Cold And Snow: A Year End Walk At The Rails To Trails

The warm spell I wrote about in my last post ended on Christmas Day here in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Cold returned. Temperature plunged into the single digits this week. I had planned to drive to the PPL Wetland this morning to see how much ice developed on the Susquehanna River. A light but steady snowfall slickened the roads and changed my plans.snow covered highway

I decided to stay in town and hike out our local Rails to Trails.  A light powdery snow was falling as I began my hike with about a two inch accumulation already on the ground. snow covered entrance to Rails to trails

The temperature had actually warmed up to 11 degrees. It had been near zero the past few days. It was still cold enough to make the snow “squeak” as I walked on it. tree lined and snow covered path

And cold enough to make these two bears shiver. snow covered bear statues

I was the only one on the trail on my five mile hike although there were two other sets of footprints in the newly fallen snow. 

Other than the beautiful scenery created by thetree lined path in snow  fresh snow there was not much else to photograph. Although  the remains of the summer plants like this milkweed pod,snow covered milkweed pod

or this blackberry bramble were pretty covered in snow.snow covered blackberry branch

The only wildlife I encountered were the many black-capped chickadees that fluttered through the snow covered trees. black-capped chickadee in tree

I walked under the snow covered trees, enjoying my favorite, the pitch pines. pitch pine in snow

The snow continued to fall as I made my way to the picnic area near the now frozen Dreck Creek Reservoir.snow covered picnic area

It was about a 2 1/2 mile hike out to the reservoir but it sure felt longer in the snow and cold. I decided to walk back.

It was a lot harder walking in the now deeper snow, and the cold temperatures made for a difficult walk. I was tired when I reached the one mile marker and was exhausted when I made it back to my car. snow covered path

It was a struggle walking in the cold and snow but the scenery was pretty and much better than sitting inside watching television. Still I much prefer the greens of summer, and am looking forward to the lengthening days and approach of Spring. Here is a link to some more photographs from my hike. Rails to Trails Hike. December 30 2017snow covered woodlands

“The snow doesn’t give a soft white damn whom it touches.” 
― E.E. Cummingspine cone covered in snow

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A Few Short Walks Close To Home

It’s late November now and that means an early sunset here in Northeastern Pennsylvania. The sun now sets around  4:40 p.m. Not much time after a day at the office to get out for my  walks with my camera. WW II tank and memorials at park

However, being a holiday week, and with the hope of another sighting the two bald eagles I saw out at our Community Park last weekend, I left the office early for a couple of short walks out Lake Irena this week. 

On Tuesday there was some sunshine and temperatures were around 45 degrees which is around average for this time of year.  There no water fowl on the lake and only a few folks enjoying the beauty of the lake.walks along Lake Irena

I took a quick walk around the lake before the sunset and was disappointed I  didn’t see the eagles. In fact the only wildlife I saw or heard were a few crows flying overhead. bridge over stream

It was still nice to get out and enjoy the late Autumn sunshine. Here is a link to some more photographs from my walk. Community Park November 21 2017 gazebo in park on sunset on walks

I left the office early and returned the next day but this walk was in much different weather conditions. Lake Irena took on a much different appearance. It was cloudy, colder and windy at the park.bare trees and clouds at lake

I again took a quick walk around the lake and once again did not see any eagles.  And, as on the previous day, the only wildlife were some crows flying in the stormy sky.crow in flight

As I was photographing the crows I thought I was going to be rewarded with a bald eagle sighting. However, the large object flying in the clouds wasn’t an eagle. It was a jet flying low, probably on it’s final descent into the airport at Avoca. jet airplane in flight

It was blustery and cold on my walk. Once again I only walked around the lake twice. Here is a link to some more photographs from my walk. Community Park November 22 2017.storms clouds and lake

 I took another short  walk close to home on Thanksgiving morning. I had to prepare some food for our Thanksgiving dinner so I decided to take a quick walk out the Rail to Trails path before I started. rails to trails entrance

The Broad Street entrance to the trail was open again. The drainage work on the trail being almost completed. 

