Pine Creek Rail Trail 2009

This page is about a Pine Creek Gorge weekend outing with Norma's family.

Above, from left to right is Hazel (Norma's mom), Norma, me, and Joyce (Norma's sister). We are about to start riding on the Pine Creek Rail Trail.

 Saturday, October 10, 2009

IntroductionOpen accordion icon
On July 4, 2009, Norma and I biked 17.8 miles of the Pine Creek Rail Trail. She thought it would be a good place to return in the autumn with her family. Hence, on Columbus Day weekend 2009, we came back with Hazel and Joyce.

For Norma and I, this was actually our third visit to the area in 2009. Obviously, we really like the place. Our first time was on February 15, 2009 when we walked the icy trails. It would be nice to see the area change with the seasons.
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Drive upOpen accordion icon
Norma and I drove up in the rain while Joyce and Hazel drove separately. The forecast said was that it would stop later in the day, which it did.

Our first stop was the southern terminus of the trail at Jersey Shore. Though we were loaded with maps, we didn't have any that told us exactly where the trail ended so it took a little driving around and asking directions to find it. We would return here later.

The next stop was the town of Cammal. Here, we left Norma's car at the McHenry Township Community Center near the corner of Railroad Street and Cemetery Road. Then we all piled into Joyce's truck. We later found a plethora of trail access lots, most with restrooms and many with canoe access. From Blackwell heading south, they were all just off route 414 and spaced roughly six miles apart.

The four of us headed to Wellsboro where we ate lunch at the Wellsboro Diner. On our last trip, we stopped there but the wait was too long so we ate elsewhere. There was a pretty long wait this time too but we were set on finding out why this place was so popular. The food was indeed very good.

With full bellies, we checked in at Pine Tree Lodge. Norma booked us two small cabins. Each had a kitchenette, shower, and heater. Compared to our usual car camping, it was like staying at the Hilton (except for the angled floor in cabin 2). The price was right at $45.78 per night per cabin.
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Colton Point State ParkOpen accordion icon
After having digested a bit, we walked at Colton Point State Park. Here, we checked out the numerous views overlooking the canyon. The fall colors were lovely though a little more red would have been nice.
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Looking north in the canyon
Looking north.
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Looking south in the canyon
Looking south.
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Steep area with rail trail at bottom
Rail trail below.
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Hills behind hills, all covered with fall foliage
Fine fall colors.

Joyce, Hazel, myself, and Norma (shown left to right below) did a one mile walk on the Rim Trail.
The four of us at the edge of an overlook

We saw mushrooms and tea berry plants. We ate a few tea berries which tasted a little bit like toothpaste.
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Brown, flat mushrooms
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Round, beige mushrooms
More mushrooms.
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Teaberry plant with red berry
Teaberry plant.

Back at the cabins, Norma made a delicious sausage and pasta dinner.

We ended the evening by playing Bananagrams. I won.
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 Sunday, October 11, 2009

Biking on the Pine Creek Rail TrailOpen accordion icon
Norma, Joyce, Hazel, and I ate breakfast in the cabins.

It was a foggy morning. The high temperature was expected to only reach 51 degrees.

We drove to Wellsboro Junction, the northern terminus of the Pine Creek Rail Trail.

The sun shone off and on, revealing some scenic views.
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Barn, field, and tree-covered hills
Looking north.
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Farm crop and fall foliage on hill behind
Looking south.

We all began biking at 1040.
Norma, Hazel, and Joyce biking on the rail trail

It didn't take long before we saw two snakes.
Northern water snake

A little later, we saw a few turtles.
Turtles on spatterdock stem

The four of us biked along Marsh Creek, where Norma and I paddled during the summer. The creek eventually merged with Pine Creek, where the two of us also kayaked.
Marsh Creek with bridge and hill in background

The four of us stopped at Darling Run, near mile nine. There, we checked out the visitor center and ate lunch. Some horse-drawn covered wagons passed by.
Horse-drawn covered wagons on trail
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Post-lunch bikingOpen accordion icon
Norma and Hazel biked a little further into the gorge then returned to Darling Run. Hazel biked a total of 12 miles that day! Norma then biked back to Joyce's truck by herself, completing about 21 miles. She picked up Hazel and returned to the cabins.

