Vines – July 2017
Vines – July 2017
In late-July I stumbled upon a large mound of sand at a construction site that had several large wasps digging holes. I had never seen a wasp that large in my life. Turn your volume up for the tail end of this audio bit.
Field of gold – July 2017
It is easy to take for granted the amazing landscapes that the area I live in affords. Much of what I see during my short hikes would be jaw dropping to lifetime city dwellers. I need to keep reminding myself of that.
Not a dinosaur egg – July 2017
You have to wonder, though, what amount of water moving at what speed over what duration would it take to make this stone look like this? I’m no geologist but I’d say a lot, fast, and a fair amount of time geologically speaking.
Weeds – July 2017
Summertime hikes offer a completely different experience to early spring hikes. Most of this grass was only a few inches high in early spring, about a foot or so in June, and in this photo in late-July it is at least 3-feet high.
Turkey, Archbald, PA – July 2017
This young Jake wanted blood. He spotted me from about 50 yards away and decided to come investigate. I crouched behind a bush and got smaller and smaller to try not to intimidate him and he got within a single yard from me. I have it all on video.
Grass – July 2017
Top of the World, Dunmore Pine Barrens – June 2017
Turkey egg – May 2017
Quad trail – June 2017
Gravel pile, Archbald, PA – June 2017
Pano – South of Aylesworth Park – June 2017
Under Armour has a free app called mapmywalk that I’ve been using to map hikes that I’ve been taking recently. I really like it.
It doesn’t rely on street maps but rather exact GPS coordinates to map the route I take. This helps me to map trails that I’m hiking that aren’t on any park maps so that I can track the distance I’ve hiked, the trails I’ve already taken, and more. I like to explore new areas and this app is useful to know where I’ve already been.
One other nice feature is that it gives me audio updates while I am hiking at each mile I cross to tell me my current pace and time. My hiking goal isn’t to set a pace or go a particular distance (at least not lately) but this does give me a cue as to how long I’ve been wandering around. I can easily burn a bunch of hours so this app keeps me moving forward so I’m not stumbling around for hours and hours.
Thanks to the team behind this app for making it useful.
I’ve spent a lot of time outdoors in my area. A lot. Especially when I was younger I was outside more than I was inside. And now that I’m older my main hobbies are hiking, kayaking and photography. All of which force me to explore.
This weekend I was pleasantly surprised to have seen a few new creatures for the first time. I believe I saw them because I was paying more attention than I have been lately. Usually I’ll go on a hike with tons of photo gear, my drone, or a goal of covering a certain trail or distance. However, this weekend my goal was to observe my surroundings and it paid off.
During my hikes I saw an Indigo Bunting, a Scarlet Tanager, and a Snowberry Clearwing for the first time. Not to mention the deer, rivers I crossed, ticks I flicked off, countless birds and insects and blooming plants.
Where normally I would have covered 13 to 20 miles during my hikes I only covered just over 6 miles. But I saw a lot more wildlife, understood where I was physically more than usual, and enjoyed the relaxing sounds of nature far more.
I’m all for picking a trail and hiking it for the exercise… but this weekend has shown me that it pays to slow down, even sit for a while, and look around more often.
Jeff Mitchell, who has inspired me to hike in several locations due to his blog and books, somewhat recently hiked the South Branch trail of Lackawanna State Park. He writes:
What a place to hike on a hot summer day, I thought. It was noticeably cooler in this deep, shaded glen along the creek. We reached a powerline swath and here it got a little confusing. The trail goes up the swath a short ways and then continues along an old grade higher above the creek. It was still a nice hike, although the floodplain along the creek is worth exploring.
Yes, it is a great place to hike when it is warmer. Here are my photos and notes of the trail. And yes it is cooler there. Also, I agree it can get confusing in this area he’s mentioning. Even if there isn’t snow cover it can be a little odd. This area of the park can use some attention.
He ended up going a little further than I did on the trail itself and then doubled back. Perhaps I’ll do the same thing the next time I hike this area because the journey I took ended up being 6 miles.
Along the path – October 2016
Hiked in October 2016 – Approx. 3.2 miles – I ended up jogging most of these trails rather than my normal casual hike. Because of this I ended up not taking near as many photos as I usually do.
I parked in the same parking location, at the end of Lake View Drive, as I did for my Northwoods hike. This time, however, I found the proper trail to get to the dam as quickly as possible. In order to find this trail you need to start directly behind the bathrooms next to the parking lot.
When I got to the dam there was a father and son fishing just over the waterfall of the dam. It didn’t seem like they were catching too much but I’m sure they were enjoying the beautiful fall day as much as I was. One other thing about this area of the park — you can’t hear anything. The waterfall, small though it may be, drowned out so much sound that it isn’t until your pretty far away that you begin to hear the sounds of the forest or other people in the park again.
