A Hike On The Spirit Of Tuscarora Trail At Tuscarora State Park
I decided to hike on the Spirit of Tuscarora Trail in Tuscarora State Park last Sunday. There was a mushroom festival going on nearby so I was going to get in a five mile hike and then visit the festival. Located in Schuylkill County, and first opened in 1971, the Tuscarora State Park is named after a transient tribe of Native Americans who briefly lived in Locust Valley in the 18th century.
It was sunny and already warm with temperatures in the 70’s when I arrived early in the morning. Before starting my hike on the Spirit of Tuscarora trail I first walked to Tuscarora Lake. The lake was created by the damming of Locust Creek that flows through the valley. There was no one swimming at this early hour but there were a few fisherman in boats on the scenic lake.
There were only a few folks walking along the beach but there were a lot of squirrels and chipmunks searching for any food left behind by the human visitors to the beach.
I walked back up the steep road to the trailhead for the Spirit of Tuscarora Trail. I have hiked this trail a few times and there are some blog posts on these hikes which can be found using the search tool on my blog archives page.
The trail begins in a mostly hemlock and pine second growth forest and continues up a ridge above the lake.
There were many rhododendrons growing along the trail. They had just finished blooming and once again I missed them. I think they would put on a spectacular show when in bloom.
There were also many intermediate wood ferns,
and woodnettles growing along the trail.
I didn’t t hear or see much bird activity in the hemlock woodlands but there were dozens of eastern American toads, of all sizes, hopping along the trail.
After about 3/4 of a mile the trail descended the ridge and continued along the lake.
I walked to the shore of the lake, and again saw a few fishermen on boat, enjoying the scenic view of the clouds over the lake.
darting along the shore of the lake.
There were a patch of joe-pye weed flowers blooming near the shore and on these flowers,
I saw this beautiful eastern swallowtail butterfly.
I continued on the trail which now took a fairly steep climb back up the ridge. The woodlands were now mostly oak trees with still few hemlock , maple and sassafras trees. I heard black capped chickadees and tufted titmice in the tree tops.
There were still a lot of ferns and rhododendrons growing along the trail.
After the steep climb the trail descended to Locust Creek the stream that feeds the lake. The soil was more moist as I approached the creek,
and I found many ghost or Indian pipes growing along the trail. As noted in previous blog posts these are not fungi but actually flowering plants that do mot produce chlorophyll. I love seeing them pushing through the leaf litter of our woodlands.
The trail now took me to the Locust Creek. Here I found the old contorted silver maple tree stump that the trail is named after, the Spirit of Tuscarora Tree. It was given this name by Dennis “Pap” Knauss. a volunteer who created the trail and has maintained it for over 30 years.
The trail followed Locust Creek for a short distance.
Here I heard, and was able to photograph a Louisiana warbler. These birds are often along fast flowing streams in Northeastern Pennsylvania.
I also saw this eastern phoebe perched on a branch near the creek.
The trail left the creek and took me through a thick growth of rhododendrons, it was almost like walking through a tunnel.
I followed the trail, so far it was marked with white stripes, and came to a red striped trail. I had never hiked this far on my previous visits and so this was a new experience for me. It took me trough a hemlock and pine woodland ,
and to this old bridge. It did not appear the trail or bridge were used a lot.
After crossing the bridge I followed another branch of the Locust Creek as it meandered through a meadow.
I loved this trail, since there were many wildflowers growing along the stream. I saw monkeyflowers,
jewelweed or touch-me not flowers,
and a lot of joe-pye weed flowers and Philadelphia fleabane daisies.
I am sure there are even more wildflowers blooming in the Spring. I like walking these meadow trails along streams since flowers attract insects, and I saw hundreds of bees,
And insects attract birds, and I saw a dozen of noisy catbirds along the trail,
heard some eastern towhees and this female common yellowthroat.
There is not much shade in the meadow, the still strong August sun had warmed the temperature to near 90 degrees. It was hot. I am sure there would be a lot more bird activity in the cooler morning or evening hours.
I walked along the trail and it left the creek and into a meadow along a ridge. I found this old picnic table, it appears this part of the trail has not been maintained in years. I was out about 2 1/4 miles and decided to hike back.
I followed the same trail back and I will admit it was a lot harder hiking up the hills in the heat and humidity. I only saw two women walking there very thirsty dogs on the trail. It was hot. I stopped at the lake again and took in the view, and,
a few more dragonflies. Here is a link to some more photos of the toads, birds and other critters I saw on my hike on the Spirit of Tuscarora Trail. Tuscarora State Park critters August 7 2022.
I finished my hike on the Spirit of Tuscarora Trail, and walked down to the beach along Tuscarora Lake. There were now some folks on the beach and swimming in the waters. It brought back memories of my first visit to the park when I was 14 years old when my dad took our family. I remember it like it was yesterday I have visited this lovely park many time since, and hope to have many more visits in the future. Here is a link to a gallery with some more photos from my hike on the Spirit of Tuscarora Trail. Tuscarora State park August 7 2022.
Nature always wears the colors of the spirit. Ralph Waldo Emerson