Hike: Governor Dick Tower Trail (Manheim, Pennsylvania)

Hike: Governor Dick Tower Trail (Manheim, Pennsylvania)

The Tower at Governor Dick Park (Manheim, Pennsylvania)

A Need for Meditation, Solemn Reflection, and Tranquility

There are thousands of reasons to hike. And perhaps one of the biggest reasons is for a sense of alone-ness. A sense of being by one’s self, alone, in the woods, to reflect, to meditate, to be lost in one’s own head. This was my aim today. In the morning we said farewell to Bartley Francis Kaminski, at Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Palmyra. You can read his obituary here: Bartley Francis Kaminski (1977 – 2021). And you can read my farewell to Bart here on the blog: Farewell to Bartley Kaminski.

I’m not a big fan of funerals (who is?); but they are a necessary ‘part of the process’. Unfortunately in my life, I’ve been to far too many of them. I’ve been pall bearer more than I’ve been a groomsmen. I’ve been to more funerals than I have weddings. I think back to various family members and friends, Mike Drobenak’s, my Great Grandma’s, my Aunt Janet’s, my Grammy’s; last year in February I had two uncles (a Great Uncle on my dad’s side and my mom’s brother in law) both pass away a week apart – and this was before COVID / coronavirus hit.

I grew up with the Hummelstown Cemetery being my backyard (my parent’s backyard connects to it). I walked through it to get to my elementary school every day for school. To say death has been a portion, or thought, or part of my life, might be an understatement. But I also feel like this could be said for so many. Its one of the main leading thoughts for most people. Its one of the driving forces behind all of our decisions. Todd May’s work ‘Death’ is such an extremely good piece of work about death, that is should be read by everyone. Its both philosophical and laymen. Its technical yet beautiful. You can read my book review here on the blog about it: Book Review: Death (Todd May).

So after the conclusion of the ceremony and listening to the bagpipes playing ‘Amazing Grace’ coming to an end, I made my way to my car, and sat for a bit. Needing tranquility, needing to lose myself, I called up my AllTrails app and looked for something close by. I had brought clothes to change into knowing I would need to hike, my hike boots were already in the car, and my current stack of reading books were in the car (my current stack of reading books always travel wherever I go, no matter what).

Governor Dick

I have been to the Tower at Governor Dick easily a dozen or more times in my life. I’ve gone when I was a small child with my parents, I’ve taken my daughters and my ex-wife, I’ve taken my dog Leela, and I’ve gone with Ming. There’s a ton of different routes and paths and trails all leading up to The Tower.

The Tower (Governor Dick Park)

The Tower has gone through some changes over the years, they’ve fully enclosed the top to stop people from rappelling and climbing the walls of the Tower itself as if they were Batman or someone trying to break in or out of a prison. But the climb inside is and has always been the same (to my memory anyway). Claustrophobic, metallic, dusty, dirty, and most likely urine soaked on a platform or too. (Pretty sure that was the case today.)

The view at the top isn’t the most exceptional, but in the Manheim, Mt. Gretna area, its a nice and beautiful view. But its just what I needed for self reflection, meditation, and tranquility. A nice little breeze in the air, a beautiful view, direct sun, and I sat there with my back against the wall, reading, meditating, enjoying the breeze, enjoying the freedom, the sun, the peace, the tranquility, and the aloofness, the alone spirit of it all, letting my thoughts of life, Bart, death, and everything else just wash the stress out of me.

Hiking to The Tower

There is many paths and routes to get to the Tower, and you can start at various spots. Most people now usually start at the Conservancy Building (not 100% of the name of it), but its a lovely little spot where you can go inside (I believe it has re-opened ‘after’ COVID) where kids can go inside and do all manners of activities, as well as get to touch different animal pelts, see pictures, videos, brochures, animal bones, etc, etc, etc.

I took a different route this time. The map from AllTrails shows you the route I was hiking: Governor Dick Tower Trail (map). (Sorry, the screen shot isn’t working due to the way they have the map setup as a changeable feature, it turns it full grey in the screenshot. You can see the route I take when I post my route picture in just a bit.) Usually I can screenshot the AllTrails map, but for some reason, they have it on their website as a changeable piece, and so when you screenshot it, it just turns into a grey block. So, unfortunately, that won’t work for me to screenshot and post here. But from MapMyRun, I do have a copy of my hike, and thats practically the same as the AllTrails one.

Governor Dick Tower Trail

Hike: Governor Dick Tower Trail (Manheim, Pennsylvania)
Location: Governor Dick Park (Route 117 Start Point)
Near: Manheim, Pennsylvania
Length: 2.1 Miles (as per AllTrails)
Elevation Gain: 364 Feet (as per AllTrails) (not counting climbing the Tower)
Route Type: Out and Back
AllTrails Map: Governor Dick Tower Trail (Clarence Schock Park at Governor Dick)
AllTrails Description: Governor Dick Tower Trail is a 2.1 mile out and back trail located near Manheim, Pennsylvania that features a great forest setting. The trail is rated as moderate and is primarily used for hiking, walking, running, and nature trips.

