Mountain Laurel And Cicadas At Kings Gap State Park
I was happy to awaken in Carlisle on Monday with the sun shining. We had a few days of rain at my home in Northeastern Pennsylvania and it was raining when I arrived in Carlisle the previous evening. After a quick cup of coffee I was on my way to explore Kings Gap Environmental education Center State Park.
It was a long, winding , drive up to the park atop South Mountain. Upon arriving, I again admired the impressive views of the Cumberland Valley from Cameron- Masland stone mansion. This time under clear skies.
It was still chilly when I began my hike. Temperatures were in the upper 40’s with a strong northwesterly wind. I began my hike walking down the main access road were I saw the cicadas the previous day.
They were still there but not very active. They were quiet. I wanted to hear that high pitched buzzing or clicking sound made by the males to attract a mate. I am guessing the wet wings and cool temperatures were not their favorite weather conditions.
I have always been intrigued by this interesting insects that live 17 years of their life underground as nymphs. They emerge, exit their exoskeleton,
and begin a new life as winged cicadas. They mate, reproduce and die, all in only a few weeks. The eggs that are laid hatch and the young nymphs crawl underground and live for 17 years and then repeat the cycle. There are a umber of different broods that emerge in Pennsylvania and the United States. These critters are all members of Brood X.
After observing the cicadas I walked down to the Scenic Vista Trail. I had hiked a portion of this trail the previous afternoon.
The mountain laurel along the trail was still in full bloom and looked even more beautiful in the morning sunshine. It was a lovely day to be in the woods.
I followed the trail down a ridge. It was rocky in places but wide and well maintained.
I had read that the original forest was clear cut for charcoal production in the 18th and 19th centuries. The charcoal was used in the many nearby iron furnaces. The forest now had a mixture of oak, maple, and pine trees.
The new leaves, including the more unusual tulip tree
and redbud trees , were shinning in the strong June sunshine.
There were not many cicadas up here on this ridge. I followed the trail first up to the scenic overlook of the valley below.
After the taking in the view I proceeded on my hike. The trail narrowed and became steep and rocky as it descended down the mountainside.
There were many birds singing in the woods. I think mainly redstarts and song sparrows , but I wasn’t able to photograph any of them. The trail continued downward and eventually flattened out, where the ground became wet and swampy.
Here I found these yellow star grass flowers growing in the moist soil and
this orange patched smoky moth fluttering in the cool morning air.
I had hiked about 2 1/2 miles now and the trail continued through a grove of pine trees before coming to the main access road. I hiked about a 1/4 mile down the access road until I came to the pond on the bottom of the Kings Gap Hollow Trail.
I then began my return hike back up the mountain on the Kings Gap Hollow Trail. It was a mixed pine/ hardwood forest.
After hiking a short distance on the trail I heard the familiar high pitched buzzing song of the cicadas. As I neared the center of the buzzing I started to see dozens of cicadas and their discarded exoskeletons on the leaves of plants and trees along the trail.
I suspected the strong June sun had warmed the insects and made them more active.
On the ground I saw hundreds of small holes. This is were the cicada nymphs emerged from the ground. There would have been turrets or chimneys above these holds in the days before they emerged.
As I continued on the trail I found less and less of the cicadas. They were centered in that one area on this part mountainside. I hiked up the trail, past the Black Gum trail and back to grounds of the Cameron- Masland mansion. Here is a link to a gallery with some more photographs of my five mile hike. Kings Gap State Park hike May 31 2021.
On the grounds of the mansion I decided to return to the flower garden I visited on the previous afternoon.
The flowers were even more beautiful in the bright June sunshine. The irises,
roses and many other flowers created an even more idyllic scene.
There was even a wildflower garden and pond on the grounds. After exploring the gardens I took one last look at view of the Cumberland Valley before I returned to my jeep and drove back to my hotel. Here is a link to a gallery with some more photographs of the lovely grounds around the stone mansion. Kings Gap State Park gardens. May 31 2021.
After checking out of my hotel and having a hearty breakfast at the Walnut Bottom Diner I was on the road again heading to the mountains of Virginia. But I promised myself I will return to Kings Gap State Park and explore more of this lovely mountain side park.
I think our forests should be preserved as much as humanly possible for recreation and just for enjoyment of the natural beauty of Pennsylvania.
— Ed Rendell