A Couple Mid December Hikes in Community Park.

A Couple Mid December Hikes in Community Park.

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It has been  three weeks since I last hiked in the Community Park near my home in Hazle Township, Luzerne County. It is mid December now and in many years here in Northeastern Pennsylvania the lakes and ponds would be frozen and  covered in snow and ice. . Not this year. On Tuesday afternoon I found  Lake Irena  to be ice and snow free. We almost, but more on that later. 

It was a sunny and mild, for mid December, afternoon when I started my walk in the park and around the lake. Temperatures were near 50 degrees. The water of the lake were deep blue, reflecting the clear skies.  It was a nice day for a hike but it wasn’t Summer anymore. This was apparent for a number of reasons. 

First the trees, shrubs and plants were all leafless.  And the few leaves that still clung to the oak trees and the leaves that have fallen to the ground were all brown. The gray tree trunks and brown fallen leaves will be the dominant colors in the woodlands of Northeastern Pennsylvania for the next few months,

There was also the quiet and absence of the song birds, insects and other wildlife I usual see on my hikes. On my three mile hike on Tuesday I did not see a single living critter.  The only signs  of life were a few crows cawing in the distance. Finally the low angle of the mid December sun was apparent by the long shadows cast by the sun’s rays  in mid afternoon. 

I saw  few  colors  in lifeless and dreary December  landscape.  There were some green  pine and fir trees growing along the lake and in the woodlands. They provided a pretty green contrast to the deep blue waters of the lake and sky. 

And, growing on the ground were patches of green moss. I hardly notice the mosses in the lush greens of spring and summer. However, they stand out now and, I didn’t realize until my hike on Tuesday the many types that grow right here in Community Park.  My PictureThis iPhone App tells me this is common hairmoss,

this, the common pincushion moss, which I was most familiar with,

 and this interesting broom forkmoss.    Who would have know  there were so many mosses growing under our feet. I didn’t anyway. I hope the App identifications are correct. 

I walked on the trails in  the nearby woodlands and found some more color, the green and red leaves of the teaberries. Their bright red berries can be found all winter on the trails in the park. 

And the bright red berries of the common winterberry were growing along  the lake. 

Finally I was surprised to find a couple of brick top mushrooms growing along the trail. 

 As I finished my hike I did find some ice,  very thin layer, a sign winter approaches. Although I saw no flowers, insects, birds or other wildlife it was still a nice place to spend a sunny December afternoon.

I returned to the park on Wednesday. It was cloudy and cooler. Lake Irena looked so different. More somber and dreary.

And there was a thin layer of ice on the southern  end of the lake. Although it is above average winter is near. I took my usual walk along the lake, and

this time I saw  a small flock of mallard ducks  on the lake.  There were about ten ducks in the flock.  They were  sheltered in  a cove along the woodlands on the northern side of the lake.

When I walked around the lake, they had left the shelter of the cove and were swimming huddled together in the middle of the lake.  They are probably slowly making there way south.

I finished my three mile hike in the woodlands around the lake.  It was even more bleak walking over the brown fallen leaves that covered the trail. 

However, it was a different picture when I returned for another hike Thursday afternoon. The leafless  trees and brown leaf littered ground were  still there but there was brilliant sunshine with  a record breaking 60 degrees temperature. There was no ice on Lake Irena on Thursday. 

There were a few fishermen and a lot of hikers enjoying the spring-like weather, as was I. I had shorts on and shorts in December in Northeastern Pennsylvania is rare and, in my opinion, a good thing. but maybe not for our environment. Global warming is real. 

I walked around the lake looking for the mallard ducks, but they were gone.  Even though we had sunshine and spring-like temperatures it was still mid December and it was quiet with little wildlife activity. On my three mile hike I heard a few crows and the only other birds I  saw were  a couple of  black-capped chickadees. 

I again walked into the surrounding woodlands, and again was reminded it is mid December seeing only the dull  browns and grays  instead of the lush greens of spring and summer. 

On my return I  walked along the lake, still searching for some color, and noticed the green  Hartford  or American climbing ferns that grow  in one location along the trail. They too, should provide a little green to the otherwise gray, brown, and eventually white colors of winter. I am not looking forward to the whites. 

I finished my hike on the warm December afternoon seeing  one critter, a fellow mammal. This gray squirrel was scampering on the grounds of the picnic area , taking advantage of the warmth to search for food

.  It was a nice weeks of walks at the Community Park. I am hoping that this weather remains for a few more weeks, or months.  Here is a link to some more photographs from my hikes this past week. Community Park December 14-16 2021 

It seems like everything sleeps in winter, but it’s really a time of renewal and reflection.     Elizabeth Camden

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