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


Last weekend a beautiful snow had fallen over western Pennsylvania. In fact, as I left for an excursion, snow was still falling  further adding to the beauty of the day.

I parked along a township road to walk about a mile before entering the woods to explore and take photos. I hadn’t walked very far when I could see three deer moving along higher upslope. A little farther I walked onto an area where dirt had been dumped. I walked to the edge to see what was hanging out below. While I looked about I saw movement at tree top level. A mature Bald eagle was flying down Patterson Hollow. I wondered about this sighting since this isn’t typical eagle habitat. they are usually viewed in areas where water sources are much larger such as rivers and lakes. Regardless, I enjoyed witnessing the big bird’s slow and methodical flight.

Finally I entered at State Game Lands maintained by the Pennsylvania Game Commission. The downward slope was rocky and I felt the need to be extra careful as I moved towards Patterson Run. Patterson Run is a beautiful stream inundated with rocks along the banks in this area. The beauty of these snow-covered rocks with clear moving water offered many photo ops.                                                                                                  

Eventually I worked back towards the road where I crossed to further walk about the game lands. A Turkey Vulture flew close overhead eyeing me up. I imagined the bird was hopeful I might fall over allowing a for a feast. I didn’t oblige the bird.

Old stone wall

More deer were seen as I moved up and over this hillside.





Turkey Vulture

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

I am behind my times. Yes, the walk I am writing about occurred a week ago during a beautiful snowy day. I have been   remodeling a room and have neglected to add this entry.

The interesting truth of the matter is of this past week with record breaking heat and rain. The temperatures actually reached into the upper seventies. I find this hard to imagine since a week ago I was in a snowy heaven.

As stated, I had been working with remodeling a room. However, the snow-laden landscape was nudging at me and I elected to head out for an evening hike. I knew the planned walk would bring me full circle after daylight had ceased for the day. Yes, this was to be a grand time afield for me. I hadn’t gone far when I found four sets of deer tracks. they were obviously not very old since the falling snow would have erased the detail I was seeing. I worked a ridgeline peering down over to try to see deer. As I approached a basin-like hollow I noticed the four deer exiting across form me. They went up and over the hill side.

I walked a short distance and found more tracks crossing before me. I would see three deer at this point.

  The hike was so peaceful. The air was still as possible and the snow falling was straight from heaven. The trees and limbs were all holding an inch or so of snow.

As dusk approached a beautiful pinkish hue covered all things. I was in awe at how the dusk was surrounding me. I stopped to listen and watch and take it all in.

Darkness was becoming dense and I would not be able to take any more photos while hand-holding the camera.  I jumped several deer and would see five altogether in thick goldenrods. I barely could make them out at this time.                                    

I reached the jeep well into darkness.truthfully, I hated to end the jaunt, but I had witnessed a grandeur seldom sensed by mankind today. Peace on earth!





Unique Ice Formations


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.











Brisk And Windy Hike

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

  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: