Ice On The Mountain. A Magical Hike on The Greater Hazleton Rails To Trails

Ice On The Mountain. A Magical Hike on The Greater Hazleton Rails To Trails

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We had an ice storm here in Northeastern Pennsylvania last Friday. Well, some of us did. It depended on your elevation. My home  in the Green Ridge section of Hazle Township, Luzerne County  is located atop a ridge. The elevation above sea level is about 1680 feet. There was as lot of ice on the trees in my back yard. On Saturday I drove to the Susquehanna Wetlands in Salem Township about 15 miles from my home as the crow flies. There was very little ice. Why? The elevation at the wetlands is around 600 feet. This 1000 feet difference resulted in warmer air temperatures and very little ice as can be seen in my previous  blog post. 

Well the ice was still on our mountain top on Sunday. It was in my back yard anyway  It was a clear and calm 4 degrees when I decided to drive to our local Greater Hazleton Rails to  Trails to see how the ice storm affected the trail located about 3 miles from my home. I was so glad I did.  When I arrived I found a winter wonderland. 

It was like a scene from Dr. Zhivago, one of my favorite movies. It was sunny and very cold even though the temperature had risen to 7 degrees at the trail head. The trail was icy and  snow covered. However, the ice on the surface was thick enough to support my weight.  This was good news.  I was worried I would again have to trudge through the six inches of snow on the ground. A  thin layer of new snow that fell after the ice storm made the trail somewhat easy to hike. Well, except for the many birch trees that blocked the trail  They were bent over from the heavy layer of ice that coated their branches. 

It was a pretty scene from the start of my walk.  However, it became even more beautiful, almost magical, when, after a 1/4 mile,  the trail turned to the south and east.  The rising sun illuminated the ice covered tree  creating a dazzling  effect in the brilliant morning sunshine. 

I am not a big Winter fan, but this was Winter at it’s finest.  Photographs could not capture the beauty of this scene. This video I uploaded to my YouTube channel captures the scene better then my descriptions or photos. Here is the link.

It was still  bitterly cold as I walked on the trail, weaving in and out of the bent birches along the way. 

The thick layer of ice covered everything. 


oak leaves, 

red alder catkins 

and pine needles were encased in ice and glittered in the  sunshine. 

I still am trying to figure out how these icicles developed upward  on the mountain laurel leaves. 

Every step I took provided another amazing scene in this enchanted world of ice. 

After a mile or so, the trail crosses a highway and then  continues on the old railroad right of way that is also used as a secondary access to the Dreck Creek Reservoir by the local water authority.   Here is a link to a gallery with some more photographs of the beautiful  icy scenery on the first part of my hike. Rails to Trails hike part one  February 6 2022. 

The trail had taken a very gradual descent off of the mountain ridge. Even this small change in elevation affected ice formation. There was less ice on this  section of the trail,

but enough to still create  amazing scenes as the ice on the tree branches reflected the brilliant  rays of the morning sun. Here is a link to another video.

After about a 1/4 the trail once again began a slow climb over a ridge and once again there was more ice on the trees and I found many birch trees bent over from the weight of the ice.  Even a subtle change in elevation can have a dramatic affect on the amount of ice that forms during the storm. 

Once again the trail  gradually descended the ridge,

and there was less  ice for the remainder of my 2 1/2 hike out past the pavilion along the  Dreck Creek Reservoir. 

Here I began my hike back.

There was very little wildlife activity  on this frigid February morning. Only a few black-capped chickadees and

this lone tree sparrow  braved the bitter cold. 

And I didn’t see another human on my five mile hike either. I  made my way back as the sun slowly rose in the east. 

It still shone on the tops of the trees  creating more spectacular scenes.

I was cold, my finger and toes were frozen even under my gloves and thick woolen socks.  But enduring the cold was  worth experiencing the beauty of  effects of  the ice storm on our mountain top. Although I am not a fan of Winter  it does have it’s moment, and this ice storm was one of them. Here is a link to a gallery with more photos from my hike in the winter wonderland created by the ice storm. Rails to Trails part two February 6 2022. 

“…But swinging doesn’t bend them down to stay
As ice-storms do. Often you must have seen them
Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning
After a rain. They click upon themselves
As the breeze rises, and turn many-colored
As the stir cracks and crazes their enamel.
Soon the sun’s warmth makes them shed crystal shells
Shattering and avalanching on the snow-crust—
Such heaps of broken glass to sweep away
You’d think the inner dome of heaven had fallen…” Birches Robert Frost 

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