Cedar Waxwings And A Sign Of Spring At The PPl Wetlands

It was nice to return to Northeastern Pennsylvania after my visit to Puerto Rico. I have always said you don’t have to travel far to find the beauty of nature. I did see many wonderful things in Puerto Rico. There was beautiful scenery and I saw many exotic birds  on my trip.   But there is also so much beauty here too, even in Winter.  And I went looking for, and found some, of this beauty at the PP Wetlands yesterday. Trees and mountains along Susquehanna River

It was a mostly sunny and seasonably cold morning. The temperatures were in the low 20’s.  We had some warm weather while I was gone and there was no snow on the ground.  I immediately noticed how swollen the Susquehanna River had become. trees along river

The heavy rains and melting snow had it reaching the tops of it’s banks. As I walked in the wetlands and found most of the canals and ponds were still frozen.  Even though they were now lifeless, they still had a unique beauty to them. ice covered pond in wetlands

I heard a few birds in the distance, woodpeckers, crows and black-capped chickadees, However I did not see a single bird or other critter until almost a mile into my walk. I saw  these two red squirrels scurrying through the underbrush. pair of red squirrels

I continued my walk to the river lands section of the preserve and frozen Lake Took-A-While.frozen lake Took-A-While

I still wasn’t seeing any  wildlife. I knew the water birds would be gone because  the lake was frozen.I was surprised  there were none  of the  usual winter birds commonly seen here. bridge and lake under cloudy sky

This changed when I walked to the river trail. I first noticed a few woodpeckers in the trees. woodpecker on tree branch

I soon walked into a flock of one of my favorite birds, the cedar waxwing. cedar waxwings in tree

These birds are very social and can be found in large flocks, especially in winter.cedar waxwing in tree

They feed mainly on fruits and can be seen fluttering among the tree tops in small flocks in the summer. This flock was larger than the ones I have seen in the summer. There were about thirty birds in it and they were searching for the few remaining berries on the trees. cedar waxwings in branches

And as I have often  observed before there were now other birds in the same area. I noticed  that different species of birds tend to  travel together, probably for safety, in the cold of Winter. I saw a few tufted tit mice, 

and nuthatches in the same vicinity as the cedar waxwings. I watched the birds for a while enjoying the fluttering of the cedar waxwings in the trees over my head. nuthatch in tree

After observing this group of birds I only saw a cardinal and a few sparrows on my return walk. It was still a pleasure seeing the waxwings. On my return walk I  looked for, and found this, a first sign of Spring. A skunk cabbage sprouting up in wetlands! skunk cabbage sprouting cedar waxwing on branch

It is now mid February, and we may still get some frigid weather and snow here in Northeastern Pennsylvania, but the sun is higher in the sky, and the worst of Winter is over. Spring will arrive soon and Nature will put on it’s greatest show of the year. And I will be sure to be outdoors and watch it arrive. Here is a link to some more photographs from my hike including some more of the beautiful cedar waxwings. PPL Wetlands hike February 17 2018. 

tree lined frozen pond

If you truly love Nature, you will find beauty everywhere.     Vincent Van Gogh

 

 

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Puerto Rico Day Two: So Much To See In Enchanting Old San Juan

After my tour of the historic Castillo San Cristobal,  I  again wandered off to explore the streets of old San Juan. I first made my way through  the now familiar Plaza Colon and it’s towering statue of Christopher Columbus. trees and Christopher statue Plaza Colon

I decided to walk up one of the most famous streets in  old town San Juan, El Fortaleza.Colorful cobble stoned street

Like all the streets in old town it was paved with blue cobblestones. These pretty stones were brought from Spain and used as ballast on the ships. Once in San Juan they were removed from the ship and were replaced  with gold for the journey back to Spain. The residents used the discarded  cobblestones to pave the streets. 

shops on cobblestone street

The  street is now lined with many small shops and upscale stores, selling all kinds of souvenirs, clothing, electronics,  luxury goods and any other thing that can be sold  to tourists from the cruise ships,gist shop old San Juan

and restaurants and outdoor cafes of all types  ranging from  five star gourmet  to local eateries. outdoor cafe old San Juan

I followed the busy narrow street and found myself once again at the Governor’s mansion near the old front  gate to the city. There is no motor vehicle traffic allowed on the street near the mansion.  cobblestone street leading to Governor's mansion

Next to the mansion I saw what I thought was  a church. I love to visit churches, temples and mosques on my travels and tried to enter. The door was locked.Hospital and shrine House of Health operated by Servants of Mary nuns

A friendly caretaker approached,  told me the chapel was closed, but  he would see if the nuns would allow me to visit. Shortly a young nun appeared and waved me inside.photograph of Blessed Mary in hospital

