This picture almost didn’t happen… This is Gonaga Falls, a 94 foot waterfall in Rickett’s Glen State Park in Pennsylvania. It is the tallest of 21 waterfalls on the roughly 7 mile Falls Trail loop. By coincidence, I had visited the park almost exactly four years ago to the day. My son and I stopped by on our way home from visiting Watkins Glen in upstate New York. I love waterfalls, and he loves challenging trails. The falls trail delivered for both of us. Since trail takes you down into a gorge, either way you exit is an uphill climb over wet muddy stone stairs.
Most of 2020, I’ve been in the house in quarantine due to Covid-19. So, this was my first serious hike in almost a year, since visiting Death Valley National Park in late October 2019. I completed the loop, but I will admit that the trail got the best of me near the end. My reason for going was to photograph the waterfalls, and near the end I didn’t want to take any pictures. All I wanted was to get back to the car.
Aside from the fact that it’s uphill and you have to walk on wet rock stairs, the hike out of the trail is beautiful. You walk upstream alongside a series of incredible waterfalls – so close, you can feel their power and mist. We were on the backside of the loop, about 3/4 done. Fatigue had taken over me, both mentally and physically. My legs were tired and I was hungry. The trail mix and protein bars didn’t satisfy me. Maybe I should have eaten a bigger breakfast.
At this point, I had already shot about 15 waterfalls. This was the tallest, and I really wanted to shoot it. But, I had nearly given up. I would have to climb down some rocks to the fall, shoot, climb back up, then finish the steep uphill trail to the car. I wanted to conserve my energy, but my son convinced me that I needed to shoot it. So, he started down towards the fall, and I followed. I only took two shots, and this is one of them. Afterward, I remembered a quote I read from Jay Maisel:
“Never go back. Shoot it now. When you come back, it will always be different”
And, I’m so glad I did. Gonaga Falls is one of 10 waterfalls on the backside of the loop. As I made it to each fall – I used the Rick Sammon “One Picture Promise”. It was prefect for this since I was tired – but still wanted to shoot and enjoy each, I shot one picture of each (except for Gonaga where I shot two). Shooting this way (as if you have limited frames to shoot), forces you to see better.
Going to Rickett’s Glen State Park and hiking the falls trail was an impromptu decision. We were about an hour away, and from home it’s a 3.5 hour drive. I wasn’t sure when I’d be that close again, not to mention at the the right time, when the leaves were at peak color. I had been bragging about the place to my son, and I wanted to share it with him. We’re both glad we went.