Hiking Governor Dick Tower Trail

My MapMyRun map of my hike to Governor Dick Tower and back on the Governor Dick Tower Trail

For this trail to the Tower, you start at a little pull – off along Route 117. Only one other car in the lot which is always nice, lets you know its going to be at least seemingly a relatively empty trail. (My preference anyway.) I arrived around 12:35 – 12:40PM after Bart’s services. Changed and put on my hiking boots and got my backpack loaded up with my books and some waters and Mountain Dews and started on the trail.

And, immediately regretted not having any bugs pray with. The gnats were absolutely… H – O – R – R – I – B – L – E ! Just the absolute worst. Like thick clouds of them the whole way to the Tower. I could swing my hand in front of me, open palm, and I was guaranteed to catch at least three or four of them, and smack another ten to fifteen out of the way. The trail started off as a stone slope upwards towards The Tower. The slope isn’t at too bad of an incline, so its a nice, moderate, relatively easy trail and path up.

Despite the gnats, it didn’t take me very long, maybe 35 minutes at most to reach The Observation Tower. Once there, I climbed up the old metal rungs of the ladder on the upward bound side and made my way to the top. At the top was a couple, sitting, enjoying the view, just holding hands, and I made my way around to the opposite side and sat with my back to the wall of the Tower ladder entrance / exit. I doffed my backpack and pulled out my books. For the next hour or so, I sat here, reading, meditating, thinking of Bart, of life, and of so much more that has been going on with myself, and my family, and just life really in general. In what might possibly have been the craziest years of my entire life – and this is saying something – I just stopped, sat there, read, meditated, and enjoyed the cool breeze at the top of the Tower. The gnats were gone, having left me alone, the sun was hot and shining directly on me, and I felt a very deep, inner sense, full resonating sense, of peace. For once.

Just before leaving and climbing back down, I saw a hummingbird buzz the cage that domes and surrounds the top of the tower. I tried to get a picture, but he flew away too quickly for me. But I did get to see him, buzzing up against the metal, and saw the beauty in his flapping wings. His energy and speed and quickness so evident. His energy reminded me of Bart. I don’t tend to look for portents and omens and all that, or to see signs and stuff, but getting to see the hummingbird did remind me of Bart, interestingly, after yesterday’s viewing and visit, Cliff Plank (current head brewer for Appalachian Brewing Company in Harrisburg) posted on Facebook how he saw an albino squirrel and it reminded him of Bart.

Another couple came up to the top and took pictures and went back down while I was reading. I think it was a daughter in her 20s or early 30s and her father in his 40s or 50s. They both said ‘hi’ and talked about the beauty of the area around them. They have been doing a different hike in a different Pennsylvania county every week, and this was their hike for the week.

While at the top of the tower, the books I was reading were: ‘Death’ by Todd May (I had finished it weeks ago, and you can read the book review here: Book Review: Death [Todd May], but felt like re-reading some passages in the wake of Bart’s passing), ‘State and Revolution’ by Vladimir Lenin, ‘Six Walks in the Fictional Woods’ by Umberto Eco, and ‘The Bomber Mafia’ by Malcolm Gladwell. (I’ll be posting book reviews for each of these in the future.)

Return Trip to the Car

After climbing back down, I hiked back down the slope, taking a slightly different route (the one actually listed on the AllTrails map, which has you take a slightly more scenic route, rather than fully up the rock slope) on my way back to the car. The gnats were present as soon as I got to the bottom of the Tower, and perhaps in even larger numbers. Made it to my car without incident and took off my hiking boots and then drove home, stopping at my parents, getting to see my little nephew and hanging out with him for a bit before he was picked up by my sister and brother in law.

Reflections, Thoughts, and the End

This was a needed hike. My 2021 has gone horribly awry from where I wanted it to go starting in March. And has not been the year I wanted it to be – at all; to say the least. I haven’t gotten to go to breweries like I wanted, and I haven’t really hiked as much as I wanted, or as I had planned. I’ve felt more isolated this year than in past years – including COVID central 2020. This hike was much needed. It was short, it was one I’ve been to many times, and it was on a day where I needed to reflect, to meditate, and to think. It was a recharging of batteries so to speak. A realignment with all things; instead of the Buddha under the Bodhi tree, I was Ben under the Tower’s cage. Maybe not similar, or an apt analogy, but it is how I spent some of my afternoon; reflecting and thinking, about life, about Bart, about death, about the meaning to things (and the lack thereof). Thought about cancer, about my mom’s cancer battles and the fear of it coming back, of losing my Aunt Janet to cancer, of my Great Grandma’s fight against Alzheimer’s and her loss to it, and so many others that I’ve known throughout my life who passed away to some form of cancer or another.

I think of Albert Camus and his absurdism, of Sartre and his existentialism, Kierkegaard and his thoughts about life and everything. These are the moments people need to make time for more. For reflection, meditation, self thought, to examine one’s own inner thoughts and life, to be a bit more Socratic. And thinking of Bart’s service, and of his life, it made me think about how we all need and should be more like him. Outgoing, cherishing the moments with friends, loved ones, living for the moment, helping others, extolling the virtues of those we are proud of, having fun, doing things out of our comfort zones, living life to its utmost potential. Bart did this, and more.


Here’s some links, both on the blog and outside of the blog to various things related to the hike.


Governor Dick:

The Beer Thriller Hikes and Travelogues:

Measure of a Well Lived Life

Be safe out there everyone, get vaccinated, love each other, live life to its fullest. Grow each day. Peace, hugs, and chugs.

-B. Kline

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