I remember very little Spanish from my high school days.  The  nun spoke no English.  She was  kind and friendly and we communicated through gestures. She lead me to a beautiful  chapel and she left me alone to  take photographs. shrine and chapel House of Health Servants of Mary

As I was leaving I encountered the young nun who was now accompanied by a middle age nun. I tried to explain to them that I was taught by Bernadine Sisters as a child. My attempt was not successful.  Statue in House of health

A third older nun now appeared.  I again  tried to explain to them my schooling by Bernadine nuns. Finally the young nun got the caretaker, who spoke English and we had a wonderful conversation with the help of our translator. We laughed about the nuns who thought me  and how they  hit us with a ruler when we were bad. One nun laughed and pointed to the oldest one. She shook her head, no, not her. We all laughed.  We also talked about the the 1960’s  television show, the Flying Nun. They, of course, all heard about it. Three Servants Of Mary sisters

Now I was their friend and the oldest gave me a tour of the facility which was a convent and hospital for the old and poor. She took me to a balcony with spectacular views of San Juan bay, and the Governor’s Mansion. It was truly a blessed experience which I will always cherish.  I learned the building was built in 1524. The nuns cared for the sick here for over 125 years. Here is a link to some more photographs of my wonderful encounter with the sisters and their mission. . Puerto Rico Day Two San Juan Convent February 9 2018.

I next  walked to  the Puerta de San Juan or the main  gate   and up atop the old city wall. The views were again spectacular. view of San Juan bay from city wall

I saw  more sculptures, old houses and some beautiful flowering gardens. sculpture old San Juan

I made my was back to the park in front of  “El Morro” when I decided to begin my return journey. park and view of "el Morro"

I meandered through the pretty streets,calamari and rice revisiting many of sites I saw the day before. I wish I had time to visit the many museums in the city. I did stop for a nice, and reasonably priced snack, calamari and rice, with all the lemonade you could drink a restaurant located in one of the museums. 

I returned to my hotel mid  afternoon and spent some time editing photographs and exploring the many art filled rooms at the Inn. Here is a link to some more photographs from my hike through old San Juan. Puerto Rico  Day Two: San Juan afternoon hike.

I wanted to see the  sunset and decided the best place would be  the high ground of “El Morro”  It was a beautiful evening in Puerto Rico. Huge billowing cumulus clouds floated on the ever present trade winds. 

I walked along the old city wall and came to a beautiful cemetery situated above the Atlantic Ocean. 

I spent a few minutes taking in the serene scene.  And I was delighted to watch a rainbow appear over the ocean. Here is a link to a video I uploaded to YouTube. Cemetery video.

I walked up to an old battery wall near the fortress and joined a group of local residents and tourists also waiting for the sunset. Unfortunately clouds moved and we only caught a brief glimpse just before it set. It was still a  great place to be. 

I  walked back along Fortaleza Street  enjoying the sounds of tourists and residents at the many cafes, bars and restaurants.  I ate dinner at a quaint  French restaurant, Trois Cent Onze,  recommended by a friend. The food was excellent. I finished my meal and returned to the streets which, despite a passing showers were still alive with the sounds of folks enjoying the warm tropical evening. 

It was an uphill walk to my hotel but I soon heard the crashing of the waves of the Atlantic Ocean on the rocky shore. Here is a link to some more photographs from my evening walk. Puerto Rico Day Two San Juan evening walk. February 8 2018.

I also listened to the music rising up from San Sebastian street from a balcony in my room.  I was tired  and soon  fell asleep listening to the sounds of music and partying that lasted until sunrise. Here is a link to a video of the sounds of San Sebastian Street from my room.

“Fall in love
with the energy
of the mornings

trace your fingers 
along the lull
of the afternoons

take the spirit 
of the evenings
in your arms
kiss it deeply 

and then
make love
to the tranquility
of the nights.” 
― Sanober Khan

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Puerto Rico Day Two: San Juan: Castillo San Cristobal

After a light breakfast at my hotel, I began my second day in San  Juan by heading to the massive fort that prevented me from observing the sunrise earlier in the  morning.view of ocean and Castillo San Cristabol

Construction of Castillo San Cristobal was started by the Spanish in 1634 and took over 150 years to complete. It was the largest fortification in the New World. 

