A Hike In The Poconos But Still No Mountain Laurel.

It was another overcast Sunday this past weekend  , with some showers still in the area in the morning. I had planned to hike the Broad Mountain, where I knew  from past hikes the widespread mountain laurel , our state flower, would be in bloom. The radar showed some lingering showers over the Broad Mountain so I decided to drive further north and hike in State Game Lands 119, hoping to find plenty of mountain laurel in bloom.

As I drove on Interstate Highway 81 I passed many woodlands and  entire mountainsides covered in laurel and I hoped to find the same at the gamelands. Shortly after beginning my hike I realized this may not be the case. The wood were green and lush, but like the day before, may have been too overgrown  to support the growth of the state flower. 

It was overcast but still a nice morning for a walk.  There were some flowers in bloom, not as  showy as the mountain laurel, but pretty in their own way, such as the stargrass,

and spiderwort that were scattered along the path. 

The trees overhead were filled with the song of birds. I heard yellow warblers during my entire hike but this tiny birds were well hidden in the now lush green leaves of the tree tops. I did quite a few male eastern towhees perched high in the branches. 

I just learned that  the males  leave the safety of the underbrush , where I have seen many of them over the years picking blue berries and mushrooms, to find a high perch to sing and attract a mate. 

I saw, and heard, so  many other birds fluttering in the tree tops and scrub oaks but it is so hard to photograph them. After waiting for about 10 minutes I was finally able to capture a photograph of this common yellow throat. 

I walked past the gas line that was on the left as I approached from the parking area. I had followed this gas line down to the D & L trail on my last three hike in the game lands but this time I continued along on the trail that followed  an old railroad bed.

There were plenty of low bush blueberries along the trails, and I found a few that had ripened. I usually am picking my first ripe ones near the summer solstice. They were delicious. 

Also blooming now is the fly poison, this pretty white flowers are actually very toxic and was used by American colonists to kill flies. 

The trail crossed over the head waters of the Little Nescopeck Creek.

And there were quite a few robins in this area. 

The trail was almost a continuous, but slight upgrade. As I approached the top of a ridge the trees became older. There were some nice old oak and hemlock trees up here.  

I hiked out about three miles. Just as I decided to turn back the sun broke through the clouds bringing out the many shades of green in the lush new growth of the woodlands. 

As I walked under the trees I heard the high pitched call of an osprey and sure enough saw this one fly overhead. 

And I also saw a pair of Baltimore orioles fluttering in a tree. 

They flew from branch to branch  and I think they must have had a nest in the tree. 

I continued to hear the sounds of many different songbirds in the trees but had a hard time finding them in the leaves. I was able to see, and photograph this catbird  who had captured a caterpillar. Here is a link to some more photographs of the birds I saw on my hike. http://www.keepyoureyespeeled.net/photographs-2017/nggallery/photographs-2017/State-Game-lands-119-birds-June-18-2017

I walked back to my jeep in the brilliant June sunshine disappointed that I wasn’t able to find any stands of our state flower, the mountain laurel. Still it was a nice hike in these game lands which, I am growing to love more with each hike I take.

I drove my jeep on the long dirt road from  the parking area to the little quaint resort town of Penn lake. So many beautiful places here in Northeastern Pennsylvania and not enough time to explore them all. But I will try. Here is a link to some more  photographs from my hike. http://www.keepyoureyespeeled.net/photographs-2017/nggallery/photographs-2017/State-Game-lands-119-June-19-201

“All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking.”
– Friedrich Nietzsche





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Cumulus Clouds, Wind And Sunshine: A Pleasant Birthday Hike At The Rails To Trails.

I circled our sun one more time yesterday, and one year older as I write, but, thankfully I am still able to explore the beauty of this planet I was born on. rails to trails-18

After a few hours at the office, and a nice lunch with my nephew and partner Charles, , I left  work early to take advantage of the beautiful June afternoon. rails to trails-22

It was a perfect day for hiking,  puffy, cotton-like clouds floating in a deep blues skies, with a strong  northerly wind bringing us cool, but refreshing weather.rails to trails-2

I decided to hike out, and take another look, at the pitch pine barrens near our local Rails to Trails, and the birds I saw there on Sunday.   rails to trails-20

This area reminds so much of the pitch pine wetlands I hiked as a child. I would have hiked there yesterday, I always did on my birthday, except for the fact they are now underneath  an industrial  park and residential development. I am so glad some folks on our planet realize how precious our environment is and seek to protect areas like this. The Land Trust and Rails to Trails folks must be given all the credit they have earned for keeping these areas preserved and letting folks visit them. rails to trails-17

Unfortunately. I only saw a few birds on my hike in the barrens, a nuthatch scampering down a tree, rails to trails-10

a sparrow along the trailrails to trails-3

and this elusive fellow, I think a hooded warbler that avoided me for 15 minutes singing, and hopping, among some scrub oaks.rails to trails-13

I continued my hike along the trail, finding this late blooming lady slipper orchid, or duck flower. rails to trails-24

And seeing these coming attractions of Mother Nature’s net display, our state flower, mountain laurel buds. They should be in bloom net week. rails to trails-5

And plenty of these plants, which in a few months, will attract many butterflies and insects, milkweed. rails to trails-31

