We tend to vacation in urban areas rather than commune with nature, mostly because Michael is a city guy who feels (to paraphrase Glenn Frey) more comfortable with "concrete under his feet" rather than grass and mud.
But lately we've challenged that fresh-air phobia and have started to spend more time strolling where there are no sidewalks. Part of our rationale is to appreciate the natural beauty in our midst, and part is that we could really use the exercise. While we addressed urban hiking in our book, Philadelphia Liberty Trail: Trace the Path of America's Heritage, we've been delighted to discover that the Delaware Valley offers plenty in the way of sylvan hiking trails that range from beginner to expert.
However, we realized that a random walk in the woods wouldn't hold our attention; it would take a destination or attraction to get us to lace up those hiking boots. Two new books from Falcon Guides have helped us pick destinations: Hiking Waterfalls Pennsylvania: A Guide to the State's Best Waterfall Hikes and Hiking Through History Pennsylvania: Exploring the State's Past by Trail.
In the first book, author Johnny Molloy makes seeking waterfalls out in the woods a fun quest. Waterfall hiking was exciting because we could usually hear the rushing water before we got there, so we knew we were on the right path.
Out of the 54 suggested hikes, our favorite is High Falls at Ringing Rocks Park in Upper Black Eddy, Bucks County. One of the more enjoyable aspects of this unique hiking trail is the boulder field you cross along the way. Bring along a hammer to bang the rocks — don't worry, it's allowed, and even encouraged — which for some mysterious reason ring out in various melodic notes when they are struck.
Hiking through History Pennsylvania by Bob Frye takes a slightly different approach. The 40 treks combine history with nature, ambling alongside ruins of 19th-century mills deep into the woods or visiting the National Canal Museum on a hike in Easton.
Both books offer safety tips for newbie hikers like us. They got us out into the woods for a healthy walk, often in places we've driven by, but never explored. It was a revelation.
Even Michael said he'd be back.