The First Hint Of Fall Color At the Greater Hazleton Rails To Trails

The First Hint Of Fall Color At the Greater Hazleton Rails To Trails

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The first colors of Fall appeared here in Northeastern Pennsylvania this  past week. The red maple, gray birch and aspen trees  are the first trees to show hints of the annual explosion of color that occurs in our woodlands.  The  shortening days and cooler temperatures that  arrive in the Fall start this slow process.   I decided to enjoy the mild October weather and observe the first changing leaves on a couple of hikes on the Greater Hazleton Rails to Trails last  week. The trail is  near my home in Hazle Township Luzerne County. 

This well maintained and scenic six mile trail  begins  on Route 93 (East Broad Street) in Hazle Township,

and ends on the Hazle  Brook Road in  Foster Township. 

On Monday I started my hike at the Hazle Township entrance.  It was a sunny and mild October afternoon  Many  of the trees still had their green leaves but there were  also some yellow and red colors  on the maples,  aspens and birch trees especially near the entrance. 

There is a native wildflower garden  near the entrance and here I saw some late blooming native flowers including, New England asters, 


and hairy aster. This one visited by one of the few insects I saw on this three mile hike, a common eastern  bumblebee. 

Also growing near the wildflower garden were pretty blue chicory flowers, They are common in Pennsylvania but are not native. 

I followed the trail around a curve and along the Butler Preserve. This preserve protects a rare scrub oak and pine barrens on a ridge above the trail.  The red maple trees along the trail were a nice preview of the coming transformation the trees will display for us in the coming weeks. 

It was quiet  along  the trail I only heard a few crows and blue jays in the distance and the only critter I saw was this curious chipmunk who was peaking out at me as I walked past. 

There were a few  mushrooms growing along the trail including this birch scaber bolete. This is one of the edible mushrooms my family gathers and uses in our traditional Polish Holy Supper mushroom soup on Christmas Eve. 

I also saw a few edible puffball mushrooms on my walk.

There was no one hiking the trail until I crossed the Stockton highway and saw a few friends returning from an afternoon hike.

I only walked out 1 1/2 miles on this hikes. I was a little disappointed I didn’t see more birds or other wildlife. I have heard there were a couple of bear sighting on this part of the trail.  It was still a nice day to be outdoors and it is always a pleasant hike on our Rails to Trail. 

I returned to the Greater Hazleton Rails to Trails the next afternoon. It was an even warmer day with temperatures in the 70’s. This time I started my hike on the other side of the trail, on the Hazle Brook Road. I was hoping to see some more wildlife in the deeper woods and the mine reclamation areas on this  section of the trail.The woods at the start of the trail are mostly oak and were still mostly green with no fall color. The oak trees are the last trees to sprout leaves in the Spring and the last to lose them in the Fall. 

There were still signs of Fall,  there were many acorns scattered on the ground under the oak trees, 

 cinnamon ferns and

bracken ferns had already turned brown and yellow. 

There is a pond near the trail, it was built to provide water for the old anthracite coal operations nearby. There red maples growing around pond were already turning creating a pretty Fall scene, There are beavers living in this pond but I didn’t see any on this hike. 

I continued on the trail and saw more hints of Fall on the red maples as I approached the coal mine reclamation area. 

Here I did see lot of birds. There was a large flock of migrating yellow rumped warblers.

They were chattering as they foraged in the trees, looking for seeds and insects to fuel their long journey to Florida and the Caribbean Islands. I saw hundreds of them in the Florida Keys last January. 

Nearby I also saw a few ruby crowned kinglets, 

and blue headed  vireos. Both of these birds were also migrating south.

There was also a gray catbird in the flock of migrating birds. It seems  like birds of different species like to travel together on their migration. 

There were also a few black-capped chickadees with the migrating birds. These birds will remain here for our Winter. 

A red squirrel was perched in a tree, 

and this eastern chipmunk scampering on the ground. 

I left the flock of birds and walked into the  younger birch, pine, locust and aspen trees growing in the mine reclamation area along the trail. 

Here I saw more Fall wildflowers including white-panicle asters, 

hairy aster, 

rabbit tobacco,

a few invasive oxeye daisies , and

a lot of species of goldenrod flowers. The native goldenrod flowers attracted dozens of species of wasps, 

and bees. 

I had hoped to see some migratory birds in the mine reclamation area. I saw  many species of migrating song birds here in the Spring.  I was surprised not to see a single bird on this hike. I walked down to the new bridge that crosses over an active railroad track. 

Here and stopped, and reflected, as I always do,  on the many generations of immigrants who took this railroad route at the end of  their long voyage from their native homes in Europe to work the coal mines in the Hazleton area, my grandparents and great-parents among them. 

I was only hiking three miles on this sunny, warm afternoon, so I ended my hike here and began my walk back under the blue skies and puffy cumulus clouds. 

The flock of migrating birds were gone on my hike back, the only birds I saw were a noisy flock of black-capped chickadees, 

chattering in  trees along the trail.  Here is a link to a gallery on my blog website with more photos of the  wildlife I saw on my hikes. Greater Hazleton Rails to Trails wildlife October 2,3 2023. 

I finished my hike under the still green oak trees at the end of the trail, knowing, that soon, even the mighty oak will be turning red and yellow, signaling the end of the yearly display of color here in the woodlands of Northeastern Pennsylvania. I hope to take a few more hikes on this wonderful trail while the leaves are at their peak. It’s a great place to observe this magical show nature provides us each Fall.  . Here is a link to a gallery with some more photos from my Fall hikes on the Rails to Trails. Greater Hazleton Rails to Trails October 2,3 2023. 

I cannot endure to waste anything as precious as autumn sunshine by staying in the house. So I spend almost all the daylight hours in the open air.

Nathaniel Hawthorne

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