Think / Able

Think / Able

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Do Go Chasing Waterfalls.

(photo credit Rusty Glessner)
            Having time between semesters to regroup is always essential, but it really is making a difference for me now that this term is over with getting through all of my Parkinson’s / Lyme issues. In fact, my Lyme doctor was happy to see me in my ice hiking picture, when I followed up today to tell him I'm getting better, which is always a good thing.
            I’ve been able to do something of consequence every day, and many days I’ve been out hiking. Some days, it has been simpler things like French Creek State Park with my friend Neil, or other local hikes like to Chickee’s Rock, the Ephrata Rails to Trails, and the Horseshoe Trail by myself. Obviously, there have been holidays in these last just about 2 weeks, but I’ve also had time to catch up on errands and spend time with my family as well, watching a great video on the history, archaeology, and nature of Conowingo Dam in northern Maryland. Tomorrow, my wife and I will leave for Ohio to go and see her family for the next 10 days before the winter term starts at one school. We’ll see a lot of her family, and I should be able to see a friend of mine in Michigan while also getting to do some hiking and writing.
            That’s the one thing that I haven’t done. Between final grades and blogging, I’ve done no work on my novels in progress or the one I want to write let alone editing of things I've already written. I guess I’ll have to put that on the list of things to do in the new year along with losing weight, eating healthy, and traveling to fun places while getting back in shape and continuing to work hard to be a better person.

            Fortunately, I have been hiking. Shaking the Lyme with mega doses of doxycycline has taken the knee pain away, so I’m trying to put the miles back on, and yesterday was no exception as I hiked with Rusty Glessner and Steve Rubano back to the icy falls of Heberly Run, which is within the same general vicinity as Ricketts Glen State Park. Ricketts is a beautiful park, though in recent years, it’s gotten more and more crowded with people looking to partake in the 22 waterfalls over 10 feet. This used to be my favorite place to go in Pennsylvania, but over the years, it fell into a place I really like, but don’t visit much.

            For waterfalls, Pennsylvania has some great ones. The first waterfall at Glen Onoko (Chameleon Falls) is sweet with the right amount of water. So is the big waterfall at Hornbeck’s Creek in the Poconos. I haven’t been there since the first time since it’s a 3-hour haul to get there, and the trail was closed for ages due to hurricane damage. One of these days, I’ll get back up there and do all of the Poconos waterfalls again.

            There are a lot of good waterfalls in the Poconos of northeastern Pennsylvania. Dingman’s and Silverthread look sweet all year long as do the falls of George Child’s State Park. Bushkill is pay to visit, but it also boasts some nice waterfalls if you like yours at the center of an amusement park. Nevertheless, in Pennsylvania, my all-time favorite is Raymondskill’s final bottom drop. It’s not that the top isn’t good; it’s just that the bottom is great.

            Throughout the years, I’ve been to Heberly and the other waterfalls of State Gamelands 13 many times. The best part of this area is Sullivan Run, which is largely uncivilized. Sure, the established trail at Sullivan Falls allows for swimming, photography, and a minimum of injuries to people who are prone to accidents, but other than a pretty much dead road at the top, there is no trail through the waterfalls. Instead, a hiker goes through the creek. I love that idea, and the good Lord willing, I’m going back in next summer with my knock-off go pro to do as much of Jeff Mitchell’s Waterfall Wonderland as I possibly can.

            But the key to that is having people to go in there with, and frankly, I couldn’t have winter hiked the Heberly trek with more knowledgeable and capable people than Rusty and Steve. Both of these guys work independently (i.e. set their own schedule at their own jobs) to pay the bills, so they have time to do what they really love, which is photography and hiking back to places to view. Between waterfalls, nature, and astronomy, one of them has probably taken a fantastic picture of it. As for me, a point and shoot kind of guy who gets some really good shots in really awesome places, I appreciate people who can make the average great photo into something awesome. In a world of competitive photographers looking to share their shots, and many of these are also awesome, I know that both of these guys will take their time to make their art fantastic, both at the site and in the studio.
(photo credit Steve Rubano)

            While I had never met Steve before, I had met Rusty before at the Kecksburg UFO festival, which was a really neat event in the middle of nowhere western Pennsylvania if you’re willing to acknowledge that this is your thing. Rusty and his wife, like Heather and me, are unashamedly pro-alien television shows. Do I qualify as Giorgio Tsoukalis Ancient Aliens’ disciple? Probably not, but it’s likely and probable that I do like his show and many other supernatural shows like A Haunting and Monsters and Mysteries in America.