It was a sunny, and colder morning with temperatures in the mid 20’s. The skies were cloudless and deep blue. I loved the contrast of the pitch pines against the blue skies. I spent many hours hiking under these trees over the years. pitch pines on trail

I was surprised, and happy, to see a number of people walking and running on the trail. They, too, like me,  were probably wanting  to burn  off some calories before the feasting that lay ahead. tree lined trail

There were also some wild critters on the trail on this cold Thanksgiving morning. I saw a few squirrels, chipmunks and a number of birds. including this tufted titmouse . tufted titmouse on branch

I walked out about two miles before I decided  to return, enjoying the beauty of the trail. Here is a link to some more photographs of my walk. Rails to Trails November 23 2017.tree lined trail

I am so glad we have this beautiful trails and parks so near home. They provide me with peaceful sanctuaries to walk and think, and were much needed in the difficult times of these past few week

I was so fortunate to enjoy a delicious Thanksgiving dinner prepared by my nieces Kelly and her husband Ethan, my nice  Cassidy and nephews Charlie and Brandon. They carried on this tradition started by their parents. It was nice to share the day with our entire family. Of course, it was not the same, the void was deep. But we made the best of this situation as we could. And I know Charles and Linda were with us in spirit and were so proud of their children for keeping this tradition. 

“When I’m in turmoil, when I can’t think, when I’m exhausted and afraid and feeling very, very alone, I go for walks. It’s just one of those things I do. I walk and I walk and sooner or later something comes to me, something to make me feel less like jumping off a building.” 
― Jim Butcher

tufted titmouse on branch



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A Rainy Day At The Greater Hazleton Rails To Trails

It was a cold, windy and overcast morning here in Northeastern Pennsylvania.  The skies were red at sunrise and, according to the old rhyme, “Red sky at night, sailors’ delight.
Red sky at morning, sailors take warning”,                                                              we were in for some stormy weather. Rain was predicated to arrive around noon so I decided to hike close to home and drove to our local rails to trails, about two miles from my house. entrance to rails to trails

Upon arrival at the parking lot I remembered this portion of the trail was closed for  some drainage  maintenance.entrance to rails to trails

 I drove to the another parking area on trail, near the one mile mark,  where I began my hike in a light rain and sleet. The temperature was 33 degrees, and must have risen overnight since  I found ice on the puddles on on puddle on trail

I love walking this beautiful trail, although, during the warmer months I do not get here often because I am looking for huckleberries, mushrooms or photographs  of wildlife at the PPl Wetlands and other nature preserves. tree lined trail

The trail follows the path of the old  Delaware, Susquehanna and Schuylkill,  D, S & S railroad right of way.  There is more information on the history of this railroad in a few of my prior posts which can be found using the search application  here on my blog. trial information

The lush green leaves of summer are now gone and most of the colors of fall have faded too. The only color now is the dull red leaves of the oaks, red oak leaves

and the green leaves of the pines and mountain laurel. green mountain laurel leaves

The sleet and freezing rain ended and I noticed the many pitch pines that grow along the ridge above the trail. As I mentioned in my post last week I have always loved this trees and spent many hours as a child walking, playing and camping under their branches. pitch pine leaves on trail

I walked past the Dreck Creek reservoir and the rest area where a new pet rest and watering station was just built. structure on trail

I than followed the trail  out past the heath barrens heath barrens on trail

and  the old road that led to the beryllium plant that was located near here. old macadam road on trail

I encountered little wild life on my hike. I saw a blue jay, a few black-capped chickadees, a few juncos,junco on trail

and a flock of , I think, sparrows, feeding on some birch catkins. bird on tree on trail

Out near the heath barrens there were plenty of red tea berries,tea berries along trail

and I found a few witch hazel trees. These trees are the only native tree that flowers in the fall. witch hazel blossoms on trail

I walked out to the bridge that spans the still active railroad tracks. I discovered that the rain that fell area froze on the concrete on the bridge. 

And just when I  decided to begin my  hike back to my car it began to rain again. I walked the three miles back  in a steady cold rain. It wasn’t the best day for a hike but I still loved  being outside, enjoying the peace and quiet of the Pennsylvania woods. Here is a link to some more photographs from my hike today. Rails to trails hike November 18 2017 tree lined trail

“We believe that the place to start … is in our communities. Americans living together and joining in associations across the country–this is where the tremendous strength and vision of our people will be tapped. We recommend a prairie fire of local action to sweep the nation, encouraging investment in outdoor recreation opportunities and rededication to the protection of our great natural heritage. – PRESIDENT’S COMMISSION ON AMERICANS OUTDOORS, Americans and the Outdoors


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Moons And Junes And Even A Ferris Wheel.

I think I may have mentioned a few times  here, on my blog,  that June  is my favorite month. It was the month of my birth and celebrations of a birthday are always fun for a  child. It is also the month when  solstice occurs, , the longest day of the year, and the month with the  most sunlight. 

