It’s Still Winter In Northeastern Pennsylvania. An Icy And Cold Hike At The Susquehanna Wetlands
After my recent visit to South Florida, I was looking forward to my return to Northeastern Pennsylvania and hiking in the Susquehanna Wetlands again on Saturday morning. And, I was hoping, it would have warmed up a bit since my last visit three weeks ago. Well it didn’t, not much anyway. Located in Salem Township. about twenty miles from my home in Hazle Township, Luzerne County this private nature preserve has become one of my favorite hiking grounds in Northeastern Pennsylvania. To new followers of my blog. you can find dozens of posts from hikes in the wetlands and the wildlife I have seen in my the archives in my blog. There is a research tool to help find them.
It is a great place to hike and observe wildlife, even in Winter. On Saturday I learned it was still winter here in Northeastern Pennsylvania. We had an ice storm on Friday. The forecast called for colder temperatures but mostly sunny skies on Saturday. I relied on the forecast and decided to hike a little later then usual, thinking the late February sun would start to melt the snow and ice and turn the top layer to slush. Well it was cloudy when I arrived. It stayed cloudy for my entire five mile hike. The snow and ice did not melt. The parking lot was a sheet of ice.
The ground and trails were also covered with a layer of ice as I soon found out walking down to the Susquehanna River. The river was still high from recent rains and melting snow but there was no ice on the river. A small sign of the approaching Spring, and one of the few I would find on my hike.
Entering the wetland area of the nature preserve I found walking to be difficult. There was a couple inches of snow coated with a layer of ice. I slipped and almost fell many times on my hikes. These are about the worst hiking conditions that one can encounter. It was cold too, with temperatures in the low 20’s. I was wishing I was back in Florida.
It was quiet too. There was no bird activity in the wetlands. One of the reasons, I suspect. was the many common winterberries and poison berries were all gone. I would see the birds feeding on these berries on my previous trips this winter. The only remaining berries I saw were these purple green briar berries. They do not appear to be too popular with the birds.
I usually will see some sort of bird or wildlife on my hikes here. And, sure enough, I wasn’t disappointed on Saturday. While walking toward the river again I saw this bald eagle perched in a tree. However, he/she saw me too, and quickly flew off across the river,
allowing me to get this poor quality images which I only share because it was a bald eagle. I love seeing these majestic birds on my hikes in the woodlands of Northeastern Pennsylvania.
After seeing the bald eagle I walked along the banks of the river hoping to see some water birds and I did see a pair of common mergansers swimming on the river.
I thought I heard an osprey in the distance, and saw a red-tailed hawk fly from behind over my head and off into the distance before I could get a photo. The only other bird I saw in the river lands was this winter wren. It was hopping on some logs along the trail.
The trail was just to icy for me to continue. I walked back to the access road between the river lands and wetlands and hiked a mile here to get my usual five mile hike in. Here I did see a few birds, a dark eyed-junco,
and treelike club moss to add a little color to this dreary scene. And I hear the raspy calls of a red -winged blackbird. I am not sure if it was the one I saw last month or if these migratory birds have already started returning to Northeastern Pennsylvania.
Of course, after a 2 1/2 hours five mile walk in the wind and cold, and on ice covered trail, the first signs of blue sky appeared. And with just a few minutes of suns shining through these breaks in the clouds, the ice began to melt and turn to slush. It was too late for my sore muscles and bones. It was a difficult hike, but hopefully, the last frigid and icy one of this year. I hear next weekend the temperatures will be in the 50’s. But I won’t believe it until I see it. Here is a link to a gallery were more photographs displayed from my hike in the wetlands on a cold and icy winter day in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Susquehanna Wetlands hike February 26 2022.
February is just plain malicious. It knows your defenses are down.
– Katherine Paterson