The Almost Vacation

We had great plans for our week of vacation…hiking, kayaking, biking, a motorcycle ride. But the reasoning behind taking the week before Memorial Day off resided in getting a jump on “summer-izing” the house and yard.

A work and play vacation.

But like most plans, things didn’t go quite as expected.

Even though the calendar said late May, our bodies still maintained their winter adjustment to cold temperatures. That week, a southern weather system moved in and brought extremely high humidity and 80°- 90°F temperatures.

To us, the outdoors felt like a suffocating, overheated sauna. Around noon each day, we staggered into the house, soaked with sweat and half sick. Unable to work in the intense heat, we thought it best to take afternoon naps instead.

IMG_3323We then worked during the mornings and evenings. While scrubbing up the table and chairs on our front porch, I noticed the faded metal frames had some chipping and rust and overall looked bad. Even the padded seats had seen better days.

A makeover for these turned into the first unexpected project.

IMG_3338We took off the table’s glass top and the padded chair seats before spray-painting the frames a deep red. And bought a bright-striped outdoor fabric for the chairs.

About those chair seats…a zillion rusted staples held the fabric to each foam-covered plywood base. These little metal strips refused to come out and trapped swatches of old fabric. Plus the plywood had aged and splintered.

This created an unexpected step in the unexpected project. Hubby now had to buy a sheet of plywood, and cut out four new seats. Each would need two coats of varnish before being covered with foam and fabric.

IMG_3337Next project…a recently acquired, used, wooden bench for the front porch. I thought a quick sanding and a new coat of paint would make this bench good to go. Yeah, right….

While sanding the bench, it became apparent that the acrylic topcoat of paint did not like to adhere to the oil-based paint underneath. The bench needed stripped before a new coat of paint could be applied.

By now we had relegated the cars to the driveway as the unexpected projects filled the garage. But at least we had a dry place to work during that week’s thunderstorms.

Ahh yes, the thunderstorms….

A yearly spring job is pressure-washing the front porch. Although pressure washing is not Hubby’s favorite chore, he cleaned all the porch railings, siding, and floor. And it looked really good…until the next day.

The weather called for severe thunderstorms and high winds. For once the forecast happened to be correct, almost down to the minute. At precisely 4:01 in the afternoon, high winds plastered thousands of tiny, wet, tree blossoms and leaves onto the porch. Once dry, these botanical masterpieces stayed glued to the siding, windows, railings, welcome rug, and floor.

Once again we cleaned the porch and washed the windows. And once again it looked really good.

Today, it’s nearing the end of the week after our week of vacation. The cars are still banned from the garage as we continue to finish the unexpected projects. We still have several patches of grass to seed, shrubs to move, and the deck and patio to pressure wash. And possibly the porch to hose down again – another thunderstorm is in the forecast.

The anticipated hiking, biking, kayaking, and motorcycle ride never happened.

But the entire summer is still to come, leaving us plenty of time for play. We are blessed, indeed!

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The Killdeer

A killdeer pretending to be hurt, to lure predators away from the nest.

A killdeer pretending to be hurt, to lure predators away from the nest.

I only wanted to spray the spring weeds with Round-up before they took over our yet-to-be-tilled-and-planted garden.

But my presence terrified two killdeer. The pair stayed close by and kept chirping a frantic chattering. Then one of the birds landed and spread out a wing, hobbling like it was hurt.

A killdeer nest between last year's cor stalks.

A killdeer nest between last year’s corn stalks.

Ah-hah! They have a nest nearby. I didn’t move and looked around. Finally I spotted the nest in one end of the garden – an impression in the ground, lined with tiny pebbles, and containing four eggs. It blended in so well, that had the birds not gone ballistic, I’d never have seen their nest and may have stepped on it.

Two newly hatched chicks, two eggs still to hatch.

Two newly hatched chicks, two eggs still to hatch.

I knew that once killdeer hatch, they  walk as soon as their fuzzy feathers dry. Although the young chicks cannot fly, very soon after hatching, the parents walk them to a feeding ground where they stay until able to fly.

Maybe, just maybe I could get a glimpse of the chicks before they left the nest– a very small window of time.

Killdeer chicks lay on the ground perfectly still when a predator is near

Killdeer chicks lay on the ground perfectly still when a predator is near

About two weeks later, I noticed that two of the eggs had hatched. One chick walked around, looking like a fuzz ball with legs. But as soon as the little chick saw me, it lay flat on the ground and didn’t move.

At least this presented an opportunity to take a few pictures. Later that afternoon, the third chick hatched. I never saw the fourth, but the next day their egg-less nest was abandoned.

Parents and chicks abandon the nest soon after last egg hatches.

Parents and chicks abandon the nest soon after last egg hatches.

Now, whenever I hear a killdeer, I wonder if it’s one of “our” birds.

And maybe, just maybe they will come back next year and again hatch their brood in our garden.

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Mother’s Day Along Pine Creek

IMG_3237Pine Creek Valley has to be one of the most beautiful places on earth.

After visiting our moms on Mothers Day, Hubby and I enjoyed a hike – actually more of a walk, along Pine Creek.

After almost a week of rain, a cool wind and clear skies made the day perfect.

 

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The Bonnell family lived along this stretch of Pine Creek in the 1800’s. Off the path and on the mountainside, we found an old tombstone marking the grave site of a little Bonnell girl 1 year, 2 months, and 2 days old, who passed away in 1852.

Weathered and worn by time, the grave marker is difficult to read.

Weathered and worn by time, the grave marker is difficult to read.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reminders of new life, come Spring, bright green patches of  ferns lined sections of the path.

