Saturday, April 25, 2009

Mt. Penn Fire Tower (BBQ and Open to Public)

Saturday, the iconic William Penn Memorial Fire Tower area on top of Mt. Penn was hosting a Chicken BBQ and the tower was open to the public to climb the stairs to the observation deck.

The website states that it is open every 3rd Saturday or every month. I'm not sure that this info is current, but it offers fabulous 360 degree views and up to 30 miles. If you find it open, it's worthy of a visit for sure.
Mt. Penn is loaded with trails. Many pass by the fire tower area. The Elverson & Berks Hiking clubs hike this area too. Here's a map of some of the trails.

Birdsboro Reservoir (Spring Green!)

Max and I headed out early for the forecast was for a hot day. It was mild, 50F, (headed for 85F), and still cloudy at 8AM when we arrived.

A handful of vehicles were there, mainly trout fishermen, but we did see a biker and a couple hikers though.

It has been several months since the last visit so the first glance at the mirror-like reflections when we crest the hill at Birdsboro Reservoir, invokes a happy sigh.

Max was thrilled too, to be outside walking and to be sniffing new scents. As we lapped the reservoir, the clouds passed and the sun became exposed. This created some depth to the scenes that I was photographing with flat light just a few minutes before.

It was a short 1:15 outing, but still a great morning nature fix.

Hay Creek Watershed was fresh on my mind since talking with Meredith Chalfant, the Executive Director, at the Reading Earth Day celebration last weekend. Fresh updates to their site keep the public informed about the honorable conservation efforts they are working towards.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

French Creek State Park Postcard

Buy a French Creek State Park postcard for yourself or someone else and I'll mail it to any domestic U.S. address. Only $1.50 which includes postage.

Click on the PayPal "Buy Now" button to purchase.

Unfortunately, French Creek State Park will not allow me to offer postcards or my book for sale at their visitor center. You have to be an approved non-profit entity.

At this time, these limited edition postcards are only available here.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

French Creek State Park (Calm, then the Storm)

A spontaneous visit to French Creek this week almost ended the same way as the November 18 outing. By the time we hit the dam, the beautiful 60 degree sunny sky turned into heavy dramatic clouds that lead to a major rain storm. Prior rainy days left the trails even more muddy then on Friday's visit.

Hopewell Lake is the perfect evening walk. Great skies, potential sunsets, reflections and chance wildlife sightings are the draw. Lake activity is common too which makes for interesting photo subjects.

A warning about ticks
Any warm weather over 45 degrees brings out the ticks. Plenty of them were out and visible. Needless to say, precautionary tick repellent is only partially effective. A thorough clothing and pet search and rub down are in order. A post hike shower is necessary too. This is my routine every hike and even hours later, ticks have been found on the dog and in the house.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Earth Day in Reading

Pleasant weather spared the outdoor portion of the Earth Day festivities along Riverfront Drive in Reading. The flotilla on the Schuylkill River was arriving in small groups until around 1 PM.

Parking was free with crowded lots. Kid friendly crafts and entertainment were free too. A live band was on-stage playing folk music. Food vendors had continuous lines selling wings, burgers, dogs, fries, pizza and Mr. Softee.

I'd have to say that the organizers had to be happy with the turn-out.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Reading Public Museum Arboretum (Don't Miss It)

Wow! The Reading Public Museum Arboretum was on my list of quests for cherry blossoms and spring flowers, but I was blown away by the flower and rock garden that is situated on the bank of Parkside Drive.

There are a handful of parking places on Parkside Drive North with several paths leading to the gardens, trails and Wyomissing Creek. The views of the museum were great with the cherry and willow trees framing the front of the building.

Near the museum, the almost-domestic ducks and geese were present and anticipating a hand out. Their docile behavior make them easy photo subjects, but I am not a big fan of feeding bread to wildlife on several levels.

The walk along the creek (both sides) to Trudy's Garden and back was peaceful and beautiful and never disappoints in any season. The Museum and Arboretum Architects continue to beautify the area making it one the best public gardens around.

Reading Riverfront Park (Cherry Blossom Festival)

The weather forecast for Sunday was iffy, so I thought I'd get a jump on the celebrations by checking out the venues for Earth Day and the Cherry Blossom Festival on a near perfect weather day.

