Atop Hawk Mountain, Pa., 2010

Atop Hawk Mountain, Pa., 2010
Photo by R.E. Berg-Andersson

Sunday, November 17, 2013


I said last time I would write here first about my recent vacation in the "wilds" of Pennsylvania, and here it is.

MH in the snowy woods. (Photo by Margo D. Beller)
First, what is "wild" is the forest but most of what we went through were huge farm fields in small rural communities. Hunting and fishing are the reasons most "foreigners" come here, and since we do neither we spent our time hiking or driving long distances.

We picked the northeastern part of this region for its Grand Canyon. I have never been to the one out west but this one was pretty nice, too, despite the extreme cold (expected high that day was 31 degrees F) and the little bit of snow that fell overnight. We hiked one day around the rim on the west side of the Pine Creek gorge and then, two days later when the ice had melted, hiked around the eastern part. Each side is a state park.

The west one, Leonard Harrison, is obviously more set up for tourists - bathrooms, a ledge for observing. The east one, Colton Point, is at the end of a narrow, twisty road through Tioga State Forest. What few bathrooms were open were hard to find and the rim trail wasn't very well marked. Luckily, this was the day the temperature started to rise again to the low 40s so the ice had melted off the road.

Raven chasing the much larger bald eagle. (Margo D. Beller)
This was not a birding trip, per se. I had hoped we'd be far enough north to find something like a boreal chickadee or black-backed woodpecker, something you'd find in the North Country of New Hampshire. What we did find were bald eagle flying over the canyon being harried by ravens, and the smaller American crows harrying a redtail hawk. Of the smaller birds the chickadees and titmice were joined by gold-crowned kinglets, downy woodpeckers and juncos.

In fact, the most unusual birding was along a back road behind our hotel, where I walked our second cold morning (19 degrees F) before we made our way north to the Finger Lakes area so MH could finally see one. Along that road were goldfinches, large flocks of robins and, to my shock, a Lincoln sparrow that just sat there in the sun, allowing me to make sure it had the yellow on the front and the thin streaking.

Gold-crowned kinglet. (Margo D. Beller)
We also found ducks on various lakes - hooded mergansers, black ducks, common mergansers and mallards. Again, nothing we can't also see on Lake Parsippany now that the summer season is over and the boats are out of the water.

The biggest thing was we were away from home, raking leaves, losing eight hours to work. I, for one, needed the break and it was nice to have the radio on in the evenings, classical music playing as I read on the bed while MH did his own reading in the lounge chair.

Isn't that why one goes on vacation, to break the routine, to refresh the mind and body?

Using that definition, we had a very enjoyable vacation.