I hiked out about a mile and concluded no cool birds or animals will be seen on this hike, when I heard some fluttering above me. I saw two blue jays attacking a bird. This is a common sight, birds chasing each other from their nesting area, but what was unusual here was the bird being chased, a beautiful scarlet tanager. rails to trails-40

And, they chased it almost directly into my face! The blue jays flew off, leaving the scarlet tanager to rest in the trees and let me get some photographs. rails to trails-37

This is why I have love the outdoors. Since my dad took me on hikes when  I was first able to walk I have loved this planet. And I love walking and exploring it. . You never know what beautiful things you will see, or what type of critters, from ants to bears, you will encounter. Hopefully, I will have many more years left, to, as my dad taught me, keep my eyes peeled, and walk many more mile on this wonderful world we live. Here is a link to some more photographs from my hike yesterday http://www.keepyoureyespeeled.net/photographs-2017/nggallery/photographs-2017/Rails-to-Trails-hike-June-1-2017rails to trails-34

“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”
W.B. Yeats


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Another Hike In The State Game Lands: There Really Is a Cuckoo Bird. I Saw My First One Today!

It was a chilly and windy start today, temperatures in the mid 40’s here in Northeastern Pennsylvania.  But we had some sun, which is always a good thing, but even more so in May.  I decided to hike out in the State Game lands, 119 out in Dennison Township. state game lands -1

I always enjoyed hiking in the woods. I would spend hours hiking the woods near my house as a child and young adult. Although I had no camera,  nor was there any internet, I still loved to share stories of what I found with my dad, my family and my friends.state game lands -4

So the tradition continues, with a larger audience   on my blog and Facebook page. .  Today, after leaving my jeep,  the  first thing I saw was a bald eagle. He swooped down over the hill before I could get a photograph.  Shortly afterward I saw a much smaller, yet still beautiful bird,  high in the treetops, a scarlet tanager. I have seen quite a few this year.state game lands birds -5

I decided to take the same hike as I did the first time I visited here two weeks ago and hike up to the gas line and followe it to the D & L trail.state game lands -1

There were still plenty of flowers on the high bush blueberry bushes. It  looks like it will be a  great crop this year. state game lands -15

I saw a few wild flowers too, the May flowers were scattered about,state game lands -21

as were the fringed polygala.state game lands -22

I only saw one of these, a painted trillium, one of my favorites. state game lands -25

The pink azalea were just starting to bloom up at these higher elevations. it’s like getting a second Spring up here. state game lands -18

I made my way to the D & L trail where I found a nice bunch of oyster mushrooms growing on a fallen tree. I didn’t bring a knife or bag but stuffed a few in my pockets. I love these mushrooms. They have an anise flavor. I just had them for dinner and they were delicious. state game lands -28

I walked the trail up to Moosehead lake again seeing a few birds along the way including this one, I think a female rose breasted grosbeak. state game lands birds -16

I was disappointed to not find any water fowl on the lake but sat and enjoyed the view for a bit. state game lands -31

It clouded up now, and got very windy. The wind created a tick problem. The narrow trail through the thick brush and overhanging trees caused many of them to be blown on me. I pulled of 18 of them today. state game lands -14

I walked the same trail back and I was fortunate to see this bird in a tree.Yellow billed cucko -7

I didn’t know what it was when I saw it but I have learned it is a yellow billed cuckoo. It was a beautiful bird and was the first time I ever heard of or saw one. Here is a link to some more photographs of this beautiful bird. http://www.keepyoureyespeeled.net/birds-of-pennsylvania/nggallery/birds-of-pennsylvania/yellow-billed-cuckooYellow billed cucko -3

I didn’t see a single mammal on the hike, not a deer, bear, squirrel or even a chipmunk, although I heard a lot of them.  state game lands -13

I saw a lot more birds on the way back, orioles, robins, sparrows, American redstarts and even a few black-capped chickadees. Some I was able to photograph, others flew away before I could. But I enjoyed seeing everyone of them. Here is a link to some more of the birds I was able to photograph on my hike. http://www.keepyoureyespeeled.net/photographs-2017/nggallery/photographs-2017/State-game-lands-119-May-21-2017–1state game lands birds -14

I returned to my jeep and did a thorough tick check before I entered my jeep. Even with the frustration from the many ticks, it was still a great day to be outdoors in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Here is a link to some more photographs from my hike. http://www.keepyoureyespeeled.net/photographs-2017/nggallery/photographs-2017/State-Game-lands-119-May-21-2017-

state game lands birds -29

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. … There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.”

—Rachel Carson,state game lands birds -26




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Another Spring Walk Close To Home.

