Bushkill Falls: When City Folk Meet Nature

Who needs a shot glass with a black bear wrapped around it?

Sunday was expected to be in the mid-60s, with clear skies, and fall leaves at their peak. We decided to go to Bushkill Falls for the day. The only problem: so did 1,924 other people.

We enjoyed the brilliant blue sky and the brilliant leaves as we drove up, but we got a little suspicious when, on the last leg of our trip, every car turned in the same direction we did. We collectively groaned when we saw the parking lot. While none of us said it aloud, I’m sure I wasn’t alone when I thought we should turn around when I saw the line to buy tickets.

Of course, it’s easy enough to put one person on the ticket-buying line so that the rest of the family can visit any of the four gift shops. So, that’s just what we did.

To access the falls, you must cut through the “Wildlife Exhibit,” which consists of about 10 taxidermied animals that are so very old you cannot even feel bad; they would be dead of old age twice over at this point. Given a choice, entering through a short hallway of dead animals is better than being dropped into a gift shop at the end.

The population hiking through the falls was as diverse as any I’ve traversed through in any metropolitan area. At many moments on our walk, none of the other groups whose conversations we could hear were speaking English. It was disorienting.

The fashion deemed appropriate for the day was equally diverse: flip-flops, fur vests, fashion boots, and my top two best-dressed: a woman easily in her 70s sporting an uber-coordinated, fall-color ensemble complete with russet pork pie hat, and a woman in a blindingly white cable sweater with matching scarf, black leather jacket, and classic Chanel bag.

It was so crowded at the first outlook at the falls we had to pull our family to the side to regroup and make a decision on which way to go. We chose the trail we hoped would be least traveled, the Red Trail, with a two-mile loop consisting of 1,267 steps. We knew from our visit to the gift shop that this trail was the hardest due to the “I Survived … ” merch. We hoped that would thin out the crowd and it did—we only saw other groups every 90 seconds instead of marching in step with them.

You can take people out of the city, but you can’t take away certain attitudes. Though no one had cell reception, I’d say 1,920 of the visitors on Sunday brought their phones on the hike anyway, as every “photo opportunity” was filled with the site of people taking shots with their phones. At times, it was hard to get a shot without someone else in the shot, though it was wonderfully easy to ask other people to take pictures of our whole group, since we needed to document our experience as well.

Much more annoying than the “life through cell phone camera” people was the man with an expensive, LARGE camera, complete with tripod, who kept setting up his equipment even in the most heavily trafficked, and narrow spots on the trail, acting utterly oblivious to those around him.

No sooner did one of my family ask why food wasn’t allowed and remark how nice it would be to have a picnic at the falls than did we see a Doritos bag caught on a rock at the end of the stream. Sigh. That’s why.

Probably the very worse was the group with both a Weimaraner and a little yappy dog (sorry little yappy dog owners—I don’t know breeds well—the little yappy ones scare me much more than big giant ones as I’m afraid I’ll accidentally kick them and probably kill them, they’re that little [and yappy]). I’m guessing at least 1,800 of the visitors that day got to see the man and his Weimaraner, because I’m sure he made sure of it. He had it doing tricks with his whistle whenever crowds were gathered at the biggest parts of the falls, and worse yet, he and the dog would take off at full-out runs from time to time, barreling along on the trails past unsuspecting pregnant ladies and toddlers.

I greatly preferred the woman who sat on a bench in the wide open and tried to clandestinely smoke her cigarette.

When we were done with the two-hour hike, the smell of the fries and funnel cake being sold at the Wagon Wheel snack shop (but of course) were tempting, but we had our sights set on Hot Dog Johnny’s in Buttsville. We did, however, have to do another loop of the gift shops, because how could we leave without a shot glass with a black bear wrapped around it, huckleberry honey, and a one-dimensional waterfall ornament for our Christmas tree?