Now that the Poconos are under siege, I spent this weekend at nearby state parks. On Saturday I visited Colton Point State Park which is on the west side of the Pine Creek Gorge, also known as Pennsylvania’s Grand Canyon. I have been going to Leonard Harrison State Park which is on the east side of the canyon. There really isn’t any reason not to visit both parks while you are in the area. In photos of the Pine Creek Gorge, you can tell from which park the photo was taken by the position of the Pine Creek Rail Trail. If the trail is on the right of Pine Creek the photo was taken at Leonard Harrison State Park. If the trail is on the left of Pine Creek then the photo was taken at Colton Point State Park.
Colton Point State Park was a bit of a revelation to me because I’ve only been enjoying half of what the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon has to offer. This state park has even more overlooks and additional hiking trails. There also appeared to be more facilities like pavilions, restrooms, and rustic buildings. Leonard Harrison State Park has a larger overlook area which is better designed and there is a lot more parking.
It is only the beginning of fall but some of the trees were already beginning to change color, especially yellow. Both parks had plenty of visitors. It requires a long drive along the narrow Colton Road to reach Colton Point State Park. It was basically a drive through the woods so that was quite enjoyable. If you love the woods then Pennsylvania is where you want to live. However you should realize that the old growth forests were completely destroyed by the lumber industry. Almost every tree you see today is secondary growth from the last one hundred years. Sometimes I see a tree with a large trunk and that would be a rare survivor of old growth.
I parked at the first vista which has an iron railing and two binoculars. The view from the west rim was quite similar to the view from the east rim. Unfortunately it was a cloudy day so I couldn’t take any really great photos. I could just make out the overlook over at Leonard Harrison State Park on the top of the mountain. I had my binoculars in my backpack so I didn’t have to pay 25 cents to use the stationary binoculars. I could spy on the people down in the gorge biking along the Pine Creek Rail Trail.
I drove further along Colton Road and found the parking area at the trailhead for the Rim Trail. The Rim Trail is one of the easiest trails in the park. It was mostly flat with just a few uphill climbs. It is a beautiful trail through the woods which eventually leads to several overlooks where you get great views of the canyon. There was one side trail down to a cliff but it didn’t look very safe so I didn’t follow it very far. It looked like there was a three to four foot rock step down which I wasn’t going to attempt. I found a rustic men’s bathroom along the Rim Trail in a building with moss on the roof. It was pretty nasty inside. There were also many crude water fountains and picnic pavilions. The Rim Trail seems ideal for when I want to do a little hiking without it being an ordeal.
After completing the Rim Trail I drove over to Leonard Harrison State Park which was a little difficult because I was going in another direction than usual. I figured I might as well visit Leonard Harrison State Park after driving all the way up to Tioga County. I did get some more photos of the park signs and picked up a copy of the park map. I took lots of photos from the overlook of course. One additional detail caught my eye. There was a historical marker for Nessmuk (aka George Washington Sears) an outdoor writer who lived in Wellsboro in the 1800s. The only book available by this writer is Woodcraft and Camping published by Dover Books, a publishing company that specializes in reprinting cheap editions of books in the public domain.
I didn’t spend too much time at Leonard Harrison State Park because it was very familiar to me. I drove to Wellsboro. I was in Wellsboro just last week for the Tioga Central Railroad bus trip. But I did spend some time improving my notes on Wellsboro so I had a few establishments to check out. I couldn’t find any free parking spots along Main Street but when I drove behind Main Street on Pearl Street I found plenty of parking. First I went to From My Shelf Books and searched their collection of local travel books. I found a copy of Penn’s Greatest Cavern by Henry W. Shoemaker. This was a great find! I’ve recently placed orders for other books by Henry W. Shoemaker. He wrote some of the earliest travel guides to North Central Pennsylvania and gathered many mountain folk tales. I also bought the book Short Hikes in Pennsylvania’s Grand Canyon by Chuck Dillon. Chuck Dillon operated the Pine Creek Outfitters company which offered guided tours in the area. He currently teaches outdoor recreation courses at Mansfield University.
I had lunch at Timeless Destination Restaurant & Lounge in Wellsboro. I ordered a French Dip sandwich (roast beef with cheese) and homemade potato chips. The homemade potato chips were the best chips I’ve ever tasted but they seemed to upset my stomach a bit for hours afterwards and I had to take a pill for heartburn before going to bed.
Before heading home I located the La Belle Auberge Bed and Breakfast on Main Street. According to their web site, this is a luxurious place to stay. They even have a Mennonite woman working for them. She appears in many of the photos. I thought that was cute. I don’t really have any need for accommodation in Wellsboro since I live only a hour’s drive away but it is interesting to observe how there are some high end accommodations like the resorts in the Poconos. I have come to appreciate my region more, now that I have seen the fancy establishments for outdoor recreation which are hidden away. Clearly some tourists consider North Central Pennsylvania a great vacation area.