The weather has warmed up and it’s finally  starting to feel like Spring here in Northeastern Pennsylvania. And it was another nice day to take a walk this afternoon. I,again, walked out to the mining reclamation area and  railroad tracks near my house. railkroad hike -29

On the way I saw a lot more insect activity as the wild flowers continued to bloom. Bees and wasps were buzzing about.railkroad hike -1

And there were now quite a few moths  and butterflies fluttering about,  with one occasionally landing on the ground. railkroad hike -13

I  walked through  the wetlands that have formed in parts of the reclamation area   and once again saw no ducks or geese. The duck egg I  found the other day was gone. Sadly, I believe, not because it hatched, but because it was eaten by a predator. railkroad hike -14

There were many  red-winged blackbirds in the wetlands including a lot of males fighting for their territories, railkroad hike -41

and the females, such as this one. railkroad hike -40

High overhead I spotted , I believe, was  a red tailed hawk. railkroad hike -6

I walked to the railroad tracksrailkroad hike -30

and to some more ponds on the other side. I was disappointed since there are usually frogs and snakes near these ponds, but not today, although there was evidence that there will be a lot of frogs in the coming weeks and months, based on the thousands of tadpoles or pollywogs in the water. We would spend hours looking for and catching them, and frogs and salamanders as kids. railkroad hike -23

The duck flowers continue there short blooming season,railkroad hike -36

as are these pretty  flowers, I believe blue-eyed grass flowers   blooming profusely in the wetlands near the ponds. railkroad hike -24


As along one of the paths in the reclamation area I looked down at a small pond and was surprised to see ,a sandpiper,  looking for a meal. I didn’t think anything would live in the  ponds that it could eat, but I guess I was wrong. I am not sure what type of sandpiper it is, after looking through my field guides for 15 minutes my guess is an upland or solitary sandpiper. railkroad hike -32

And I spotted this birds fluttering in the brush, again I think it may be a palm warbler but not sure.railkroad hike -9

Unfortunately I had to head back home. I could spend the entire day out here in Spring, my favorite season. Well Summer is pretty good too, and looks like some Summer weather headed our way the next few days. I hope I can sneak out of the office early since a lot going on in the great outdoors of Northeastern Pennsylvania this time of year. Here is a link to some more photographs fro my hike today. http://www.keepyoureyespeeled.net/photographs-2017/nggallery/photographs-2017/Railroad-hike-May-18-2017-railkroad hike -19

“I think having land and not ruining it is the most beautiful art that anybody could ever want.” Andy Warholrailkroad hike -20



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Poland Day Eight: Czestohowa: The Splendor Of Jasna Gora , Home Of The The Black Maddona, And A Hike To A Lake

After my long morning hike I returned to the hotel for  breakfast, consumed a lot of coffee,  and spent some time editing the many photographs I had taken this past week in Poland. Around noon, looking out my hotel window, I noticed  a lot of folks carrying Easter baskets as they walked toward the monastery. Poland Day Eight Czestochowa Monestery -1

This is another Polish custom my dad had always followed, as did many others in my home town who were  of Polish decent, the blessing of the Easter baskets. I decided to walk on over and have a look at how they observe it here in Poland. Poland Day Eight Czestochowa Monestery -19

At home most families packed  a rather large basket. Our family included kielbasa, bacon, dyed and peeled eggs, butter shaped like a lamb, ham, paska bread and red and white horseradish. Here in Poland the baskets were much smaller and seemed more ceremonial. Here are a few a woman allowed me to photograph. Poland Day Eight Czestochowa Monestery -47

And there seemed to be no set religious service. People, mostly families, the entire few hours I was at the Monastery, came, had their baskets blessed by a priest and left. In my Parish at home there was a single service at which time all of the baskets in the community were blessed.  After having their baskets blessed, many people stayed and enjoyed the impressive grounds of the Jasna Gora Monastery, which is actually a medieval fortress.  I also decided to stay and explore this historic place.Poland Day Eight Czestochowa Monestery -12

I again visited the beautiful Basilica and Shrine of the Black Madonna and did not take photographs out of respect. I have since learned that photography is allowed.  Unfortunately, because of the Holy Days the museums were all closed but there was still plenty to see. Poland Day Eight Czestochowa Monestery -32

I made my way up to the upper walls that surround the Monastery.  They withstood the onslaught of Swedish attackers in the 17th century and it was attributed to the protection of the Black Madonna. Poland Day Eight Czestochowa Monestery -44

They also provided me with a nice view of  downtown Czestochowa and I was able to see were I had hiked earlier in the day, beyond the smokestack in the distance. Poland Day Eight Czestochowa Monestery part two -30

Above the walls were the towering steeples that can be seen from all around the surrounding countryside. Poland Day Eight Czestochowa Monestery -14

And below  the walls were the beautiful statutes depicting the Stations of the Cross. This is a link to some more photographs of the many sights of this impressive and historic structure. http://www.keepyoureyespeeled.net/poland-photographs-april-2017/nggallery/poland-april-2017/Poland-Day-Eight-Czestochowa-Monastery-Saturday-April-15-2017-Poland Day Eight Czestochowa Monestery part two -41

And, of course their was another, and more important aspect of the ancient fortress, it’s religious and spiritual importance to the Polish nation. As mentioned in my early post the Black Madonna arrived at the Monastery  in 1382.  During the middle ages hundreds of thousands of pilgrims visited the shrine. Poland Day Eight Czestochowa Monestery -25

And on September 8 1717 the Polish King declared Our Lady of Czestochowa as the Queen of Poland.Poland Day Eight Czestochowa Monestery -6

It was a favorite pilgrimage site of Pope John Paul II and almost 4 1/2 million pilgrims visit the shrine every year. Poland Day Eight Czestochowa Monestery part two -33