It is also that time of year when the new growth of Spring reaches it’s peak and the forests and woodlands of Northeastern Pennsylvania are at their greenest splendor. And with the blooming of the mountain laurel, our state flower, there is no better time to explore our woodlands. 

Finally, as a child, it was also the time school ended and I so remember anticipating that last day of school  and how I would spend those carefree summer days exploring the unfamiliar world I was growing up in. Every flower, tree, bird, ant, frog,  spider, snake, insect, cloud, deer , rock and everything I could find was something to be inspected with the eyes of a child. 

The end of all of these carefree days began upon graduation from high school, although it was still a most wonderful summer before going away to college, and the real world.  I guess the point of all of this is that, on that June night at my high school graduation commencement this song was  played,  Both Sides Now performed by Judy Collins. It also brings back memories of the splendor of June and  those best years of my life. One line of lyrics reads “Moons and Junes and Ferris wheels…..”, and thus my idea for this  post. And also  since we happened to have a beautiful Strawberry moon here on Friday night.

I have always loved observing the moon and it’s different phases throughout  the year but it is most beautiful, I think, when it is full in June. Here is a link to some more photographs of the moon.

We also have finally had some beautiful weather here these past few days. . Plenty of sunshine and warmer temperatures made for nice walking weather and has also, finally,  brought out some insects. 

So I  decided take my macro lens out to see the world from a different perspective Friday  afternoon. 

I always looked at the many wonders of nature up close and remember spending countless hours observing an ant hill in my backyard even before I entered elementary school. 

My camera and macro lens now lets me continue those explorations and observations and social media allows me to now share these wonders I find. 

I was happy to see some bees attracted to the many comfrey flowers now in bloom.  There were no bees on the rhododendron flowers this year and this is a very frightening occurrence. Without pollination there will be no fruit or vegetables and we humans will be in trouble.We will have to learn to live off of grass, 

I enjoy how complex and beautiful even a leaf eaten be a caterpillar looks amazing under the macro lens. 

So many things to see in this world, including these white spiders that live on  daisies. Here is a link to some more photographs I took on my walk with the macro lens.

Yesterday started out with some rain but turned into another beautiful day here in Pennsylvania. After my usual morning walk, I drove out to the local Rails to Trails where they were setting up for National Trails Day Bike and Hike event. 

I had volunteered to help set up the event  but there were plenty of folks there, so I asked if I could return later to help  put things away.

I wanted to attend my nephew Mikey’s high school.  trap shooting event in Elysburg.  So I was soon on the highway enjoying the beautiful scenery of our section of the State. There is no finer month to drive the roads of Pennsylvania than June.

I arrived just as my nephew began to shoot and, you may not believe this, anxiously watched every one of the 100 shots, he, and other members of his team took. 

It was a nice morning spent with my brother  Mike and his family, and some old friends who also had children participating in the event, in the June sunshine. 

The event lasted an hour or so and I was on my way back to the Rails to trails event. However, I knew that there was a Ferris wheel  at nearby Knoble’s Grove so I decided to get a photograph for this post. I was planning to park and get up close but the traffic to the park was horrible. I took this photo, and now had a moon and Ferris wheel, but also I was stuck in a traffic jam.

It turned out well, as things always do in June, since I decided to take the back road, Pine Swamp Road out of the park What a great decision. 

I rode through some beautiful back roads, passing creeks, farms and old churches. It was a perfect day to explore the countryside. 

And I also found a lake , part of the Roaring Creek tract of thre Weiser State forest. I was never here before so, of course, I had to get out and explore. 

Thinking I had to be back at the Rails to Trails to help at 2:30 p.m. I decided to spend a half hour and hike the trail along the lake.

It was a wide, well maintained trees with many hikers and bikers taking advantage of the serene woodland surrounding the trail.

I heard many birds in the tree above me but didn’t have time to wait and try to photograph them. I did enjoy their singing. And I was able to photograph a few of the many dragonflies, 

and butterflies I saw in my hike. 

It was a nice hike,  I spent an hour on the rail, but hope to get out there again, maybe today, as soon as I finish this post. Here is a link to some more photographs from my hike and visit to the trap shoot

I got back to the Rails to trails at 2:30  only to learn they wanted me there at 1:30 since the event ended at 2 p.m. Most of the event was taken own but I helped with putting away a few table and chairs. I will have to listen more carefully next year. 

I decided to enjoy some more of the beautiful June sunshine  and took a quick hike out on the trail. Here is a link to some more photographs from my hike on the trail .

