A Summer Hike On The Spirit Of Tuscarora Trail In Tuscarora State Park

A Summer Hike On The Spirit Of Tuscarora Trail In Tuscarora State Park

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I decided to visit nearby Tuscarora State  Park  last Sunday. It is one of the many state parks  and forests that we have  near my home here in Northeastern Pennsylvania, and which I  don’t visit often enough. I planned to hike the Spirit of Tuscarora Trail and then hike in the meadows along the Locust Creek. I was  there last year and thought it would be good habitat for the song birds that return to our area  in the Spring. 

It was a cloudy and mild morning when I arrived at Tuscarora State Park, located  in Schuylkill County, about 15 miles from my home in Luzerne County.  I drove to the parking  lot for the beach and found it closed, as was the day use parking lot. The parking lot to the camping area was open so I parked here. It was almost a mile walk from this parking lot to  the trailhead of the Spirit Of Tuscarora. This , I knew would change my plans of exploring Locust Creek, but I enjoyed the walk. It was the first time  I  visited the cabins located at the  park, and, the yurts which are also available for camping. I loved the yurts and will have to camp here, hopefully in the near future. 

It was a pleasant walk through the campground.   It was only 8 a.m. but a few folks were already up cooking breakfast.   I enjoyed the smell of the campfires. I followed a trail above the lake walking past a few folks out for an early morning hike. 

The trail took me  down to the 96 acre scenic lake.  I met a  ranger who  told me he lake is open for boating and fishing but the small beach was closed because of bacteria in the water made it unsafe for swimming. He also told me the gates to the beach and day use area aren’t open until  8 a.m. 

I walked along the lake,

seeing a few robins looking to catch an early  worm,

and eastern chipmunk probably looking for some left over human food. 

I hiked  back up from the lake to get to the Spirit of Tuscarora Trail. The parking lot was now open.   I could have parked  a few feet from this sign, however, I didn’t mind the extra .8 mile hike through the camp grounds and beach. 

The Spirit of Tuscarora Trail is  five mile loop trail  on the hills above Tuscarora Lake and Locust Creek where it exits the lake.

It was created  over 33 years ago by Dennis “Pap”  Knauss.  “Pap”  has maintained the trail over the years, removing fallen trees, clearing the paths of leaves and debris and is familiar with all of the trees, plants and critters that are  found near the trail    He created a wonderful trail which has allowed so many  folks from many areas to enjoy the beauty of the woodlands in the park. I had  met him my first  hike on the trail 8 years ago.   . Here is a link to my blog post from that hike. . https://keepyoureyespeeled.net/tuscarora-state-park-its-got-a-lot-more-than-just-swimming/

I am now his  on  social media and have learned of his  continued   love of, and passion to preserve,   this trail, this park and the woodlands of Pennsylvania. 

The trail proceeds along and above the shore of the lake through a mixed oak, maple,  hemlock  and white pine woodland. . 

There were many hay scented ferns, and 

bracken ferns along the trail.

And a lot of these these plants you don’t want to brush against, Canadian woodnettles.  While the stinging barbs could be painful, the pain doesn’t last long, and the plant is actually edible.

 I saw  a ew mushrooms  growing along the trail including some deer mushrooms, and ,

this hemlock varnish shelf, or reishi mushroom.  

The trail descends to the lake before heading back up over a ridge. In this hollow I saw some of the large yellow birch tree,

and saw a few birds including a noisy catbird,

a common yellow throat,

and a lot of ovenbirds.  I heard the oven birds all along my hike. 

The trail now followed a ridge above  where  the Locust Creek exits the lake.  The woods were older and dense up here and  lot of ferns were growing in the shade under the larger trees. 

And hopping on the floor of the forest were  eastern American toads, dozens of them raging is size  from  length of a dime,

to  this fellow who was the  size of my fist. 

The trail wound through a thicket of rhododendrons , it was almost like a tunnel. This  was created by the hard work of “Pap”

The rhododendrons should bloom shortly creating a magical scene. 

In these deeper woods I heard and saw two more warblers, the black throated blue warbler,

and the black throated green warbler. Both reside in the denser forest but I find the black throated blue warbler to be much more reclusive and hard to photograph. The black throated green warbler is much more friendly. almost  like the curious black- capped chickadees who almost seem to enjoy the company of humans. 

The trail divides  and creates a figure eight loop. I took the loop to the Locust Creek,

and to the Spirit Of Tuscarora Tree.  The tree is the remains of an old maple tree that I think was stuck  by lightning.  Folks have different  opinions whether   the shape of the tree resembles a face of a human or animal.  Whatever it is I think it is a great pace to sit along the Locust Creek and reflect listening to the flowing water.  And, if you are lucky you many hear a train passing in the distance. I was lucky that Sunday. I love trains. 

I wanted to hike along the Locust Creek, but I had already walked almost two miles more than I had planned.  So, reluctantly, I began my hike back. 

On the way I saw a lot more toads  hopping along the trail, and a few birds, including a tufted titmouse and

this swamp sparrow. It was late morning now and  the bird activity and song diminished on my return hike.  Here is link to a gallery on my website with some more photos of the birds I saw on my hike. Tuscarora State Park birds June 25 2023. 

On the hike back, I followed a trail down to the lake and, when I left the woods,  I saw that the skies had cleared and cumulus clouds were drifting over the lake. It was a beautiful  June morning. 

I still had a half mile hike to the trailhead then another .8 mile hike to my Jeep.  It was a nice, but uneventful  hike, as far as observing wildlife, only   a few spicebush swallowtail butterflies along the trail. 

After leaving the trail I walked along the deserted lake, and enjoying the  pretty scene created by the cumulus clouds floating over the lake. 

Instead of  taking the access to the campground I walked along the shore of the lake,

where I found many water lilies in bloom,

and  one of the first rhododendrons blooms of the season. Many more will follow. I  walked past the yurts and cabins and found a lot folks awake and cooking on the open campfires. It has been a long time since I have gone camping, but I am hoping that will change soon, and hopefully in a yurt here or in some other  State Park, or,   maybe even  Mongolia??  Here is a link to another gallery with some more photos from my five mile hike. Tuscarora State Park hike June 25 2023. 

“What an irony it is that these living beings whose shade we sit in,
whose fruit we eat, whose limbs we climb, whose roots we water, to
whom most of us rarely give a second thought, are so poorly
understood. We need to come, as soon as possible, to a profound
understanding and appreciation for trees and forests and the vital
role they play, for they are among our best allies in the uncertain
future that is unfolding.”
― Jim Robbins,

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