Pulling into the parking lot at Upper Pine Bottom State Park, I’ll be honest and admit that I said, out loud, “This is it?” followed by some speculation that the folks who planned state parks back in the day must have been having a slow year, or maybe were desperate to meet a quota.
Maybe not the kindest of thoughts, but you’ll have to forgive me.
The trip to Upper Pine Bottom took me into the Pine Creek Gorge, a ruggedly beautiful seam between mountains visibly steeper than any I’d seen that morning. I followed Pine Creek up through the small town of Waterville and a few miles beyond before I crossed over and began climbing the mountainside. The road isn’t as steep as I expected, however, and follows – and crosses – Upper Pine Bottom Run, from which the park takes it name.
Like Sand Bridge, Upper Pine Bottom State Park is a picnic spot, a gravel parking area on the side of the road. It is by far the smallest of the parks I visited; what you see is what you get, and all there is to see is a small grassy area, a picnic table, and Upper Pine Bottom Run hugging the hillside.
At first I wasn’t sure there was even a photo to be made. The park side of the run is all built up, constructed of blocks of stones encased in wire as a defense against flood erosion. But at the top edge of the park, there’s a short dirt path down to the run, just past where the blocks end, and I was able to step out into the creek itself, keeping dry atop a few larger rocks until I arrived at a massive, mostly flat one mid-stream, where I setup the tripod.
And it turns out that the run is, unsurprisingly, photogenic. Looking upstream into the green growth of the forest, watching the run tumble down a few small falls and under a fallen treetrunk, it was easy to craft a few good shots.
Which just goes to show that there are photos to be found in unassuming spots.
Would I return to Upper Pine Bottom? Probably not, unless I happened to be passing by. But it’s worth mentioning that the stretch along Pine Creek is promising. I passed several pull offs that granted river access, and saw what appeared to be a rather extensive riverside rail trail. All along my drive through the mountains, I could see people down in Pine Creek, swimming, fishing, and kayaking. And the way it’s tucked into the mountains, it’s damn attractive. If nothing else, it’d be a good autumn foliage drive.