Can’t Get There from Here

Ralph Stover State Park provides access to Tohickon Creek, which flows through the 45-acre park. It contains a scenic picnic area, and the nearby High Rocks section is a lovely overlook of creek. When high water conditions exist, Tohickon Creek offers a challenging course for closed-deck canoes and kayaks, especially during the end of March and the beginning of November, when there are planned whitewater releases from Lake Nockamixon. Fishing is also available in Tohickon Creek.

This is also one of the most popular areas in southeastern Pennsylvania for climbing. The cliffs and trails at High Rocks are a joint ownership by the state and Bucks County. Within Ralph Stover and Tohickon Valley parks, the cliff faces are made of a common Bucks County rock, red Brunswick shale, which formed along an ancient fault line. Ranging from 30 ft to 150 ft high and extending about ¾ mile long, High Rocks offers close to 100 climbing routes consisting mostly of top rope and traditional climbing. Some areas along the trail closer to the creek edge may be conducive to bouldering.

Here comes the rant. While I am not particularly disabled, I do have tremendous difficulty walking on steep, uneven or eroded surfaces, even over short sections. I had hoped to see the view from High Rocks due to its short distance from the parking lot. It was my main objective in visiting here. I was very sad to discover, that due to trail conditions, even this short walk was inaccessible for someone with difficulty walking. This should be an ideal location for providing some type of handicapped access, at least to the first observation point. However, handicapped access seems to be a low priority of DCNR and the county park systems in this state and many types of opportunities are off limits. Whether this due to funding limitations, desire to limit access for environmental reasons, or indifference, enjoying the outdoors is limited to the able bodied or those that can hike on over uneven terrain. While I certainly don’t expect everything to be made accessible, I think there are specific spots where it could be easily done without substantially changing the experience of visiting those places. You can find the view from High Rocks through Google image search. That is what I had to settle for.

There is a road that runs through the park between High Rocks and main part of the park. This road, however, is impassable due to bridge construction. There were two signs directing you to High Rocks from the main picnic area, but they only got you about half way there and there was no signage at some key turns. If you are going to block a bridge, you need to clearly mark alternate routes.

This bridge, at least, was okay.
As close to the view as I was able to get. So close but yet so far.
Don’t even think about travelling through the park.

From Ralph Stover, I headed up River Road (Route 32), along the way I found the lovely Tinicum Park, which is part of the Buck County Parks system. The historic 126-acre Tinicum Park includes playgrounds, picnicking, hiking, ball fields, boating, fishing, ice skating, a disk golf course and group and family camping at eight campsites. You may even run into a polo match here.

The Erwin-Stover House is on the property.
The barn is available as a rental.
The grass must have gotten quite a haircut.
Moving the bales.

River Road also provides access to entry points for Delaware Canal State Park and Delaware River boat access ramps.

A Little Piece of Paradise

I made two recent trips to Dixon Meadow Preserve in Montgomery County to see a sora (seen) and a yellow crowned night heron (not seen), This Preserve provides some great bird habitat in the suburbs, especially in connection with the adjacent Erdenheim Farm. With its 14 acres rand boardwalk measuring nearly two-thirds of a mile, the Preserve is a haven for birders, walkers and those who simply enjoy the area’s natural beauty

Purchased by the McCausland family in 2009, Erdenheim farm is home to prize winning Cheviot Sheep, Black Angus cattle, and elegant Morgan Horses. Situated on close to 450 acres, Erdenheim Farm remains one of the last sanctuaries of pastoral life within the greater Philadelphia area.

A view of Dixon Meadow Preserve,
A stream wanders through the Preserve and under the boardwalk.
Redbud in bloom.
Erdenheim Farm Black Angus at twilight.

The Wertz Covered Bridge

The Wertz Covered Bridge, also known as the Red Covered Bridge (but aren’t most of them), is a historic wooden covered bridge located at Bern Township and Spring Township in Berks County, Pennsylvania.

The bridge is a 204-foot-long, Burr Truss bridge, constructed in 1867. It crosses the Tulpehocken Creek. It serves as the walkway entrance to the Berks County Heritage Center, which also includes the Gruber Wagon Works. It is one of only five covered bridges remaining in Berks County. It is the largest single-span covered bridge in Pennsylvania.

The bridge was restored in 1959 and later in 1984, however, when the Warren Street Bypass opened, the bridge was closed permanently in October, 1959. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on November 17, 1978.

The bridge is part of the Berks County Heritage Center, an historical interpretive complex commemorating important eras of Berks County cultural history. The Gruber Wagon Works (a National Historic Landmark) the C. Howard Hiester Canal Center, Wertz’s Covered Bridge, Melcher’s Grist Mill, Deppen Cemetery, Bicentennial Eagle Memorial, the Distlefink statue and a salad and herb garden are all encompassed within the Heritage Center.

