Trekking thru Treman State Park
(Editors Note: This article is the fourth of a series exploring plants and horticulture within driving distance of central Pennsylvania.)
The previous column in this series centered around plants and the Finger Lake wineries. Those with children may not find this as a viable option but there are still plenty of vacation ideas that incorporate plants and fun for kids in this area.
Robert H. Treman State Park is very similar to Watkins Glen in that glaciers and water carved a deep gorge. It too is located at the southern end of a Finger Lake, Cayuga. In these gorges, it is interesting to observe the plant communities as different plants occupy the south and north facing walls based on various moisture and sunlight levels.
The hike through the gorge can be done from either end but I suggest starting on the lower trailhead, just outside of Ithaca (and more on that reasoning later). The Rim Trail is a 2.1-mile stroll that takes one through towering hardwood and hemlock forests. For the most part it is a relatively easy uphill climb with a few strenuous climbs on the stone staircases.
Besides the forest views, the Rim Trail has an excellent overlook of Lucifer Falls where the water drops 115 into the gorge. This view is spectacular for not only the falling water but the plant life that clings to gorge walls. Numerous ferns, moss, lichens, and small shrubs drape the walls.
One of the more interesting aspects of the hike is the glimpse into the power and allure of invasive plants. Many non-native plants were introduced into the US because of their ornamental value such as Japanese barberry and Oriental bittersweet. Even though pleasing to the eyes, these compete with native plants for space and limit the biodiversity of many insects.
The 2.1-mile hike on the Gorge Trail (returning to the lower trailhead) passes through an immense stand of periwinkle (Vinca minor). This was introduced from Europe and Asia as an ornamental groundcover. It is a low-growing perennial that forms a dense carpet. Along this trail, you can see several acres of ground that is covered exclusively with periwinkle.
How do you get kids excited about this gorge and plant walk? Make sure this trip is scheduled on a very warm day and place everyone’s swimsuits in a day pack. While it is not a difficult hike, it will cause one to sweat a good bit. If the trail is done as mentioned above, you will finish near a swimming hole that has 30-foot cascading waterfall feeding into it. Nothing feels better than a dip in cold, clear water after a good workout. Kids can swim right up to the waterfall’s base and feel the sight, sound, and feel of falling water. During the summer months there is usually a lifeguard on duty which is great for families with younger children.
With all that can be seen in this region, where does one stay? While there are plenty of options, the next column will explore the perfect place to unwind and be around… plants.
Tom Butzler is a horticulture educator with the Pennsylvania State University Cooperative Extension Service and may be reached at 570-726-0022.