I was able to enter the castle with my admission receipt from my visit to “El Morro” the day before. entrance to Castillo San Cristobal

Once inside I again learned so much history about the fortress and San Juan  from the many exhibits throughout  the castle. They ranged from the defenses of the fort to how the soldiers were housed and fed. soldiers sleeping quarters

The fortification was built because of land assaults on San Juan by the Dutch and British in the 17th century. This newer  fortress protected the city for the next 300 years 

I roamed the many passages and tunnels throughout the fortress.tunnels in castle

Along the way I visited the dungeon which had these drawings on it’s walls. They were probably made by some poor soul awaiting a long prison sentence or execution. You probably didn’t wind up in the dungeon for petty crimes. drawings of ships on dungeon walls.

There were spectacular views from atop the walls of the fortress, including this view of the Capitol of Puerto Rico. View of capitol of Puerto Rico from castle walls

While enjoying a view of the ocean from one of the casements I saw a rainbow form over the water. The weather is usually sunny here this time of year but there were a lot of showers during my visit.rainbow over ocean

The exhibits told the history of how the lives of the  soldiers who defended the fort changed over the years, ending with the American troops who were stationed here in World War II. flags waving in wind

Once again time prevented me from seeing all there was to offer in this spectacular and historic fort.clouds and city view from fort

Hopefully I will get the chance to return to San Juan and visit it again. But there are so many countries to explore and I am running out of time. So I am glad I can share this visit with my blog readers. Here is a link to some more photographs from my visit to the castle. Puerto Rico Day Two Castillo San Cristobal. February 9 2018. clouds over castle

 

On 
My 
Travels 
i have been 
A guest in 
Many castles 
Yet the 
Monument 
Which i 
Find 
Divine 
Is the oasis 
Where the heart 
And the silence 
Intertwine.”

~silent lotus” 
― silent lotus

 

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Puerto Rico Day Two: Up Early In San Juan But No Sunrise For Me.

Despite the night long celebrations on San Sabastian Street I slept well my first night in San Juan. I was up before my alarm went off,  hoping to see a sunrise. I thought I could see it near Castillo San Cristobol, the large fort to the east of my hotel. clouds over ocean near walls of fort

Sunrise was around 7 a.m. and I hurried along the wall overlooking the ocean to be on time. Well, as I approached the fort I realized it was obscuring my view to the east and I would never get around it to see the sunrise. narrow San Juan street

Instead I walked back down toward the cruise ship pier again on the narrow cobblestone streets. Christopher Columbus statue old San Juan

I came upon the Plaza Colon where a towering statue of Christopher Columbus overlooks the plaza. The plaza was surrounded by restaurants and gifts shops but there was no activity at this early hour. colorful buildings old San Juan

I made it to the pier where I found a contrast of the old and the new, a  sail ship and a gigantic cruise ship. sail ship and cruise ship in morning sunlight

This is were you can also find more contrast between the old town and the new growth from tourism. There was a Walgreen store next to a Sheraton Hotel,hotels and stores in old San Juan

and there even was a Ralph Lauren store. Philadelphia doesn’t even have one of these anymore. Lot of tourists dollars flow around here. ralph lauren store old San Juan

I meandered through the streets of San Juan observing the colorful buildings and many shops and outdoor cafes and restaurants, of course, closed at this early hour.outdoor cafes in old San Juan

I next  walked back up the steep streets to Norzagaray street were the entrance to my hotel is located. It is the last street along the massive wall that was built to protect the city. graffiti old San Juan

I noticed the many building located below the wall, next to the ocean and remember reading about this residential community, La Perla.La Perla sign along Atlantic Ocean

The guide books I read said to stay clear of this poorer neighborhood, so, of course, I had to visit. I walked through the narrow old gate into the village and found a few folks who were pleasant and friendly.old gate in wall La Perla

The buildings were run down and appeared damaged by the hurricane. Unfortunately it appears many of the residents could not afford to make  repairs.colorful house on street in La Perla

I walked to the ocean and enjoyed watching and listening to the waves crash along the rocky shore.

I also watched a large cruise ship enter San Juan Bay, giving an illusion it would crash into  “El Morro” .cruise ship near "El Morro"

I made my way  up the steep road to Norzgaray Street and back to my hotel. I spent some time exploring it’s many room. All adorned with the art work and sculptures created  by  the owner, Jan. I had  a small breakfast and was soon off for more explorations of the wonderful city. Here is a link to some more photographs from my morning walk.  Puerto Rico Day Two San Juan morning walk. 

room in Gallery Inn

“Life is an experiment in which you may fail or succeed. Explore more, expect least.” 
― Santosh Kalwar

 

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Puerto Rico Day One: Getting To Know Old San Juan

After  my arrival in Puerto Rico  at the Luis Munoz Marin  airport I took a taxi to  old town San Juan .  As soon as  walked up to my hotel, the Gallery Inn, and entered  the gates I fell in love with the place. It was like walking into an art gallery. I was greeted by a pleasant young lady at the desk  and this noisy but lovable parrot. More about this wonderful place later.  campeche the white parrot at the Gallery Inn

