Archive for the ‘Misc. Nature’ Category

Along The Lake


Blue jay

Recently a need to get some fresh air surfaced and I went to walk along Crooked Creek lake in search of things of interest.

Bald Eagle nest

Much rain had occurred in past weeks allowing for back-up water at the dam. Remnants of this high water were viewed everywhere. sad to say, bottles and cans and other debris were left behind once the water receded. many limbs and logs were stationed at the high-water line. This happens most years with flooding.

I chose to mostly walk a trail called, Laurel Point Trail. However, I didn’t stay exclusively on this trail and purposely walked near the high-water line. I found some bobbers and lures among debris.

Porcupine gnawing.

I crossed Coal Bank Hollow Run through some shoe-gathering mud and walked along the slope where I could see the water readily. I saw some Common Mergansers and a few Hooded Mergansers enjoying their swim.

Coal Bank Hollow Run

I reached the point where the trail circled back, but I walked the ridgeline overlooking Crooked Creek. A bald eagle has an active nest across the watershed. The nest hasn’t been easy to see normally, but it appears to me the big birds may have added some limbs for I believe the nest is more easily spotted than past years. I could see Eagle activity at the nest and later heard the squawks form a mature eagle. I gathered some trash left behind on the ridgeline.


Ice Crystal Mushrooms

I would only see one deer on this trek.

Common Mergansers


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Nice sunny days were in store for a couple of days so I put the room remodeling project on hold to venture out to old haunts. The one haunt was Cochran’s Mill. This was a community in times past forced to abandon their homes and business. The reason the people of the past had to leave the area was due to the fact of the government building a flood control dam further downstream on the waterways known as Crooked Creek. Many stone foundation remnants are still present throughout the wooded area.

  As a young fellow, my parents and sister and I were present here to see the old Cochran’s Mill bridge  under water. The old bridge would flood annually as the Crooked Creek Dam would hold back water to control flooding in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. A new bridge was erected a short time ago and was erected higher than the old bridge. However, this new structure was flooded  with all the rain we have had in recent times. I wanted to visit this area this day. There are two bridges here. One was built new and another repaired in recent years.

As part of this day’s jaunt I elected to walk some of the Baker Trail which runs through the Cochran’s Mill area. One can walk along a steep and high hillside and view the flooding. Here I was fortunate to see a flock of turkeys flying over the watershed. The flock consisted of around twenty birds.

The common ties I have with this area are many. My mother Ruth Yount was raised about a mile or so south of this bridge near a place called locally, Rearick’s Ford. My father, Allen Smail was raised at the present-day Cherry Run intersection.  The Cherry Run Gorge flows between his home and joins Crooked Creek here at Cochran’s Mill. Many relatives lived along this Cherry Run watershed and Crooked Creek. I have fished in these waters many times. My dad and I would gather crayfish here to go and fish for bass.

I can honestly state I have been in every hollow and on every hill from my dad’s homestead to Cochran’s Mill. Today much of this area is posted.

Back in the day a famous writer named Elizabeth Cochran came from this long-gone community. Her per name was Nellie Bly.

Nellie Bly historical marker

I watched two Woodies fly over the waters and heard some Canada geese as well. Later, I ventured down stream some to visit a site named Robb’s Fording.

Cherry Run

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Buffalo Creek



  My friend, Frank “Muskie” Maus and I walked  the trail beginning at Lanesville, PA. The morning was cold and

Mallard Ducks

crisp, but we didn’t feel any discomfort. The discussions covered a variety of subjects, such as, recent deer and turkey hunting adventures; people from where we both had worked; politics; loss of lands tp venture in, etc. We didn’t solve many of the world problems, but we still managed to have some laughter.

The snow-covered trail showed little human use. We saw two joggers and that was it. However, we saw plenty of deer activity and some fox and ‘coon tracks. Buffalo Creek flows alongside of the trail. We saw some Mallard Ducks and Common Mergansers. The Mallards didn’t concern themselves with our presence but the Mergansers didn’t tolerate our approach.

The one subject I took note of was the ice formations hanging from the exposed rocky outcrops. I took some photos simply because I thought they appeared “neat.”  I took some pics of these unique formations.











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The roar of the winds could be heard gusting its way on the hill tops. Snowy tornadoes were visible as drifts formed on the lee sides of slopes. Yes, the weather was cold and brisk, but I still went to Crooked Creek Park to hike.


Winter wonderland

I walked down a gated road to visit the overflow area. I had hoped to see some Bald eagles, but they avoided the area during the time I was present.  I did see a lot Common Mergansers flushing from the rapid waters.

As I walked about I kept seeing deer tracks. Eventually I saw four deer standing around and feeding among some thick vegetation that was covered with snow. The snow-laden limbs were quite beautiful to see. Higher on the hill the snow had been blown off all limbs.                                                                 

I heard and saw a pair of Canada Geese flying over. I guess it is that time of the year already when the geese will begin pairing off in preparation of the nesting season. The cycle moves along.

I would see several more deer  during the mid-morning jaunt.

