A Leafless, Lifeless, Quiet But Pleasant November Walk On The Greater Hazleton Rails To Trails.

A Leafless, Lifeless, Quiet But Pleasant November Walk On The Greater Hazleton Rails To Trails.

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I returned to another one of my  favorite hiking trails,  close to home,   last Sunday, the Greater Hazleton Rails to Trails located in Hazle Township in L:uzerne County.  I began my hike on the eastern trailhead, near the village of Hazle Brook in Foster Township.  I  always hope  to encounter one of the bears that are occasionally seen in this more remote part of the 6 mile trail. There were no bears when I arrived. In fact there was not a critter stirring when I began my early morning hike.

In the warmer months,   when I enter the woodlands here I  am greeted  with the songs of warblers, vireos, tanagers and other migratory song birds as well as the many birds that reside here year long. Not on Sunday, not a sound.  It was partly cloudy and seasonably cold with temperatures in the 20’s.  The trees were bare, their fallen  leaves covering the trail. There were no deer, rabbits, chipmunks or squirrels  in the woodlands either. It was quiet and peaceful but I’d still  prefer the sounds of the birds and insects in the Summer.   But I’m not going to sit inside all Winter so I will make the best of these lifeless months.

I walked down to the small pond, created to supply water to the strip mining operations in the area.  There are always, phoebes, towhees and wrens here in the summer. And I often see a great blue heron or beaver on the pond. There wasn’t a creature to be seen Sunday.

I continued my hike on the trail. The trees and ground were mostly drab grays and browns. There was some green colors, the pine trees.

the mountain  laurel.

 intermediate ferns,

frost covered sheep laurel leaves,

and patches of princess pine club moss grew along the trails.

 After about 3/4 of a mile the trail  approaches an area there  was once deep underground mines  ,  and then  years later strip mines.   for anthracite coal. Along the boarder tall pitch pines grow.

Once the trail passes through a culvert, under a haul road for a still active nearby mining operation, the trail continues through a reclamation area where  large strip mines were filled and new trees, mainly pine, birch locust, alder and aspen were planted.

I have seen many migratory song  birds here in the Spring, and a few in the Fall but there were no birds on this cold morning. I was very surprised not to even see the usual Winter resident birds. I know there will not be  as many birds  here as in the Susquehanna Wetlands, my favorite nature hiking area, There are not  many species of berries  in the reclamation  areas such a the winterberry, poison ivy berries, and  green briar berries  as there are in the wetlands. These birds  provide food for the birds in the cold Winter months. However, I still thought a few birds would be foraging the reclamation area. But there weren’t

In addition to the trees planted in the reclamation areas  there are many red oak and other trees planted along the trail, gifts form sponsors of the trail. Hopefully in a 100 years the trail will  pass  underneath  the shade of  large oak trees thanks to the generosity of this far sited folks.

I walked through the reclamation area, under  the bleak November sky,and I saw,  for the first time this season ice along the trail.

I came to the  bridge that crosses the active railroad right  of way that has  existed  here for over 175 years. As I have  noted in previous blogs ( you can research words and topics in the search and archive tools  on my blog site) most of  the immigrants from Germany, Ireland, Italy and Eastern Europe, including my grandparents would have taken this train to get to their new homes in a new land to work in the coal mines.  Residents, businessmen and other visitors  to the area also used the train. And, of course, millions of tons of coal were transported to the cities on this railroad.

I crossed the bridge and finally heard a few black-capped chickadees in the distance.  I still didn’t see any.

The trail continued through some abandoned strip mines. The old strip mines remain, as do the  banks created from the overburden removed from the strip mines that revealed the veins of anthracite coal.  These strip mines and culm banks were my playground when I was a child.

One of the strip mines filled with water making a nice little pond along the trail. Their is a bench here and a lot of folks walk out with their dogs and let them swim here in the warmer months.

The trail then continues on to the old access road  to a beryllium processing plant that operated in this remote area in the 1950’s. 1960’s and 1070’s  The plants was closed and  became a hazardous waste site.

The clouds made for some somber late Autumn scenes along the trail.

After following the remains of the access road a short distance the trail continued on toward  the endangered pine and heath barrens.

Here I finally saw a few birds. A small flock of black- capped chickadees fluttering in the trees about the trail. 

The trail continued  past the heath and pine barrens which I have written about in previous blogs.

and continued for about another  1/2 mile. I was not out about 2 1/2 miles and began my hike back to  my Jeep  It  was  here  that  I  saw  this  critter  run  off  into  the  distance  as  I approached.  I wasn’t sure  what  it  was  until  I cropped  the  photos  and,  with  the  help  of  friends,  identified  it  as  a large  feral  cat.   I  thought  it unusual  to   see  it  out  so  far  from any town  or  humans.

There are a lot of pitch pines out here and I remember them from the many days I spent here in high school This secluded road was one of our favorite underage drinking spots. We spent many an evening sitting around a fire out here.

The clouds continued to break up as  I walked back making for some  nice scenery and  pleasant walking conditions.

 I saw another flock of birds on the way, . this time they were golden crowned kinglets. 

I love seeing these small birds who seem never to sit still.  Well they do occasionally but not often. It took a while to get these photos.

After watching  the kinglets I continued my hike back,

but I didn’t see anymore bird or other wildlife activity. I also didn’t see a hiker, biker, runner or dog walker on my five mile hike. This is unusual even on this more remote half of the trail.

But it was a pleasant hike back. I enjoyed  beautiful clouds formations in the  skies above the trail.

I finished my five mile hike in under 2 hours. This was a  very fast hike  for me. When I am seeing birds and wildlife I spend 4 to 5 hours waiting patiently to get  photos of the critters I see, when they are around to photograph.

However on this hike there wasn’t much wildlife to see. It was still a great hike for late November, The weather here in Northeastern Pennsylvania could be much worse.

Many a late November the ground would be covered in snow.  Even with no flowers. or leaves, or birds, or birds I was grateful for the beautiful show in the sky. It sure was better than sitting inside. And, I am sure I will still be hiking out here when the snow and ice come, which they will. It is a great trail. Here is a link to a gallery with some more photos from my five mile hike. Greater Hazleton Rails to Trails November 26 2023.

No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
      No comfortable feel in any member—
      No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
            No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds,
~Thomas Hood

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