I quickly settled into my  cozy room, unpacked,  and  was off to explore old   San Juan. My hotel is situated on the northern end of the city overlooking the old city wall and Atlantic Ocean. I walked south into the old town on the  blue cobblestones of narrow  San Justo Street. San Justo Street old San Juan

I soon discovered  all of the streets in old San Juan are narrow and made of this unique blue cobblestone. blue cobblestone street

Like my first visit to any city,  I was, at first, disorientated. I forgot my map at the room.  I  knew enough  from my research for the trip to somewhat find my way around. ( As I write this post I know the old town  like the back of my hand). I made my way down the narrow street to the newer areas of the town near the cruise ship docks.street vendor and cruise ship in background

The tourists from these ships provide much revenue to the city. I believe it is  why the water and electric infrastructure in old San Juan was almost completely restored after the devastation of Hurricane Maria last fall. Old San Juan was  again catering to it’s many tourists. colorful building old San Juan

I continued my walk westward on the Paseo de la Princesa. This street lies outside the massive walls that protected the city.old city wall San Juan

I welcomed the  many trees that lined this street. The sun was intense, and, even with the ever present trade winds, it was still hot. Temperatures were in the mid 80’s. tree lined street old San Juan

I also found many interesting statutes  and sculptures along the way. sculpture of family

I walked  to the Fuente Raices, a monument depicting  the different races of people  that contributed to,  now make up Puerto Rico. monument old San Juan

I next followed the street as it continued outside the city wall providing spectacular views of San Juan Bay. San Juan bay from outside old city wall

I entered the old city through the Puerta de San Juan, the main gate to the city. It is through this gate sailors, soldiers and dignitaries would first enter the New World after a long voyage across the Atlantic Ocean. You could almost feel the history and ghosts  of the many people who walked through here over  the past 500 year. old city gate San Juan

I entered the old city and it’s beauty and enchantment were everywhere. Old trees, brightly painted buildings, and cobblestone streets made you feel you walked back in time. trees and old buildings

There was so much to do and I had so little time to do it. I have always been fascinated by Ponce de Leon and his search for the fountain of youth. I had to visit his final resting place in the impressive Catedral de San Juan. Ponce de Leon tomb

I explored the beauty of this church for awhile and, like always, wish I had more time. Here is a link to some more photographs of this beautiful and historic church. San Juan Cathedral February 8 2018.altar Cathedral of San Juan

I roamed the many narrow streets just talking in the many sights of tourist and residents enjoying this delightful city. people feeding pigeons

I took  in so many sights it would take hours to describe them in this short blog post, but there were so many restaurants, shops, tourists sites and museums one could spend weeks exploring them all. outdoor restaurant old San Juan

And I only had two days. So I  made my way to Castillo San Felipe del Morro or “el Morro”,  the large fort that was built almost 500 years ago. This is  one sight   you cannot miss. El Morro fort San Juan

The large fort was built by Spain to protect the harbor used to replenish ships making the long voyage from Europe across the Atlantic. view of Atlantic ocean rocky shore

There are many exhibits in the fort explaining the strategic significance of the island of Puerto Rico. It was the first land encountered as ships crossed the Atlantic that had fresh water and was vital to controlling access to the “New World” .Spanish canon

I roamed the fort for over an hour and learned so much history while enjoying spectacular views of the ocean and city. Here is a link to some more photographs from my visit to “El Morro” El Morro February 8 2018.walls of Spanish fort El Morro San Juan

Once gain time was not my friend. It was getting late and I was getting hungry and tired. So reluctantly, I had to walk back to my hotel. I still was able to enjoy  many more  sights of old San Juan along the way . Here is a link to some more photographs from my hike. San Juan Day One afternoon hike. old cemetery on shore

I got back, showered, and realized it was near sunset which around 6:30 pm. I was saddened to learn the only place to watch it would be from “El Morro” and I had no  time to get there.  I was starved so I walked to dinner at a restaurant famous for it’s local food, El Jabirito.  narrow blue cobblestone street

It was a family style restaurant with much chatter and laughter coming from the many local residents dining their. local restaurant

I had the fried red snapper and mofongo de yucca (mashed cassaba)  a local specialty. red snapper fish and mofongo

After my delicious meal I made my way through the noisy and bustling streets of old San Juan. They were filled with music and laughter and would be, I learned, throughout the night. It is like New Orleans, the city never sleeps. Here is a link to some more photographs from my evening walk and meal. San Juan evening walk February 8 2017. narrow street at night San Juan

I was soon in my room, and despite the music and noise rising from San Sebastian,  I quickly fell  fast asleep, looking forward to another day of exploring  San Juan. San Sabastian street old San Juan

What I can tell you is that for Puerto Rico being such a small island, it has culturally impacted the entire world. Fat Joetotem monument

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Fly Eagles Fly! And They Did, Here In Northeastern Pennsylvania And Minnesota.