The walk from Bingaman St. Bridge to the Penn St. Bridge was really enjoyable. Part called the Neversink Trail and the Schuylkill River Trail, cherry trees in various shapes and sizes were blooming along Riverfront Drive and throughout the RACC campus.

Friday, April 17, 2009

French Creek State Park - Spring Fever!

A sunny, warm (68 degrees) spring day had me excited to get out to see some Berks nature. When I need a nature fix, French Creek State Park delivers. Max was excited too after a tough weather week limited our walks.

A lot of people were out, fishing from land and boats, kayaking, and walking the trails. The Boy Scouts were setting up at the Group Camping site which looked like a lot of fun. There's nothing like sitting next to a fire on a chilly night. They'll have some life long memories of this outing.

At first it was breezy at Hopewell Lake, but the wind stopped as the sun went down, making a mirror out of the surface. We lapped the lake with a brief visit to Hopewell Furnace National Park. Warm evening light illuminated the old buildings and picturesque setting.

Beaver feeding activity was apparent, but no sign of them with all the water sports. They'll come out after dusk. A fellow nature-lover, with her new kayak, spotted a bald eagle over the lake too. I photographed some nice stands of Bloodroot that were along the trail below the dam and on the north shore.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Florida - Southwest Florida is Beautiful

Blog entries were on hold while I was in Florida the past week. Since this is mainly a Berks blog, I'll share a few highlights from the visit with the bulk of the photos surfacing on my Flickr account in the next few weeks.

Lovers Key State Park
Lovers Key State Park is an island due south of Ft. Myers Beach. Another gem in the barrier island chain that runs from Tampa to Naples. Like all the islands I visited, it's connected via a causeway to the main land. A combination of remote beaches, nature and water trails make this a unique locale. My intent was to walk some trails with Max and then catch the sunset.

Sanibel Island
Sanibel Island is one my all time favorite destinations. A laid back lifestyle where beautiful nature dominates the landscape makes this a relaxing vacation oasis. J.N. Ding Darling Preserve resides here and offers bird watchers great looks during the migration season. Coined by locals as the "sea shell capital of the world", you can literally pick up handfuls of perfect specimens. Giant sea turtles have been laying eggs on the remote beaches for generations and will continue to do so as long as people allow them.

Max, as well as, other dogs are allowed to visit the beach when leashed. Since it was a sunny, warm day and Max shuns water we needed to stay hydrated and in the shade to keep cool.

This small island between Cape Coral and Pine Island is famous for it's quirky artist community and water recreation. Almost every building along the main road is brightly painted making it visually interesting and fun.

Naples has some of the most beautiful retail streets that I've ever seen. It's as if they built a park and garden then strategically placed the buildings and shops to compliment the flora. Accompanied by miles of white sand beaches and turquoise blue waters of the Gulf, it's easy to see why real estate prices are still some of the highest in the U.S.

Charlotte Harbor Environmental Center (Alligator Creek)
Alligator Creek is a great venue located due south of Punta Gorda on Burnt Store Rd. Part of the massive Charlotte Harbor State Park and Preserve system, I thought this was the most likely place to spot an alligator. At least the name suggests that.

Thanks to a few enthusiastic volunteers, I was able to see an 7'-8' gator in a remote pond. Skittish once I got too close, the gators are not that aggressive unless a female is protecting her young or they are hungry. Best not to find out and just stay at a safe distance.

Corkscrew Swamp Santuary
Corkscrew Swamp Santuary, an Audubon site that features a 2.25 mile boardwalk through four distinct ecosystems. The $10 entrance fee seems like a lot, but in about 3 minutes you realize it's a small price to pay for what's ahead. The natural beauty of old Florida is abundant in this relatively small area.

The lack of water reminded me of the African nature shows where all the animals need to share a small watering hole. A tropical storm in the fall contributed to an abundance of water and fish hatching's, so the winter and spring shrinkage forced all this fish and gators into a small area and created a buffet for the birds.

Selfishly is was great to photograph the concentration of animals, but as a nature lover, I believe that these animals lives will eventually become threatened by the lack of water.

CREW (Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed) Estero, FL. Water was lacking, non-existent, this time of year and it might be at the point considered a drought. I visited mainly for their spring wildflower reputation is outstanding and did not disappoint.

Cape Coral
The Cape Coral Yacht Club offers sunset and sunrise photo opportunities. Situated on the mouth of the huge Caloosahatchee River, it's a popular fishing and boating destination.