My First Hike In French Creek State Park: It Won’t Be My Last
I have been seeing a lot of posts on the Facebook nature pages about ramps, morel mushrooms and the cicada chimneys or turrets. I have never found any of them here in the woods near my home near Hazleton Northeastern Pennsylvania. I think the weather is too cool up here in the mountains. So I decided to head south and look for them. On Sunday I drove the 60 miles to French Creek State Park on the border of Berks and Chester Counties.
It was my first visit to French Creek State Park. I remember hearing about it in high school when I was reading about the nearby Daniel Boone Homestead. I didn’t plan any hikes in the park before my visit and when I arrived on the entrance road I pulled over and parked at the first trail I saw.
It was the Boone Trail and I followed it as it descended into the woodlands along the road. I was surprised how far ahead the vegetation growth was in the park. The mostly oak, maple and beech forest was already fully covered with new fresh green leaves. One of my favorite Spring flowers, the native pink azalea, was already in full bloom along the trail. My dad called this pretty pink delicate flowers honeysuckles and would take me and my siblings into the woods to gather some in the Spring.
Scattered at intervals along the trail on the ground were Virginia spring beauty and
wild strawberry flowers.
I followed the Boone Trail and it led me to, and crossed over, the 141 mile long Horse-Shoe Trail that goes through the park. This trail begins in Valley Forge and ends on the Appalachian Trail in Dauphin County.
The Boone Trail continued down to scenic Hopewell Lake. There were a lot of fishermen along the shores of this warm water lake. Gas-powered boats are prohibited but there were a lot of canoes and kayaks on the lake.
I left the lake and followed a side trail. There were a lot of birds singing along the trail but the only one I could photograph was this gray catbird.
There were more wildflowers growing near the lake including the native robin plantain,
wild geranium and
woman’s tobacco or plantain-leaf pussytoes. I always enjoy seeing native wildflowers on my hikes.
I never saw these trees before and learned they were the native eastern redbud tree. They were beautiful.
The trail lead me into an open field where I saw he ruins of what I learned was an old iron blast furnace. This was the Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site. I spent some time exploring this wonderful place and will post another blog on my explorations.
After leaving the historic site I followed a trail along the lake and encountered a steady stream of hikers and runners. It was a mild and mostly sunny morning and a lot of folks were taking advantage of the nice weather.
Once again I found some wildflowers on the trail near the lake including large clusters of mandrake or may apple flowers.
and a few of these yellow wood betony flowers.
As the trail continued upward I came to some older forest and found this familiar flower, native dwarf ginseng. This flower was common in the woods near my home.
Many species of ferns were also growing along the trail, including these sensitive ferns.
There were a few of them in this campground which now appears to be closed. They were pretty basic. They look like they may have been built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC ) during the 1930’s. As I often do, I reflected on the folks who camped here over the years. I am sure many good memories were made here sitting around an evening campfire.
It was another uphill hike to the lake and along the the way I found a few of these interesting native flowers, jack-in-the-pulpits. I think this as the largest concentration of these flowers I have ever came across.
Walking past the lake I continued upward on a section of the Lenape Trail. It was narrower and a bit rocky but it didn’t stop the mountain bikers. A couple dozen must have sped past me as they biked down the steep trail.
In between the interruptions of the bikers it was peaceful in the forest. The songs of birds filled the air. I heard many American redstarts and, I think some warblers but they remained high in the tree tops. I also heard the distinctive calls of the Eastern towhee birds. These birds stay close to the ground, rummaging in the fallen leaves and undergrowth. This is a female.
After about a half-mile the trail finally began to descend back down the mountain. Along the way down I saw this downy woodpecker. I was a little disappointed I didn’t see more birds on my seven mile hike. Here is a link to a gallery on my blog website with some more photos of the wildflowers I saw on my hike in French Creek State Park. French Creek State Park flowers may 2 2021.
I walked another half mile to where I had parked my Jeep and came across a few more native wild flowers including some partridge berries, the berries are from last year,
mock strawberries flowers
and downy yellow violets.
Of course, during my entire seven mile hike I kept my eyes peeled, looking for the elusive, edible wild ramps, the even more elusive morel mushrooms and the chimneys of the cicada nymphs. My hike ended by following the Boone Trail back to my Jeep. I didn’t find any of these treasures on my hike, but it was still a great day exploring this beautiful park. And I left with the one sure thing, a promise to myself to return again very soon. Here is a link to a gallery with some more photos from my seven mile hike. French Creek State Park May 2 2021.
There are no words that can tell the hidden spirit of the wilderness, that can reveal its mystery, its melancholy, and its charm.