A Memorial Day Hike In The Weiser State Forest In Columbia County

A Memorial Day Hike In The Weiser State Forest In Columbia County

Weiser State forest. (26 of 51)
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On Memorial Day I  hiked in the Roaring Creek tract of the Weiser State Forest in Columbia County.  I had hiked in the forest before and went back in search of oyster mushrooms. The Weiser State Forest consists of  number of large tracts of woodlands in several counties in Northeastern Pennsylvania.  I parked at the visitor center for the Roaring Creek tract located south of the town of Aristes , about 30 miles from my home in Hazle Township. 

It was a sunny cool morning when I started out on the Pond Trail. This section of the forest begins along reclaimed strip anthracite coal mines. There is still a large strip mine pit on the north side of the trail. I had hoped to find aspen trees, and oyster mushrooms growing here, but my search was no successful. 

My thinking was the aspen trees would be growing in the reclaimed areas. However, it appeared  the strip mining occurred long ago and pines, oak and maples trees were already well established. White birch and aspen are usually the first trees to grow after the scarring done by strip mining.  The land was purchased to encourage re-growth and eventually produce a mature forest. In addition to the new young trees , native  wildflowers were now growing along the trail, including this common blue violets, and

the pink azalea. My dad called this pretty delicate flower honeysuckle and would seek them out every Spring. 

I hiked the Pond Trail until I saw a large  ridge  of rock above the trail and hiked up to explore the rocks. 

I found the Headwaters trail and followed it under an older forest. This area along the ridge was not strip mined. However, it was not the virgin forest that originally  grew  on these  mountains. Those forest were lumbered even before the strip mines. They were more mature then the reclaimed forest and made for a nice hike under the shade of the new leaves.

Unfortunately,  the larger trees made it difficult to see, and photograph the many birds singing in the  canopy of the taller trees. I was able, with some luck and patience, get a photo of this red-eyed vireo. 

In addition to the birds,  chipmunks were chipping everywhere along the trail. 

I followed the Headwaters Trail back to the Pond Trail, which I followed for a short distance. I left it again to explore the Big Mountain Trail. The trail  led up to the top of the ridge of Big Mountain.

Along the ridge I heard the loud singing of the wood thrushes that are plentiful in these woodlands.  They are usually perched high in the treetops but I was able to get a photo of this one. 

The trail followed the ridge for about a half mile and then re-joined the Pond Trail, I found this old sign posted when the land was owned by the Roaring Creek Water Company. 

The woods were lush with the new growth of leaves that shimmered in the morning sunlight. 

The trail  came to a pond that was created, I believe, from the coal mining activity in the area. Last time I visited I believe there were frogs and dragonflies near the ponds. The water was clear and blue. This year the water was green, I am no expert, but I think this is an indication of pollution from acid run-off discharge from the strip mining activity in the past. We are still paying from the lack of environmental regulations in the past. You would think we learned our lesson. We haven’t. 

After observing the pond, I followed the Huckleberry Trail through some nice woodlands,

and came to the Headwaters Trail again. This wide trail descended the Big Mountain  ridge and into the valley of the headwaters of Roaring Creek. 

It was a steep descent and I know it would not be an easy ride back up the trail. However, it was a beautiful hike under the tall second growth oak, maple, pine and hemlock trees.

I hiked to the valley and wanted to explore but I had already walled almost four miles and was getting tired. I decided to end my hike and walk back up  the trail an back to the visitor center.

As I neared the fields around the visitor center I finally was able to observe some birds withing camera range including this pretty indigo bunting. 

this, a chipping sparrow I think, 

and a phoebe.

It was late morning when I finished my seven mile hike.  I didn’t see any exciting critters like  bear, snakes or bald eagles and I didn’t find any oyster mushrooms but it was still a pleasant and peaceful hike. and a nice place to reflect and enjoy the beauty of nature.  I knew I would be back to explore that valley again. Here is a link to a gallery with more photographs from my hike in the Weiser State Forest.  Wesier Forest hike May 25 2020

“Deep down, at the molecular heart of life, the trees and we are essentially identical.” Carl Sagan 

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