But it’s importance to me stems from it’s importance to my dad and his devotion to the Black Madonna until the day of his death. I feel so at peace in this place. Poland Day Eight Czestochowa Monestery -16

I spent a few hours exploring the many nooks and crannies of the old fortress and the many paintings and statutes that adorn them. Here is a link to some more photographs from my tour of the Monastery.http://www.keepyoureyespeeled.net/poland-photographs-april-2017/nggallery/poland-april-2017/Poland-day-Eight-Czestochowa-Monastery-part-two-Saturday-April-15-2017-Poland Day Eight Czestochowa Monestery part two -13

I left the Monastery through it’s main gate as still more families were entering to have their Easter baskets blessed. Poland Day Eight Czestochowa Monestery part two -46

This proud grandfather and his grandson were happy to pose for this photograph. Poland Day Eight Czestochowa afternoon lake walk -29

I decided to explore more of this charming city and so I headed to a lake I saw on the maps.  I again walked through mainly upscale residential neighborhoods.Poland Day Eight Czestochowa afternoon lake walk -14

But as can be found everywhere in Poland there was always a church,Poland Day Eight Czestochowa afternoon lake walk -5

and a restaurant mixed in. Poland Day Eight Czestochowa afternoon lake walk -25

It was another mile to the lake and, having walked a lot earlier in the day, I was tired when I finally found it. It was a quiet  little lake, with a few swans swimming about and some locals casting their fishing lines into the waters. I would liked to have stayed a little while and enjoy the peace and quiet but it again looked like rain so I decided to head back. Poland Day Eight Czestochowa afternoon lake walk -11

The rain held off, and it was a nice, but long walk back to my hotel. I knew I was close when I came to the beautiful park that is situated between my hotel and the Monastery.Poland Day Eight Czestochowa afternoon lake walk -34

It was another wonderful day in Poland and the lovely city of Czestochowa. And the one  thing  needed to make it complete was to find a good restaurant for dinner. And this I did. I had a delightful meal at the famous and highly recommended Dobry Ro. This was their interesting version of mushroom soup, made with a puff pastry. Delicious. soup-1k.

I returned to my hotel tired but  with many new and wonderful memories.  I felt so much at home in this foreign.. Here is a link to some more photographs from my afternoon hike. http://www.keepyoureyespeeled.net/poland-photographs-april-2017/nggallery/poland-april-2017/Poland-Day-Eight-Czestochowa-afternoon-walk-to-lake-

And the day wasn’t over, I had fallen asleep around 9 pm so I was pretty much in a deep sleep when at 11 pm I heard explosions. Awakening from my sleep I first thought I was at home  and it was  July or New Years Eve. Seeing the strange room of my hotel I realized I was in Poland and now really started to wonder what was happening. I went to the window and figured out that the source of the explosions was fireworks coming from the direction of  the monastery. I posted this on Facebook and was told, by some friends the Eastern Orthodox churches in Europe do this to celebrate Easter. Interesting.  Here is a short video I uploaded to my YouTube channel.  https://youtu.be/H3Jsrk1UzCY   The fireworks  were over soon and, fortunately, I was back asleep, getting rest for another wonderful day in Poland. fireworks -1

“…I pray that young people from East and West will walk together along the path of freedom, working to overcome all conflicts between races and peoples, so as to build a world of authentic brotherhood and carry the liberating message of the Gospel everywhere.” – Pope John Paul II,                                                Czestochowa, Poland, 1991

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Poland Day Four: The Hotel Gorski Kalatowki: A Hiker’s, And Skier’s Paradise In The Tatra National Park.

After a jarring  five minute ride up the cobblestone road  I found myself at the   Hotel Gorski Kalatowki. I was attracted to this hotel by it’s isolation, located within the boundaries of the Tatra National Park.Poland Krakow day Four walk Krakow-7

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect at the hotel, but I was impressed with the beauty of the Tatra mountains. It was overcast and raining and the peaks were shrouded in clouds. They also were covered in snow. Poland Krakow day Four walk Krakow-1

I soon learned that the area had recently had a late snowfall. I made my way up the steps of the quaint, wooden hotel, built early last century and immediately fell in love with the place.  I  was greeted by a pleasant young lady who spoke fluent English and quickly had me settled in my modest, but comfortable lodging with a spectacular view of the surrounding mountains. Poland Day five Kalatowki afternoon hotel -3

It was still raining so I donned my rain gear and headed out to explore. The young lady at the desk had suggested a hike to Kondratowa located on the slopes of the legendary Mount Giewont. Poland Krakow day Four walk Krakow-5

After a few wrong turns, I found the trail leading to Kondratowa. At first it was an easy  downhill hike through the large meadows that surround the hotel. I noticed the many dead wild crocuses in the fields, victims of the recent cold and snow. I imagined how beautiful they would have been in full bloom on a sunny and warm day.Poland Day four Zakopane flora and fauna-10

The  narrow, and well traveled stone trail soon left the open field and I came   under a thick growth of pine trees. I loved the smell of pine in the cool mountain air.Poland Krakow day Four walk Krakow-46

As the trail began to climb the slopes of the nearby mountains , I soon realized that the hotel was located 1100 meters (about 3600 feet) above sea level, as I felt the effects of the altitude. Poland Krakow day Four walk Krakow-13

