A Detour to the North, Part I

This October I was fortunate to take a trip to Maine, Nova Scotia and Quebec. Much of the topography of the inland areas, and the fall color, remind me of Pennsylvania. First up is a boat trip from Bar Harbor, Maine. This part of the Maine coast from Bar Harbor to Somes Sound is dotted with the “cottages” of the rich and famous.

The trip was themed around the lighthouses of the Bay of Maine near the Mount Desert Island shore.

Here are some boats, buoys, and critters along the way, along with a few looks at Mount Desert Island from the sea.

Two Large Lakes I Didn’t Realize Existed

There are some fantastic locations in Pennsylvania that have escaped my notice, even after all these years. Perhaps, in the case of our next location, it is because it’s almost all the way to the New York State line.

Tioga-Hammond Lakes are twin lakes in north central Pennsylvania with overnight and day use facilities in a scenic environment, southwest of Tioga, PA and north of Wellsboro on PA on Route 287. The recreation area has camping, a swimming beach, sand volleyball court, playground, boat launches, field sports area, a camp store, trails hunting, display gardens, archery trail, scenic overlooks and picnic facilities including grills and picnic shelters. There area is administered by the US Army Corps of Engineers.

The lakes were formed by the building of two separate dams, one on the Tioga River and one on Crooked Creek. They are connected by a channel cut through the rock which has its own weir on the Tioga Reservoir side. This unusual arrangements allows acid polluted water to mix with cleaner water from the other stream, increasing overall water quality downstream.

A view of the channel.
Near one of the boat launches at the Ives Run Beach Area and campground.
Some looks out over the reservoirs.
Tioga Reservoir Overlook.
The recreation area abuts state game lands near Crooked Creek.
Unusual and nice osprey nest platform viewing area.
Fishing the Tioga.
The goldenrod was everywhere that weekend.

A Dam Long Way Around, Part 2

I left Austin and proceeded south to Sizerville State Park. This park reminds me of Hyner Run or Reeds Gap. It is a quiet park with a small campground and a pool. Alas, the pool at Reeds Gap is gone, but this type of park remains one of my favorites. The 368 acre Sizerville is surrounded by Elk State Forest and near large blocks of additional state forest land. If it wasn’t so far, I’d like to come back here.

The drive up to Salt Run Vista was worth it. Yes, someone must drive up here to mow this.
Salt Run Vista
Trees on the way down the mountain to Sizerville.
A bonus vista – the narrower view at Crooked Run Vista.

I then made the long journey to Kettle Creek State Park. In retrospect, I should have done this the day before as continuation of my trip to Ole Bull, but now I know better. The park consists of 1,793 acres along Kettle Creek in western Clinton County. The park is in a valley surrounded by mountainous terrain and wilderness. Many of the existing recreational facilities arose from a joint flood control project developed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the former Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Resources. The park offers camping, boating, hunting, fishing, hiking, and other activities.

Another dam.
A dam with a flag.
Looking down over the edge to the lake. It’s further than it looks.
The valley with the lake is pretty.
A family paddle.

I thought I might be able to save some time getting to Sinnemahoning State Park by driving up to Kettle Creek Vista then cutting across the ridge and down the other side. Of course there were no roads down into the other valley, because there was another lake, with (you guessed it) another dam.

Kettle Creek Vista.

I made the trek back down the valley to highway north to Sinnemahoning State Park. The park, located near the center of the Pennsylvania Wilds’ scenic steep valleys region, encompasses 1,910 acres of beautiful scenery and outstanding wildlife habitat. Situated in Cameron and Potter counties, the park is nestled between the green-shouldered ridges of Pennsylvania’s Elk State Forest and Susquehannock State Forest. The park is long and narrow and includes lands on both sides of First Fork Sinnemahoning Creek — a major tributary to the Sinnemahoning Creek. At the southern end of the park, a 145-acre reservoir created by the George B. Stevenson dam provides fishing and boating opportunities. There is a campground and excellent wildlife viewing opportunities, including elk, bear, and large variety of birds.

Another valley with another dam.
Park office and wildlife center.
A look inside the Wildlife Center.

Summer at Middle Creek

I don’t make it to Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area in Lancaster and Lebanon counties all that often during the Summer. Here are a few shots from around the property.