It was late afternoon when I got home, and the chores of everyday life awaited me, grocery shopping. laundry and some yard work. It was a long day and I was exhausted and have to admit I was asleep when the moon rose at 9:30 pm. Still it was a good June day, as they all our, and I am today  refreshed and ready  to get out and see some more of beautiful Northeastern Pennsylvania , as soon as I post this. Have a good day, get outside, and keep your eyes peeled.“I wonder what it would be like to live in a world where it was always June.”

–  L. M. Montgomery

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A Walk Through The Pitch Pine And Scrub Oak Barrens Near The Rails To Trails.

Sunday morning started out with some sunshine here in Northeastern Pennsylvania, but clouds quickly  moved into our area. The forecast called for rain in the early afternoon so I decided to stay close to home and hike the local Rails to Trails. pitch pine barrens -4

As some of you may recall from my post last week there in a mother bear and three cubs roaming the large wooded tracts of land surrounding the trail. I again decided to see if I could find them and thought the pitch pine and scrub oak barrens would be a good place to look. pitch pine barrens -8

Even with the cool temperatures it was still a nice morning for a walk.  The sheep  laurel has just started to bloom, a sure sign that Spring is almost over. pitch pine barrens -17

And the mountain laurel should be blooming shortly. Our state flower will once again transform our  mountain woodlands into one large beautiful flower garden over the next few weeks. pitch pine barrens -6

I saw this robin along the trail but, as I walked through the thicker scrub oak and pine of the barrens I heard, and saw, a few birds, including a hawk,  in the brush but couldn’t get any photographs. pitch pine barrens -2

I did encounter a few deer, including a mom and two young fawns. We  startled each other, as I disturbed there sleep under a large scrub oak and they quickly disappeared before I could get a photograph.  I was able barely get a photograph of these two deer, who saw me , ran into the brush, and watched me from the distance for a few minutes. pitch pine barrens -13

I followed the trail through the barrens and on  to the old haul road on the north side of the woodlands. I understand it was once used to haul a large steam shovel, used in the coal industry, over the Stockton mountain. pitch pine barrens -20

The road was once much wider than it is now, as can be since from the rocky bank  paralleling the present road and covered with a growth of new pine, birch and scrub oak tress. pitch pine barrens -21

From the size of the trees my guess would be the road was constructed in the 1940’s when coal was still king in this area, but starting to decline. pitch pine barrens -22

I came upon an off road vehicle or quad trail that lead east into the  pitch pine and scrub oak barrens and I started to follow it. pitch pine barrens -23

It was not used often,  as  fern, blueberry,  sheep laurel and other plants were growing on the trail cut through the barrens. It was not easy hiking as the trail all but disappeared in the thick undergrowth. And I found a few ticks on me   as I  struggled through the vegetation. pitch pine barrens -25

 But, I now was determined to see where the trail led and why someone would ride through this thick brush. The trail become rocky in some spots, reminding me of the pine barrens on Stony Mountain, where I hiked as a child. pitch pine barrens -26

I also knew these rocks would be a good place to fine a timber rattler or copperhead snake. Unfortunately I did’t find any. pitch pine barrens -45

I walked along the trail, encountering stands of pitch pines towering over the lower scrub oak and other vegetation. pitch pine barrens -27

And in some areas only one lone pine stood out on the horizon.pitch pine barrens -39

I soon came to the top of the mountain and could see the city of Hazleton in the distance to the north and west. pitch pine barrens -28

I have always loved to climb to high places and enjoy the view. I remember finding the highest tree on Stony mountain and climbing it, sitting in it’s branches and looking at the Hazleton city and surrounding area to the east.  Or climbing the culm bank near Jeansville, which provides an awesome view of the city and surrounding mountains.  This was the first time I saw the city from this vantage point and I reflected on the landmarks I was able to see and the memories they have given me over the years, such as the former St Joseph’s Hospital, where I drew my first breadth on this planet. 

Or the blue water towers on McKinley Street, there was only one atop the hill until a few years ago. I remember seeing it, and using it as a guide, to get me home from my long hikes on Stony Mountain. 

After taking in the view I continued to follow the now almost non-existent trail, determined to see were it lead. I was hoping to find a view or campsite but instead found it ended at two pine trees, I soon learned it’s purpose. There were two hunting stands in the trees. 