The trail was covered with stones which were quite slippery in the misty light rain and drizzle that was falling. Poland Krakow day Four walk Krakow-11

There weren’t a lot of signs of  Spring along the trail, a few green ferns,Poland Day four Zakopane flora and fauna-1

some delicate lichens growing on the tree branches,Poland Day four Zakopane flora and fauna-1

and, surprisingly, some mushrooms!  Here is a link to some more photographs of the plants, and few animals I saw on my hike. http://www.keepyoureyespeeled.net/poland-photographs-april-2017/nggallery/poland-april-2017/Poland-Day-Four-Zakopane-Kondatrowa-flora-April-11-2017-Poland Day four Zakopane flora and fauna-6

As I climbed higher up the slopes I soon encountered snow cover which made the hiking even more difficult. However, I wanted to explore the woods of these mountains so I continued my upward hike. Poland Krakow day Four walk Krakow-14

The snow cover deepened, and the trail itself was now icy , having been impacted from many other hikers walking over the snow the preceding  days and weeks. Poland Krakow day Four walk Krakow-20

I soon learned how deep it was by venturing off the trail and finding myself over my knees in snow.  I wasn’t prepared for the deep snow, having worn low hiking shoes so I had to stick to the icy trail. It was a pretty exhausting hike. Poland Krakow day Four walk Krakow-17

It got easier as I neared the shelter at Kondratowa, since there were open fields and much of the snow cover had melted. Poland Krakow day Four walk Krakow-26Poland Krakow day Four walk Krakow-5

I was glad to see the shelter located 1333 meters, (almost 4400 feet) above sea level so I hiked almost 800 feet in elevation. No wonder I was tired. But the views were worth it. Poland Krakow day Four walk Krakow-25

I met a cross country skier who also decided to stop in the shelter and warm up. It was an interesting place. I learned it had 20 beds in three rooms, available for a small fee, for hikers and skiers in the mountains. There are a number of these shelters scattered throughout the Tatra Mountains. Poland Krakow day Four walk Krakow-27

It was staffed by a woman who spoke no English, It also provided light snacks and beverages. These shelters are very popular with the many hikers and skiers who walk and ski the multitude of trails in the national park.  Poland Krakow day Four walk Krakow-29

It also had a resident cat, who, like most cats did not seem to be to interested in any visitors, including me. Poland Day four Zakopane flora and fauna-2

I looked around the shelter a bit and then, since it was getting late in the afternoon,  decided to begin my journey down the mountain to my hotel.Poland Krakow day Four walk Krakow-31

The hike down, although easier physically, which just as difficult  as it was going up, since it was easy to lose one’s footing and slide on the snow covered rocky trails. Still, it was a nice hike and I enjoyed exploring the wooded slopes of the Tatra mountains. Poland Krakow day Four walk Krakow-41

I was soon in the fields below my hotel, where I saw a few of these thrush like birds scampering like robins on the grassy fields.  I was glad to return to the warmth and friendly staff of the hotel. Here is a link to some more photographs of my afternoon hike. http://www.keepyoureyespeeled.net/poland-photographs-april-2017/nggallery/poland-april-2017/Poland-Day-Four-Kalatowki-Konratowa-hike-April-11-2017Poland Day four Zakopane flora and fauna-11

It was late in the afternoon, and I was tired, not only from my exhausting hike but also the lack of sleep. I had not been sleeping well since I arrived in Poland. I was hungry too, so after a hot shower, I sat down in the cozy dining room for dinner. And it was a good one. Starting with a bowl of hot and wholesome tomato soup with homemade noodles. Zakopane soup-1

And I also enjoyed a delicious main course of salmon and wild birch bolete mushrooms. I sat in the dining room and admired the view of the mountains still shrouded in the fog.Zakopane -2

The fog started to life after the sunset and I ventured outside in the cool mountain air to look for the full moon I knew would be rising int the east. The skies remained cloudy and so I decided to call it a day, exhausted from my long hike in the snow. However, I got up to use the bathroom and was rewarded with a quick peek of the full moon shining over the Tatra mountains. I was going to head outside but the clouds returned and hid the moon. I was glad to have had the opportunity, although only for a few minutes, to experience moonshine on the mountains of Poland. It was another great day in this country I have grown to love. Zakopane moon-1

“Take time to leave cities, at least once in a year, and go to some natural place, hills, sea, jungles, rivers, where you see nothing but nature… His creations. Where you only hear chirping of birds, clinkering of trees, murmuring of winds, splashes of water in the river, and uproar of waterfalls.” Girdhar Joshi



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Spring Is A Little Behind At The Greater Hazleton Rails To Trails But It’s Still Spring

Spring was in full bloom at the PPL Wetlands yesterday. I wanted to stay close to home today, I still have some catching up to do from my recent trip to Poland,  so I decided to hike out the local Rails to Trails. Rails to trails -1

It was overcast and a bit cooler today as I set out from the parking lot. As I began my walk I immediately noticed  that there was no were near as many leaves on the trees.  It seemed like the growing season was at least a week or two behind the PPL Wetlands.  Rails to trails -3

I forgot that we are at 1750 feet above sea level and the PPL Wetlands are at 500 feet above sea level. The 1250 difference in elevation sure  does make a big difference in the local climate. Rails to trails -2

