From Jim Castanzo, Lancaster PA
“I just returned from my first visit to Cook Forest. What an amazing few days. I wish I could have stayed longer. I was so lucky to arrive during a period of incredibly beautiful weather.
My stay began at the Clarion River Lodge. What a great place! Ellen and her staff were so friendly. I left feeling that I had known them all my life.
I spent nearly two whole days in the park. My goal was to hike, take photos and cover as much ground as I possibly could in that short a time. I started by hiking the Seneca Trail from the bridge to Seneca Point and the fire tower. The climb was long but we stopped frequently to take photos, so it was definitely manageable. I knew my trip to the top would be rewarded with a few beers later that night. There was some daylight remaining so we started down the River Trail. The late afternoon is a great time to take photos. The lighting adds to the mood and atmosphere. We only made it to the bottom of the River Trail and decided it was getting late and we’d better start our trek back to the bridge. We made a mental note that we’d return the next day and pick-up where we left off. The switchbacks on the River Trail made the hike back up a bit easier.
On our second day, we were fortunate enough to meet Dale Luthringer, a Cook Forest Park Ranger. He’s very knowledgeable about the park and its history. Dale was very helpful pointing out places for us to try and get to see. We drove to the fire tower parking lot and started our early morning trek back down the River Trail looking to pick up Baker where we left off the day before. After making it down to the river, and just upriver from Hemlock Island, we spotted a bald eagle. What a thrill. I’d seen bald eagles in Wyoming, but never in Pennsylvania. We continued out trek down Baker Trail to about where the Cathers Run enters the Clarion on the opposite shore.
That afternoon, we had one more goal, to visit the Forest Cathedral. We started at the Log Cabin Inn and took the Tom’s Run Trail to the Children’s Fishing Pond and then started the climb on Indian Trail. At the top, we picked up the Rhododendron Trail. We just wanted to get to the highest points in the park. Again, daylight was beginning to chase us back down the mountain. We made a mental note to get back to this point our next trip here (and there will definitely be a next time). We took the Longfellow Trail back to our starting point.
The old-growth forest was just spectacular. Being a native of northeastern PA, I haven’t had many opportunities to see forests like these.
I will be back. There’s so much more I want to see and explore!”