Admit it or not, in every boy has an alien / heavy metal interest side. It may be waiting to get out, but really, it’s there! Now, there are good shows and bad shows, and personally, I prefer my shows with some production value, but all that really means is that the narrator sounds menacing and the footage works and isn’t too repetitive. The same goes for cryptids and ghosts. My main rule there is no gore. While I’m not one of the people calling the first episode of this season’s Walking Dead shows too violent (it is a show about zombies), I do look away.
Here, I must say I don’t do gore… especially my own, which is why it’s nice to have people there on more dangerous hikes… just in case.
(photo credit Rusty Glessner)

The first entrance in for Big Falls was steep. I had may Black Diamond poles, my Kahtoola microspikes, and my warm clothes on for my descent down the 200 foot bank. Both of those guys were experienced, but all steps on the slippery snow and rocks are well-placed, no matter how experienced you are. They have to be. For me, I was much slower, figuring out my balance with my weirdness and tremors in my left leg as well as my hand tremors. For a good deal of the hike, I considered the butt a better way to slide down with the spikes kicking into the ground to stop me. Here, I'm 45, and I'm too old to care what people think. This process worked well, and the hand didn’t shake too much (though I did feel the cold in my knuckles afterward as well as cold in my jaw, which made me slur noticeably - a first in my Parkinson's journey, though that's better now). 
At points, I found myself asking the obvious question (why are you doing this?) and giving the obvious peanut gallery answer (you should have your head examined!) to my response (because it’s there – SLOWLY!).

Soon, I was within about 40 feet of the bottom when I found myself looking for a way to the bottom, which wasn’t presenting itself down the direct path of the ravine I was in. I also found myself altering my approach to using my hiking poles since my right wrist felt jammed up (please don't let that be messed up!) while slamming the poles in for balance and support. Fortunately, the Blackrock poles can handle this (and after the ascent of Big Falls, I never felt it again). Like they say, you get what you pay for.

In another few minutes, I was down at the bottom of the gorge, joining Steve and Rusty for picture opportunities. This waterfall, of the 4 we went to, was the most dangerous hike, the second biggest waterfalls, and the best of the falls we saw. After that, things felt more pedestrian, at least for a little while.
(photo credit Rusty Glessner)

Twin Falls, a 10 or so foot drop in the middle, meant well, and it offered some great pictures, as did the huge Lewis, but Steve and I chose to do that from the top when the stream crossings to get to it from the bottom offered the risk of wet feet and frostbite as opposed to a spectacular picture that couldn’t be taken any other way. 
(photo credit Steve Rubano)

Unlike at Ludlowville Falls in Ithaca, where the car and replacement clothing were close by if bad things happened (and at one point, I did slide into mushy snow, though not water, balls deep on the edge of the creek while moving back into the cave here slowly), getting out from the bottom to the top and down the road at Heberly could have been an hour-long march into sickness and pain. That's not my favorite, so I'm not afraid to call my day in case of concern for being 98.6°.

As the saying goes, hike your own hike, but balance the risk and reward with the gear you have and your confidence in it. Here, Rusty did feel comfortable shooting both Lewis from the bottom and a lesser un-named falls, flowing beautifully on the side, not too far above Twin Falls.
(photo credit Rusty Glessner by Steve Rubano)

For me, I was just happy to be there, confident once again in my winter feet and skills, thinking about how I want to take on Ricketts in ice, should the opportunity come this year (and for that, I would bring my backup snow boots and helmet along with my ice ax and crampons; at Heberly, the conditions just weren’t that icy and cold yet, though they were beautiful).

(photo credit Dennis Crasper)

All in all, it was a great day, and it was made better to be in great hiking company. Here's to more amazing hikes, photos, and life experiences.
Enjoy the winter, however you choose to spend it!

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