A Cold And Windy Hike In The Butler Preserve And The Greater Hazleton Rails to Trails
The coldest weather of the season arrived last weekend here in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Temperatures dropped into the upper teens accompanied by a strong westerly wind. It was blustery and cold. I decided to hike close to home and explore the Butler Preserve adjacent to the Greater Hazleton Rails to Trails in southern Luzerne County.
I was surprised to see some cars in the lot on this blustery day but was glad some other folks were enjoying the trail despite the cold and wind. I soon encountered two of them on their way back from walking their dogs. The dogs did not look like they were enjoying the walk the cold.
There was still a little snow on the trail but not enough to make walking difficult. I walked past the book stations , a co-operative effort between the local library and the Civic Partnership which oversees the trail. I am proud to serve as a director on both the boards of these great organizations. This was a great addition to the trail and attracts many young readers and their families.
There was more snow on this portion of the trail because of the trees blocking the weak November sun.
I walked about another quarter of a mile and came to a path that led up to a 118 tract of land adjacent to the trail owned by the North Branch Land Trust.
This tract is known as the Butler Preserve. The preserve contains endangered scrub oak barrens and some wetlands. The wetlands are further along the trail. I hiked up a ridge where the the scrub oak barrens are located.
There were many pitch pines growing in the woodlands on the ridge where I grew up. I love these trees which are often contorted into strange shapes from the winds they are exposed to on the ridge they usually grow here in Northeastern Pennsylvania. The trees are resistant to fires and a fire may actually cause their cones to release their seeds.
Like their cousins the mountain laurel and rhododendrons their evergreen leaves curl in the cold. There were also many blueberry and chokeberries growing in the barrens but their branches are now bare and indistinguishable.
There was little bird activity in the barrens. I hiked here in the Spring and would see many migratory song birds in the scrub oak trees, ( you can research my blog post with the search tool in my blog) The only birds I saw on this cold and blustery day were a small flock of dark-eyed juncos who flew away as I approached and a few black-capped chickadees,
through the scrub oak. There is not much to see in the scrub oak barrens in the cold months. However, in the Spring the blueberry flowers, which bloom early will attract insect, which will attract the migrating song birds to visit. These barrens play a crucial role in the ecology of our area and the North Branch Land Trust must be thanked for acquiring and protecting the Butler Preserve. They are protecting many parts of our shrinking wilderness which would be lost to development. We need more nature preserves not warehouses.
I hiked out about another half mile. I heard and saw a few white breasted nuthatches, a few downy woodpeckers, some sparrow and blue jays. I didn’t get any photos because, to take photos of birds you need patience and I don’t have a lot of patience on a frigid and windy day. I was able to photograph this tufted titmouse that was in a tree above the trail.
It was a cold hike, and I didn’t see any wildflower or much wildlife but it is always nice to enjoy the quiet of nature even on the coldest of days. But I am already counting down the days until Spring. Here is a link to a gallery with some more photos from my hike. Rails to Trails November 20 2022.
Sooner or later, we will have to recognise that the Earth has rights, too, to live without pollution. What mankind must know is that human beings cannot live without Mother Earth, but the planet can live without humans. – Evo Morales