People might think this year’s spring weather has been cooler and wetter than we ever remember. Or is it? Do we always gripe about spring, expecting April to suddenly become what we expect spring to be– warm?
Well, so far, 2018 has been cold, with only four days that reached the average April temperatures, according to Weather Underground. Rain made a giant mudbath of softball and baseball fields. Hand warmers are still in high demand. Winter coats haven’t been tucked away yet.
But Mother Nature knows timing. Early spring flowers like the crocus actually popped up early, daffodils and tulips bloomed right on time. Leaves are finally coming out, adding some color to the otherwise drab forests.
And that’s where Shenk’s Ferry Wildflower Preserve comes in. This 70-acre area is literally a stones-throw from the Susquehanna River between Pequa and Conestoga in Lancaster County. For years, it was managed by PPL, but the Lancaster County Conservancy has managed the site since 2014.
When the forest leaves begin shading the spring wildflowers, the thousands of trilliums, Virginia bluebells and Dutchman’s breeches will start to fade. And another crop of wildflowers will emerge. Mayapples will bloom like a huge forested garden.
The most straightforward way of getting there– From Columbia, head south on state Route 441 to Washington Boro. Continue south (straight) on River Road about eight miles to Shenk’s Ferry Road, then follow the signs. It is about an hour’s drive from York.
Getting to the preserve takes a bit of planning. The dirt road to the site is rough, with a few high spots to funnel rainwater to the side, and there are ruts where that didn’t work. And there are potholes, although this year didn’t seem as deep or numerous. Drive slowly. You’ll pass through a tunnel, follow the path to Grubb Creek. Park here, although there’s not much to choose from. Weekends are a real auto circus, with drivers begging for any parking spot available.
Visit on a weekday when possible, or early on weekends. Keep litter with you. There is a porta-potty a short distance from the trail’s entrance. Benches are scattered around, but tree stumps and fallen logs are also plentiful if you need a breather.
The walking trail is level, an easy 2-mile dirt trail (up and back); strollers and wheelchairs should be able to take the trek without much problem. At trail’s end is a tunnel through which Grubb Run travels. The creek is easily accessible there, and the kids enjoy climbing on the rocks. Stick your hand into the rock pile– ice has been seen there, even as the wildflowers are blooming.
Even as the early spring flowers fade, visit here throughout the summer. Mother Nature paints some colorful work up in June and July as well.