Reminders of new life in springtime, bright green patches of ferns lined sections of the path.

Reddish wild flowers hung from rocky outcrops.

Reddish wild flowers hung from rocky outcrops.

A close-up of the flowers. Does anyone know what kind they are?

A close-up of the flowers. Does anyone know what kind they are?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Old mile markers slowly crumble along the rail trail.

Old railroad mile markers slowly crumble along the rail trail.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Rocky outcroppings loom above the path.

Mountain steams and falls ran full from the recent rains.

Mountain steams and waterfalls run full from the spring rains.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Notice the tree with the orange square in the foreground. A small section of the Mid-state trail follows the rail trail.

Notice the tree, in the foreground, with the orange square. This marks a small section of the Mid-state trail running along the rail trail.

This Country Grandmother had a wonderful Mother’s Day!

 

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Friendship and Backpacking

IMG_3172We reconnected at a sad time, her mother’s funeral. During the intervening fifteen years, she had changed from a cute teenager into a woman with inner and outer beauty.

Now married and the mother of three, her days focused on her children and husband.

We decided to meet for lunch at a place halfway between our homes. There the plans for a weekend backpack outing came to life. We also wanted to include her oldest son, he’d enjoy a  weekend of hiking and camping.

This being our first backpack of the season, we decided on the Pine Creek Rail Trail from White Tail to Bonnell Flats – an easy 4 ½ mile hike that takes about 2 ½ hours to walk with packs.

That Saturday dawned clear and sunny while we drove to the Pine Creek Valley. We shrugged on our packs, grabbed our walking sticks and headed up the trail.

Along the way,  mountain streams rushed over rocks and fallen logs.

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Springs dripped water over moss-covered rocks.

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Bits of green here and there poked through the crunchy dried leaves covering the mountainside.

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Spiky white flowers bloomed along the trail.

IMG_3159Reaching the campsite in the afternoon, we set up our tents along Pine Creek. We skipped stones across the creek, hiked a short trail up the mountainside, and enjoyed a campfire in the evening. As night crept into the valley we retired to our tents and snuggled into cozy sleeping bags.

Sunday morning we built a fire for warmth, drank hot chocolate and ate hot oatmeal. For some reason, everything tastes better when camping.

However, all good things must come to an end. By mid-morning we had packed up and began the hike to White Tail and our parked car.

Oh yes, the good life – spending time with friends while backpacking.

 

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Tiadaghton Trail Hike

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Patches of snow dotted the landscape

On Sunday, Hubby and I hiked part of the Tiadaghton Trail near Ramsey.

A light April snow had blanketed the mountainside the day before.

But late snows in central Pennsylvania don’t last long and only an occasional patch of white remained along the trail, in stark contrast to the winter-browns of the forest.

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Outcroppings of rock rose up along the trail like giants.

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Others provided the perfect overlook for viewing the Pine Creek Valley.

 

An birds-eye view of Pine Creek

An birds-eye view of Pine Cree

 

 

 

 

Two of these overlooks held the remains of a campfire, which came as no surprise. Backpackers would have to search long and hard to find a more picturesque campsite for the night.

Two of these overlooks held the remains of a campfire, which came as no surprise. Backpackers would have to search long and hard to find a more picturesque campsite for the night.

A small bouquet of flowers held its own against the snow. Look close to see the flowers, their pedals are closed.

A small bouquet of flowers held its own against the snow. Look close to see the flowers, their pedals are closed.

The mountains of Pine Creek Valley radiate a beauty hard to surpass anywhere.

The mountains of Pine Creek Valley radiate a beauty hard to surpass anywhere.

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Poe Paddy Hike

IMG_3116I snapped a few photos while hiking the rail trail along Penns Creek at the base of Poe Paddy Mountain.

The scenery wore it’s winter colors except for a few spots where springtime green appeared.

But a walk in the woods is always beautiful and relaxing.

Mountain laurel hung over the trail creating a magical feeling of walking though a fairy land.

At times mountain laurel hung over the trail creating a magical feeling of walking though a fairy land.

The old railway tunnel rebuilt and now safe. A metal corrugated tube  arches around the top and sides, shrinking the original size of the tunnel. A concrete floor makes it an easy hike. But take a flashlight, very little light permeates the middle section.

The old railway tunnel rebuilt and now safe. A metal corrugated tube arches around the top and sides, shrinking the original size of the tunnel. A concrete floor makes it an easy hike. But take a flashlight, very little light permeates the middle section.

A new span replaces the original railroad bridge across Penns Creek.

A new span replaces the original railroad bridge across Penns Creek.

A few signs of spring popped up here and there.

A few signs of spring popped up here and there.

Penns Creek

Penns Creek

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First Hike of the Season

IMG_3077I have discovered that walking country roads and riding a stationary bike during winter months does not keep me in shape for hikes across mountain trails. Especially when carrying 20+ pounds in a day pack.

We started at Hairy John State Park picnic area and took the (Pennsylvania) Mid-State Trail over the mountain toward an old railroad bed along Penns Creek.

IMG_3080Ever-changing scenery engulfed us the entire hike as we trekked across moss covered paths…

IMG_3079and piles of rocks and boulders.

IMG_3076Twice we saw bear tracks, but fortunately, no bears.

In one open area of forest, the trail was impossible to see. We literally had to stop at each trail marker and look for the next one before walking on.

In two places, foot bridges traverse mountain streams.

IMG_3085One of the bridges had been damaged to the point of being unsafe to use, and over a stream too deep to ford. Here the trail diverted to a mountain road for a while.

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Although foot-weary by trail’s end, the beauty of the hike made every ache worthwhile.

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