I sure hope the individuals who made this trail either owned the land or had permission from the owners. It has made a considerable impact on the barrens and can even be seen on a google  satellite photograph 

I started my walk back and it soon began to rain. Unfortunately I believed the forecast and was not wearing rain gear. I got a little wet  but it was worth it, and I hope to explore more of the barrens on the Stockton Mountain in the future. Here is a link to some more photographs from my hike.

May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds.Edward Abbey

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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 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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No Bears, But Some Pretty Birds At The Rails To Trails

It was a sunny start Sunday  morning  here in Northeastern Pennsylvania. I was having a picnic in the afternoon and had yet to set up my lawn furniture.. So  I was going to hike close to home until a friend posted a photograph of a mother bear and three cubs out on the local Rail To trails. Rails to trails heath barrens -1

Well three cubs are rare and I was soon hiking out the trails looking for the bears and trying to think where the mom and her cubs may be. Rails to trails heath barrens -4

I have heard of bear sightings in  the pitch pine barrens near the beginning of the trail so I was soon in this beautiful section of the trails owned by a local  land trust. Rails to trails heath barrens -14

The woods were lush and beautiful this time of year especially in the early morning  May sunlight. Rails to trails heath barrens -10

This protected area is absolutely beautiful. I love how the pine and birch stand out among the lower heath, ferns and other lower shrubs. Rails to trails heath barrens -5

I didn’t see any bear but soon saw this yellow rumped warbler perched high in a tree top singing it’s song to the woodlands below. Rails to trails birds -2

And there were many other birds darting in and out of the lower trees, including the scrub oaks and high bush blueberry plants. It is so hard to photographs them but I was able to capture this one, I think it may be a female common yellow throat. Rails to trails heath barrens -18

As I walked back to the main trail a turkey vulture flew overhead.Rails to trails heath barrens -24

And on the ground I saw a few chipmunks and this squirrel. Rails to trails heath barrens -26

I also stopped to watch these busy creatures, red ants, scurry atop their nest. But there were no bears  in sight so. having little time, I decided to drive the entrance on the far end of the trail, near Hazle Brook and hike out to the bridge were the bears were seen earlier that morning. Here is a link to some more photographs of my hike in the pitch pine barrens.

I parked at the entrance on the east end of the current trail and hiked under  an older forest of oak, maple and hemlock.Rails to trails birds -2-2

I was soon greeted by the sound of this beautiful birds singing high in a tree top, a scarlet tanager. Rails to trails birds -11

I have been fortunate this Spring to have seen quite a few of these birds this year. Rails to trails birds -17

I continued through the woodlands and to a more open section of the trail, where it winds it’s way through a former mining area that have been reclaimed. Rails to trails birds -21-2

I did not see a lot of birds in the still young trees along the trail , but I am confidant that the many trees planted here will provide food and homes for many species of birds in the coming years. Rails to trails birds -19-2

I walked out to the bridge where the bear and her three cubs were sighted earlier in the morning. Rails to trails birds -23-2

I didn’t see any bears, and continued my search and  walked to the heath barrens about a mile further on the trail. Rails to trails birds -28

As I walked back I saw this hawk fly overheadRails to trails birds -22

and this blue jay eating some type of insect in a tree. Here is a link to some more photographs of the birds I saw on my hike. to trails birds -24

There were also some wild flowers blooming along the trail, including my favorite, the lady slipper orchid or duck flower, Rails to trails birds -27

and a  few may flowers. Rails to trails birds -26-2

And, a sure sign that spring is slowly sleeping into Summer, another of my favorite flowers, the daisies, are blooming. Rails to trails birds -16-2

I didn’t find the bears, and I now had only a few hours to put my lawn furniture out but it was sure worth the few hours of walking in the woods in the early morning May sunshine. Here is a line to some more photographs of my hike on the trail to trails birds -33


“Details of the many walks I made along the crest have blurred, now, into a pleasing tapestry of grass and space and sunlight.”
–  Colin Fletcher




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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. 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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A Wintry Walk On The Last Day Of 2016 On The Local Rail To Trails.

