There's No Place Like Gnome Countryside in Lancaster, PA

If you were to ask someone what they think of when they hear Lancaster, PA, they will probably say the Amish or farm country. While not entirely incorrect, I'm here to dispel the myth that all Lancaster County has to offer is Amish-themed attractions, beautiful quilts and Shoo Fly Pie.

More Than Just The Amish
In fact, there is an entirely separate community that resides in the area, that very few people know about. The Gnomes. The little people of the forest with tall pointed hats have their own community in Kirkwood, PA, and it's beautiful. Located off of a series of narrow, winding roads, is Gnome Countryside. It has been owned and operated by Richard Humphreys for decades, but I only first discovered its existence three years ago in a random internet search. My boyfriend, on the other hand, had the privilege of visiting as a child on a school trip. Well, after three years of begging people to visit with me, I finally got my wish on my last birthday.

Something For Everyone
If you're someone like me, (a full grown adult with a childlike love of mythical and mystical creatures), you would probably jump at the opportunity to attempt to catch a rare and almost impossible glimpse of a gnome. If you're not someone who shares the same passion, don't stop reading just yet. Anyone who has an appreciation for nature, good story telling, or just enjoys getting outside and breathing fresh air, will enjoy a visit to Gnome Countryside. If wooded forests and babbling brooks aren't a part of your everyday scenery, a trip to Kirkwood may be just what the doctor ordered.

Photo: Elisa Domenick

Expect The Unexpected
When you first arrive, you pull in and park right in Richard's driveway, which is slightly elevated above his beautiful chalet style home. Before we got out of the car, Richard was already standing in the path that leads from the house to the parking area, awaiting our arrival. Let me explain further that this was no ordinary site. Richard, a man in his 70s, was decked out in lederhosen, a handmade knitted wool hat with a forest motif, and giant novelty plastic sunglasses. I was thrilled.

Educational, Fun and Personal
Unfortunately, it rained on my birthday, but that didn't stop us from driving out from the Greater Philadelphia area. Luckily, it did stop the other visitors who had appointments, leaving us to our own personalized tour. And personal it was. Upon greeting us, Richard got right down to getting to know us and what brought us there. He didn't bat an eyelash when I told him I was there for my 34th birthday, and that I've been a lover of gnomes for life. We were already kindred spirits. He then led us into a small building, called, "The Gnomery", that was decked out in gnome themed paintings, furniture and books. He gave us a brief rundown of what he would discuss with children, which centered around accepting the differences in others and the importance of caring for the environment; things that many adults often need reminding of as well. He also shared gnome facts, and amused us with anecdotes from his personal life.

Escape Into Nature
After about 30 minutes, the adventure continues down the hiking trail that winds behind his home and into the woods, where participants are encouraged to use all five senses to discover the beauty and enchantment of the forest. There is a playground for children, a "Labyrinth of Gratitude" , which is a meditative walkway, and then the hike continues out of the valley, walking by the beautiful Gnome Gniagra and back to the gathering circle benches. This is a place to consider the suggestions of the "talking" rocks that can be found throughout the property, which include "Create", "Laugh", "Dream", "Wonder", "Hope", and "Love".

Photo: Elisa Domenick

Emphasis On Environment
While gnomes are a fun part of the experience, Richard's main objective is to remind humans how important conservation, preservation and respecting the environment really is. Regardless of where you may be traveling from, you will leave with a renewed spirit, a deeper love for the environment and a greater understanding that there's no place like gnome.

Elisa Domenick is a writer and documentary filmmaker with a passion for adventure and exploring places off the beaten path.