A Little Rain, A Change Of Plans And A Pleasant Hike In Tuscarora State Park.

A Little Rain, A Change Of Plans And A Pleasant Hike In Tuscarora State Park.

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I  hiked on the Spirit Trail in Tuscarora State Park again on Saturday morning.  I always enjoy hiking this trail but this wasn’t my original plan. I left my home  intending to hike around Leaser Lake in Lehigh County.  I was hoping to see some wood ducks and other water fowl on the lake.  It was cloudy but there was no rain in the forecast. However, as I was driving to Leaser  Lake a light rain began to fall. I decided instead of driving  the 35 miles to Leaser Lake and get rained on,  to head to  Tuscarora State Park in Schuylkill County.  It  is only about 15 miles from  my home in Luzerne County.

A light rain was falling when I arrived at the  park around 9 a.m. It was a chilly 42 degrees.   I walked down to the lake in the park which I understand had recently been drained.  It was at it’s usual level on Saturday and it looked like they were going to add more sand to the beach.

Most of the trees along the lake were still leafless, but the native spicebush and invasive honeysuckle had buds and small leaves,  

and   Dames’s rocket and  garlic mustard  was growing along the road providing  the first hints of green after the dreary gray and brown colors of Winter.

I  had  hoped to see some water fowl or maybe a bald eagle flying over the lake but it was quiet with no bird or wildlife activity. So I left the lake and walked up to the Spirit Of Tuscarora Trail. I have hiked this 4.5 mile trail many times and have  wrote a few blog post on my hikes. They can be found using the search tool below.

The trail follows a ridge above the  lake passing through a mixed hardwood and hemlock forest.

It was very quiet in the forest. I didn’t see or hear any birds or other critters.

There were more signs of Spring along the trail.  Fly poison leaves were growing along the trail,

and I found these pretty red trillium flower starting to bloom. I love seeing this  beautiful flowers in the Spring.  They were one common here in Northeastern Pennsylvania but are now rare, because of   invasive plants and loss of habitat to  land development. 

There were also  some partridge berries and

intermediate wood ferns along the trail, providing more green colors and a hint of the explosion of Spring colors that will soon occur in our woodlands.

The trail  descended the ridge and took me down  to the lake where I again looked for wood ducks bald eagles but didn’t see any. The rain stopped  but the wind picked up as I continued my hike. 

The trail  now went back up the  ridge  above the lake and through a hemlock forest,

where I found some Spring  fungi, this is witches butter ,

and  and this either wood ear or amber jelly,  all edible jelly fungi.

And there was these , I believe turkey tail or violet tooth polypore.

The trail continued on the ridge above the lake and approached the Locust Creek which was damned to create  Tuscarora Lake. and the park which opened in 1971.

The trail descended the ridge, passing through a thick growth of rhododendron,

and then entering some wetlands as it neared Locust Creek. Here there were some verbal ponds,

where various species of frogs lay their eggs in the Spring.  I found these in the ponds but  I am not sure what type of frog deposited them here.

The path took me to Locust Creek,

and the famous Sprit of Tuscarora tree. The  Spirit Trail is named after this tree. the trail was  created  Dennis “Pap” Knauss’ in 1989. He thought the tree resembled a  “spirit” and thus the name. Sadly the tree, an ancient silver maple, was  damaged in a storm, and has continued to decay. However, I still see a spirit which  still protects this beautiful trail and the surrounding forest.

Across the  Locust Creek from the Spirit Tree, I  finally saw a bird, this spotted sandpiper. These beautiful shore birds are returning  to breed from Mexico, Central and South America, where they spend their Winters. 

These birds “teeter” constantly as they search for invertebrates, insects,  and small fish.

I  continued my hike along the Locust Creek and took the red trail. This trail crossed the creek on a bridge ,

and brought me to a open meadow  through which the Locust Creek flowed.

Again, I was disappointed there were no birds or other wildlife active in the meadow. I had seen a lot of bird activity here in the past. But one never can rely ob seeing wildlife, it is always a chance. The only thing you can do is keep walking and keep your eyes peeled.

Although I didn’t see any wildlife I saw some more  flowers  and plants blooming along the muddy trail, these azure bluet flowers,

these common periwinkle flowers,

and this green false hellebore leaves.

The trail left the creek for a  short distance taking me through another thicket of rhododendrons. They were ancient and had some of the largest roots I had ever seen on these shrubs.

I came to this picnic area and I saw they  brought in a new bench to replace the moss covered old one that was there on my last hike.

I followed the trail up a ridge, where I believe it would soon end. I had hiked out about 2 1/2 miles so I decided to end my hike.

On my way back, near the bridge I saw on more bird, this Louisiana waterthrush. I saw a few of these in the Everglades during my recent visit to  South Florida. They return  here from Central and South America to breed.

It was a nice, but quiet walk back on the Spirit Trail. I enjoy this hike and was glad we had the unexpected rain on Saturday morning. I hope to hike here again soon I think the meadow along the Locust Creek will be a great place to see the migrating song birds. Here is a link to a gallery with some more photos from my five mile hike. Tuscarora State Park April 13 2024.

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“April, come she will when streams are ripe and swelled with rain.” – Simon & Garfunkel


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