It was cold and overcast this meaning here in Northeastern Pennsylvania and I decided to hike on  the local Rails to Trails. This time I started at the eastern  end of the trail, near the coal patch town of Hazle Brook.  The cloud formations obscured the early Winter sun making for, I hoped, some good photographs. Unfortunately, I forgot the memory card to my Canon 5D camera. So the photographs in this post were taken with my  iPhone. rails-to-traiils-1

There was about two inches of snow on the ground so it wasn’t the easiest walking. I headed west on the old railroad right of way and came to an old strip mine, now filled with water. There are lot of birds and insects here in the summer but nothing was to be seen today. rails-to-traiils-2

I walked along the trail as it passed through  some active coal mining areas and then through a mine reclamation area. The low riding sun was trying to break through the cloud cover making for some interesting shadows, and putting me in a reflective mood as another year comes to an end. rails-to-traiils-4

I walked through the snow, and came to the active railroad tracks,  over which the trail can now cross thanks to a recently constructed bridge.  The tracks head south past the Penrose Reservoir, through Weatherly and done into the Leigh River Gorge., some more of my favorite hiking areas. rails-to-traiils-16

Just past the bridge, the set of tracks that i was following on the trail turned onto the tracks and I now had to blaze, or trudge, a new path through the snow. rails-to-traiils-21

I didn’t see any animals on my walk, except for a few juncos and crows, but their was plenty of evidence that there were many critters in the area, by the tracks they left in the newly fallen snow.rails-to-traiils-24

I continued to walk the rail through the heath barrens, created by the cut and burn  clearing done by Native Americans. rails-to-traiils-32

The trail takes a big u turn and then proceeds east again toward the Dreck Creek Reservoir.  I stopped for a little rest when I reached the picnic area at the reservoir. rails-to-traiils-39

As I started my return trip, the wind changed and started blowing from the northwest, and with it came some blue skies. rails-to-traiils-42

On my way back I came across  a snow angel some crazy person made in the snow. I am not mentioning any names.  rails-to-traiils-37

I saw more track on the way back, this set looks like it was made by some type of bird. rails-to-traiils-35

The wind picked up as i walked and howled in the tree tops, especially the pines and hemlocks. The quite somber start now took on a more lively, sunny appearance. i enjoyed experiencing them both on this last day of the year. Here is a link to some more photographs from my hike.


While the bald trees stretch forth their long lank arms…
And nought more gladsome in the hedge is seen,
Than the dark holly’s grimly glistening green—
At such a time, the ancient year goes by
To join its parents in eternity—
At such a time the merry year is born,
Like the bright berry from the naked thorn.
~Hartley Coleridgerails-to-traiils-12

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A Windy Walk On The Rails To Trails But, It Is December And It Could Be A Whole Lot Worse.

It is December now, and  in many years that means snow and cold temperatures here in Northeastern Pennsylvania.  Not yet this year. We have had only one snowfall of about three inches and it melted weeks ago. It was blustery this morning but a seasonable 34 degrees.  Since it is deer  hunting season I decided to play it safe and hike out the Rails to Trails, where hunting is prohibited. rails-to-trails-hike-10

As you may know from my previous posts, the trail begins on Broad Street  or Route 93 near the border between the City of Hazleton and Hazle Township. It follows the right of way of an an abandoned railroad track. rails-to-trails-hike-7

This was the extant of the snow cover this year, a dusting on some of the logs along the trail. That is fine with me since it gets harder to walk in the snow every year.rails-to-trails-hike-14

I walked east, through a  grove of pine trees, along a ridge.rails-to-trails-hike-8

I came across this fellow,rails-to-trails-hike-15

right before I crossed a   highway as I followed the trail toward the Dreck Creek Reservoir..rails-to-trails-hike-16

The trees have now lost their leaves, except a few brown ones clinging to the oak trees. It is such a different look this time of year .rails-to-trails-hike-5

I only saw a few birds, chickadees and juncos and one squirrel on my walk but I did run into quite a few folks, biking, hiking, running and walking their dogs. I am always glad to see people taking advantage of this beautiful trail. rails-to-trails-hike-26

All of the plants and flowers are now dead and the trail is scattered with their remains. rails-to-trails-hike-3

I walked past the picnic area overlooking the reservoir and again noticed how low the water is from our lack of rain these past few monthrails-to-trails-hike-29s. 

I found a plentiful supply of the refreshing tea berries growing along the trail past the reservoir. rails-to-trails-hike-33

I hiked out to the three mile marker and decided it was time to head back. Although the trail is  well maintained and seems fairly flat, the trail actually has a slight downhill grade walking east from Hazleton. Which means ii has a slight upgrade going back, which after three mile does get noticed..rails-to-trails-hike-40 rails-to-trails-hike-38

It was still a nice late Fall day to be out in the woods of Northeastern Pennsylvania, especially without any snow covering the  ground. But I am sure that will not be for very much longer. Here is a link to some more photographs from my hike today.

When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.” 

John Muirrails-to-trails-hike-18

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