Still there were many signs of Spring on the trail. The various species of wild violets were blooming  everywhere. . Rails to trails -45

As were the wild strawberries,Rails to trails -24

and both the high bush and low bush, pictured here, blueberries. These flowers will produce the first blueberries, or, as they are known here, huckleberries, somewhere around the Summer solstice. Rails to trails -47

As I walked along the trail I heard rustling of an eastern towhee in the underbrush.  These birds were a lot more common when I was growing up and we saw many of them will picking wild huckleberries on many a summer morning.   Their call in unmistakable. They hop and flutter low to the ground in thick underbrush. I watched this one for almost 15 minutes before I was able to focus in and get this photograph. Rails to trails -8

I also heard some more rustling in the leaves near the ground and watched, again for quite a while, a small mouse scampering under the dead leaves and low lying brush. I tried to get a photograph but he kept darting out of view as soon as I got him in focus. It was still an interesting experience. One does not often see a mouse during the day. And while watching the mouse I did manage to get a photograph of another elusive bird, I believe this is an oven bird. Rails to trails -61

I continued my hike, encountering a few couples and families out for a walk as well as a few runners and folks on bicycles. I also saw this little fellow climbing atop a rock to get a look at me. Rails to trails -32

I hiked out to the picnic area near the Dreck Creek Reservoir and continued onward.Rails to trails -28

 I was going to try and get to the pine barrens but heard a woodpecker and hawk near an electric pole line and decided to try and find them. Rails to trails -37

I walked down to Dreck Creek which flows out from the reservoir. I sat for a bit and listened to the rapidly flowing waters. before beginning my return walk. Rails to trails -39

I noticed, and smelled,  the wonderful aroma of,  many wild arbutus growing near the creek. Rails to trails -42I love this time of year. There is so much to see as the natural world comes to life after it’s long Winter sleep. Every  single leaf has a unique beauty, such as these black birch leaves. Rails to trails -49

Or this blackberry leaf. Rails to trails -44

Or the young leaves of this scrub oak tree. I could spemd a day observing and photographing the newly sprouted leaves. . Rails to trails -4

So much new growth, it is an amazingly  beautiful word we live in and Spring always, to me anyway, seems to make me once again appreciate it. . I continued my walk watching the newly awakened moths, butterflies and bumblebees flutter about. Rails to trails -58

And there were more birds, robins, crows, sparrows, mourning doves and this blue jay. Here is a link to some more photographs of some of the birds I saw on my hike. http://www.keepyoureyespeeled.net/photographs-2017/nggallery/photographs-2017/Rails-to-trails-birds-April-30-2017-Rails to trails -63

It was a long hike, with my early morning walk I had ten miles in, but I would have kept walking if I had the time, since there is so much to discover,in the woods of Northeastern Pennsylvania in the Spring.  I will have to work tomorrow and the rest of the week  but I am already looking forward to next weekend to explore  places yet unknown here in Northeastern Pennsylvania.  I love the Spring. Here is a link to some more photographs from my hike today. http://www.keepyoureyespeeled.net/photographs-2017/nggallery/photographs-2017/Rails-To-Trails-April-30-2017-Rails to trails -10


“Never miss an opportunity of noticing anything of beauty …”
Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature and WalkingRails to trails -46




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No Snow, But Not Much Spring Either At The Lehigh Canal In Weissport.

Many of the trails near my home in Hazle Township, located in the higher elevations of Northeastern Pennsylvania, still had a lot of snow cover last  Sunday.  So,  I decided to head south and the  lower elevations of the Lehigh Canal in Weissport, Carbon County. Weissport Lehigh canal -4

There is a lot of history in this area, from it’s beginnings as a fort founded by Benjamin Franklin to it’s importance as a hub on the famous Lehigh Canal.  I have done a few  posts on it’s history and they can be found in the archives section of my blog. Weissport Lehigh canal -2

I was glad to find the path along the old canal was snow free and I found only a few isolated patches of snow on my hike. Weissport Lehigh canal -8

As I thought I would , I found plenty of mallard ducks looking for nesting sites along the canal.  I also saw a pair of wood ducks, but, as is usually the case, they flew off before I could photograph them. Weissport Lehigh canal birds-2

I walked the path west and north as it winds between the Lehigh River and the remains of the old canal.Weissport Lehigh canal -9

 The Lehigh River was rushing with the waters from the rapidly melting snow and I saw  a lot of white water on my walk. There were also many geese, and like the ducks, pairing off to find the perfect place to locate their nest. Here is a link to a video of some geese on the river I uploaded to YouTube. https://youtu.be/qw5gqe4k8EkWeissport Lehigh canal birds-10

Although is wasn’t too cold, temperatures were near 40 degrees, the trees along the path were still bare and the gray  overcast skies made my walk fell more like Winter than late March. Weissport Lehigh canal -34

However, unlike my hike in the PPL Wetlands near Berwick, there were some signs of Spring including a few green buds on this tree. Weissport Lehigh canal -5

And a lot of plants on the ground  were starting to set forth their first green leaves, in anticipation of  the warmer weather, which I hope is on  it’s way. It was nice to see even this little bit of green. Weissport Lehigh canal -37

