Exploring Beltzville State Park Again. This Time Hiking The Christman and Sawmill Trails
On Saturday morning I returned to Beltzville State Park in Carbon County for the third time this past month. Located only 25 miles southeast of my home in Luzerne County, I haven’t visited this park since I was in high school. I am learning that was a mistake. I have heard the reports of the overcrowding in the Summer months but I have enjoyed my first two hikes here. You can read more about them and the Beltzville State Park in my previous blogs.
On Saturday it was cloudy and a cold 32 degrees when I arrived at the park around 9 a.m. I decided on hiking the Christman Trail. The trailhead is about five miles past the main park access. There was only one other vehicle in the parking lot when I arrived, not like the crowded conditions I have heard folks complain about in the Summer months.
I followed the wide grassy trail that was lined with old black walnut trees. This indicated to me the beginning of the trail may have been an old hedgerow, which would separate farmers fields, or an old road leading to Wild Creek.
I soon saw a small flock of one of our common Winter resident birds, white-throated sparrows.
These birds are usually found close to the ground and in thick brush. A few of these birds were singing loudly perched on the branches along the trail. It is almost Spring, and mating season, and the males sing to attract females. I was able to get some close photos of these pretty birds.
A short distance into my hike I came to some trail signs were the Christman trail split I decided not to follow either of them. Instead I followed an older trail and hiked down a steep ravine to a small, but fast flowing stream. I love following streams, creeks and rivers.
The ravine through which the stream flowed was lined with mostly hemlock trees and some white pines. I enjoyed hearing the water flowing below,
while walking under the tall trees above. I love the smell of the hemlocks and pines.
Intermediate wood ferns grew all along the trail. It was a nice place to hike.
The trail followed the stream for about a quarter of a mile and then wound it’s way back up the ravine to the Christman Trail.
This trail was wide and well maintained. It continued under a woodland of mostly old hemlock, white pine and oak trees. Although the trees were second growth trees they still were fairly old and tall. It would be a nice hike here on a hot Summer evening. Unfortunately, the old forest and tall trees is not the best habitat for our Winter resident birds. And the few birds I saw and heard, a couple downy woodpeckers, . black-capped chickadees and tufted titmice were high in the branches of the trees and out of range of my camera.
The only bird I was able to photograph, and it wasn’t easy, the never stay in one place, was this golden crowned kinglet.
Along the trail, I saw more ferns. a lot of teaberries,
Garlic mustard, an invasive but edible plant, also was scattered along the trail and I took some with me for my dinner.
I followed the trail to another split. One trail, which I followed took me down another steep ravine, with many rhododendrons,
to a bridge over Wild Creek. I didn’t know it at the time but the trail would have taken me to a nice waterfalls on the creek.
I walked back up to the Christman Trail. On the way I saw a young couple and there two children hiking the trail, the only folks who I saw on my three mile hike
I followed another trail and it took me to the Wild Creek Waterfalls. I enjoy watching and listening to waterfalls and spent some time enjoying the flowing water.
I walked back up to the Christman Trail which now ended. I followed the other loop back. This loop trail left the woodlands and continued along some farm fields.
It was a nice three mile hike.
At the end of the trail I finally saw some bird activity. There were some tufted titmice
and a few red bellied woodpeckers high in the tree tops.
Near the parking area I found a small pond.
And here there was a few birds, probably attracted to the water. I saw red-winged blackbirds, black capped chickadees this song sparrow,
that posed for me on a branch near the pond. I ended my hike which was only three miles. I usually walk five miles on my weekend hikes so I decided to hike on the Sawmill Trail at the other end of the park. Here is a link to a gallery on my blog website with some more photos from my hike on the Christman Trail. Beltzville State Park Christman Trail March 18 2023.
It was about a five mile drive to the Sawmill Trail located near the dam on the lake of Beltsville State Park.
It was mostly sunny when I began my hike on the 1.8 mile trail that began under the shade of large, old red spruce trees.
The cones from the trees were scattered along the trail. I am sure the trees were planted when the gristmill was in operation over a century ago.
The trail follows a stream that flows into the Pohopoco Creek. I followed the stream up a ravine.
The March sun warmed the cold morning air and I was delighted to hear the sounds of first frogs in a wetland along the trail. They weren’t spring peepers, but some species of frog I don’t think I have heard before. Their croaking sounds were music to my Winter weary ears.
Another sign of Spring could be seen in the wetlands, the many skunk cabbages sprouting in the cold wet ground.
I soon came to the ruins of the old gristmill.
There was a pond nearby with water flowing over the old embankment. I stopped to watch and listen to the rushing waters and reflected on the people who operated the mill over a century ago. I wondered how close they lived to the mill.
A grist mill grinds grain into flour. I wondered what type of grain was ground here, corn, wheat or rye grains.? I thought of the local farmers who grew the grain, harvested it, and transported it here to this remote stream. Where was it sold? So many questions. I hope to do some research and find some answers which I will share in another blog.
The trail continued along the stream and brought me to an old quarry. Again I stopped and reflected on the workers at the quarry and had many of the same questions I had at the ruins of the grist mill.
After the quarry the trail continues to the spillway of the dam on Beltzville Lake. It crosses the spillway and then follows the stream back down to Old Mill Road. The trail is cut into a ridge above the creek. It is narrow an steep in some areas but a nice hike under the old hemlock and oak trees.
There were many ferns and some partridge berries growing along the trail.
And, when I passed the wetlands I again heard the welcome sound of the frogs.
I finished the two mile hike on Old Mill Road, seeing one more bird as I walked back to the parking area, a mourning dove. I really had hope to see more birds and wildlife on my hike. Unfortunately the wildlife didn’t cooperate. Here is a link to a photo gallery with some more photos of the birds I saw on my hikes. Beltzville State Park birds. March 18 2023.
Although I didn’t see a lot of wildlife, I still enjoyed hikes on both of these trails. I was surprised so few people took advantage of the trails on this beautiful late Winter day. I know I will return, and hopefully before the crowds that they say will arrive in the Summer. I hope the reports are exaggerated since so far I enjoyed all three of my visits to Beltzville State Park. And there are a few more trails to explore. Here is a link to a gallery with some more photos from my hike on the Sawmill Trail. Beltzville State Park. Sawmill Trail March 18 2023.
“The world reveals itself to those who travel on foot” – Werner Herzog
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