A Walk Through The Pitch Pine And Scrub Oak Barrens Near The Rails To Trails.
Sunday morning started out with some sunshine here in Northeastern Pennsylvania, but clouds quickly moved into our area. The forecast called for rain in the early afternoon so I decided to stay close to home and hike the local Rails to Trails.
As some of you may recall from my post last week there in a mother bear and three cubs roaming the large wooded tracts of land surrounding the trail. I again decided to see if I could find them and thought the pitch pine and scrub oak barrens would be a good place to look.
Even with the cool temperatures it was still a nice morning for a walk. The sheep laurel has just started to bloom, a sure sign that Spring is almost over.
And the mountain laurel should be blooming shortly. Our state flower will once again transform our mountain woodlands into one large beautiful flower garden over the next few weeks.
I saw this robin along the trail but, as I walked through the thicker scrub oak and pine of the barrens I heard, and saw, a few birds, including a hawk, in the brush but couldn’t get any photographs.
I did encounter a few deer, including a mom and two young fawns. We startled each other, as I disturbed there sleep under a large scrub oak and they quickly disappeared before I could get a photograph. I was able barely get a photograph of these two deer, who saw me , ran into the brush, and watched me from the distance for a few minutes.
I followed the trail through the barrens and on to the old haul road on the north side of the woodlands. I understand it was once used to haul a large steam shovel, used in the coal industry, over the Stockton mountain.
The road was once much wider than it is now, as can be since from the rocky bank paralleling the present road and covered with a growth of new pine, birch and scrub oak tress.
From the size of the trees my guess would be the road was constructed in the 1940’s when coal was still king in this area, but starting to decline.
I came upon an off road vehicle or quad trail that lead east into the pitch pine and scrub oak barrens and I started to follow it.
It was not used often, as fern, blueberry, sheep laurel and other plants were growing on the trail cut through the barrens. It was not easy hiking as the trail all but disappeared in the thick undergrowth. And I found a few ticks on me as I struggled through the vegetation.
But, I now was determined to see where the trail led and why someone would ride through this thick brush. The trail become rocky in some spots, reminding me of the pine barrens on Stony Mountain, where I hiked as a child.
I also knew these rocks would be a good place to fine a timber rattler or copperhead snake. Unfortunately I did’t find any.
I walked along the trail, encountering stands of pitch pines towering over the lower scrub oak and other vegetation.
And in some areas only one lone pine stood out on the horizon.
I soon came to the top of the mountain and could see the city of Hazleton in the distance to the north and west.
I have always loved to climb to high places and enjoy the view. I remember finding the highest tree on Stony mountain and climbing it, sitting in it’s branches and looking at the Hazleton city and surrounding area to the east. Or climbing the culm bank near Jeansville, which provides an awesome view of the city and surrounding mountains. This was the first time I saw the city from this vantage point and I reflected on the landmarks I was able to see and the memories they have given me over the years, such as the former St Joseph’s Hospital, where I drew my first breadth on this planet.
Or the blue water towers on McKinley Street, there was only one atop the hill until a few years ago. I remember seeing it, and using it as a guide, to get me home from my long hikes on Stony Mountain.
After taking in the view I continued to follow the now almost non-existent trail, determined to see were it lead. I was hoping to find a view or campsite but instead found it ended at two pine trees, I soon learned it’s purpose. There were two hunting stands in the trees.
I sure hope the individuals who made this trail either owned the land or had permission from the owners. It has made a considerable impact on the barrens and can even be seen on a google satellite photograph
I started my walk back and it soon began to rain. Unfortunately I believed the forecast and was not wearing rain gear. I got a little wet but it was worth it, and I hope to explore more of the barrens on the Stockton Mountain in the future. Here is a link to some more photographs from my hike. https://keepyoureyespeeled.net/photographs-2017/nggallery/photographs-2017/Rails-to-trails-pitch-pine-barrens-June-4-2017-
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds.Edward Abbey