I started on Frost Hollow Trail by crossing the Benton Road Bridge. I turned immediately left and hugged the edge of the water’s edge up the cliff. This is a very steep climb. If you’re not able to do this section, you can continue up Benton Road until you hit Sunset Road and there is an entrance to Frost Hollow there that takes a much easier trek.
After cresting the cliff the trail begins to level out and even begins to descend once you get close to the pole lines. I decided to stay next to the water and follow Snowflake Trail all the way to South Shore. Along this stretch are a few opportunities to pop out of the woods and enjoy a full view of Lackawanna Lake and the bridge on 407. From these areas you can hear everything going on in the park beyond. Children laughing, people playing games. The lake might as well be a megaphone for every sound and it funnels them all to you on the other shore.
That is why at this point I could hear planes flying at the airfield. I had my UAV and I had stopped at the airfield on my way to the hike to see if anyone was flying. No one was there. Sometime between me parking, hiking up the cliff, and getting to the edge of the lake someone had showed up and gotten into the air. I couldn’t believe it! So, I jogged nearly the rest of the way.
I really enjoyed the jog. There were a few places where jogging was impossible. My ankles would have snapped like twigs over some of the wet mossy boulders in some areas. But I was able to finish all 3 miles in about 45 minutes. Given the inclines and wetness, and that I was wearing pants, hoodie, etc. I was happy with this pace.
Snowflake Trail isn’t the most interesting trail in the park, but Frost Hollow Trail has some really neat features and is worth meandering your way up the cliff to see.
I got to the airfield to find it empty. Missing the pilot by just a few moments according to two grouse hunters that were also in the parking lot.
On my next and final hike in the park, where I finish up this journey, you’ll see that it is in this area of the park that has the best view in the entire park. So stay tuned for that and tons of photos next week.
Hiked in early October 2016 – Approx. 5.2 miles – If you’re looking at the map, the trails I hiked on this particular day rest just southeast of Bullhead Bay on Lee Hill. Lee Hill is mostly thick woods from Rowlands Road to the lake and the elevation changes from 1000′ to 1200′ several times throughout the hike.
I started my hike on Kennedy Creek Trail heading north. Kennedy Creek Trail meanders a bit more than the map leads on. At one point, crossing Kennedy Creek, just before it his the conjunction with Abington Trail, Lee Hill Trail, and Basset Path, is an area of pines that came out of no where. I don’t know if it was the lightening on this particular rainy day but the area was a bit striking. In fact, as you loop back out of the pine you see this – a split between the pine and the wood. I quipped on Twitter that it reminded me of West Side Story.
I decided to redo Basset Path since I had been in a rush to complete it the first time. I’m glad I did. This backstretch of the park is a great place to hike. Once I met up with Abington Trail, just above the lake and almost to Cole Road, I swung west. This particular section of Abington Trail – from Cole Road all the way to the Kennedy Creek Inlet – may be the flattest area in the park to hike. I think it’d be great for a leisurely stroll or even a bike ride for most people.
Rather than continue all along the lake for the entire way I decided to head back up hill on, well, the lazily named Abington Trail. (Lee Hill is wrought with terrible names for trails. There is more than one Abington Trail and more than one Lee Hill Trail. It would be a good idea for the park to consider stretching their imaginations to find two more names. May I posit “Colin’s Trail” as an option?) This area is a beautiful uphill climb. Prior to meeting up at the aforementioned conjunction, though, it splits. I believe the trail appears to continue straight but it is really a washout. The signs lead you on the proper path but it doesn’t matter much as you end up in relatively the same location. I hiked both just in case.
I then took Lee Hill Trail – the one that goes over the very top of Lee Hill – and made my way back to Kennedy Creek Trail. You’ll see just about everything at the top of Lee Hill. Woods, open areas with shrubs, younger patches of forest, and more. There was a spot where you could see down the side of the entire hill so I sat there for 10 minutes (I used my watch to force myself to sit that long) and let the surroundings soak in.
When I met up with Kennedy Creek I doubled back on the second Lee Hill Trail – the one in between Lee Hill and Lakeshore – to head back in the direction of Bullhead Bay. All of this back and forth messes with your sense of direction slightly. I remember coming to the lake’s edge once and thinking I knew which feature of the park I was across the lake from only to find out I was way off. Those that have paddled from Bullhead Bay to the Kennedy Creek Inlet know it is a fair stretch between the two. The map doesn’t do the size of the lake justice. Lee Hill is at least a half mile in length.
Once I hit Abington Trail again I needed to get in a bit of the trail that I had missed when I came up the hill. So I walked that section twice just to be sure I could color it in on my map. It was at this point I realized that Abington Trail didn’t really stretch along the lake – but rather Lakeshore Trail did. Again, another confusing bit given the signs on the ground when comparing them to the map.
