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Archive for the ‘Hikes’ Category

Twenty-Five Years

Laurie among Trilliums

Twenty-five years ago on April 22, 1995, a milestone occurred. Lauranne (Laurie) and myself were married. This wedding happened in my back-yard gazebo. It is difficult to believe that many years have drifted along.

Last summer I began planning to go on a cruise for this silver anniversary. Laurie enjoys cruises and I thought doing such an event would be a great way to celebrate our twenty-five years.

Blue Phlox

Unfortunately, things happened in our lives . My step-father developed cancer which he is still struggling with. My mother turned ninety last December and recently suffered a mini-stroke. My sister went through difficult times leading to a divorce. Doctor appointments became quite prevalent over these months.

Laurie and I discussed the cruise plans and we decided to not plan for such a trip not knowing how Bob would be in the coming months. The trip was scheduled in mid-March. What, also, happened around this time? A virus began disrupting just about everything. We would have been on that trip when all this “hell” broke out to disrupt our lives. So, I guess our decision was a god one considering all that has happened.

Wednesday was the anniversary and no special plans occurred between us. No flowers, no jewelry, no trip, no fancy restaurant. However, we made other plans

Huge rock

that were satisfactory  for both of us. We decided to go on a hike and Laurie wanted to make a meal and dessert. We hiked the Rock Furnace Trail in southern Armstrong County and, later went for a drive over back roads to see whatever we could see.

The trail moves along Roaring Run. We enjoyed our time together. Trilliums were in bloom everywhere. The stream is beauty to behold.

 

On the way home we stopped to view an ancestor’s gravesite. His name was henry Blystone. He was my great-grandfather’s brother and fought under General Sherman during the Civil War.

 

 

 

Roaring Run

 

Trying to figure out her phone.

 

White Trillium

 

 

 

 

 

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Beautiful Pennsylvania

Saturday, April15th, I found myself walking some familiar landscape on State game Lands 105. My hopes were to find some morels…maybe hear some gobbling and see a bear. I failed on all three hopes this morning, but the hiking time was enjoyable. However, I did walk upon a gobbler with his two hens. the only photo I managed to get was a turkey’s back dropping over a slight drop in the terrain. Wildlife seemed scare this morning and that happens. The only mammal I saw was a rabbit.

I didn’t look extremely well for Morels only looking whenever I came upon a place that looked, “mushroomie.”  I found several other species. One, I   believe, is called Red Elf Cap or something similaer. Two others I am not sure enough to type in.

Later, I discovered a Beaver dam. I love exploring such dams. those mammals intrigue me with their instinctive building skills.

 

Beaver Dam

 

 

Juneberry or Serviceberry blossoms

Bloodroot

 

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Porcupine

 

Recently I returned to a large track of land to further explore and learn about the diversity. I love checking out new areas, however, finding such spots has become increasingly difficult over the times

I arrived about 7;30 to begin walking a trail. I almost immediately saw a deer up ahead. That would be the last deer sighting of the day. The flats featured some nice timber prior to the descension to the creeks on both sides of the point. I could hear the fats water from my high vantage point. At various places I observed “statues of rocks” someone had created in their jaunts. My early

Golden-crowned Kinglet

thoughts reminded me of ancient times and the worship of Baal by pagan Gentiles. However, I truly doubt and human sacrificing occurred on these altars.

I was slightly disappointed upon reaching a road and coming onto different property with many posted signs on the trees. Oh well, that is the norm in our current society. I returned to the parking place while walking along Bear Creek before going up and over the steep hill.

I entered another area of this property and enjoyed a nice trip through secluded woodlands. I am not sure how the dumping occurred for the area was polluted with hundreds and hundreds of tires and other debris from past travels along this, now-gated, trail.

While traveling this area I managed to get some photos of a Golden-crowned Kinglet and that isn’t an easy task. Those birds set long enough to get a focus and then dart to another limb searching for food. Out of a half a dozen shots I only got one decent photo.

