Tag Archives: Raccoon Creek State Park

Raccoon Creek State Park – Winter 2015


Raccoon Creek is like a old trusty friend. One who that even though you don’t get to see each other that much anymore but are still able to pick up right where you left off. Yeah, that’s it! That’s Raccoon Creek! A total of 45 minutes from my door will land me at the lake. A quick and easy getaway and it never disappoints. I arrived just to catch the tail end of sunrise, that extra 15 minutes I lingered under the covers put be behind. Speaking of familiar comforts, I went exactly to my favorite spot, almost automatically. As I approached the lake I noticed it was completely frozen over. Not just a little frozen, but frozen enough to walk on. I tested a few spots made sure I wouldn’t go for an icy dunk and decided I was going for it. I saw that ice fisherman had already been out carving out their holes, so I figured I was good.

Once I figured out that I could walk on the lake I made my way 25 feet or so out to one of my favorite subjects. There is a tree in the water out there. I was ecstatic when I found it two years ago. For some reason I thought things like this didn’t exist in Pennsylvania. There is something that is just so beautiful about this tree. There it sits so serene far enough out from the shore line that it’s a hard angle shot from the banks. I don’t know how it got there. No sign of a fallen tree at some point. Maybe it just grows like that? Maybe it did fall? I don’t know. Most of the time the tree sits peacefully reflecting itself back like looking in a mirror. It’s fascinating and I always make a point to visit. Early in the mornings when I am there it’s just the two of us, the tree and me. Lost in our thoughts. Taking in the sights and sounds. Watching the ducks. On this visit my tree was frozen in the grip of the lake. Bound there. Unable to do anything but wait for the thaw. Others had made their way out, the ice fisherman made a hole in the ice between the branches. I bet the fish under there use the trunk for warmth and probably food.

I don’t know when the next time I’ll see the lake the like this. I walked around there several times looking for the angle I wanted. I caught the last of the sunrise over the hills. The light was starting to catch on the trees and thought it was a lovely backdrop. This trip was a success. Until next time Raccoon Creek, old friend.

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Summer sunset at Raccoon Creek

Summer Sunset

Sometimes we just need the perfect ending. This sunset caught out at Raccoon Creek was just that. I admit, the few days leading up to this photo were good, but my thoughts needed to be sorted. I was finally able to get out and back to nature. But as nice as that was, I was tired. A few gentle nudges was all it took to get me to make the short drive up to the lake. Using my favorite photographer’s tool, TPE, I calculated where sunset and moonrise would be and at what times. I then made my way out, I arrived just at the perfect time. I was able to walk around and scope out my favorite spot. I was able to envision the photos I wanted from this trip. It was still hot and humid and I was right in front shooting into the sun. I like this style, though not to typical to shoot into the sun. Though I knew I wanted to silhouette the Purple Loosestrife surrounding the lake. Sitting back and watching the activity around the lake unfold, there were people there fishing, boating and overall enjoying the nice evening. I was there to think, like usual. As the sun set, I was hoping for some more color, something dramatic, which never happened, but that didn’t take away from the serene sounds that appeared in the night. Fish coming up for air, crickets chirping, and yes, even the mosquitos buzzing. The sunset gave away to deep blues as the night stars came out. With it came the fireflies dancing in the dark. As people left to go home for the night, the lake became still and quiet except for those last few stragglers still fishing under the stars. It was a perfect night to be out, thinking, being for myself, sorting out thoughts of the day and week.

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The Guest House

Frankfort Mineral Springs Guest House

Frankfort Mineral Springs Guest House Back Room

Two weeks back I visiting Frankfort Mineral Springs in Raccoon Creek State Park. The town of Frankfort Springs used to be a sprawling healing and vacation spa for the upper class of Pittsburgh back in the 1800’s. In the early 1900’s a fire swept through the resort destroying everything. The owners could not rebuild at the time due to the depression. In the 1960’s the area off of route 18 was purchased by the State of Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania DCNR (Dept of Conservation and Natural Resources) purchased the property for the creation of Raccoon Creek State Park. At the time, the environmental educator for the park rehabbed the last standing building on the property. It was the guest cottage. Once a two-story building, it has been reduced to one. DCNR began restoring the structure to house a museum. Unfortunately, due to the remoteness of the site and no way to monitor, vandals stole all of the remaining artifacts. Today the structure is a broken shell. Graffiti  is scrawled on the wooden beams and roof. Teenagers proclaiming whatever it is teenagers proclaim, oh and my favorite scribble…Naked people will eat your face FACT! Walls are cracking and caving in. There are no windows to keep out the cold, only an empty window frame. One could tell where the old wood burning stove would have been. With hookups for a fewer modern conveniences of the day. The guest house isn’t that big, and with two people inside it feels crowded. However, one can look around and get a sense of what a great place this was to come and relax. Maybe heal what ails you. The peacefulness of being out in nature. I stood there imagining what it was like to come in after a long day of hiking and enjoying the springs below. Nice warm fire, hot on-site locally grown food waiting for you at the table to enjoy. Places like this really don’t exist anymore. 

