Friday, October 31, 2008

Exeter Scenic River Trail

With the end of daylight savings looming, future afternoon walks will be in dark, so the last weeknight fall afternoon needed to be enjoyed.

We parked behind the Trout Run sports complex across from the Exeter do-it-yourself composting area. It's just a short path to the river at mile marker one.

It was magic hour so the lighting was strong with numerous well lit scenes. I like this walk, but I admit that I struggled to find a variety of photo subjects. Especially ones different from the last time I visited Oct. 12, '08. This is good in a way, for it challenges me to look at the scenes differently.

There are plenty of good shots available anywhere you go which is evident if you shoot with a group of photographers in a common location. Comparing shots later reveals similar artistic looks, but also a totally diverse collection of angles and subjects.

The path we followed was about a half mile down river towards Gibraltor Rd then reverse tracks to walk the length of the trail to its end at railroad under pass (mile marker 2.38).

Max has been a walking machine lately as he easily trekked this 3.8 mile exercise at nearly 3MPH.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Crow's Nest Preserve

Although not in Berks County, the Crow's Nest Preserve is a mere 2 miles from the entrance to Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site. It is a worthy post too.

The main and ample parking area is located off Piersol Road. From there Max and I took the Creek Trail through a field and along the French Creek.

Within minutes I was surrounded by the sounds of nature, especially birds. Jack Holcomb of WEEU-830 radio fame would surely like the opportunity to identify all the unique bird calls I heard.

I presumed that we were the first visitors of the morning for the local creatures were quite reactive when they heard us rustling through the leaves. As we approached the stream, a deer and great blue heron fled immediately. I heard a duck call then I saw a little wood duck scoot around one of the numerous bends in the stream.

The wood duck is my favorite duck. I find it very allusive so what I was about to see was a first and great thrill to me. As we approached the duck the whoosh of wings, not just one pair, but probably a dozen pair of Wood Ducks' wings took flight. They followed the course of the stream and landed upstream out of site. As we walked a group of Mallard ducks abruptly took flight near us. This was a recurring pattern of ducks taking flight as we followed the stream.

Creek trail is well maintained but has low spots that accumulated pools of water due to the heavy rains from Saturday, so Max got a wet belly and my waterproof boots passed the test.

The rest of our journey was through fields with sweeping views of the valleys and hills of French Creek State Park. Leaf color was still prominent along the edges of the woods.

Geographically it reminded me of Warwick County Park, but due to the lack of visitors the fauna seemed quite prevalent. I had a most enjoyable outing and believe this will be a new stop on my circuit of photo walking for there is still another half of the preserve to explore.

Sunny and 50's from 11:30-1:30PM.

Crow's Nest Preserve Map

Click on map to enlarge

Friday, October 24, 2008

Birdsboro Waters (Hay Creek Watershed)

It was a dreary looking afternoon at the Birdsboro Waters (Hay Creek Watershed), but the lack of blue skies and sun was not a hindrance to a great photo outing. The sky reminded me of light box for it's bright gray color and back lighting effect.

The shoulder of the road lacked the colorful flora and insects that were so prevalent just a month or two ago, but still had plenty of plants just in a different stage of their life cycle. The milkweed makes a great macro with all its wispy tailed seeds. Some of the fall leaves looked like they were individually lit.

Coincidentally it was the first day of anterless deer season for archers so the parking area was full of vehicles. I have never seen a deer, but plenty of their trails exist. In the fall, I wear a red fleece jacket for added visibility. Max has his bright blue harness.

The road to the Birdsboro Reservoir was lined with brightly colored leaves. The lake was calm, reflective and quiet accept for a noisy Kingfisher buzzing the water surface repeatedly.

From 4:00-5:30PM and a mild 55 degrees.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

French Creek - Scotts Run (Fall Color)

Mid afternoon to up to PSU kickoff for a two hour walk around Scott's Run Lake at French Creek State Park. I took the last parking place for it was a stellar fall day. Fishing, hiking, biking, and picnicking were the main activities that I observed.

Max and I lap the lake a couple times a year. The 2 mile trail is primative and getting wet and muddy is unavoidable. At the opposite end of the lake is the spring and wetlands that feeds the lake so a water crossing is required.

The colors were great, not quite prime but that can change quickly with a few more cold nights and warm days. I selfishly don't want rain or wind for they spell doom for the leaves prematurely.

When we got back to the dam, Max was still strong so we hiked down the unmarked and unnamed "Scott's Run Trail". Water flow was slow with a light babbling sound as the stream rolled over the rocks. What was thick and lush green two months ago is now shades of brown and yellow or gone completely.

Little Max got fooled by a pool of water coated with leaves. His curiosity got the best of him as he stepped on it and went under. He matter-of-factly swam a couple doggy paddles to the rocks and climbed out, shook dry and on our way.

In a few minutes we exited to Park Road, turned left on the shoulder for 100 yards and then cut back into the woods at the green blaze (Lenape Trail). This straight leg of the hike seems brief compared to the meandering stream path in the opposite direction.

We got the car in time for the kick off and I cringed all the way home as PSU started off slowly to their rival Michigan Wolverines. The 2nd half was all Penn State though. We Are!

Total hike lasted about 2 hours, 3 miles, and the temp topped out at a sunny 60.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Exeter Scenic River Trail

Starting at Gibraltar Road on the Schuylkill River this river view trail runs 2.35 miles before it merges with the Klapperthal Trail, of the Neversink Mountain Trail system, near the railroad underpass just south and behind the Forest Hills Cemetery.