Wood Turtle

I walked along a creek bottom and noticed just how high the creek had become after last week’s torrential rain. At one point I noticed a Wood Turtle along the bank. I couldn’t help wondering if that turtle rode out the recent high water. Maybe the critter had washed down stream for half a mile. Regardless, the turtle wasn’t overly frightened with my presence allowing for many photos.

The Coltsfoot flowers were blooming profusely. Yes, spring is here. The flowers are, often, called dandelions by many, but they are a separate specie.

I found some Round-lobed hepatica flowers almost ready to burst open . Golden Ragwort flowers have buds, but they will soon see a quick spirt in growth offering yellow flowers at around 15-18 inches high.

I was fortunate to see a Great-Horned Owl flying from a tree. No photos of that beauty. Other sightings included Turkey vultures, Canada Geese and Wood Ducks.

I saw an animal in a tree. At first I wasn’t sure if I was seeing a Porcupine or a Raccoon. Eventually, as I closed in, the Porky became obvious.

Coltsfoot Blossom

 

 

Stacked Rocks

 

Bear Creek

 

Round-lobed Hepatica

 

Wood Ducks

 

The morning sun

 

Some fast water

 

Robin

 

Close-up of Wood Turtle

 

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Black Bear (Notice the right eye.)

 

For over thirty years I wanted to explore some wooded land approximately thirty miles away from my home. Every time I ventured through the area I would remind myself of the need to explore and learn about these lands. Today, was the initial beginning of checking out the terrain and forest diversity.

Yesterday, March 26, Laurie and I walked a local game lands for exercise and to enjoy the warm, spring-like weather.  We saw five deer. This morning I was on my own. I knew I would be gone for, at least, half a day if not more. I was anxious to see what interest would befall my jaunt as I began to walk through the woodlands.

  The woodlands began as rather open country, but as I moved down the hill’s side I found some clear-cut areas. Soon I would be walking along a

Old Beaver sign

creek and noticing the remnants of a past Beaver dam. The waterway area was covered with downed grasses from last year. Also, many dead trees were visible wherever the water level from the dam submerged their roots. Downed trees were present and numerous old, weathered cuttings from a Beaver’s history could be readily viewed.

I stopped briefly to have a nature call when I saw the obvious head of a Black Bear. the bruin was about forty to forty-five yards from me. The nature call was aborted immediately!

I quickly realized two observations. One was that the bear was bedded and secondly, he was a huge bear. he turned his head, both left and right at times. Eventually, his gaze was in my direction. The big bear had something wrong with his right eye. (Look closely at the photos included here.) Obviously, I began taking photos whenever I could see the head well enough without limb interference. The head was big and the bear was obviously a huge male bear.

I stood on site for somewhere between five and eight minutes, before the bear stood up. Once I saw the body the size of head fell into place. The bear appeared to relieve himself. Once completed the bear turned towards the left and meandered upslope between an opening on the hill behind.

  I moved upstream to find a place easily forded. I moved through a wetlands before going up and over a slight rise in the terrain. My hope was to circle around for better photos. The bear was never viewed again although I moved up a hollow and up over a hill. I was tickled at seeing this great beast.

I walked along for approximately five hours this day seeing  a flock of turkeys and seven deer. At one point, I noticed something white at about thirty-five yards. A gobbler’s head with his body hidden by terrain. As soon as our eyes met the bird was gone.

A lot of BlueJay feathers told the story of a hawk’s meal.

I actually became bewildered for a time in this big area, but as you can see I found my direction.

Other sightings included a Red-tailed Hawk, Canada Geese, Wood Ducks, Mallards and Vultures. I was home around two and somewhat tired, but I sure was thrilled with this day’s events.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last year’s Squawroot.

