A Little Too Late To See The Mountain Laurel At It’s Peak On The Greater Hazleton Rails To Trails.

A Little Too Late To See The Mountain Laurel At It’s Peak On The Greater Hazleton Rails To Trails.

Rails to Trails (5 of 50)
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I heard from some friends that our State flower, the mountain laurel, was in full bloom and putting on a  beautiful show, along the trails at our  local  Greater Hazleton Rails to Trails.  So last week I  decided to take an afternoon hike on the trail to enjoy and photograph the annual display put on by the mountain laurel. 

Mountain laurel  blooms in  mid June here in Northeastern Pennsylvania. The exact time varies by a few days each year depending on the weather.   Elevation will also  affect the bloom with the  mountain laurel on higher elevations  blooming  later. And the display put on my the mountain laurel will vary from year to year and   in  different locations.  I was in Carbon County the previous Saturday and the mountain laurel was near it’s peak and putting on a beautiful display.

So I wasn’t sure what to expect when I began my hike on the trail last Thursday afternoon. I decided to hike in from the Stockton Road entrance on the west side of the trail. I would soon learn this was probably a mistake. 

It was cloudy and cool as I began my hike in the lush June woodlands along the trail.  At the start of my hike I  saw a mountain flowers blooming along the trail. Unfortunately it would be one of the few I would see the first two miles of my hike.  I learned there wasn’t many mountain laurel on this part of the trail.  I should have started my hike on the eastern entrance. I remembered seeing a lot more mountain laurel in those deeper and older woodlands, but  even a few scattered mountain laurel are a pretty sight and I enjoyed see our  State flower blooming in Penn’s Woods. 

Well,  it was too late now, I didn’t want to drive to the eastern side, so I continued my hike which was still a pleasant walk in the deep green new leaves on the trees and plants along the trail,

there were  mountain laurel blooming, just not everywhere as in some other areas I had hiked. 

It was  still a nice hike. The woodlands were so alive and green .  Thee were large patches of lush green ferns growing along the trail .  These are eastern hay scented ferns,

and these bracken ferns.

The milkweed plants were just starting to produce buds. Soon, their flowers will attract bees, wasps, butterflies and other insects,

Although I didn’t see a lot of mountain laurel my first mile on the trail,

there were other wildflowers in bloom including Philadelphia fleabane flowers,

a few rattlesnake hawkweed flower,

the stalked flowers of the fly poison plants, these plants were used by early settlers to kill flies and hence it’s interesting name, 

and one of my favorite flowers oxeye daisies. 

After the first mile, I started seeing some mountain laurel again.  It stood out amongst the green  woodlands but it was not a spectacular display I had hoped to see. I again regretted not starting my hike on the eastern  side of the trial, where I knew there would be more mountain laurel. 

It was still a nice walk and even in the mid afternoon the songs of the  common oven birds,

and red-eyed vireos echoed  loudly above  the trail. 

I also saw this  blue headed vireo,

and a few of the common, but cute, black-capped chickadees. 

I had walked past  the picnic and pet watering station,

where I saw a few more wildflowers including sulfur cinquefoil flowers, 

selfheal flowers, 

and delicate spreading dogbane flowers. 

It was  when I reached the three mile marker, two miles from the Stockton road, that  mountain laurel flowers became more prevalent in the woodlands along the trail.

It was a beautiful scene, but, unfortunately,  the mountain laurel  bloom was past it’s peak. While there were large patches of the white and pinkish flowers, 

many of them were wilted and there were a lot of petals on the ground. I was a few days too late. This entire area of the trail would  have been covered with the blooming mountain laurel a few days earlier. 

I walked for another half mile before I  began my return hike. I believe if I had walked in from the eastern side I would have seen more of the mountain laurel. Next year I will get out here earlier to capture the beautiful of the mountain laurel at it’s  peak.  The mountain laurel was still putting on a nice show, even past it’s peak and I was glad I walked out to see it. 

The trail had more to offer than the blooming mountain laurel and I already shared some of the wildflowers and birds I saw ,and,  I would see a few more on my hike back. including the always striking scarlet tanager. 

I love seeing this bright red birds and how they contrast the green leaves. 

I also saw  a few eastern towhees singing along the trail.

I met a few folks enjoying the scenic tail  on my hike back to my Jeep. I was a little disappointed the mountain laurel was not at it’s peak. i would  have loved to share photos of what must have been a magical scene. However, I enjoyed my hike, and the wildflowers and song birds I saw along the way. There is always something to see on this wonderful trail if you walk slow and with your eyes peeled. If you haven’t been there this is the perfect month to visit. Here is a link to a gallery on my website with more photos from my five mile hike. Greater Hazleton Rails to Trails June 22 2023. 

“What a lonely place it would be to have a world without a wildflower!”
― Roland R Kemler



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