BENTON — The little group of hikers hadn’t taken more than a few steps from Route 487 before Rhiannon Summers began to point out things she knew they’d enjoy.
“That’s a green frog singing,” she said quietly. “It sounds like a rubber band twanging.”
“If you smell something sweet,” she added, “that’s hay-scented fern.”
Further along the Grand View Trail of Ricketts Glen State Park, she predicted, “We’re going to have a great blueberry year. You can see all the green (unripe) ones on the bushes.”
Summers, who is an environmental education specialist at the park, leads a “Take A Hike Thursday” adventure each week.
“My goal is to have people explore other areas, besides the Falls Trail,” she said. “We have 30 miles of trails in the park.”
The Falls Trail at Ricketts Glen State Park is a popular and mostly steep path that leads past a series of scenic waterfalls. But last Thursday’s guided walk encompassed the 2-mile loop of the Grand View Trail, and this Thursday’s walk will combine the Highland Trail and Bear Walk Trail for a “moderate,” 2-mile walk. A July 19 hike will involve a 1-mile, “moderate” section of the Falls Trail, and a July 26 hike will follow the “easy,” 1-mile Evergreen Trail.
Summers and hiker Chris Hodges, of Danville, who served an internship at Ricketts Glen last year, both expected the Grand View Trail would be a place to spot mountain laurel this week.
“Last year, it was breathtaking,” Hodges said. “There were tons of it.”
This year, the hikers found only a smattering of mountain laurel, which is Pennsylvania’s state flower, in bloom.
Hodges admitted he was disappointed about that, but he still enjoyed the morning adventure.
“It was cool to see the red efts,” he said, mentioning the three little salamanders that had scurried out of the hikers’ way.
The efts are orange at a mid-way point in their life cycle, Summers said. “I call it the rebellious teenage years. Then they’ll turn brown and spend the adult portion of their lives entirely in water.”
Other highlights of the hike included the sight of a rabbit bounding across the path and a tiny monarch butterfly caterpillar munching on milkweed. Then there were the fascinating shapes of sassafras leaves. “This one is like a T. rex footprint,” Summers said.
While hiker Rochelle Driggers, who was visiting from Springfield, Ga., said she most enjoyed walking past a large expanse of hay-scented ferns, her husband, Daniel, said he enjoyed “walking into the fog. It was ethereal, and I liked listening to the birds.”
The eastern towhee was audible on several sections of the trail, with Summers identifying its call. “It sounds like ‘drink your tea, drink your tea.’”
Take a Hike Thursday walks begin at 9 a.m. at various points in the park. This Thursday’s hike will meet at the bulletin board in beach parking lot number 2. For more info, call 570-477-5675 or see dcnr.state.pa.us.
Reach Mary Therese Biebel at 570-991-6109 or on Twitter @BiebelMT.