Just a few miles beyond the eastern border of Ohio is Pennsylvania’s newest state park, Erie Bluffs. Dana and I found Erie Bluffs about a year ago when we were touring area wineries. On that trip we only visited the lower section of the park, the Elk Creek Access area.
Having a rare free weekend in late spring we made plans to go back and check out the upper section, hoping for a beautiful view of the lake from the top of the bluff. The information kiosk at the trailhead provided no map and gave no clue as to the length of the trail. Our only concern was that it might be too long for Andy. We decided to chance it so hats on our heads and binoculars around our necks Dana, Andy and I set off.
The first part of the trail is really a road. This area has been used for many years as a public hunting area and still is so I assume vehicles are allowed to drive to the north side of the park. The road was closed the day we were there. It wasn’t easy walking the road as it was covered with what is known in the aggregate trade as “2 inch dukes”, rough rock approximately 2″ in diameter. We kept to the edge of the road where the walking was easier. The first part had last year’s corn stalks on both sides. About halfway the east side became woods and scrubby underbrush. There were lots of birds flitting in and out. The most notable birds we saw were Eastern Kingbirds and Rose-breasted Grosbeaks. More were singing their little hearts out in the woods.
About half-way in Andy began to get discouraged by the unending appearance of the road and the difficulty of walking it. I kept cajoling him along, reminding him that just 2 years ago he climbed a mountain with me. At one point he actually turned around and headed back to the car but I caught up with him and convinced him that once we reached the woods the walking would be easier.
After about a mile we reached the woods trail and took a little rest on a fallen log. That and the promise of a shady walk perked Andy up and we headed into a woods full of tall trees and wild flowers. Birds were singing all around us. The trail was dirt and mostly level. One side dropped off into a ravine. I heard some disturbing “chuffing” sounds coming from down below and I started to worry a bit because on the way in another hiker told us he saw bear tracks on the far edge of the field. We never did see what it was, thank goodness! I let Andy make all the noise he wanted after that.
About a quarter mile into the woods we finally came to the Lake Erie overlook.
There were trees all around and a little tiny spot at the end of the trail to stand and peer at the lake from the bluff, not the broad vista I had imagined. In fact, just down the road from my house is a trail with a better view of the lake from a high bluff. But as they say, it’s the journey not the destination. The trail from the bluff dropped away down the ravine but knowing we had to get Andy back that long walk we did not investigate further.
We met a woman on the way out walking 3 energetic, friendly dogs. They loved Andy and he got to pet them which made him a happy camper.
As we were walking back on the road we saw three official-looking people headed our way. Dana and I speculated as to who they might be, maybe park service? They had a lot of insignia on their uniforms and were carrying sidearms and radios. When we got closer we found they were Border Patrol! We stopped and had a short, pleasant conversation with them about what birds we had seen. I was almost too flabbergasted to even talk to them. Border Patrol were the last people I expected to see in that remote place. But Dana reminded me we were on the United States border and the remoteness of the area could be prime for landing people and illegal goods. Just goes to show you never know what the day will bring. I was too shy to take their photos so I took a picture of their truck, you know, just to prove it because I still thought it was so unbelievable!
We got to the car and had some water then headed down to the lower area, the Elk Creek Access Area. This area has restrooms (the upper area does not), picnic tables, fishing access and a boat launch for small watercraft. The creek flows into Lake Erie and I was very envious of a group who put in their kayaks and headed out into the lake.
While we were there I saw the guys and gal from Border Patrol coming down out of the woods so now I know where that trail down the ravine from the bluff ended up.
Enjoy this slide show with more photos from our long walk:
If you go:
Erie Bluffs and the Elk Creek Access Area are near the town of North Springfield, Pennsylvania, 20 miles west of Erie, PA, 82 miles east of Cleveland, OH and 60 miles east of my house in Mentor, OH. It’s pretty close to I-90 making it easy to get to.
GPS N 42.007° W 80.410°