Wildflowers Not Wildlife On This Hike Greater Hazleton Rails To Trails And A Visit To The Nearby Butler Preserve

Wildflowers Not Wildlife On This Hike Greater Hazleton Rails To Trails And A Visit To The Nearby Butler Preserve

Rails to Trails flowers (3 of 30)
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I stayed close to home on Saturday and hiked  on the Greater Hazleton Rails to Trails.  I also  visited the  adjacent pine barrens in the Butler Preserve in Hazle Township, Luzerne County.

It was cloudy,  warm and humid when I began my hike on the  Broad St. entrance to the trail . Temperature were in the mid 70’s,  The Greater Hazleton Rails To Trails follows the long abandoned  Delaware, Susquehanna and Schuylkill Railroad (D, S & S). The railroad was   organized ad operated by Eckley Coxe in the early 1890’s to compete  with the larger railroads  in  transporting  his coal to market on the East Coast. 

I didn’t see a lot of wildlife on this 5 1/2 mile hike but there were plenty of Summer wildflowers growing along the trail. One of  the first I came across. brought back some of my earliest childhood memories, butter and eggs or common toadflax. This flower is invasive and was brought here by colonists from Europe for medicinal uses. It grew in the lot next to my back  yard. It  was the first wildflower I discovered as a very young child exploring this beautiful planet for the first time. I know I wasn’t in school yet when I would see it.  In later years it was a reminder the  Summer was ending school would start soon. 

Nearby were some more  invasive but pretty wildflowers  the flat or everlasting pea.,

and chicory. 

Alongside the trail, not far from the entrance, the local Rails To Trails Board members   planted a native flower garden.

Here I saw a  number of native wildflowers,

including a  few varieties of purple coneflowers, 

bee balm flowers

and one of  my mid Summer favorites the cardinal flower,  There are also some rare sundew plants in a nearby wetland. 

I continued my hike  on the trail for about a half mile,

when I came to the trail that leads into the  Butler Preserve pine barrens. The North Branch Land Trust owns this 118 acre tract of land that includes wetlands  and a unique and endangered ridge top acidic pine barres. The pine barrens were created first  by natural fires from lightning strikes  and then fires set by Native Americans to create habitat for the game they hunted. 

I walked up the ridge on a narrow rocky trail, covered in may areas with pine needles from the many pitch pines growing in the barrens. 

Pitch pine, birch and scrub oak are the dominant trees in the barrens, 

and  in between the trees are large areas of sheep laurel, blue berry ad sweet ferns and bracken ferns, 

Some of the bracken ferns were already turning color an indication Summer is at it’s peak.

There were many tea berries growing on the ground along the trail too.   It is important not to stray from the trail in the Butler Preserve since this is a very sensitive habitat. In the Spring  I have seen a lot of migrating songs birds in the Butler Preserve  barrens. However it was quiet on Saturday morning.  The only bird I first heard, then saw, was this hermit thrush.

I enjoyed it’s beautiful morning song.

I didn’t see any other critters in the pine barres so I walked backdown to the  main trail and followed it around a bend and down a ridge, 

here, in the shade of some older oak and maple trees I  saw a lot of mushrooms growing along the trail.  This is , I believe a blusher amanita mushroom,

this  I believe is a rosy russula ,

and this has an interesting name,  a stinking fetid russula. 

I enjoy foraging for edible wild mushrooms and I have eaten the next two mushrooms I  found this a two colored bolete,

and this a voluminous milk cap mushroom. I now know over 70 edible species of wild mushroom. but you have to be 100% sure a mushroom is edible, you can get sick or even die from picking the wrong mushroom .

The trail continues down the ridge and crosses the Stockton Road  and then continues on the through the property of the local water authority past the Dreck Creek Reservoir. 

The woodlands along the trail are now  older  mixed hardwood and pine trees.

Eastern hay scented ferns grew along the wide well maintained path. .

There wasn’t much bird or wildlife activity on this stretch of the trail either, I only  saw a few black-capped chickadees, 

a white breasted nuthatch, and

an eastern wood pee wee. I love hearing the wood pee wees and their cousins, the eastern phoebe on my hikes. 

I continued on the trail. The sun broke through the clouds and filtered through the lush canopy of leaves. It was a nice walk. 

I saw a few more wildflowers as I walked. a few of my Summer favorites, the oxeye daisies, were still blooming, This pretty and common flower is not native but was brought as a garden flower from Europe by the first colonists and is found through out our State .

I also saw another pretty, but invasive wildflower,  selfheal,  it was brought from Europe as a medicinal herb. 

The only native flower I saw wasn’t showy,   dogbane or Indian hemp, but it has pretty tiny delicate flowers that attract butterflies and insects, It is a member of the milkweed family. I also saw some milkweed plants but they have finished blooming already. Summer is passing it’s peak here in Northeastern. Pennsylvania . 

I was surprised I  didn’t see more bees, butterflies or insects attracted to the many wildflowers I saw on my hike. I only saw two, this very old pipevine swallowtail butterfly , which  appeared tired and on  one of it’s last flights, 

and this younger spicebush swallowtail butterfly,

which had a lot more energy as it visited a selfheal  flower. 

I enjoyed my walk under the ancient oaks and other hardwood and pine trees,

I saw a few more mushrooms along the trail, including a grisette amanita,

a velvet brittlegill russula, 

and an aspen scaber stalk bolete mushroom.  I was surprised to find one of these since they usually pop up in late August. These are the first edible wild mushrooms I learned from my dad. 

When I had reached the 2 mile marker on the trail I decided to hike back. 

The sun was still now  shining and filtering through the leaves of the trees  making for a tranquil and scenic return hike. 

On the way back I found one more wildflower an Allegheny monkey flower which is a native species in our area.  Here is a link to a gallery on my blog webpage with more photos of the wildflowers and mushrooms I saw on my hike.  Rails to Trails and Butler Preserve wildflowers and mushrooms July 29 2023 

It was a nice hike back up the ridge, I enjoyed seeing the wildflowers  along the trail again.

I saw only more critter this song sparrow watching over the native wildflower garden. I am sure it was hoping some insects would visit the flowers in the garden so it could snatch a quick meal. Here is a link to a gallery with some more photos from my five mile hike. . Rails to Trails. Butler Preserve July 29 2023. 

I had hoped to see  more songbirds and other critters on my hike on the trail and in the Butler Preserve but I was satisfied with my peaceful hike and the many wildflowers I saw on my hike.  Nature’s beauty is always on display at the Greater Hazleton Rails to Trail. 

“You belong among the wildflowers
You belong in a boat out at sea
You belong with your love on your arm
You belong somewhere you feel free”  – Tom Petty

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