Fog, Mild Temperatures And Lots Of Ice: A Year End Hike On The Greater Hazleton Rails To Trails.

Fog, Mild Temperatures And Lots Of Ice: A Year End Hike On The Greater Hazleton Rails To Trails.

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It was a mild 46 degrees on New Year’s Eve morning here in  Luzerne County. Almost all of the ice and snow had melted near my  home in Hazle Township.  A thick fog  had formed.   It was hunting season again  so I decided to be safe and hike on the local Greater Hazleton Rails to Trail.  I drove about five miles to the east access parking area near the village of Hazlebrook.  I was not happy to find the trail covered with a few inches of snow and ice. 

The three  days of warm weather did not melt the snow and ice on the trail. In fact, the warmth just created a layer of water atop the ice making walking even more difficult. I was determined to get my five mile hike in so I  began my hike  on on the icy and snowy conditions on the trail. 

It was a hike in contrasts. The temperature was in the upper 40’s, feeling almost tropical compared to the sub-zero temperatures of the previous weekend. However, the trail, and woodlands were still covered in snow and worse, a lot of ice. Walking was difficult. On some areas on the trail it was more like ice skating. I would have rather trudged through a few inches of snow then navigate the ice. But onward I hiked. 

On the first mile there were a few sets of foot prints from some other dedicated hikers and dog-walkers. The icy conditions at the start of the trail ended and for about a half mile there was just a few inches of snow on the trail. It still wasn’t easy  hiking in the snow, but much better than the wet ice at the start of my hike. 

The thick fog made for a dreary and eerie hike. Pitch pine trees, shrouded in fog, towered about the trail, creating ghostly shapes in the fog. 

There is little color on the trails in the Winter months.  There  some browns , mainly from  the late falling oak leaves, contrasting with the white snow covered trail.,

and the withered brown bracken ferns.

There were also still  some greens remaining in the woodlands, the mountain laurel and  

rhododendron plants kept their evergreen leaves. 

Fan clubmoss could be seen in the snow all along the trail, 

as could the green leaves of the teaberries, some with bright red berries. 

The green briar leaves also kept some green colors, even as the lay atop the snow. 

The trail left the woodlands and entered the mine reclamation lands. Here I was hoping to see some resident Winter birds. But not a bird or critter was stirring. 

I was hoping the catkins from the birch and alder trees would have attracted them. There are not a lot of food sources out here in the Winter. 

I walked down to the bridge over the active railroad right of way,

and kept my eyes peeled for the bigfoot creatures that are common in this part of the trail. 

The trail was still mostly snow-covered until I approached an old access road to an abandoned industrial facility. Here the  surface of the old road was a sheet of ice. I slipped and slid for about another 1/2 mile,

when I approached the pine barrens. 

They too were eerie shrouded in the thick fog.

It was here I saw the first signs of wildlife  on my hike, a  small flock of black-capped chickadees were scurrying through the scrub oaks along the trail in search of food. 

Nearby was a small flock of dark-eyed juncos  scrambling on the ice and snow covered ground. 

Although I didn’t see any on my hike,  there must be chipmunks or squirrels living in the woods. and feeding on the many fallen acorns. 

I found a pile of acorns that had been gnawed open and eaten.

I had now walked out about 2 1/2 miles on the snow and ice. I knew it would be a long, exhausting hike back. At least it was warm and I actually enjoyed the eeriness created by the fog. 

On my hike back I  only encountered one more small flock of black-capped chickadees. I didn’t expect to see a lot of wildlife in the fog. 

I finished my hike early, not having to stop and try and photograph birds and other wildlife. I was tired, and hungry, but enjoyed  reflective year end  hike on the Greater Hazleton Rails to Trails. There is more warm weather predicted for Northeastern Pennsylvania this week, and hopefully all of the snow and ice will melt by the weekend. And Spring is just around the corner! Here is a link to a gallery with some more photos from my foggy New Year’s Eve hike. Greater Hazleton Rails to Trails hike December 31 2022 

“Nothing is as tedious as the limping days,
When snowdrifts yearly cover all the ways,
And ennui, sour fruit of incurious gloom,
Assumes control of fate’s immortal loom”
― Charles Baudelaire



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