There were also many birds in addition to the water fowl, including the usual Winter residents, the black-capped chickadees, who fluttered in the trees on both sides of the path.Weissport Lehigh canal birds-4

I also saw a flock of blue birds, including this one Weissport Lehigh canal birds-3

a few cardinals Weissport Lehigh canal birds-19

mourning doves, Weissport Lehigh canal birds-8

and blue jays,  Weissport Lehigh canal birds-23

and sparrows. Weissport Lehigh canal birds-1

woodpeckers,Weissport Lehigh canal birds-13

They left plenty of evidence of their search for a meal under the bark of many trees along the trail. Weissport Lehigh canal -28

And there were the very welcome new arrivals, including, of course quite a few robins who were scampering along the mussy ground in search of a meal as well as  plenty of red winged black birds in  the brush along the trails and their noisy chattering calls. Weissport Lehigh canal birds-21

Although I didn’t see any, I also knew there were beavers active in the area as evidenced by many  small trees such as these along the trail. Weissport Lehigh canal -19

I hiked out to the observation area, about 2 1/2 miles out the trail, and decided to return when the wind changed,  knowing the forecast was for rain later in the day. Weissport Lehigh canal -33

On my return hike I noticed this young holly bush  along the path, somewhat rare in this area. I was surprised I hadn’t noticed it on my many walks along the canal. Weissport Lehigh canal -22

I walked past the “bridge to nowhere” a nice resting area sponsored and maintained by a local church. Weissport Lehigh canal -23

As I neared the parking area, I noticed this  beautiful bird perched atop a utility pole near my car. Weissport Lehigh canal birds-27

I haven’t seen an osprey here before but it would make sense  since there are plenty of fish in the waters of the canal.Weissport Lehigh canal birds-30

 Unfortunately, it wasn’t happy with me watching it and it took off for a more private dining area. Here is a link to some more photographs of the osprey and other birds I saw on my hike. http://www.keepyoureyespeeled.net/photographs-2017/nggallery/photographs-2017/Lehigh-Canal-Weissport-birds-March-26-2017-Weissport Lehigh canal birds-28

i was glad I decided to hike the old Lehigh canal trail and was treated with a lot of bird activity. I am hoping, next weekend, that the snow cover atop the mountain will be gone and I can once again, walk the trails closer to home. The woodlands of Northeastern Pennsylvania should  be coming to life and I hope to be out there, with my eyes peeled, enjoying the many wonders it will offer. Here is a link to some more photographs from my hike. http://www.keepyoureyespeeled.net/photographs-2017/nggallery/photographs-2017/Lehigh-Canal-Weissport-March-26-2017-Weissport Lehigh canal -36


Summer, fall, winter, spring,
The seasons rotate as each
its special beauty to this earth of ours.
Winters’ snow and Summers’ flowers
Frozen rivers will flow come spring,
There is a renewal of everything.  
–   Edna Frohock

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It’s Sure Not Looking Like Spring In The Lehigh River Gorge

I knew my hiking options would be limited this weekend. We still have around 20 inches of snow on the ground here in Northeastern Pennsylvania,  a gift from the late season snow storm named Stella. And it was snowing again this morning!  I decided to hike the D & L trail in the Lehigh River Gorge State Park at the entrance near the little town of Rockport. Lehigh gorge -1

I chose this trail since it allows snowmobiles.  These recreational vehicles compact the deep snow cover. making for easier hiking. I was hoping there was at least one snowmobile enthusiast out on the trail since the storm.  I knew it would be hard walking in the  snow when I saw these two deer having a hard  time getting around in the snow drifts. Lehigh gorge -2

I made it down the steep road to the parking area along the Lehigh River and found two other automobiles so I wasn’t the only one down here like I was a few weeks ago. Lehigh gorge -4

I was relieved to find that there were snowmobile tracks on the trails and I began my hike by heading  eastward on the trail.Lehigh gorge -9

I found there were more ice formations on the cliffs along the river today than there were in January. Lehigh gorge -11

After about a quarter mile I came to Buttermilk Falls which was not frozen and had much more water cascading down it’s cliffs than my last visit. Lehigh gorge -15

I walked past a couple walking their dog and didn’t see another person  for the next three miles. There also wasn’t much wildlife out either. I saw a small hawk darting in and out of the threes along the gorge, a few nuthatches, black-capped chickadees and this woodpecker. i wasn’t sure if it was a downy or hairy. Lehigh gorge -22

I enjoyed listening to the roar of the river below the trail that followed the old railroad right of way. I walked by the ruins of the old locks that were part of the Lehigh Canal but I didn’t venture off the trail to explore them, as I always do, because of the deep snow. Lehigh gorge -27

I walked out about 3 miles, to Mud Run, where it flows into the Lehigh and the exhibits on the Mud Run train disaster that occurred near here in 1880. I did a blog post on the massacre and it can be found in the archives of my blog. Lehigh gorge -33

I decided to leave the compacted snow of the trail and venture down to the Lehigh River. It wasn’t easy. The snow was up to my knees, and even higher in some drifts. But the walk was worth it. Lehigh gorge -35

I  always enjoy sitting next to water, whether it is a pond, lake creek, river or ocean. Today I had to sit on a wet rock but i still enjoyed the view, and the sound of the flowing water. Lehigh gorge -39