I followed the flat Lakeshore Trail all the way back to the Kennedy Creek Inlet, which was a nice change of pace from the ups and downs of the rest of Lee Hill’s trails. When I hiked Ranger Trail with my Dad there was a part of the trail I had missed. It wasn’t the part that I got when I hiked Turkey Hill but rather a small piece parallel to Rowlands Road that ends up hitting 524. I thought since I was here and that I’d likely not revisit this area of the park for a while I’d get it.
Lee Hill is about as diverse an area of the park as you will find. Flats along Lakeshore, up and down the hill along Abington Trail and Lee Hill Trails. And the pines of Kennedy Creek near Basset Path.
Hiked in September 2016 – Approx. 5 miles – For this hike I parked in the second parking area on Lake View Drive and began walking northwest into the campgrounds. Looking at the map it is just above the word “Pine”.
This area of the park that I’m hiking today changes elevation many times throughout the hike. Never so drastic that I couldn’t recommend the hike to just about anyone, but steep enough and often enough that I would plan on needing breaks. This is the only area of the park where you’re close to facilities nearly the entire time if that is a important for you.
I took the paved road towards campsites 1, 2, and 3 on the map. Walking through this area immediately gave me the desire to run back to my Jeep and grab my tent and camp out. It was a beautiful fall day, the sun was shining, and I could smell other camper’s fires. There weren’t too many people on these sites. One of the sites was occupied but no one was currently there. I think it was a bunch of first time campers too. If you’ve done much camping you can always spot the newbies. Nothing in the camp is “square”, the tents are in spots where you think water would puddle, tons of stuff (like food that comes in wrappers) that shouldn’t be left out overnight are all over the camp, and most of the gear looked both inexpensive and brand-new. It is fine to be a newbie. You have to start out sometime. As I walked passed their campsite I just thought to myself; welcome to camping, I hope you love it. Maybe the next time I see their campsite it will be neat, tidy, and full of great cast iron pans cooking freshly caught fish.
I continued on the trail between campsite 2 and the roads north. There are not a lot of markings on the map in this area so it is difficult to describe to you here exactly which way I went. These camping areas all have names so I assume there is a different campground map available. But I followed the paved roads through the campground until I got to the small loop you see that begins the path to Woodland Ponds Trail which leads to Big Bass Pond and Bull Frog Pond.
I spent a fair amount of time at Big Bass Pond. There is a small bridge and island here and I ended up seeing a lot of frogs and water snakes sunning themselves. I love snakes. On a cool fall day I’d bet they were trying to soak up whatever warmth was going to be left in this season. The water snake’s eyes were all getting pretty cloudy. Perhaps one more molt before they need to find a place to hide out for the winter.
Bull Frog Pond was covered in plant life making the entire pond bright green. I should have walked around and found a less shady area to take a photo to show the green but I didn’t think of it at the time. I was just enjoying it. I saw no bull frogs. They were likely on the sunny side of the pond.
From Bull Frog pond I swung south down the North Woods Trail which I had covered on a previous hike. I saw no real way around it but I didn’t mind.
The map, again, may be a bit outdated for the trails I was trying to find simply didn’t exist. You’ll see there is a slight jog between Grouse Trail and North Woods Trail near Big Bass Pond. I didn’t find that trail at all and I was looking for it. In fact, when I found Grouse Trail some ways down North Woods Trail I don’t even know what leg I was really on or when it met up with Beech Woods Trail I didn’t know if I was on it or not.
I don’t mind, really, since no matter what trail I’m on I’m just happy to be hiking. But if I was ever trying to find my way somewhere it’d be nice to have an updated map.
I didn’t take many photos along North Woods Trail since I had taken a few the last time. And Grouse Trail didn’t prove itself to be very picturesque that day. In fact, if you’re looking to shoot photos I don’t recommend these few trails. An upcoming hike that I’ll write about on Lee Hill would prove to be far more productive for a photographer.
Once I found my way back to Woodland Ponds Trail and that loop in the campground I followed Fairground Hill Road – the main artery through the camp – until I hit the campsite you see in-between the words Fairground and Hill on the map. The trails that are supposedly south and east of these campsites are impossible to find. In fact, I believe they begin behind people’s campsites and are not marked at all. I do not believe these should be on the map and I don’t intend to go back and try to find any more of them. I’ll leave these for the campers to enjoy. One other note: The map makes it appear that all of these campsites are trailers only. It isn’t. The trailer icon is for “Camping”. Although I saw trailers I saw far more tents.
Oh, I almost forgot about Aspen Overlook. This is not marked on the map at all and it should be. Between the words Hill and Road on the map (along Fairground Hill Road) there is a bench that faces east. At this point you’re about as high as you’ll ever be in the park and so they’ve taken a few trees down and given you a beautiful overlook east down Route 524. You will see no roads, no power lines. Just a farm far out about 8 miles in the distance. If it weren’t for the rolling hills I’d be able to spot my house from that bench. Great spot to sit and sip some water.
I enjoyed going on this hike as much as any other in the park. It was good exercise and a beautiful day.