As some of you may know, from my past blog posts, I am a lifelong Philadelphia Eagles football fan. It was an  exciting weekend for Eagles Fans.  The Eagles won  their first Super Bowl on Sunday!!!!  On Saturday, before the game,  I decided to drive to the Lehigh Gap Nature Center and see if I could see a live bald eagle for good luck and  in anticipation of the big game.Lehigh Gap Nature Center

I chose this area of the Lehigh River since I had seen  a bald eagle on my hike along the Lehigh Canal in Weissport last week. And my brother Mike often sees them here when he drives home from work. stone building at lehigh gap

I have been to the Lehigh Gap Nature Center before. It is where the Appalachian Trail crosses the Lehigh River. I have hiked up atop the Blue Mountain on the trail  from here. This time I decided to hike north on the D & L trail. It was partly sunny and a frigid  15 degrees when I began my hike.D & L trail at Lehigh gap

 I had only walked a few hundred yards when I saw a large bird in the distance flying toward me. Could it be? Yes it was!  I was delighted to discover that it was a bald eagle!bald eagle in flight

He or she flew directly over me and was looking down at me as he or she flew overhead.  I thought she or he nodded her head, telling me the Eagles will do just fine. I am always thrilled to see our National symbol in the wild. Even more so the day before my Eagles played in the Super Bowl.  These majestic birds  came so close to extinction a few decades ago.  I knew it was  good sign for me and my Philadelphia Eagles.  And sure enough it was. The Philadelphia Eagles flew just as high, beating the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII. Here is a link to some more photographs of the eagle. Bald Eagle February 3 2018.bald eagle in flight

I continued my walked along the river and noticed the huge blocks of ice that were scattered along the river banks.  Many were six inches to a foot thick. ice along Lehigh river

The river was mainly ice free now and was flowing rapidly from some rain and warmer weather we had last week. lehigh river

As I walked along, I startled many flocks of juncos who were feeding on the grasses and plants that grew along the trail.junco on ground

There were also quite a few cardinals in the trees along the trail and river. male cardinal in tree

The trail  turned to the northwest after about a mile or so and I walked into the shade.  It felt a lot colder without the sunshine.

The river was still in the sunshine  and I saw a few Canada geese

and a flock of common mergansers wading on it’s deep blue waters. 

I walked out to the Three Ponds Trail,  about two miles out from the nature center. The trail winds around some wetlands and three large ponds. The ponds are now frozen and lifeless but I would think there would be a lot of wildlife activity in the warmer months. 

I climbed up to the Prairie Grass. This trail is high above the D & L trail and the Lehigh river. 

It consists of native grasses which have grown on the soil that was contaminated by a zinc plants that operated nearby during the last century. I remember the barren hillsides when I would travel to Philadelphia as a child. The plant was closed and, with the help of conservationists, the hillsides are now making a comeback.

The trail were steep and ice covered in spots making for some difficult walking. The views, however were worth the effort. View of Lehigh River

In addition to the magnificent views of  river, mountains and towns below, I also saw this house in the distance atop Marshall’s Hill in Palmerton. It is remodeled now but I remember when it was run down and dilapidated. It looked like the house from the Adam’s Family. It was built by a retired Civil War general, Elisha Marshall, and was said to be haunted. 

The trail eventually began a steep, and ice covered, descent. I was surprised not to see or hear a single bird on the trail. I am sure there would be many migratory song birds up here in the Spring. 

The Prairie Grass Trail crossed another nice hiking trail the Lehigh-New England trail. I crossed this trail and walked down to the D & L trail but I plan to return and explore these paths again. Lehigh New England trail

I returned to the Nature Center seeing this beautiful blue bird along the way. Here is a link to some more birds I saw on my hike. Lehigh Gap Birdsblue bird on tree

I enjoyed my hike in the Lehigh Gap and will be  back to explore the many trails in warmer weather. I left  feeling good having seen an eagle. I knew it was a good omen. And it was. My Philadelphia Eagles are Super Bowl Champions. Fly Eagles Fly!!!! Here is a link to some more photographs from my hike. Lehigh Gap Nature Center hike February 3 2018. Buildings at Lehigh Gap Nature Center

“Farewell,” they cried, “Wherever you fare till your eyries receive you at the journey’s end!” That is the polite thing to say among eagles.