 

 

Canada Goose

 

Frog eggs

 

Wood Ducks

 

 

 

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I have been on this Pennsylvania Game Commission property several times over the years, but this particular area I had not been on for a long time. The last, and only, time I hiked this section was at the time the Deer Tick explosion was in full swing.  I was calling turkeys in September and the birds were very vocal. I had my camera ready as I crouched between some limbs from a downfall. For whatever reason I glanced down to my pants and ticks were everywhere. I killed a few and decided to get the heck out of Dodge.  Ticks can ruin an otherwise enjoyable hike. In fact, I removed and destroyed about ten this morning, too. I hadn’t seen many at all over the hunting season last year.

I lucked out with watching a longboard gobbler with his harem of about eight hens. He wasn’t too concerned over my presence with so many admirers all around him.  They carefully went up the hill away from me and within moments they were all out-of-site.  I saw several deer, too.

Owl pellet

I kept my eyes towards the trees, as I walked, searching for a Great-Horned Owl’s nest. I found  one of his pellets. Hair and bones within the pellet told the story of some poor

Multiflora Rose

mammal being utilized as food. I did not see any nests. (Owl pellets consist of any hair, feathers and bone regurgitated by the owl. These are not digestible and discarded from the internal stomach of the owl. I have found complete mouse skulls on occasions.)

Much of the area had fairly open timber with visibility of over a hundred yards, however, once I got into an area with Multiflora Rose I began noticing ticks. Those pesky critters like to crawl out the stems and attach themselves to anything that brushes against the rose stalks. Theses plants are around the first to leaf out each spring.

There were some patches of another painful plant scattered throughout the walk.The Green Briar is a native plant to Pennsylvania. Those thorns can add much pain to a human calf or arm.

I circled around this property and eventually began a descent back towards my jeep. The walk was enjoyable and I was plea

 

Green Briar

 

Birch leaf illuminated by the early sun.

 

 

DSC_0160 (1)

hen

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Redbank Creek

Last week I was on the Redbank Valley Association’s trail to hike from the community of Climax, Pennsylvania to New Bethlehem. The day was to be sunny, but the temperature at dawn was below freezing for I could see ice build up on non-moving water.

Eagle nest

I was chilled initially for the sun had not risen over the tops of the hill hills to my right. However, it was bright enough to see. I kept a quickened pace to get the “blood flowing” as the old timers used to say. Laurie and I had walked a section of this area last spring, but this time I was determined to complete my goal.

Various birdlife was heard and viewed along the trail. Chickadees, Cardinals, Song Sparrows and Bluejays were common. Crows flew overhead at times as did a Red-Tailed hawk. I had hoped to see a Bald eagle foe a nest is visible to see to the observant. The big birds were not active this morning.

Old railroad ties

Canada geese were present at places with their honking “to scold me” racket. I did see a hand full of deer.

Beaver sign was spotted throughout the traveling. Some cuttings were old and some were fresh. Turkey, deer and coyote tracks were on the trail.

A lot of history remains can be seen along this trail,. Old coke ovens from the later twenty years or so of the eighteen hundreds are scattered around. they would refine the coal into a carbon for hotter burning. An old bridge over Long Run had some wash out issues and was roped off, but I crossed it anyway on the way back through. Old remnants of railroad ties could be seen here and there. They were in bad shape for the most part and covered with a thick carpet of moss. I walked through the old Climax Tunnel which recently had been repaired for public use again.

As I maneuvered along, especially on the return trip, the sun had come up and created some warmth. It was a beautiful morning to be out.

I haven’t been able to add photos the way I had traditional completed the task. I have discovered an different way so I am back in action again.

Bridge over Long Run just south of New Bethlehem.

 

 

Old coke ovens

 

Song Sparrow

 

Beaver cuttings

 

Climax Tunnel

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Beautiful Pennsylvania

Last Friday and a clear day was being forecasted. I knew a walk was going to become reality. I prepared with the needed apparel for the temperature in Kittanning was a sultry 8 degrees early.

I realized rather quickly that the cold temperatures and the breezy conditions were creating a chill. I picked up my pace to get the “old blood” moving for warmth.

The wildlife must have “holed up” for I didn’t see much except for one deer and various small birds. I walked old common roads, trails and woodland areas. I looked up on occasion to search for Great-horned Owl nests. Finding their nests can be difficult, but if you do walk upon one they are often easily discerned. Nests can be quite large at times.