The view from Tulpehocken Road.
Inside Pennsylvania’s longest single span covered bridge.
The Bat Colony of the bridge. I love bats. They eat insects and are so cute.
A look around the Berks County Heritage Center…
A look up at the bridge.
The view from the other end.
Tulpehocken Creek

Looking Back at Summer

Let’s take a look at some state parks in southeastern Pennsylvania from way back in mid September. Benjamin Rush State Park is in norheast Philadelphia and is the only state park within the city boundary. It has trails for hikers and bikers, good spots for wildlife and bird watchers and a model airplane field (like Valley Forge).

The park was named for Benjamin Rush, signer of the Declaration of Independence and attendee at the Continental Congress. He is the Father of American Psychiatry and published the first text book on the subject in the U.S. He advocated improved conditions for mental patients and careful clinical observation and study. Dr. Rush pioneered addiction therapies including treatment of alcoholism as a disease. The park was created out of land from a former state mental hospital.

I found its most notable feature to be its large community garden, however.

Community gardens flying the flag.

The next location was in Bristol, PA, Bucks County, for two of the many access points for Delaware Canal State Park. A walk along the entirety of the 60-mile-long towpath of the Delaware Canal State Park is a stroll back in time. Following the Delaware River between Easton and Bristol, this park contains an historic canal and towpath, a 50-acre pond, many miles of river shoreline, 11 river islands, and diverse scenery.

Boat along the Delaware River.
The High Cross Monument to Irish immigration.
Harriet Tubman.
The Hispanic Monument.

Futher into town, we see the southern end of the canal.

The end of the line.
A monument to Irish Civil War veterans and the basin at Bristol.

Finally, White Clay Creek Preserve along the Delaware border is the only property in the state park system called a “preserve.” Maybe because it adjoins White Clay Creek State Park in Delware. The 2,072-acre White Clay Creek Preserve is in southern Chester County. One can enjoy hiking, biking, fishing, and horseback riding in the Preserve. The area of White Clay Creek Preserve is part of a larger tract of land sold to William Penn in 1683 by Lenni Lenape Chief Kekelappen. It is thought that Kekelappen lived in Opasiskunk, an “Indian Town” which appears on a survey map of 1699 at the confluence of the Middle and East branches of White Clay Creek. The creek is named for the white clay found along its banks and used to make pottery.

The London Tract Baptist Meetinghouse, built in 1929, is at the intersection of Sharpless and London Tract roads. In its stone-walled cemetery rest many of the area’s earliest settlers including Dr. David Eaton.

The London Tract Baptist Meeting House, near the park office.
The remains of the Sexton’s House across the road.

In 1984, the DuPont Company donated land to Pennsylvania and Delaware for the purpose of preserving the diverse and unique plant and animal species, and the rich cultural heritage of the area. Today, these lands form the bi-state White Clay Creek Preserve. Because White Clay Creek posses outstanding scenic, wildlife, recreational, and cultural value, it has been designated by Congress as a National Wild and Scenic River, and shall be preserved in free-flowing condition for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations.

A Study in Contrasts

Greenwood Furnace and Penn-Roosevelt State Park may be close to one another, but they are very different in history and atmosphere. First up is Greenwood Furnace, which is one of those state parks with a lot of different activities available. It is in Huntingdon, PA.

In its 423 acres, the park offers a lake with swimming, small craft boating, hiking, camping, hunting, fishing, as well as a chance to view some local history. The park also provides access to the 80,000 acre Rothrock State Forest. However, a trip to the park begins with its historic district, which contains a blacksmith shop and the remains of an iron furnace. The community that existed on the site from 1834 to 1904 was a 19th century ironmaking complex.

The village blacksmith shop.
An old iron furnace.
The dam at the lake at Greenwood Furnace.
Care for a dip?

Penn-Roosevelt is a 41-acre park is in an isolated area of the Seven Mountains region known as the Stone Creek Kettle. While the park is small in size, it is surrounded by a large block of Rothrock State Forest in Centre County.

Penn-Roosevelt is a good base for those seeking off the beaten track, low-density recreation in the State Forest. Activities include hiking on the Mid-State or other trails, gravel-riding on over 100 miles of Forestry roads, and mountain biking the nearby Cooper’s Gap area. There is also picnicking available. The small campground is rustic (tent camping only with latrines). However, one really does have the sense of being deep in the woods here. There is fishing in the streams in the park and access to hunting in the State Forest.

One of the most notable aspects of Penn-Roosevelt State Park is that it was constructed during the Great Depression by the Civilian Conservation Corps Camp S-62, which was built in Stone Creek Kettle. This was, unfortunately per CCC policy, a segregated camp. The members of the camp were all African-American and it was one of only 12 such CCC camps in Pennsylvania. The members of Camp S-62 constructed many of the facilities in use today at Penn-Roosevelt State Park. They constructed a log-crib dam that has since received a stone facing. They also built many of the roads and trails in the surrounding Rothrock State Forest. Remnants of the camp, including two stone fireplaces and a stone bake oven, can be seen today in the woods of Penn-Roosevelt State Park.

Remains of the CCC and a picnic area.

State Parks in Autumn

This post is a beginning of a series on some central Pennsylvania state parks that I visited in October. The first up is Little Buffalo State Park in Newport, Perry County, PA. The visitor to Little Buffalo can partake of campgrounds, a swimming pool, a lake, hunting, fishing, picnicking and hiking. The park is 923 acres and was opened in 1972. It also features some historical sites which we’ll take a look at below.