“May the wind under your wings bear you where the sun sails and the moon walks,” answered Gandalf, who knew the correct reply.” 
― J.R.R. Tolkien

bald eagle in flight

 

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Fog And High Water On The Lehigh Canal In Weissport

After a night of heavy rain, a thick fog moved into parts of Northeastern Pennsylvania  on Sunday morning. I decided to check out the Lehigh River and hike the D & L trail  along old Lehigh Canal near Weissport. ice and fog on lehigh Canal

The fog was lifting  as I drove over the Broad Mountain but still remained along some of the ice covered portions  of the canal in Weissport. fog along Lehigh canal

The Lehigh River was now completely ice free and flowing rapidly, swollen with waters from the heavy rains and melting snow. Lehigh river near Weissport

I  would often see some ducks on the river during the first half mile of my walk along the canal but not on Sunday. I think the waters were moving to fast for the ducks. But I did see a few mallards on the canal, where the ice had melted.mallard ducks on canal

I also saw quite a few cardinals fluttering about in the trees between the river and canal.male cardinal on tree branch

And, always one of my favorite sightings, a mockingbird across the canal. mockingbird on ground

The walk along the canal was much different from the previous weeks when it was covered in snow and ice. The snow had all melted and much of the ice on the canal was gone too. The fog made it appear more like a day in the Fall than the end of January. fog on ice on Lehigh canal

As usual  in the winter I noticed a lot of bird nests in the bare tree branches that would have been almost invisible when the trees  are covered in leaves in the Spring and Summer. bird nest in tree

There is no where near the diversity of plants and flowers and the many colors they add to the landscape in the warmer months. But, if you look closely you can still find beauty in the dreary winter landscape.raindrop on red berrry

Even a blackberry bramble,raindrops on blackberry bramble

or briar berry has it’s own beauty.raindrops on briar berries

I continued my walk along the canal and walked past the Bridge To Nowhere and  to the observation deck  about 2.25 miles  out on the trail.observation deck along Lehigh river

I sat atop the deck and took in the beautiful scenery and listened to rushing  waters of the fast moving Lehigh River. Lehigh River from observation deck

A lone runner on the trail was the only person I saw during this quiet time at  this scenic spot on the trail. lehigh river from observation deck

I wish I could had stayed out all day but I had to begin my hike back to the parking lot. Along the way I saw a flock of Canada geese huddled on the shore of the swift moving waters of the river. Canada geese in lehigh river

I also heard a few black-capped chickadees in the treetops and a flock of these birds I couldn’t  identify. They were looking for insects in the tree bark and were finding them. bird with insect in beak

I didn’t see any on my hike, but there was plenty evidence of the many woodpeckers along the canal.holes in tree trunk made be woodpeckers

My day was complete when I saw the tail feathers of a bald eagle I must have startled as it flew away from me along the canal. I only caught a glimpse of this majestic bird but I always love seeing them on my hikes. I continued on my return hike, now meeting many hikers, bikers and runners enjoying this foggy day in Northeastern Pennsylvania. I am enjoying my hikes out along this old canal and can’t wait to see it in the Spring. Here is a link to some more photographs from my hike. Lehigh  canal hike January 28 2019.lehigh canal trail

“Sometimes you can’t see the road ahead but as you keep going, it gets clearer. Stay the course as the fog of life dissipates.” 
― Sanjo Jendayi

 

 

 

 

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Pinchot State Forest: A Hike To Crystal Lake

It was a mild January day here in Northeastern Pennsylvania yesterday. I decided to explore the Pinchot State Forest and Crystal Lake. Located about 25 miles northeast of my home, I noticed the  lake on the maps when I  hiked in the nearby  State game lands in Dennison Township.Parking area D & L trail near Crystal Lake

It looked like there would be some wetlands around the lake and I hoped to see some wildlife on my hike. I arrived at a parking area along the the D & L Trail just outside of Glen Summit.  I met a fellow who was taking his dog for a walk on the road leading to the reservoir. He was ahead of me and would scare any wildlife  so I decided to walk up the  the Big Wapwallopen Creek to the lake. Big Wapwallopen Creek

I knew of the “Big Wap” from my high school days when my friends would fish this creek were it entered the Susquehanna River near Berwick. I had no idea it’s headwaters were up here. Big Wapwallopen creek

As I set out on my hike  I saw a group of woodpeckers fluttering in the trees above me. I believe they were hairy woodpeckers although it is hard to distinguish them from the very similar downy woodpecker. hairy woodpeckers in tree branches

I know  the lack of spots on the outer tail feathers and larger size of the  bill are the identifying features but it is still hard for me to tell the difference. hairy woodpecker with extended wings

It was a little rough walking up along the creek but it was worth seeing some of the ancient  hemlock and yellow  birch trees growing alongs the banks of the stream. 

