Monday, November 30, 2015

What Was I Thinking?

On the brink
The Friday after Thanksgiving (November 27) was sunny and exceptionally warm (mid-60s F), so I persuaded Kali to put on her hiking boots and get in the car.  We drove 1.25 hours north to Lehigh Gorge State Park, a long, linear preserve paralleling the Lehigh River as it cuts it way through the Ridge and Valley section of the Pennsylvania Appalachians.  My destination was a 1-mile (each way) hike/scramble up Glen Onoko, a steep, scenic ravine that boasts four waterfalls along its length.

Glen Onoko was a famous Victorian summer resort with a huge, rambling guest house perched on the bank of the Lehigh River at the mouth of little Glen Onoko Run.  Radiating from the guest house were trails through the woods that allowed visitors from Philadelphia and New York (who arrived by train) to enjoy the magnificent scenery, including the cascades and rapids along the ravine.  An elaborate stone stairway allowed guests to ascend 860 feet from the river to the top of the highest falls with relative ease.

The resort burned down (as did many wooden Victorian resorts) in the early 1900s and was never rebuilt.

I first came upon Glen Onoko in the early 1990s and have hiked there several times.  When I "found" the ravine, it was pretty inaccessible.  I had to drive up to the top of Broad Mountain, and then make my way on rough dirt fire trails to the top of the falls.  From there, I could descend down the ravine and enjoy the serenity.  During those early years, I don't think I ever encountered anyone else on my hikes.

Today, the Pennsylvania Bureau of State Parks has created a huge parking area at the mouth of the ravine (which also serves whitewater rafters on the Lehigh River in the summer).  But the serenity of the hike is gone.  Hordes of people ascend the trail every day, prominent rocks have been defaced by spraypainted graffiti, and discarded plastic water bottles are common in the undergrowth.  Nevertheless, the hike is still scenic, and the waterfalls impressive.

The biggest problem for Kali was that the trail is extremely steep, rough, and difficult.  Most of the original stone stairway has eroded away, so the "hike" is much more of a scramble up steep, sometimes slippery, rocks.  I didn't have any problems, but Kali is probably the least sure-footed person I know, and the outing was torture for her.  Ascending the ravine was tough enough, but descending was even harder.  At one point, she broke into tears, and several other times fellow hikers helped me to get Kali through particularly difficult sections of trail.
Kali scrambling uphill
I shouldn't have brought her on the hike, but I didn't want to leave her home on a really nice late autumn day.  Once we had returned to the car and shed our hiking boots, we concurred that we had made one another's day miserable.  Kali's got two huge black-and-blue marks on her right buttock and upper right arm to prove it.

One positive feature:  Kali's very slow ascent and descent gave me plenty of time to take pictures. 
Pennsylvania's tilted sedimentary rocks
First falls
Second (and highest) falls - about 60 feet

Cairn cavern just uphill of second falls
Visitors have created a wonderland of cairns in the rock overhang

Third falls
Approach to the fourth falls.  The stone steps are a Victorian-era remnant
Fourth falls through the rhododendron thicket
Fourth (uppermost) falls
Tree roots with moss and lichen garden
Fern and moss rock garden
Most intense color of the day
Next time, I'll do this hike alone.  In fact, the next drainage to the west is a stream called Jean's Run.  I've explored its valley before; it harbors a virgin old-growth forest.  The last time I was there, it was only penetrated by a fisherman's path, and there's one really wonderful and nearly impassible falls near the top of the mountain.  I hope it's still like that.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Bald Eagle Update

Adult Bald Eagle with chicks (Audubon image)
Yesterday (November 11, 2015), one of my organization's members observed "our" two adult Bald Eagles mating - three times!  Of course, there's no guarantee that the birds will attempt to nest in my preserve again this winter, but it's a good indication that they might.

After last year's pair of eaglets fledged on June 16, 2015, we occasionally observed the adults and the immature birds throughout the spring and summer.  The fact that they stayed in the area was another good indication of their intent to attempt to nest again, but we couldn't be sure.  After all, Bald Eagles nested at the mouth of my creek along the Delaware River for several years and then abandoned that location, so they could have done the same here in the preserve.

Now, we just have to make sure that we have a sufficient number of roadkilled deer to sustain them through the winter.  Fortunately for the eagles, but unfortunately for the staff and the deer, retrieving enough roadkilled deer is not usually a problem.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Mariton Redux

Mariton woods in October
The colorful portion of autumn in the northern Piedmont is rapidly coming to an end, so I Shanghaied Kali on Saturday afternoon and drove her to the Mariton Wildlife Sanctuary I had visited two weeks ago.  We first stopped for a really good lunch at the Fig Tree Cafe in Riegelsville, Pennsylvania, just outside the sanctuary. (We shared a proscuitto and fontina panini with fig-honey jam, a spring mix salad, and a bowl of baked potato soup).  Then, it was off for a walk.
Walking stick on a trail marker
As soon as we got to the trailhead, we came across a walking stick posed motionless on the trail marker.

I told Kali I wanted to walk to the Delaware River overlook, a destination I had not visited two weeks ago.
Delaware River view (upstream [north]).  New Jersey is on the right bank.
The overlook is perched at the edge of a sheer, rocky cliff, but the view of the Delaware is somewhat obscured by trees.

The one-way trail to the overlook was mostly downhill.  Kali, who is terribly out of shape, had to rest frequently on the way back up, giving me plenty of opportunities to capture some images.
Shelf fungi on a fallen branch
Maidenhair fern frond in the shady understory
Tussock moth caterpillar
Unlike my suburban preserve where deer have eaten much of the native understory vegetation, Mariton is located in a more rural location so there's hunting within - and all around - the sanctuary.  Hunting keeps the deer numbers low.  As a result, the native shrub layer is more diverse than it is in my preserve.  Maple-leaf viburnum is particularly common.
Maple-leaf viburnum
Fallen red maple leaves
We climbed to the highest point in the sanctuary (744 feet), then headed back down to the parking lot via the long, sinuous Squeeze Trail.
Black haw viburnum drupes
Kali in the autumn meadow
Kali's not good on rocky, steep trails, so she didn't much enjoy our walk.  We would have had a better afternoon if we had walked along the Delaware Canal towpath just outside the Fig Tree Cafe in Riegelsville.