Saturday, January 31, 2009

French Creek State Park (Scotts Run - crusty snow)

The lighting was fabulous in spite of the chilly 24 degrees. Blue skies, blue shadows, white snow, and a glistening reflecting crust were too much to resist so I bundled up the hound and we headed to Scotts Run at French Creek State Park.

The pristine snow had a thick crust and was undisturbed until Max and I walked on it down the path along the channel. He was able to walk on the surface while I crunched through on every step.

Considering how many people were around the lake, I was surprised no one had trekked down along the little Scotts Run. It was moving so fast that very little ice formed along the edges or on the rocks.

Max kept a speedy pace for I presume due to the cold and lack of scents to track. It was one of the easiest trips on that trail ever. The few inches of snow was hard so literally no obstacles needed navigation. Seemed like no time to get down to Park Rd and back up the green blazed (Lenape) trail to the parking lot.

Armorcast (BIrdsboro Steel Foundry and Machine Co)

An historic landmark or eye-sore, depending on your point of view, will likely be scheduled for demolition in the next year or so. (Reading Eagle article)

Seemingly known by multiple names from mulitple eras, the more common one seems to be Armorcast and Birdsboro Steel Foundry and Machine Company.

No doubt most long time Birdsboro residents feel some sort of connection with the foundry for it employed over 1,400 people during it's prime and it's four towering smoke stacks have been a fixture of the skyline for decades.

A little research indicated that the building has had multiple uses over it's long history, namely a tank manufacturer. Many Sherman and Patton tanks that were icons of the battlefields in WWII and the Korean War were created here. Prior to the tanks, it forged Navy ship parts.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

French Creek (Ice Fun)

I hadn't been by French Creek State Park in well over a month so I was curious to see how it looked this winter.

Curiously, the Hopewell Lake parking lot was nearly as full as a fall weekend. When I turned the corner, I realized that the lake was frozen and dozens of people had come to experience some fun on the ice.

There was ice fishing, figure skating, hockey, dog walking but most people just wanted to experience the sensation of walking on 8" of ice. It wasn't slippery though, it was uneven and rough and quite easy to walk on.

The parking lot at Scotts Run was full as well as the road shoulders all the way to the next parking area. The lake was spread with ice fishers.

Poole Forge Park (Covered Bridge in Lancaster County)

Historic Poole Forge, located just west of Churchtown, PA on SR23 in Caenarvon Township, has some great old buildings and a pristine covered bridge.

The bridge is dated 1859 and is celebrating a birthday May 16th, 1PM. While I was visiting the grounds, two separate Amish buggies rode across the bridge.

Conowingo Dam, MD (Birding Hot Spot)

For years, I've wanted to visit the Conowingo Dam on the Susquehanna River in MD. I read and heard that Bald Eagles are a common sighting, especially in the winter months. The Harford Bird Club dedicates a whole web page to birding here.

It was a fairly easy 80 minute drive, following US222/US272 South all the way. The temps were in the low 20's so Max stayed home. Birding is a hobby of patience, and Max prefers motion and I tend to echo that behavior, especially when it comes to standing around in 23 degree temps.

Although, the eagles were elsewhere today, hundreds of gulls were feeding at the discharge. I still loved the locale for the lighting was great on the river. A former railroad, now walking trail is part of the Susquahanna State Park, runs along the river and the icy shoreline was loaded with subject matter.

I used Paul Kane's blog about birding photography in MD for inspiration. He visits Conowingo Dam regularly and witnessed nearly 200 Bald Eagles over Thanksgiving 2008, but much less over Christmas 2008. My 2-hour visit supported the trend that they have moved on to find their nesting sites.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Old Dry Road Farm (Blue Marsh Lake Is Frozen)

I've been anxious to get back to Old Dry Road Farm at Blue Marsh. A great big blue sky with puffy white clouds made it feel like a Florida sky, but the similarity ends there as the air temp was 34 with gusty cold blasts of wind every few minutes.

One of the best times of year is after they release the fall/winter water. Once the water recedes barren beaches are exposed. River rocks and shale seem to make up the bottom near the shores. Dozens of weathered tree stumps show themselves too.

Due to the prolonged sub-freezing temps the lake was frozen over. I'm very leery of frozen surfaces though for every winter the news has numerous stories about ice related accidents.

After thorough testing, I determined that the ice was indeed thick enough and proceeded to venture out. Max was already running ahead on the icy shoreline. I haven't walked on a frozen lake in many years and it was a surreal experience.

We weren't alone on the ice for there was a lone ice fishermen and numerous frozen over fishing holes from days past. Also, a first for me was seeing three wind powered ice sleds. I believe the sport's called ice sailing.

After about an hour or so hiking on the icy paths and frozen lake, Max was showing signs of being cold, so we headed out.

We passed by the State Hill Boat launch to get close up the ice sail.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Perfect Snow Day

Today's sunrise was breathtaking and the scenery was just as beautiful. The combination of sun and snow covered everthing only comes a couple times a winter.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Daniel Boone Homestead (Snowy Afternoon)

I typically don't think of Daniel Boone Homestead as a photo walking destination, but driving by yesterday reminded me to research it. After studying their map and website they have plenty of trails and interesting subject matter. I saw some great photos on another PA blogger site by Russ Devan, which inspired me to pay a visit today.

The sub-freezing, snowy conditions were not Max-friendly, so unfortunately he stayed home. Having low clearance and nearly a hairless belly, once he gets his belly wet his body temp drops fast.

