bushkill Falls, Pennsylvania. While the husbands and kids took to the ski slopes, the wives took to the hills. Unfortunately, Bushkill Falls, known as “the Niagra of Pennsylvania” with its series of eight waterfalls and scenic hiking trails, was closed. Spraying, icy water makes for treacherous hiking conditions and a big fat liability so, disappointed though we were, we drove on, hoping to spot something out of the ordinary: a trailhead, a marker (we call them elf lights), a sign, anything. We pulled into the post office, probably because it was one of the few places open, although I didn’t hold out much hope for hiking advice.
Turns out we didn’t even need to get out of the car. We asked a local headed in to mail some letters. He gave us directions, turned to go inside, and then came back and told us to wait, that he would show us. The best rule of thumb for finding spectacular trails is to always talk to the locals. Ten miles later and totally out of his way, our fabulous guide dropped us at the trailhead for Raymondskill Falls. We would have turned around miles before we got there. He also recommended the Milford Diner for lunch when we were through (delicious spanikopita). The hike was perfect, the waterfall spectacular, the last hike of 2014 a total success. You can go, too, if you’re in the area. Here’s a link: http://www.discoverpikepa.com/places/features/Raymondskill_Falls (And another great big telepathic thank you to our guide!)
New Year’s Day: time for a few resolutions and the first hike of 2015. It started when the kids said they wanted to take us to the “haunted fairground” which is really just a park-like gathering area with a few buildings, one housing a large kitchen, located within the Saw Creek Estates subdivision in Bushkill Falls. The place was closed, not haunted, and we were trespassing, of course. The caretaker came out to kick us off, but seeing a group of 15 adventuresome kids and adults, instead indulged us all our questions about the area and then sent us on our way which was fine because across from the “haunted fairgrounds” we found a piece of paradise. The kids had dragged us unnecessarily over hill and dale to get to this waterfall which was only 100 yards off the road down a steep embankment if we had gone a less circuitous route. The way we went, there were some pretty spectacular butt slides, and fingers and toes gripping-the-ground-but-finding-no-purchase slides down steep embankments. Pretty exciting for a development, actually. The trail itself had some scary, difficult to maneuver sections — the bridge was icy and a few parts were rotted away — but it was still passable and we had three first rate Eagle Scouts among us so no worries. I spent several breathtaking minutes standing on the ice-covered bridge, watching water thunder down after itself. The joy of standing in front of a riotously beautiful waterfall outshines the potential danger of a rotting bridge any day.
While we were experiencing all that outdoor awesomeness, my friend Gigi suggested a hike a week as a New Year’s Resolution. Since one of my resolutions is not to delude myself, I knew that wasn’t happening. And since another is to move more and sit less, I figured I could work with the idea. A hike every two weeks? Maybe, but still pushing it given the confines of my schedule. I settled on a hike a month. That doesn’t mean that I’ll be sitting out all the other weekends, just that 2015 is the year for realistic goals, ones that I actually intend to reach, ones that bring me some joy, some enrichment, a bit less stress. So here it is, the first hike of 2015, on a no-name trail in Saw Creek Estates, Bushkill Falls, Pennsylvania.
By all standards, the first hike of 2015 was a raging success. You can google Saw Creek and arrange for your own rental. It’s the only way you get to see the waterfalls that run through the development. It’s worth the price of admission.
Tell me about your best hike each month and we’ll keep this energy going all year long.
Hiking the Back Forty
back + forty, meaning “back side of a farm”. In the Homestead Acts (1860s–), farmers were granted a quarter section; a section was 640 acres, a quarter section was 160 acres, and the quarter section was itself subdivided into four quarter-quarter sections of 40 acres each: two front forty and two back forty.
-from Wiktionary, a multilingual free encyclopedia.
Definition of BACK FORTY: a remote and uncultivated or undeveloped piece of land of indefinite size (as on a farm).
-from Merriam-Webster, an Encyclopedia Britannica company
It’s winter and crazy cold. The temperature has been in the single digits for so long that the snow never melts, and our dog, Apollo, a Border collie/Labrador mix runs on high octane, meaning his exercise needs are enormous. So what’s a multi-tasker to do? Cross-country ski with the dog at lunch is what.
February’s hike turned out to be close to home, actually right out my back door. We live in Amish country and the property behind our house is a series of interconnecting farms that provide a terrific backdrop for the cross-country skiing enthusiast. Luckily, my neighbors have not caught on to this so it’s just me and Apollo who seems to enjoy the freedom of the self-directed walk in ways that would never be possible on the trail where a leash and a pocketful of poop bags are a necessity. The beauty, the solitude, the energy of these wide-open fields, blanketed with snow and all to myself, is hard to match, and made all that more desirable because I don’t have to drive anywhere.
The farmer will be spreading manure here on the back forty in another month so Apollo’s contributions seems like works for the common good. Plus there are all kinds of treasures to discover. Last week he unearthed a deer leg bone and pranced all around me with it until I tried to take it away. He ran straight across the field then, about half a mile to home, and by the time I’d caught up, he’d already consumed most of it. It did result in more than a bit of regurgitation during the night, but he found another bone our next time out so apparently, vomiting is a small price to pay for the joy of the hunt and the glorious consumption of the spoils.
At six billion people and growing, the world gets more crowded all the time. At this rate, the farms in Central Pennsylvania, our country’s most fertile, unirrigated farmland will be plowed under for the next “four models to choose from” housing development before we’ve even named the next generation - this little oasis possibly gone in less than 20 years. Yes, we need houses, but we also need our wide-open spaces where our hearts can soar and we shouldn’t have to travel all the way to the the other side of the country to get them. My 45-minute lunch break left me rejuvenated in ways that a cup of coffee never could have.
Do this today, just for a minute. Stop and look at the sky, a tree, the snow, whatever aspect of nature you adore. Pull its beauty and grace into your body and notice what you feel like afterwards. Commune with the ecosystem that gives you breathe. The restorative power of nature is unparalleled. Go hike the back forty. You won’t regret it.