Leopard leaf


Song Sparrow

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  January 26 was turning into a beautiful spring-like day. My internal being was crying for a walk. The difficult part  was deciding where I should walk this fine day. After much debate within my feeble brain I thought a hike along the Allegheny River may yield some nice things to see. I wouldn’t be disappointed with the decision.

The Allegheny had been ice-covered in recent weeks. The area had been inundated with very cold temperatures and snow as I will show later. Much concern was the norm with flooding concerns in various areas. However, the ice moved out with the right amount of temperature fluctuations and few realized any problems with flooding locally.


Red-tailed hawk nest

The river, today, was moving 99% ice free. Small icebergs could be seen floating by most of the water was ice-free. However, the shorelines had much ice. Some areas were, at least, twenty feet high with piled up ice.  Thick sheets of ice could be found in flat areas. In fact, while moving along I felt the sudden crash of breaking ice and down I went. I hurt my elbow very bad and feared breakage for a few moments. Today, as I type all seems improved.

Beaver working on a birch tree.

Periodically, I heard thunderous crashes as “chucks” of shoreline ice would break apart and slide into the water.

The walk didn’t yield much wildlife for me. I saw a few Canada Geese, various small birdlife; a Red Fox and a pair of Red-Tailed hawks.

I walked for about four hours as I made a circle back towards the jeep.

Now, comparing with a week ago one will be able to see the vast variances between a week in western Pennsylvania.

The earlier week proved to begin with single digit temperatures and approximately eight or more inches of dry snow. Ice abounded at many places. At Crooked Creek Park, where I had hiked, had service roads gated due to icy road conditions. However, I walked down on one of these snow-covered road. Allow me to rephrase this. I walked along the road’s edge. The snow successfully covered the layer of slippery ice on this road. As a youth I would have been running and skating on such conditions. Now I approach such adversities with caution.                                                                        


Watch out Titanic!

Puffball… I found several


Unsuccessful pic of Red Fox


The dam was frozen completely over, but the outflow area was running high, fast and muddy. I walked a trail along the creek that would go up over a hill and circle back towards the jeep.  I saw a number of deer and close. the thick bottomland vegetation avoided any chance of a photo.

Some photos from the Crooked Creek adventure:                                        


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Recent Woodland Walks


Hermit Thrush

Mid-December the family were planning a trip to see the lights at Olgebay near Wheeling, west Virginia. I had a van in place for pick up, but cancelled the trip and van upon hearing of snow building up that very evening. I couldn’t take a chance to travel in potential conditions.

 However, the following day had about six or seven inches of pure snow. the roads weren’t bad later on and I decided to go for a hike and take some photos. The  woodlands were quite beautiful as the snow held close to limbs and tree bark.

Deer tracks were quite numerous as I walked along. I saw four throughout the jaunt. I managed to get a photo of, what I believe to be, a Hermit Thrush. I always see and hear these birds in the spring and seeing one didn’t quite seem right for mid-December.

I left the house on December 22 on a rainy and gloomy day. The rain was light initially, but later became more moderate. I went to a local game lands and was surprised at the amount of vehicles at all parking places. the Pennsylvania game Commission must have stocked pheasants and the word was out.


Mountain Laurel

I went to one parking place and pulled in. I was alone for now.  My hike would only be a couple of miles as I began hearing human activity over the side of a hill. I elected to pull out and allow the hunters all space.                                                                                                                  

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After staying home and raking and mulching leaves yesterday, I hit the trail this morning to hunt bear. To be honest, I called this hunt an exploratory hunt for I was traveling into new territory. I have been in a few areas of this same large tract of land, but today’s venture was to be new.


Black-capped Chickadee

I followed the ridgelines around the hollows periodically checking my topography map. I wasn’t still hunting in the strictest sense of this style of hunting, for I was walking more than standing. However, I did set down for a few minutes to eat some walnuts and drink some juice. I discovered a tree that offered a unique seat. I enjoyed the brief set to rest and eat.

This day had some light rain intermingled with snow flurries. Strong winds could be felt as well due to the wind chill. Because of this I could move very

Porcupine gnawings

quietly. I edged along a rim to spot a deer about fifteen yards away. I immediately saw the “horns.” However, I quickly realized something was amiss. The antler on the buck’s right side was down over his jaw. Something had happened obviously. Did this antler deformity occur due an early growth injury? Was the base of the skull damaged due to buck fighting?

As I stopped in my tracks I slightly moved a limb and the deer heard it, but didn’t see me. We played a watch and wait scenario for about ten minutes before he moved enough to allow for a photo.

   I saw several squirrels and heard some swans and a Ring-necked Rooster. I saw a lot of chickadees and juncos feeding heavily in the brambles. Unfortunately, or fortunately, I didn’t see any bear on this jaunt. On the positive side I did learn a lot more about the lay of the land. Upon coming home I checked my trail cam. Bucks…I get buck photos of three different bucks almost every night. I small-racked buck enjoyed rubbing my tress last evening.


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