The buildings are photogenic and the natural scenery all had a good dusting of fresh snow from Saturday night. I started shooting at the Wayside Lodge then headed to the fields behind the South Picnic Area for some snow macros.

I heard musket fire, so I followed the sound and ended up seeing a good dozen period clad shooters firing at British soldier targets. A loud explosion and puff of smoke accompanies each shot. The D.B. calendar stated it was "Hell or High Water Shoot" day on the shooting range.

I followed the one way drive and stopped at the lot close to the sawmill to photograph it and the nearby dam. I was surprised by the number of visitors the park had today. A handful of dog walkers and hikers were present while the visitor center had a bunch of cars too.

Late in the summer they scheduled a huge encampment (1000's) and battle reenactment. It was very unfortunate that it poured the day we visited, but rain and flint locks are a futile combination so the battles were all cancelled.

I am looking forward to more visits, at least seasonal.

Essence of Winter

Here are some shots from my property. Usually the wooded portion is heavily grown with jagger bushes, but it's easier to navigate in winter via the deer paths.

I have seen the deer bedding down during the day, but I was lucky to find this bed which is where one slept last night during the last snow.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Books - (PA Outdoors)

Nowadays, paper reference books seem to be in the decline with all the digital media and digital tools (GPS) that are present. I still like the feel of book and unfolding a 24"x36" road map just to attain a sense of scale that you can't get from a computer screen of from a GPS device.

While at the PA Farm Show, I stopped at the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) stand and picked up a "free" book called "Susquehanna River Birding and Wildlife Trail". The name is a bit misleading, for it is about a large chunk of PA. Published by the PA Audobon society, it details multiple birding and recreation locations in 39 counties that either touch or neighbor the Susquehanna River.

The "Susquehanna River Birding and Wildlife Trail" book is well organized with great birding art (by John Audobon) and costs $9 if you order it online. What I like about the book it's not just a State Park or State Forest recitation, but it offers detailed descriptions of trails and what/when to expect to see, in city & county, state parks, forests, game lands, and even private preserves.

If you can't pick up the book, the website has an interactive trail guide which details everything in the book, but in bite-size digital pieces.

A nice feature included in the descriptions are directions and icons of what to see plus a cross reference to the page number in PA Atlas and Gazetteer (~$20, a must own book that I value). In lieu of road maps, the PA Atlas and Gazetteer has 72 pages of highly detailed road and topo maps.

Feel free to share your favorite PA Outdoor reference books.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

PA Farm Show (93rd Annual)

One the best "free" things about January might be the Pennsylvania Farm Show. About 500,000 fellow attendees agree. Pro & College football aren't too bad either.

The Farm show has a mind blowing 6,000 animals and 10,000 exhibits. I think it is impossible to see everything in one visit. The PCN Televison channel pretty much runs Farm Show coverage 24 hours a day for the 9 days of the event.

It offers live and unique arena entertainment (like a free rodeo), art, crafts, shopping, food, hands-on science, environmental & educational displays, state agencies, Penn State, vendors, live cooking demonstrations, numerous kid activities (carousel), pens filled with hundreds of pigs, cows, sheep, chickens, ducks, plus many unique species. There is an entire building dedicated to farm and outdoor recreation equipment.

Not only is this event a celebration of Pennsylvania farming and rural lifestyle, it's also a valuable educational, economical and networking opportunity for all the participants.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Horseshoe Trail (Chester County)

Is was a mid-30 degree, gray day, but I wanted to get out again especially in anticipation for a repeat of Saturday.

I've been researching the State Game Lands #43 which fringe Berks, but are primarily in Chester county. These three fragmented lands border either French Creek State Park, Hopewell Village, Crows Nest Preserve and St. Peters Village. The Horseshoe Trail passes through two of the three land bodies.

We parked on Trythall Road then went west. Immediately off the trail on the right is a pond which appears to be part of a campgrounds. At this point, the trail was a former railroad bed which is flat and wide. I find some of these old beds rather uninteresting so when the trail splinters off I was happy to be in the woods. On one side of the trail was SGL and the other side was the Crow's Nest Preserve. I can just imagine the deer, on non-hunting Crows Nest land, taunting the hunters on Public hunting land.

Shortly off the railroad bed, Max and I had a stream crossing which may be easy for horses with 48" legs, but no so for mini dachshunds' with 3" legs. I gathered him up then hopped across 4 rocks which fortunately were not ice covered.

We followed the Horseshoe Trail up over a hill until it came to a field, just a few hundred yards from Northside Road. I didn't want to go past the road so we turned and headed back. Max fell behind and acted disinterested, signs that he was tired and/or cold.

After about a mile we were back to the car and I unlocked the doors to let in Max. Suddenly, he caught a scent and pulled me back to the Horseshoe Trail heading east. This too was former railroad tracks, but nature had reclaimed most of it except for a narrow path.

I was fully ready to head home for the outing was uneventful up to this point, but so glad when Max caught his second wind. Right away, I could tell this leg of the journey was going to be different.

Meandering next to the trail was the Mine Run stream. In about a half mile we came upon an aged railroad bridge. The bed was a combination of nothing and rotten scraps of plywood, but still had plenty of structure to be safely crossed.

The bridge was cool, but the stream running under it was awesome. Small islands, big rocks, moss, reflections, ice, and great trees made this a destination point. My day was now complete, so we headed back to the car and home in time to watch the Eagles game.

Total walk was over 3 miles.