Trudging Through The Snow On the Greater Hazleton Rails To Trails
December and early January were mild here in Northeastern Pennsylvania. There was little snow and almost no ice on our ponds, lakes and rivers. I missed the snow storm last week when I was away in Costa Rica. However when I returned it had already melted. This is very unusual and I knew we would still get more of the white stuff and cold before the Winter ended. Well we got some more this past week. Two small storms dropped a couple of inches of snow. There was about 4 inches on the ground when I awoke Saturday morning. It was partly cloudy and frigid. . The temperature was 9 degrees with a 15 mph wind.
I decided to stay close to home and hike on the Greater Hazleton Rails to Trails. I didn’t think any birds or wildlife would be active in the frigid temperatures and wind. I drove to the eastern access to the trail near the village of Hazle Brook in Foster Township. I was the only vehicle there when I arrived around 8 a.m. I was dreading trudging through the 4 inches of snow. I once enjoyed hiking many miles in snow up to my knees. When I was young I would spend entire Winter days roaming the woodlands near my home on snowy, frigid and windy days. Not anymore, I am no longer young, and it is hard to walk through the snow with my old bones and muscles. I know I will be very sore the next day, and I am, as I write this blog.
I was glad to see they were footprints on the trail. This makes it much easier walking then being the first to break a trail through the snow, But they were a day old mostly covered by drifting snow, However it was better than nothing and I appreciated the efforts of the brave soul who made them. . It looked like one person and his or her dog. It wasn’t the best trail but at least the snow was somewhat broken making it s little easier walking.
I will admit, the snow covered woodlands made a pretty Winter scene. It was like walking in a Winter wonderland. The gray and brown tree trunks and bare branches contrasted with the white snow. Occasionally breaks of sun created shadows on the snow.
rhododendron leaves. The leaves of these evergreen plant curl in the cold. The colder it gets the more they curl. They will uncurl as soon as the temperatures rise. They will provide hikers on the trail with more beautiful scenery when the bloom in late Spring and early Summer.
The snowy scene was beautiful, sort of, if you are a Winter and cold weather lover. I am not and would rather be hiking on a 90 degree Summer morning. But I still love the outdoors and was determined to get my seven miles of hiking in ( I had already walked two miles near my home. I do every morning for over 30 years now.)
The other thing I noticed as I hiked through the deep mixed hardwood/pine forest and through the mine reclamation areas. was the silence. I did not hear the sound of a bird and did not see any wildlife.
I saw a lot of tracks, mainly rabbit and deer, but I didn’t see a single bird, chipmunk, squirrel, deer or bear. They were are huddled up somewhere staying warm. They will get active if the temperatures rise above freezing even in the Winter months. They weren’t active on Saturday.
The partly cloudy skies, and snow covered trail, made for some nice Winter scenery as I walked through the reclamation area along the trail. As I have pointed out in many previous blogs from hikes on the trail, there were once deep anthracite coal mines in this area. Later, they area was strip mined leaving abandoned and dangerous deep pits or “stipings”. These deep pits near my home were one of our favorite playgrounds as a child.
These pits or stripings in the area along the trail we filled in and “reclaimed” . Birch, pine, poplar, locust and alder trees were planted and created a young second growth forest. As I walked through the reclamation area I found that the winds caused snow to drift over the footprints I was re-tracing making walking difficult in spots.
Before I crossed the bridge I noticed these tracks. I know very little about animal track. I can tell a deer, rabbit or bird and that is about it. So I wondered what animal made these tracks. At first I thought a deer. However, as you can see, the animal was able to squeeze between the openings in the fence. I am thinking it was a fox or coyote.
After crossing the bridge I soon discovered this is where the person who’s footprints I was following turned around. . The path they forged through the snow ended and I was now trudging through the four inches of cold white stuff. It isn’t a lot of effort for a block or two but walking five miles in even a few inches really takes a tool on me anymore.
It was still very quiet . I had only heard the distant call of a blue jay and a few black-capped chickadees. I walked for about a 1/2 mile through the snow when I came to the abandoned road that once accessed the nearby Beryllium plant that was abandoned and declared a hazardous waste superfund site.
I was pleasantly surprised to find the road plowed and cindered. I thought it had to be the local Water Company. They have a right of way to their Dreck Reservoir over the trail. However, they seldom use it so I was wondering why it would be plowed.
I am not sure why the trail was plowed only to this point but ot may have something to do with the private hunting clubs that now lease the adjoining lands. It is sad all of this land is now posted and private yet for many years I have seen hunters hiking our trails during hunting season. They apparently still do but will not extend the favor to the public.
I began my hike back but now I was walking into a fierce northwesterly wind, it was a lot more difficult,
and even more so when the plowed trail ended and I had to trudge the last 1 1/2 miles back through the snow.
It was now mid-morning and I finally saw a flock of black-capped chickadees,
and black eyed junco foraging together in the trees and grass. They are both seed eaters and they, along with tufted tit mice, white- breasted nuthatches and various species of woodpeckers often flock together for safety when feeding.
It was windy and cold and I did not spend much time photographing the chickadees and juncos and I wasn’t going to be patient and look for the other birds, I just wanted to get out of the cold and wind.
However, I still noticed some of Winters. beauty such as a red oak leaf blown on the snow,
a pine cone on a snow covered pitch pine tree, and
black alder, and closely related
gray gray alder seed stalks. In the Summer, with all of the lush green vegetation, the wildflowers birds, insects and wildlife these items would go un-noticed. However, in the white, gray and brown world of Winter they provide some intricate beauty to the dreary scenery. There is always beauty in Nature if you walk and, as my dad used to say. you keep your eyes peeled.
It was mostly cloudy for the remainder of my hike, but occasional the sun broke through the clouds, creating more beautiful Winter scenery. It was a cold and exhausting five mile hike. it was not pleasant, like a hike in the Spring, Summer or Fall, but it certainly was better than sitting in the house. I only hope it will be the coldest and most exhausting hike of the season. I am ready for Spring. Here is a link to a gallery on my blog website with some more photos from my hike. Greater Hazleton Rails to Trails January 20 2024
“I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says, “Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.” – Lewis Carroll