I also came upon some old ruins which must have been associated with an  aqueduct that supplied the city of Wilkes-Barre with water many years ago. old ruins along creek

I continued my upward climb   along the creek until it got too steep and covered in thick brush.  I left the creek and followed a  path along a new waterline. It led me to the treatment facility of the local water company. I followed the road up to a large dam and  completely frozen Crystal Lake. It is situated atop what I think is Penobscot Mountain. ice covered Crystal lake

I am sure there would be plenty of birds and  waterfowl in the warmer months but I didn’t see  a living thing on the frozen waters. 

I followed a  trail that began near  the lake and proceeded south and east. I saw  a few   golden-crowned kinglets feeding in some thick woods at the start of the trail ,

and a nuthatch too.

I soon came upon some wetlands but there was no birds or other wildlife to be found on the frozen waters. 

The trail entered a large expanse of scrub oaks. I have hiked many hours  in the  scrub oak forest atop the mountains where I live.

These  forest are usually home to deer, small animals and, in the summer,  many species of birds. On this walk I didn’t see or hear any sound of wildlife for almost a mile. It was only when I neared  a few pitch pine trees towering over the scrub oaks that I heard a few blue jays and black-capped chickadees in the distance. 

The harsh weather conditions on top of the mountains in Northeastern Pennsylvania create these forest. And these same conditions make it a difficult place to live in the winter. ice covered trail

I walked out  about another mile before I decided to return. The sun was warming it up now but I still did not see a single bird in the scrub oak forest. I did see a few teaberries growing along the trail.tea berry

Once I neared the lake I again saw a few nuthatches, black-capped chickadee and this tufted titmouse. tufted titmouse on branch

I walked the road back to the parking area  and a flock of golden-crowned kinglets fluttered alongside me as I descended the mountain top. 

I was soon at my car, reading a guide and map of the Pinchot State Forest that I picked up at the parking area. I know I will be exploring the many large tracts of land that make up this forest in the near future. And I hope to find much more wildlife on my next visit to Crystal lake. Here is a link to some more photographs from my hike to Crystal Lake. Crystal Lake hike photographs January 27 2018.

“A person does not grow from the ground like a vine or a tree, one is not part of a plot of land. Mankind has legs so it can wander.” 
― 
Roman Payne

 

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More Snow And Clouds At The PPL Wetlands

Last  Sunday I  again  awoke to find above freezing temperatures here at my home in Hazle Township. It was, for January, a mild  34 degrees. After my usual early morning walk through my neighborhood, I decided to visit the PPL Wetlands and check out  the Susquehanna River. The temperature was now 40 degrees.Susquehanna River

Usually it is a few degrees warmer at the wetlands. But, like the day before at the Lehigh River, I found it was much colder than at my home at a much higher elevation. The temperature was 25 degrees when I arrived. The river was mostly ice free  but there were  still over six inches of snow on the ground.snow covered trail

Contrary to the predictions of mild weather, a wintery walk it would be. bare tree branches

The snow and thick cloud cover made it a dreary white and gray  world.  So different from the many colors found in the wetlands in Spring, Summer and Fall. ice and snow covered pond

The drab colors made even the dead dry leaves still clinging to the beech treesbeech leaves

and oak trees stand out. brown oak leaves

The red winter berries  also provided a little color.

As did the bluish  berries remaining on the briars.briar berries

There were a few flocks of birds fluttering in the higher tree branches. It was hard for me to identify them or get good photographs in the dim white sky. I think they were black-capped chickadees and juncos. I was able to get a photograph of this nuthatch. nuthatch on tree

And this golden crowned kinglet. golden crowned kinglet

I also heard the rapping of the woodpeckers in the treetops and saw, in the distance another pileated woodpecker. Like the previous day I could not get a good photograph and it soon flew off in search of food. pileated woodpecker on tree trunk

There was no one else at usually crowded Lake Took-A While. The lake was also frozen and snow covered. snow covered trail along lake

It was peaceful, but difficult,  walking along the trail in the cold and snow. There were  not the almost endless variety of plants, insects, birds and animals found here in the summer.  However  you could find a different kind beauty if you looked  closely.

