A Couple Of Sunny Spring Hikes On The Greater Hazleton Rails To Trails, Ending With A Drenching Rain

A Couple Of Sunny Spring Hikes On The Greater Hazleton Rails To Trails, Ending With A Drenching Rain

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This past month I was able to get a couple of Friday afternoon hikes on  another one of my my favorite trails, the Greater Hazleton Rails to Trails  in Luzerne County. This 6 mile trail has trailheads on Route 93 and  the Hazle Brook Road.  Three weeks ago it was a beautiful sunny Friday afternoon when I began my hike on the Hazle Brook road trailhead at  the north east end of the trail . The  sun filtered through the lush new green canopy of leaves in  the mostly oak/maple hardwood woodlands at the start of my hike. .

Even though it was a warm afternoon there were a lot of birds singing in the trees along the trail, including this eastern phoebe,

and a few eastern towhees foraging lower shrubs and leaf liter along the trail.

There were  many wildflowers still blooming along the trail including small white violets,

yellow star grass,

sheep laurel, and

Allegheny blackberry flowers, all native to Pennsylvania.

There were also invasive common cinquefoil and

meadow hawkweed flowers blooming on this part of the trail.

After about  a mile the trail  approaches an abandoned  strip mining area,  most of which has been reclaimed.

The trail  left the older second growth forest and entered the more open reclamation area where birch, alder, locust, and popular trees grew. There were also oak trees planted along the trail but I won’t be around when they provide shade for folks hiking on the trail.

There were a lot of field sparrows singing in the new woodlands growing along the trail.

I also saw this colorful prairie warbler singing in the trees.

One of my favorite late Spring and Summer flowers , common ox-eye daises,  were beginning to bloom  in the reclamation area. Although I love seeing these flowers but they are not native to Pennsylvania.

These more plain flowers, yellow wallflowers also bloomed along the trail. They are native  to our State.

The black locust trees planted in the reclamation areas were also showing their pretty flowers.

I continued my hike under the bright afternoon  May sun through the reclamation area,

and to the bridge that spanned the active railroad right of way, one of the oldest in the country. ( there is more history on the railroad and trail in previous blogs. You can use the research tool to find them).

On the other side of the bridge the trail continues through an abandoned strip mining area and some old strip mines  (strippins) and slag or culm banks are still visible from the trail.

The trail then enters an older second growth hardwood/conifer woodland.

Here, under the shade of the trees,   wildflowers common in  the deep woods bloomed including Canada May flowers,

star flowers and,

my favorite, lady slipper orchids or, as my dad called them, “duck flowers”. He would take us into the woodlands near our home to search for them every Spring, and also for the pink azaleas which he called honeysuckles. Good memories of those days I have. 

After passing through this woodland the trail continued on the old access road to an  Beryllium processing facility that has been abandoned. I had hiked almost two miles and I decided to head back.

On the way I saw this indigo bunting  in the reclamation area ,

and this tiger swallowtail butterfly.

It was now late afternoon, and as I entered the deeper woodlands at the end of the trail I saw and heard this scarlet tanager singing in the treetops in the late day sun,

and in under the canopy of leaves I saw, and heard,  this red-eyed vireo

and black throated blue  warbler.

I also saw these wildflowers ready to bloom, mountain laurel, our State flower.

It was late evening when I finished my 4 mile hike on this wonderful trail that again allowed me to see the beauty of nature and to share it here on my blog. Here is a link to a gallery  on my blog website with some more photos from my first hike on the Rails to Trails. Greater Hazleton Rails to Trails May 24 2024.

It was two weeks later when I decided to again return and to see the mountain laurel which  I thought would be blooming on the trail. Last year there was a spectacular display.  There were some high clouds but it was mostly sunny when I began my hike. There was no rain whatsoever in the forecast. I began my hike on the east end of the trail again, under the still lush green l canopy of leaves.

This week there was not much bird song or activity along the trail, I heard some red-eyed vireos , ovenbirds, and a few eastern towhees but that was it.

I did find some beautiful mountain laurel in bloom.

 

However, the area of the trail where there were numerous mountain laurel growing was about 2 1/2 miles out on the trail. So I hiked through the older woodlands and then into the strip mining reclamation area, as I did the previous Friday afternoon. It was a pleasant walk under the strong June Sun.

There was little bird activity here, I only saw this colorful indigo bunting in the young trees growing in the reclamation areas along the trail.

There were however, many insects active  including a chalk- fronted corporal dragonflies,  I believe this  one is a male,

and this one a female.

There were also many ebony jewelwing damsels flies, I love seeing these   beautiful  insects especially on a sunny day when their iridescent wings reflect the sunlight.  Dragonflies have there wings on the sides of their bodies, damselflies wings are atop their bodies

There were also a lot of butterflies and moths a fluttering along the trail, some visiting flower, like this one, I believe a species of dusky wing butterfly,

and  some taking a rest on a rock, this one,  I believe, is a little wood satyr butterfly and this a white Spring moth . Many others, mostly swallowtails fluttered away before I could get a photo.

Most of the flowers I saw on my previous hike were still blooming, including many ox-eye daisies.

This week I continued on my hike  and the trail took me through the rare pine/heath barrens growing along the trail.

I saw clouds approaching  from the west but thought nothing of them. There was no rain in the forecast.

I continued on the trail which made a bend around a ridge.  I hoped to see a magnificent display of mountain laurel when I came around the bend. I was very disappointed.

Only a few of the mountain laurel were in bloom this year. Last year the display was almost magical.  I did some quick research and I believe that, after a heavy bloom, like last year, the mountain laurel will not produce another big bloom but will focus on developing the seeds produced by last years flowers. We will have to wait another year or two to see their beauty at their peak.

I had hiked out about 3 miles and started heading back. I  only saw two more birds, a black and white warbler,

and this great crested flycatcher.  Here is a link to a gallery  on my blog website with some more photos of the birds I saw on my   hikes on the Rails to Trails. Greater Hazleton Rails to Trails  birds and critters May 24 & June 7  2024.

I also saw darker clouds approaching from the west. It looked like a storm approaching and I started walking faster. However, when you are out 3 miles you can only walk so fast ( I can’t run anymore).

The clouds darkened as a quickly walked along the trail,

and a cool northwesterly wind began to blow. The  only question now was whether I would  get back to my Jeep before the rain.  The answer was no. A light rain soon began to fall  followed by  a cold,   torrential deluge. I walked about a quarter mile in the rain. I had a tee shirt and shorts on and I was drenched and shivering.  I wasn’t happy with the local television weatherman who predicated sunshine for the afternoon. However, I soon forgave him, it was still another great hike on a great trail. And once again I am glad to share it here in my blog.  Here is a link to a gallery  on my blog website with some more photos from my  hike on the Rails to Trails. Greater Hazleton Rails to Trails  June 7  2024.

“Ride the storm. Cheer wildly. Gather strength from life’s storms.”
– Jonathan Lockwood Huie

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