While Norma and Hazel biked at their own pace, Joyce and I sped south, through the gorge and past several stops along the way. We maintained a good speed, sometimes reaching over 15 mph.

In the town of Blackwell, Joyce and I passed a brick church with a pentagram window. I wonder if they were Rush fans.
Brick church with a pentagram window

Joyce and I took a break and walked on a short path to a rocky outcropping overlooking the river. The water below looked like a nice swimming hole for warmer months.
Joyce at rocky outcropping by the water

Near the town of Cammal, we crossed a bridge that offered some nice views of the fall colors.
Fall foliage by the water

Joyce and I finished biking at 1720, having completed 41.5 miles! Our butts were sore.

Back at the cabin, Norma made a salmon and pasta dinner.

We played more Bananagrams. I remained undefeated for the weekend.
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 Monday, Columbus Day, October 12, 2009

Leonard Harrison State ParkOpen accordion icon
While I showered, a bear walked by the cabins. Fortunately, Norma got it on film.
Black bear walking near the road

It was considerably more sunny than yesterday morning so we went to Leonard Harrison State Park. Things worked out well because on the first day, we visited Colton Point State Park in the afternoon and saw the east side of the river illuminated by the sun in the west. This morning, at Leonard Harrison, we got to see the west side of the river lit by the rising sun in the east.
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Hill covered with trees turning colors
Looking across from the park.
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Hill with creek
North view.
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Hill, valley, and trail
Another north view.

We learned how the Pine Creek Gorge, also known as the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania, was formed over 20,000 years.
  • Before ice age glaciers covered this part of Pennsylvania, the course of Pine Creek was separated by a high land divide. The streams north of this divide flowed to the northeast. The streams to the south flowed to the southwest.
  • Over a million years ago, an advancing ice sheet blocked the north- and east-flowing streams. Meltwater lakes formed in the valleys.
  • Over the next thousands of years, ice sheets advanced and receded over Pine Creek Gorge several times. Each period of glacial scouring and water erosion played its part in the formation of Pennsylvania's Grand Canyon.
  • The meltwater lake in the Upper Pine Creek-Crooked Creek Valley overflowed into a powerful waterfall in the shallow dip of the highland divide. The force of the water began to deepen Pine Creek Gorge.
  • - from sign at Leonard Harrison State Park: "The Grand Canyon, a 20,000 Year Process"

    The four of us walked on the hilly 0.6 mile Overlook Trail.
    Norma, Joyce, and Hazel on the Overlook Trail

    We stopped at Otter View.
    View of creek from Otter View

    We passed what I think was a kiln of some sort. Here's Joyce (with her Cat-in-the-Hat knit cap) and me.
    Joyce and I in front of big stone structure that I think is a kiln

    Before leaving the park, we posed for a couple more photos.
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    Norma, Joyce, and Hazel looking serious with valley behind
    Looking north.
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    Norma and I at overlook platform
    Looking south.
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    Final rail trail rideOpen accordion icon
    Norma and I were dropped off at Cammal to resume our bike riding at 1430. Joyce and Hazel drove to the end of the rail trail where Joyce then began riding north to meet us. Hazel had enough biking for one weekend.

    Norma and I saw the places we hiked in February. Seeing them brought back fond memories. We spent some time looking out over the creek on the bridge at Ramsey.
    Me on bridge looking back

    The sun was hiding behind the clouds and it got colder. We were fortunate to have seen such nice autumn views at Leonard Harrison State Park earlier in the day.

    Just south of Ramsey, Joyce met up with us. The three of us biked the remainder of the trail, finishing at 1730. Norma and I biked 21 miles that day. I completed the entire rail trail! Woo hoo!

    We loaded up the bikes then bid our farewells as we prepared for the long drive home. Fortunately, traffic was light.

    Norma and I were glad to have showed her family the Pine Creek Gorge.

    Sometimes after visiting a beautiful place, you want to return and share it with those you cherish. Material gifts can be nice, but the ones closest to the heart are those that are experienced.
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