A lovely tiger swallowtail decided to hang out.
Geese can be found at Middle Creek almost any time of year.
The corn is looking good.
Farming is done at Middle Creek. The fields provide habitat and food for some species.
Pennsylvania farm country in a nutshell.
I never really noticed the hills around this area as much as on this trip.
Much to do here other than wildlife viewing.
A glamorous egret interloper with the geese.
Purple wildflowers along this pond.
Lots of wildflowers everywhere ….

Mixing it Up

Here are a few shots from around Lake Nockamixon. I happened to stop there on my way home from Ralph Stover State Park. The 5,286-acre Nockamixon State Park is in Bucks County and is convenient to Philadelphia and its suburbs. Tohickon Creek, Three Mile Run, and Haycock Run feed the 1,450-acre Lake Nockamixon, which is a rest stop for migrating waterfowl and popular with boaters and anglers. There is a marina and 24 hour fishing in designated areas. You can stay the night in a cabin or enjoy the activities of the park for the day. Popular activities include picnicking, swimming in the pool, hiking, biking, disc golfing, hunting, fishing, birdwatching and boating.

The marina is one of my favorite areas of the park.
I think I prefer the sailboat.
An adaptive kayak launch to the right. A rare win for handicapped access in PA.
Water looks a little choppy but still fun.
A interesting barn I found on the way home.

The Season Begins

The onset of Spring turns my mind to birds. This is usually the best time of year to look for birds due to the opportunity to see migrating rarities in bright breeding dress. I frequently stop by Marsh Creek State Park when in the area. This is a good spot for bird watching, but I don’t seem to have much luck here. It probably doesn’t help that I am not a morning person and am, therefore, often looking for birds after 11 am. I did see some distant Common Mergansers on the lake, but had to settle for non-bird photos.

Land cruisin’
No entry
I always think I am going to find something here but never do ….

I also stopped by Struble Lake that day. This was more promising this time around. I saw a Savannah Sparrow and a lot of Snow Geese. There was still a fair amount of ice on the lake in early March.

Snow geese and friends

A Pair of Parks

The 3,520-acre Swatara State Park consists of rolling fields and woodlands situated in the Swatara Valley, between Second and Blue mountains. Swatara Creek runs through the park and is surrounded by forests and wetlands that support an abundance of wildlife. The park is also a hotbed for fossil hunters.

In the past this landscape was dominated by a feeder branch of the Union Canal and then a railroad. Today, Swatara Park features a rail trail, hiking (including a few miles of the Appalachian Trail), fishing, hunting, cycling, horseback riding and kayaking.

The lovely rail trail.
Off for a ride.
The mountains are ablaze in Autumn.

Nearby Memorial Lake State Park consists of 230 acres at the the base of Blue Mountain in East Hanover Township, Lebanon County. The park is surrounded by Fort Indiantown Gap, the headquarters for the Pennsylvania Army and Air National Guard. The park is dominated by its lovely lake. It is a great spot for a picnic or some boating and fishing. There are also hiking trails at the park and and an exercise course.

Fort Indiantown Gap was named after the American Indian village known as Indiantown and the gap in the Blue Mountain where Indiantown was located. Indian artifacts found in the Lebanon and Swatara Valleys indicate a human presence as early as 2,500 BC.

Established in 1931, Fort Indiantown Gap was built as a National Guard training center. During World War II, it was used as a training site for seven Army divisions, and also as a demobilization site once the war was over. Memorial Lake was established in 1945 in memory of Pennsylvania National Guard soldiers who served in World War I and World War II. In 1955, Memorial Lake was transferred to the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and became Memorial Lake State Park.

I would love to have a canoe moored here.
Done fishin’ for the day.
A beutiful picnic spot.
Let’s just enjoy the beauty of the lake.
A great view of Memorial Lake.

The Legacy of Heroism

Bald Eagle State Park in Howard, PA is a 5,000 park that features a large reservoir for boating, fishing, and swimming, two campgrounds, hiking, hunting, and other activities. It is also the home of the Nature Inn, a unique hotel within the Pennsylvania state park system. The Foster Joseph Sayers Reservoir, was formed by damming Bald Eagle Creek and other smaller streams. Bald Eagle State Park is at the meeting point of two distinct geologic features. The Allegheny Plateau is to the north and the Ridge and Valley area of Pennsylvania is to the south.

