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Time to start vacation planning

Mike Bleech Outdoors Columnist

If you are among the more fortunate, you take a week, maybe two, of vacation traveling most years. Hit the Interstate Highways during the summer vacation season and you will get a very clear picture of human wanderlust. Many of us, probably most of us, have the urge to see new things, to dream over the horizon. Some folks are never bold enough to strike out on a cross country trip. I do not think I ever heard anyone say they were sorry for seeing new places, although certainly not all places have the same charm.

Maybe the two most important factors in good traveling are: 1- good planning, and 2- the willingness to completely abandon plans if something better shows up along the way. Jeri and I suggest that you keep things loose. The idea is to see great things and have fun. Do whatever that takes. You will have a day when you plan to leave, a day when you plan to return home. What you do between those dates can be very flexible.

We are going into 2020 with a goal of seeing five of six states Jeri has yet to visit. Then we will be even, with Hawaii yet to visit. I suspect she is more interested is visiting Hawaii than I am. I hate to fly, and I doubt if a cruise to Hawaii is within our budget. And I doubt if a railroad bridge is in the works.

Seeing new things does not have to mean spending a great amount of money. Pennsylvania has an award wining system of state parks. You probably will not get to all 121 of Pennsylvania’s state parks. Neither will you get far from at least one of them, not without going out of state borders. Every one of them is nice. Yet a few stand out.

Circling Pennsylvania clockwise starting at Warren on U.S. Route 6, the first of what I consider our premier state parks is Colton Point State Park. You might not recognize this from its name, though. The actual point of interest is the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania. While it is in no way near the majesty of Grand Canyon National Park, not remotely as deep or as wide, it is more beautiful.

Turn south off U.S. Route 6 near Ansonia onto Colton Road and go about 5 miles to the park.

More precisely known as the Pine Creek Gorge, it ranks as one of our state’s most beautiful places, plus it has an excellent trout fishery. White water rafting is popular on Pine Creek through the gorge. Lush vegetation covers the vertical walls, hiding small brooks that dance down over numerous waterfalls. From overlooks the gorge is breathtaking. You may spend a lot of time just watching the hawks, bald eagles and vultures soaring high above the floor of the gorge, but at eye level from overlooks.

Eroded by melting glacier water, the gorge reaches a maximum depth of 1,450 feet and a maximum width of almost a mile.

Another park, Leonard Harrison State Park, borders Colton Point State Park along Pike Creek on the opposite side of the gorge. Here there are more overlooks and camping. This side is not as developed otherwise.

Moving on to the east, follow U.S. Route 6 to Towanda where you turn south on U.S. Route 220, then at Dushore turn south onto State Route 487 which passes through Rickets Glenn State Park, the next outstanding state Park on this circuit of Pennsylvania. It is primarily in Luzerne County, but crossing a short distance into Sullivan County, Columbia County and Wyoming County. It is a large park covering 13,050 acres.

Rickets Glenn State Park features a long series of spectacular waterfalls. With a drop of 94 feet, Ganoga Falls is the highest of 22 names waterfalls. Bea certain everyone wears good hiking boots on the trail than follows the waterfalls. People have lost their lives in falls here.

This park also has 245 acre Lake Jean, which sports a warmwater fishery, and a campground.

Hit the road for a while now all of the way to French Creek State Park in Berks County, just east from Reading. This is a lovely park with pleasant hiking and a couple of small fishing lakes. There is a campground with showers. But what makes this park stand out is Hopewell Furnace National Historic Park, which adjoins.

Hopewell Furnace is the preservation of an iron furnace that was operating from 1771 to 1883. Among the things made there were cannons for the American Revolution.

We will return to the remainder of what I consider our best state parks for a summer vacation in the very near future.

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