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Frankfort Mineral Springs

Frankfort Mineral Springs

All healing medicinal springs in PA? Check. Remote town 30 miles from Pittsburgh? Check. Winter wonderland with amazing ice sculptures? Check. What is this place? It’s the Frankfort Mineral Springs, located in Raccoon Creek State Park.  Never heard of it, you say. Well I’m not surprised. In the 1800’s the area was the site of an upscale resort that boasted about the healing properties of the springs. There isn’t much recorded history on the springs, but it’s said that the Indians in the area knew of the springs and it’s healing powers, around the late 1700’s. The first recorded owner of the lands was Levi Dungan who claimed 1,000 acres. The lands have had several owners over the past 200 years. But only one owner realized the benefits of what he had, that was Edward McGinnis. McGinnis built what was known as the Frankfort House Hotel and Resort. The resort was an instant hit, with wealthy guests of the victorian era often staying months at a time. They enjoyed the healing properties of the springs to heal their aliments. The resort also boasted food farmed on-site and what couldn’t be grown, was locally sourced. Around 1884, the resort again changed hands. James Bigger bought the resort for $5,500. It was still a popular place with many travelers and long-terms guests. The construction workers working on route 18 stayed on site at the resort. It remained popular but fell to fire around the 1930’s. Nobody was hurt, but the site was destroyed. The cause of the fire was never stated officially, but unofficially it was blamed on a guest who did not properly use the wood burning stove in one of the guest rooms. The site could not be re-built due to the Great Depression. Around 1967 the State of Pennsylvania acquired the land, and proceeded to carve out Raccoon Creek State Park. Not all was lost of the resort, there was one remaining building. It was a guest cottage. It was turned into a museum housing artifacts of the springs. However, the museum fell quickly to vandalism. Today all of the artifacts are gone, but you can take the well hidden trail to the grotto where at any given time 2 springs still flow. It is said that the springs still carry their medicinal properties. I didn’t test that out on this day, but when I was there the steam was rising from the bowl that was created by the flowing water. It was a mere 8 degrees Fahrenheit, but I was able to take off my gloves and work freely with my hands. This was really a neat experience in this winter wonderland. The falls did not disappoint either. They created beautiful ice sculptures around the water, and the ice sickles hung all over the grotto. Everything was frozen, even me! My tripod, lenses, and camera were all frozen. I had the entire grotto to myself all morning. It was a quiet and peaceful place. I was able to work listening to the soft drops of water. I was intrigued by the shapes of the ice that was created by the flowing, dripping, and splashing water. It was a beautiful place to spend a cold morning. I can definitely see why the people flocked here from the city. This is a well hidden piece of Pennsylvania history, that I am happy is close to home!

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Something Spectacular in Store

Raccoon Lake at Sunrise

I hope you are enjoying the long weekend! So far, my plans have taken me to one state park and tomorrow I will be on my way to another. I can’t wait, Rain or no. Yesterday morning, my cats had me up at 3:15am. This really isn’t surprising and happens often. However, this time I just couldn’t go back to sleep. Something kept telling me to go to the lake. No…this isn’t the beginning of a scary story or anything like that. Anyway I found myself preparing my camera and jumping in the car. I knew sunrise was at 6:49am. I used TPE to tell me exactly where to be. Destination: Raccoon Creek State Park. It’s not a long drive, and I’ve been there before. But in my sleepiness, I took two, yes, two wrong exits. This killed at least 30 minutes. I arrived at my destination exactly at 6:30am. I was rushing to a spot I picked out along the beach, when the road was blocked off. Not knowing the area around the lake, and not knowing how long the walk is to the beach. I found a little trail that lead to the shore, but trees were blocking my view. Seeing the pinks, blues and oranges through the trees, I needed to move. I jumped in my car and drove a little further down the roadaround the lake. I saw a boat rental area, pulled in the lot and found a wonderful location to shoot the rest of the sunrise. I couldn’t be happier. There is something magical about catching sunrise out in nature. Truly spectacular nature is when you stop and look. It was a lovely start to my saturday and to the long weekend!

Enjoy and have a happy safe labor day!


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