The dead remains of last years plants stood out in the whiteness of the snow. dead plant in snow

It won’t be long until we see the first sign of life. Next month the lowly skunk cabbage should be making it’s appearance, adding some green to the white wintery landscape. But for now only the browns of last years growth remain. catkins in snow

It was hard walking in the snow so I again decided to  end my hike after about two miles. On my walk back I saw a few more gold crowned kingletsgolden crowned kinglet on branch

a song sparrow ,song sparrow on branch

and this  red squirrel who bravely crawled out on this limb to take a look at me. red squirrel in tree

I found a few  of these holes dug in the snow. They were  made by the squirrels or  chipmunks digging up the nuts, seeds and acorns they buried last Fall. acorn  in snow

I ended my hike along the now swollen banks of the Susquehanna River. The recent heavy rain washed away most of the ice. I was  hoping to see some water fowl on the open water but none were to be found.  I did hear a flock of geese honking in the distance. Susquehanna River

I was disappointed in not seeing any sunshine  on my hike. And even more disappointed in not seeing more wildlife but it was still a great day to be outdoors in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Here is a link to some more photographs from my hike. PPL Wetlands January 21 2018 dead plant in snow

“Winter is not a season, it’s an occupation.” 
― Sinclair Lewisbird in flight

 

 

 

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A Frigid Walk Through Downtown Philadelphia.

I was sound asleep five minutes after returning to my hotel room  while  in  Philadelphia for the Eagles football  game last Saturday. It was a long but exciting day. I was  still up early the next morning and  decided to take a quick walk through the streets of the City of Brotherly love before my brother and I headed back home. view from Broad Street Philadelphia

I left  the DoubleTree hotel located at the corner of Broad (16th)  and Locust Streets in the morning twilight  around 7 a.m. There was almost no traffic on the usually congested Broad Street. And only a few people, mainly homeless folks,  shivering  in the frigid arctic air. Broad street Philadelphia

I have walked the streets of downtown Philadelphia for about 25 years now, usually while staying overnight while attending   a legal seminar or a Philadelphia Phillies or Eagles  game. I love Philly,Broad street Philadelphia

I walked north on Broad Street, toward City Hall. I still remember when the statue of William Penn once dominated the skyline of Philadelphia. Zoning ordinances prohibited any building from  being taller than William Penn’s hat atop his statue. Clock tower city hall Philadelphia

I still remember  when the laws were changed and construction began on One Liberty Place in the 1980’s. The skyline of Philadelphia has changed considerably since then and many building now tower above our founder Mr. Penn. Lamp post City Hall Philadelphia

I walked past City Hall, once the tallest building in the world and made my way to the area of the Convention Center. This large building was  built, and  I began attending seminars here, in 1993. City Hall Philadelphia

I usually stayed at the Marriott Hotel adjacent to the Convention Center and would stay for a few  nights allowing me time to explore my favorite city. Marriott hotel philadelphia

I  spent many hours roaming the aisles and shops of the famous Reading Terminal.Reading Terminal sign Philadelphia

I  ate many breakfasts at the Downtown Dinner. Before this dinner opened  28 years ago  I would eat breakfast  at a another dinner  located on a site where the Convention Center now sits. dinner sign Philadelphia

I continued my walk in the frigid morning air and found a number of homeless folks trying, as best they could, to survive in the harsh Winter weather. I reflected on how blessed, even with the recent tragedies I experienced,  my life has been.homeless person sleeping on frigid street

I next walked to one of my favorite Philadelphia neighborhoods, the colorful and usually busy Chinatown. Arch in Chinatown Philadelphia

I have spent many hours exploring the exotic shops and eating in the many wonderful restaurants in crowded area along Arch and Race Streets. There was little activity on this cold Sunday morning.Chinese restaurant sign

And I was getting cold too, so I decided to cut my walk short and head back to the hotel. I normally would walk to either the Delaware or Schuylkill Rivers and the many historic sights in between. Not on Sunday, I made my way back as the rays of the rising  sun were shining  on William Penn.  I was soon warming up in my hotel room. William Penn atop City Hall Philadelphia

The streets of Philadelphia had awakened and there  was much more people out and about on Broad Street. Traffic was bustling and we could  hear the noise of cars, fire engines and ambulances even on the 23rd floor of our hotel. We soon packed and were on our way to have breakfast with my nephew Brandon at Bob’s Dinner in the Manayunk section of the city.tour bus

Once again we made a good choice and soon enjoyed a hearty breakfast and more good conversation. After breakfast we said goodbye to Brandon and  were on our way back home to  Northeastern Pennsylvania.  We were only gone for a day but it was one good day. And know I will be back soon, hopefully for an Eagle’s Broad Street parade. GO Eagles!!!! Here is a link to some more photographs from my morning walk.  Morning walk January 14 2018. 

reflection in mirror

“I never walked through the streets of any city with as much satisfaction as those of Philadelphia. The neatness and cleanliness of all animate and inanimate things, houses, pavements, and citizens, is not to be surpassed.” 
— Frances Wright

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