Porcupine quills

I did find an unusual subject. I noticed some black among the underbrush. Upon a closer look I was surprised to see a dead porcupine. Of course the wondering thoughts begin as to what killed the small creature.

Ruffed Grouse track in the frost

Another sight of rarity anymore were a series of grouse tracks.  I sure miss hearing those drumming Ruffed Grouse and their thundering wings.

 

An old snag.

 

 

 

Frost

 

 

Old hornet’s nest

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Autumn Time Alone

Cowanshannock Creek

The family spent the last two days at the hospital talking with various doctors. Both days talked of my step-father’s cancer (Bob Miller) issues and what will, most likely, be the imminent future for him. We were told the cancer is very aggressive and moving fast. No cure is possible. Bob’s life expectancy is in months. This was not the news we had hoped for, but I expected that to be the case. I have tried to remain busy to not dwell on things as often.

  Lots of rain is expected later this evening. My original plans were to fish the Allegheny River. I set the minnow trap at six in the morning and at seven thirty I was dismayed to see the majority of those minnows to be  within the five and six inch range. I was planning on light tackle and catching some bass and catfish. I dumped the minnows back into the creek and pondered on purchasing some locally. I walked past a deck I have been building and decided to forfeit the fishing and go and get wood to complete the final landing of the deck which I did.

Prior to eleven o’clock I checked the radar and elected to hike along Cowanshannock Creek to see the beauty of the autumn foliage. I walked, where ever I could , along the creek’s edge snapping photos everywhere. This waterways has many boulders and hemlocks and rhododendrons. Add beech and maple and the contrast was breathtaking. I was forced to gather a stck as a third leg for the many rocks where slippery for this old man with painful knees.

The several hours walking along helped clear my mind for a time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I have been seeing many,  many turkeys over the last month here in western Pennsylvania. One day while out walking I saw four different flocks.  Some were concerned about poult survival rates due to the amount of rain we had had earlier this summer. I don’t believe the impact from the rain has had too much of an impact.

A few photos from various hiking adventures are below.

Foxtails in the dew.

 

Blue Vervain

 

 

 

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Indigo Bunting

I had planned to move out earlier than what I did this morning. Sometime after four in the morning I had one of those asthmatic coughing attacks. The coughing lasted only around five to seven seconds, but I almost blacked out. The result from such an episode is fatigue. Regardless, I forced myself to venture out for a couple of hours before the heat became too warm. I was glad I made the trek.

Yellowthroat Warbler

A light fog was about but was lifting fast as the warmth of the sun evaporated the moisture. I quickly noticed a couple of rabbits out and about in the

Mother trukey

dewy grasses. I, also, saw a couple of Groundhogs. As the dew evaporated the insect life began fluttering around. Most of the insects I enjoyed seeing, but the fruit flies were annoying. I managed to eliminate twelve or so. My other arch enemy the deer flies tried to get some blood. I killed about five of those pesky insect. The killings gave me satisfaction!

The butterflies and dragonflies are, always, enjoyable to watch.

I walked around a fence row only to see a hen turkey with nine poults. The little ones were the size of ring-neck pheasants. Ma ran off leaving the babes to stand around in wonderment. I could have enjoyed setting down and watching and listening to their kee-kee calls as they all got together again, but I wanted to make a circuit on this walk before the sun grew hotter.

I saw one small buck watching from the woodland edge. I managed a few pics.

I found a few bear tracks although recent rain weakened the sharpness of the tracks. This October Pennsylvania will be having a muzzleloader bear season. I may go out a couple of days depending on temperatures.

 

Turkey poults

 

Small buck

 

Monarch Butterfly

 

Beebalm or Oswego

 

Calico Pennant Skimmer Dragonfly

 

Downy Skullcap

 

Wild Bergamot

 

Black Cohosh or Black Snakeroot

 

Bear Track

 

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