The park is named for the Lenape chief, Woapalanne, meaning bald eagle. Chief Woapalanne lived in the area for a brief period of time during the mid-18th century in a village that was on Bald Eagle Creek Path, part of the much more extensive Great Indian Warpath that stretched from New York into the Carolinas. This path was used by the Iroquois to conduct raids on the Cherokee in North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Georgia. Pennsylvania Route 150 follows this path in some areas near Bald Eagle State Park.

Foster Joseph Sayers Reservoir is a 1,730-acre (700 ha) reservoir that was built in 1971 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as part of a flood control project on the Susquehanna River basin. It stretches upstream for 8 miles (12.87 km) and has 23 miles (37.01 km) of shoreline.

The lake is named for Foster Joseph Sayers, a World War II hero. Sayers grew up in Marsh Creek. He received the Medal of Honor for acts of bravery on November 12, 1944 near Thionville, France. His Medal of Honor citation reads as follows:

CITATION: Rank and organization: Private First Class, U.S. Army, Company L, 357th Infantry, 90th Infantry Division. Place and date: Near Thionville, France, 12 November 1944. Entered service at: Howard, Pa. Birth: Marsh Creek, Pa. G.O. No.: 89, 19 October 1945. He displayed conspicuous gallantry above and beyond the call of duty in combat on 12 November 1944, near Thionville, France. During an attack on strong hostile forces entrenched on a hill he fearlessly ran up the steep approach toward his objective and set up his machinegun 20 yards from the enemy. Realizing it would be necessary to attract full attention of the dug-in Germans while his company crossed an open area and flanked the enemy, he picked up his gun, charged through withering machinegun and rifle fire to the very edge of the emplacement, and there killed 12 German soldiers with devastating close-range fire. He took up a position behind a log and engaged the hostile infantry from the flank in an heroic attempt to distract their attention while his comrades attained their objective at the crest of the hill. He was killed by the very heavy concentration of return fire; but his fearless assault enabled his company to sweep the hill with minimum of casualties, killing or capturing every enemy soldier on it. Pfc. Sayers’ indomitable fighting spirit, aggressiveness, and supreme devotion to duty live on as an example of the highest traditions of the military service.

This beautiful park is well worth visiting and the lake is a fitting tribute to an American hero.

The Foster Joseph Sayers Medal of Honor Memorial is at the dam end of the lake.
Boating is a very popular activity at the lake.
The park, with its woodlands, meadows, and lake, is a frequent stop for birders.
Some Autumn views of the lake …

The Roaring Creek Trail … by Car

Sunday, October 13 saw the return of the annual Roaring Creek Trail drive through. The drive through is a unique opportunity to drive on the Roaring Creek Trail in the Weiser State Forest. This multi-use trail is normally restricted to vehicle traffic. The drive-through began at 9:00 AM, starting at the Route 42 parking lot gate. The gate was open until 2:00 PM.  Traffic was restricted to one-way travel on the 8-mile Roaring Creek Trail and exited at the Route 54 parking lot gate.  All vehicles had to exit by 3:00 PM.  Passenger vehicles only (cars, pick-up trucks, SUVs, passenger vans, motorcycles) were permitted to enter.  Enter the trail in Columbia County and leave in Northumberland County.

Kline’s Reservoir at the Route 42 side of the trail.

The Roaring Creek Tract features three large reservoirs currently maintained by Aqua PA. The reservoirs are in a valley surrounded by steep hillsides. The surrounding area is state forest land. Boating is permitted in two of the reservoirs. Fishing is also permitted, and the trail is very popular with hikers and cyclists.

This event was very popular, and traffic proceeded very slowly along the trail, which is actually a very well maintained gravel road. With so much vehicular traffic, it was unlikely you were going to see much wildlife. It was a lovely drive nonetheless. The leaves were probably a week or two short of their best color, due to lingering warm weather in September. There were places along the route to stop for a picnic.

My view for much of the trip.
A peak at the larger McWilliams Reservoir through the trees.
A good day for a family fishing trip.
You could stop along the way for a picnic.

There was a pavilion at McWilliams Picnic Area that could be used for a stop. Boat moorings and a boat launch are available here as well. There were also restrooms and parking in this area for the day.

Portage your boat into the McWilliams Reservoir.
A walk along the lake.
Smokey the Bear made a very conspicuous appearance.
Because one photo of a giant inflatable bear isn’t enough.

More information about the Roaring Creek Tract is here.

Goodbye to the Roaring Creek Trail.