Winter Creeps Into Northeastern Pennsylvania: A December Hike In Nescopeck State Park.

Winter Creeps Into Northeastern Pennsylvania: A December Hike In Nescopeck State Park.

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Winter doesn’t begin until eleven days but  some cold arctic air made it’s way down from Canada and it  sure felt wintry here in Northeastern Pennsylvania this morning. I was headed to the PPL Wetlands again. An  accident, probably caused by the snow  and cold weather,   on the local interstate highway redirected traffic and I was stuck in the middle of it for an hour. I finally decided to turn around and head to another of my favorite hiking spots, the Nescopeck State Park. img_7699

It was cloudy and windy when I arrived with some scattered snow flurries in the air.  The temperature was around 25 degrees. Lake Francis was still mainly ice free since it has been a mild fall until now. nescopeck-state-park-1

I walked around the deserted lake which took on a somber look under the cloudy and cold skies. In the other seasons hikers, fisherman and picnickers are always present on the shores of the lake. Not today. I didn’t see a soul on my hike. nescopeck-state-park-5

And not much wildlife either. I walked past the lake and onto the Nescopeck hiking trail seeing only one crow and a few juncos. nescopeck-state-park-7

The leaves are long gone now, even the stubborn oak, but down hear near the Nescopeck Creek there are plenty of beech trees and they have leaves clinging to them throughout the winter. nescopeck-state-park-11

Walking under the naked trees and over the carpet of fallen leaves put me in a reflective mood, knowing another year is ending and a cold Winter lays ahead before these woods come to life again in the Spring. nescopeck-state-park-13

There was still some signs of life to be found, like  some ferns still clinging to life in the frigid temperatures.nescopeck-state-park-10

I walked down to The Nescopeck Creek where i did encounter a few flocks of juncos and the always friendly black capped chickadees fluttering from branch to branch in search of food.,  The poor lighting under the clouds and trees prevented me from getting any good photographs. nescopeck-state-park-23

Even though i didn’t see a lot of animals I could tell they are there. I saw some squirrel and rabbit foot prints in the light dusting of snow and believe this trees bark was torn apart by a porcupine or an opossum .nescopeck-state-park-34

As I returned on the Fern Trail I noticed this large puddle of water on the path.nescopeck-state-park-30

I walk here often and never noticed a puddle here before, not even after heavy rains.  I was curious and looked around and I soon discovered what caused it. it was the result of some busy beavers in the area. .nescopeck-state-park-29

I found this  beaver dam on a small stream, which wasn’t there when I last hiked here a few months ago. nescopeck-state-park-31

I came across a lot more signs of beaver activity in the park and wondered if hey become more active in the Fall and Winter. nescopeck-state-park-47

I came across quite a few birch trees covered with birch polypore mushrooms. Although i have never tried it, I have heard the mushrooms have many medicinal properties and make a healthy tea. like any wild mushroom please don’t try any unless you are absolutely sure of it’s identification since many species can make you very sick and even kill you. nescopeck-state-park-8

As I walked back to the Nescopeck trail and Lake Francis I heard, and the watched, a large flock of late flying geese heading south. i think they heard the forecast too, even more frigid weather headed our way next week. nescopeck-state-park-43

The bare trees and shrubs exposed a lot of birds nests and  I was surprised to see some right along the trail .nescopeck-state-park-41

And, when I made my way back to Lake Francis, I saw these four mallard ducks who decided to stay here in Northeastern Pennsylvania, for a few more days anyway,. I think they will be heading south soon, since, if the forecast is correct, the lake may be frozen next weekend. But if hey leave, it would be for long now, int three months, they will return in the  Spring. And I will be counting the days until their return. Here is a link to some more photographs from my hike today.

If winter comes, can spring be far behind?”
Percy Bysshe Shelley, Ode to the West Wind