Little Buffalo State Park is named for Little Buffalo Creek which runs through the park. The creek and the nearby Buffalo Ridge are named for the bison that are believed to have once roamed the ridge and valley region of Pennsylvania. Humans have lived in what is now Pennsylvania since at least 10,000 BC. The first settlers were Paleo-Indian nomadic hunters known from their stone tools. The hunter-gatherers of the Archaic period, which lasted locally from 7000 to 1000 BC, used a greater variety of more sophisticated stone artifacts. The Woodland period marked the gradual transition to semi-permanent villages and horticulture, between 1000 BC and 1500 AD. Archeological evidence found in the state from this time includes a range of pottery types and styles, burial mounds, pipes, bows and arrow, and ornaments. Perry County was part of the Albany Purchase of 1754 when the colonists purchased a large tract of land from the Iroquois League of Six Nations.

The lake reflecting the fall colors.
A quiet moment under a blaze of orange.
Canoe season is almost over.

European settlers arrived in the area in force after the Revolutionary War. John Koch, one of the first to farm the area in the 1790s, opened the Blue Ball Tavern in 1811. The tavern offered food, drink, and a sleeping loft. The Blue Ball Tavern served as a rest stop for messengers who travelled between Carlisle and Sunbury during the War of 1812. It is rumored that the tavern was where the plans for the creation of Perry County were made in 1821. The tavern was closed in 1841. A farmhouse was built in 1865 on the foundation of the tavern. Some recycled boards and hardware from the tavern were used in the construction of the farmhouse which currently houses the Blue Ball Tavern Museum and a library that are operated by the Perry County Historical Society.

The Blue Ball Tavern Museum.

William Shoaff bought 63 acres of land in the area and a gristmill from the Juniata Iron Works in 1849 after it had been shut down. The local farmers brought their crops to Shoaff’s Mill until the 1940s. The mill has since been restored and is back in operation. Visitors to the park can observe the milling of cornmeal, cracked corn and the grinding of apples for apple cider.

The mill. Sadly, the wheel was not running when I visited.

For me, not surprisingly, a covered bridge was one of the highlights. This is Clay’s Covered Bridge. It is a short walk from a parking area on your way to the mill.

Honoring Those Who Served

Indiantown Gap National Cemetery is located in Annville, Pennsylvania. Burial in a national cemetery is open to all members of the armed forces who have met a minimum active duty service requirement and were discharged under conditions other than dishonorable. The cemetery was created in 1976 when a section of Fort Indiantown Gap was selected as the national cemetery for the states of Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Virginia and West Virginia. I also presume it is open to Pennsylvania veterans. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania donated Land for the 677-acre site to the Veterans Administration.

The elaborate Pennsylvania Veterans’ Memorial is the largest monument in the Veterans Administration’s National cemeteries. The combination open-air space and building stands 107 feet high and 360 feet long. Its design evokes “the ruins of a war-torn building centered in a land of solemnity.” Designed by Cee Jay Associates of West Chester, Pa., the granite, stone, and concrete composition was dedicated Oct. 7, 2001. The memorial is dedicated to all who serve the nation and veterans of all wars—past and future.

Let’s take a look around the cemetery and remember those who served our country.

Old Glory in Autumn leaves.
The cemetery has a peaceful and beautiful setting.

A walk around the Pennsylvania Veterans’ Memorial is next.

The Pennsylvania coat of arms.
A bikers’ group was visiting the Memorial.
The flags of all states are flown.

One of the Best Views of the Susquehanna River

Susquehannock State Park lies on the east bank of the Susquehanna River in Lancaster County. The overlook at the park provides one of the best views of the river in southern Pennsylvania.

I visited the park near sunset, after stopping for dinner in Quarryville.

The wide open southern view from the park.
Somehow, I found the northern view more interesting.
A glimpse of sunset. The western facing overlook is a great sunset spot.
The James B. Long home from 1850

The Long home, pictured above, has an interesting history, which you can read about here.

From Whitemarsh to Green Lane

Here’s a look at some of my Spring travels through Montgomery County.

An old barn near Evansburg State Park from the front …
,,, and the back.
One of the buildings of Casselberry Farm
This farm is near Dixon Meadow Preserve, where I once saw a very lost Rock Wren.
Red barn near Green Lane Park.

Pennsylvania’s Fruit Basket

Western Adams County, along the slopes of South Mountain, hosts a large number of orchards. I was on my way to Gettysburg from Pine Grove Furnace and happened on this area by chance. It was a nice surprise.

A look down a row of new trees.
A mature orchard,
I loved this farm peeking out from behind the pond.

I had to visit the Historic Round Barn and Farm Market in Biglerville, PA. The family-owned market has fresh fruits and vegetables, jams, jellies, honey, canned fruits and vegetables, snacks, candy, and gift items. It is well worth a visit if you are near Gettysburg.

A very interesting building and well-maintained.
A signature painted horse out front.
Some adorable residents.