by Carol Zimmel
DVM had planned an in-person walk in Ridley Creek State Park for May 8th. When the day arrived, the weather was cold, the sky was gray and the forecast called for rain. Still, four members came out for a short stroll in nature before the rain started.
On the short path from the parking lot to the multi-use trail, we encountered a freakishly large and gnarled sycamore tree. It looked like something out of a fantasy film. So we just had to take pictures with it. From there, we crossed a bridge over Big Run, a tributary to Ridley Creek, to reach the multi-use trail (also known as Sycamore Mills Road). Walking east along the trail, we passed two historic houses that are still occupied, and wondered how the occupants dealt with winter weather. The trail followed Big Run, crossing it twice, and passing a small swamp. We tried to identify the trees and spring flowers encountered along the way, including violets, Spring beauty, and Star-of-Bethlehem, May-apple and Jack-in-the-pulpit. We photographed one plant with large round leaves in order to identify it later. It turned out to be coltsfoot, a non-native plant cultivated by early colonists as a medicinal herb. After the first ¾ mile, the trail met and followed alongside Ridley Creek. We enjoyed impressive views of the creek in its wild state.
At about one mile, we turned back and retraced our steps. Crossing back over the bridge, we noticed the invasive, but lovely, purple wisteria covering trees on the banks of the creek. As we reached the parking lot, the weather was getting worse. We had enjoyed camaraderie and the soul-restoring effects of nature, but it was time to go.
We’ll be back to this park for our annual picnic in September. You may want to explore the many hiking trails in the park on the day of the picnic. Trail maps are available at the park office and online at: https://www.dcnr.pa.gov/StateParks/FindAPark/RidleyCreekStatePark/pages/maps.aspx