This was a mild afternoon walk with Max during magic hour. The sun was really rich and the colors were plentiful but still a week or two away from prime fall color season.

We started at the Forest Hills Cemetery and followed the Klapperthal Trail south which was narrow and rocky, like the ones used in a railroad track bed. The climax of the trail was a long tunnel that runs until the train tracks. First sight after the tunnel was the well maintained Exeter Scenic River Trail.

A path to the river bank was the first detour and well worth it. The view up the smooth river offered reflections and the dramatic colors of Neversink Mountain in the background.

We followed the trail along the river looking for back lighting opportunities and water shots. A little past the enormous Rt 422 bridge we turned around and returned back.

I took my time leaving the cemetery due to the many brightly colored trees at near peak.

Sunny 60 and about 2 miles.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Hay Creek Apple Festival

Saturday, October 11 was the 2nd of the Hay Creek Organization's trifecta of "must see" festivals. The Fall Festival (see post) was last month and Christmas at Joanna is in early December.

This one day festival offers apple pancake breakfast as well as apple fritters, pies, dumplings, crisp, strudel, bread, cider, butter, raw apples, candy and caramel too. All types festival food staples, especially the cast iron kettle cooked over open fire soups, are present as well.

Kids love it for the hay rides, barrel rides, pony rides, scarecrow building, and pumpkin painting. Adults like the history of the general store and museum, blacksmith and woodworking shop, active archaeological dig, diverse item flea market, and even antique cars, plus more.

A perfect sunny and 75 in a picturesque wooded valley setting.

Nolde Forest

What an exhilarating morning hike through the hills of Nolde Forest. It was a chilly, foggy 40 and we got to the Saw Mill parking area by 8:30AM. Max & I walked along Angelica Creek or the Watershed Trail up Sheerland Trail, then hop on Beech Trail down to the North Pond.

The ascent from North Pond up Beech Trail to Coffee Pot Hollow Trail is easily a mile in distance but far from easy with over a 400 vertical elevation change. I might have started the day with a ski cap and gloves but shortly into hill climb, they came off as my core heated up.

My recommendation is to take your time and enjoy this trail. It offers big trees, a variety of ferns and other low lying flora. The sun crested above the ridge and offered dramatic back-lighting photo ops. It was too dark for any macros or close-up shots, but they are definitely there for another time.

Near the top I noticed an unmarked "shortcut" trail that I presumed would lead me to the Boulevard Trail. We followed the Boulevard Trail to the Rock Outcrop, paused and then headed down the Ridge Trail. At it's lowest point, I found another unmarked "shortcut" that led down a gully to another leg of the Boulevard Trail. Perfect! My goal was to finish the outing on the Watershed Trail which runs parallel to the Blvd for this stretch and leads back to the parking lot.

I was impressed with Max lately for endurance seemed at an all time high. He showed no signs of being tired even though we just hiked over 3 miles.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Old Dry Road Fram (Blue Marsh Lake)

Within Blue Marsh Lake is an outdoors men and photographers paradise called the Old Dry Road Farm area. Located off of Brownsville Road via car and by trail from the State Hill Road Boat launch.

All my visits started at the gate on Highland Road where there is a large parking area. You really have to want to get there for the road is dusty or muddy, full of ruts and starts with warning signs stating "road not maintained". No lie.

I love this area because it offers such diversity and you can experience several ecosystems in one visit. Today I walked along corn fields, wild plant fields, in a deciduous and evergreen woods and explored the shores of the lake. Nice views of the surrounding mountains are seen from the higher elevations offering big sky photo ops. I always leave with a diverse collection of images.

From the parking area we headed past the gate down Highland Road to the intersection of Sterners Road. I normally go right and head straight down to the lake. Today Max and I turned left. I suspected we'd end up at the another finger of the lake, but double checked with a couple of walkers who assured me that the lake was just ahead.

Along the lake, some of the trees had changed colors, while many were just starting the process. I just read by George Lepp's Tech Tips in Outdoor Photographer Magazine about taking fall colors. He made great points about bracketing and shooting leaves that are backlit instead of the harsher direct light.

Per the advice of another group of hikers, we followed the trail along the lake until it turns into the unmarked Sleepy Hollow Road. At the "Y" we turned left onto the unmarked Landis Road which lead us back the parking area on Highland Road.

About 60 and 3.2 miles.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

French Creek - Six Penny Trail

I just completed a chilly morning outing of the Six Penny Trail and former recreation area. I am still amazed by the literal abandonment of the area some years ago. A small dam remains which has created a small wetlands ecosystem.

Nature is surely reclaiming it, but the hand of man remains as do the charcoal pits, huge parking lots, foundations and remains of buildings. I think an amateur archaeologist would enjoy exploring the site.

Max & I followed an unmarked path that led us to a spring house. In the woods surrounding this area were more building remains and two heavy duty stone fireplaces. The bricks in the two different hearths were labeled "WWCO" and "RIDGE". We followed the small gorge which eventually met the Six Penny Trail (orange blaze).

The trail and its numerous switchbacks lead us up a fairly challenging hill and would have taken us to the campgrounds had we stuck to it. Time and hunger got the best of me, so we headed back.

The leaves are truly starting their transition from green to the fall palette.

A first for me occurred when I was stung inside my lower lip by what I presume was a yellow jacket. It seemed completely random, for I hadn't even seen a bug the whole trip thus far. What started out as numbness within minutes turned into throbbing and swollen that lasted for a day.

The pedometer measured about 3.7 miles. Temp 47-54. Wore red due to hunting season.