As some of you who read my blog on a regular basis may know,  I love trains and I was rewarded for my efforts to get down to the river when I heard an approaching train. I watched the locomotive pass, the engineer honked his horn at me, followed by almost 100 tankers. Here is a video I posted on my YouTube channel. https://youtu.be/-MT8LTMzFeoLehigh Gorge rockport 114

After the train passed I trudged back up to the trail and finally saw two persons riding their snow mobiles on the trail. Lehigh Gorge rockport 131

Even with the snow being compacted from the snowmobiles it  wasn’t easy walking, there being an inch or two of lose snow atop the compacted snow. It was a long  and exhausting walk back. I am still sore as I type this. Lehigh gorge -29

Still it was nice to get out and enjoy the beauty of the aftermath of the storm. Lehigh gorge -18

At least the snow had stopped and the temperatures were not too bad, staying  near the freezing mark.  Evidence of this would be the leaves of the many rhododendron  growing along the trail. In frigid temperatures their leaves curl up but not today.Lehigh gorge -21

I passed another couple on snowshoes before I arrived at me car. So this time I was not alone in the gorge, like my last visit, there were seven other people out enjoying the beauty of the Lehigh River. Hopefully, this blog may encourage some other folks to head out in  snow, and enjoy, what I am hoping is the last winter storm for at least another year. Here is a link to some more photographs from my hike .http://www.keepyoureyespeeled.net/photographs-2017/nggallery/photographs-2017/Lehigh-River-Gorge-hike-march-18-2017-Lehigh gorge -26

“Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs. I am haunted by waters.” Norman Maclean,

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Greater Hazleton Rails To Trails: A Solitary, And Frigid, March Hike.

As predicted, it was another frigid morning here in Northeastern Pennsylvania. A calm and sunny  eleven degrees when I woke up, an hour later than usual because of Daylight Saving Time. I planned on a shorter hike today, because of the cold and snow, and the long hike I took yesterday. So I decided to stay close to home and hike out our local Rails to Trails. Rails to Trails -3

I arrived to find the parking lot empty. Usually,  even on the coldest of days, there are some hardy folks walking the trail. Not today. I could tell there were a lot of folks out yesterday, from the tracks on the trail but not a person today.Rails to Trails -4

I walked the trail, following an  old railroad right of way, eastward, through the mixed forest of pine, oak and maple trees, in the cold morning air. Thankfully, there was not much of a wind, like there was yesterday. Rails to Trails -7

The snow was not too deep, about 4 to 6 inches, but still deep enough to make walking difficult as I made my way to the second prong of the trail, about a mile out. Rails to Trails -16

As I crossed the highway that separates the trail, I found only one set of footprints in the snow, and they soon ended making me the first person to hike out here since the recent snowfall. Rails to Trails -17

And I say person, since like yesterday, there was plenty of evidence that there were animals roaming in the surrounding woods, occasionally crossing the trail. These are one of many deer tracks that crisscrossed the trail.Rails to Trails -20

And there were other tracks too,  these, I think are a coyote, probably trailing the deer.  I followed them for almost a mile, re-enacting the activities of the coyote as it walked in and out of the woods, searching for a meal. Here, it appears to have found something worth investigating under the snow, probably a vole, mouse or other rodent.Rails to Trails -33

There were few birds or animals to be seen in the frigid air but I did see a few Canada geese on the ice free waters of the Dreck Creek reservoir.Rails to Trails -31

And more signs of some other critters still live in these woods, like this hole which was carved out of the tree by a woodpecker.Rails to Trails -8

I walked on, past the picnic area near the Dreck Creek Reservoir dam and found the snow angel made by either either a  snow and cold   loving,  or, possibly, a crazy person. Hmmm,  I wonder who that could be? Rails to Trails -37

I was going to turn around at the 3 mile mark on the trail, but, I heard, and then saw, a red tailed hawk fly overhead, to fast for me to get a photograph. Rails to Trails -41

I walked a few hundred more yards, in hopes of seeing the hawk, but with no luck. It looked like it was headed to these hills in the distance. If there was no snow on the ground and the temperatures warmer I may have hiked on to try and find it. But I was cold and tired so decided, reluctantly, to head back. Rails to Trails -44

Along the way back  the only living thing I encountered were a few dark eyed juncos hopping on the ground and fluttering in the shrubs as I passed. Rails to Trails -45

I continued my  peaceful and solitary hike back, and didn’t encounter one person on the trail , until, as  I neared the parking area,  I saw one brave sole running through the icy and snow covered trails. Rails to Trails -50

And I finally saw some animals, these  two bears, but, unfortunately, they weren’t real. Rails to Trails -1

I also  saw this sure sign of Spring, which I spotted when I started my hike, a pussy willow shrub beginning to bud.  It may be cold, and we have another big snow storm in our forecast, but there is reason to hope, Spring is only a week away, and it will arrive on time, it always does. Here is a link to some more photographs from my hike today. http://www.keepyoureyespeeled.net/photographs-2017/nggallery/photographs-2017/Rails-to-Trails-March-12-2017-Rails to Trails -6



“There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.” — Sir Rannulph Fiennes

Rails to Trails -14






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