As Steve Hoke was leaving Little Buffalo State Park on Monday after removing 38 gnome homes, he met a man and his daughter.
The 7-year-old girl had just finished her last chemo treatment. Her dad asked what she wanted to do – she said she wanted to see in person the gnome houses that she had seen on Facebook.
Hoke was pulling a garden wagon full of the 38 gnome houses that since early December have been a wildly popular attraction along the trails of the state park in Juniata and Centre townships in Perry County.
Hoke offered her a gnome house.
Instead, she wanted the tiny Tinker Bell that had adorned the balcony of one of the homes along Fisherman’s Trail.
“That has kind of been the draw. It has just been a wonderful thing. We have seen so many kids out there,” Hoke said.
Hoke walks daily at Little Buffalo but Monday was more than a walk in the park.
The gnome houses had been evicted by park management and needed to be removed by Feb. 29.
“It took me four and half hours of a very emotional journey. I have grown attached to them,” Hoke said. “It’s difficult for me. It is like separation anxiety at this point.”