Saturday 5/9/09… Naweedna to … Little Pine SP, Waterville PA

We’d planned to leave Sunday morning. You see, the parks are more heavily used on Friday and Saturday with the ‘weekenders’ heading back home for the w-w-w-work week on Sunday – thus leaving us the choice spots … and dirty restrooms. Ah, but being the compulsive people we are, we found ourselves ready to go Saturday morning. Soooo … I loaded the technological gadgets and we rolled down the drive around 1:30 PM.

 

I’d neglected to update the notebook, so as soon as we connected to the Internet, we got this message about umpteen critical updates that needed to be loaded. We started loading them but didn’t realize one of the updates was HUGE … so the whole process was not completed until we were almost out of the I-390 corridor … after which we lose our Internet connection. Ah, but we got ‘er done and now, after a reboot, it was time to listen to WBOG.

 

Unfortunately, WBOG was also giving us problems. I’d planned on using our new WD Passport for our music source. I’d updated it and read the files into the notebook before we left. Hell, I’d even tested it – but not in RVan. The cute little Passport only has a short USB cable, so positioning it could be an issue. No problem, I’ll just connect it to the USB hub I’ve dedicated to RVan. Guess what? MusicMatch doesn’t recognize the cute little Passport when it’s connected through the hub. What’s up with that? I’ll have to check that out after we get back. Right now I need a music source. Fortunately, I had also loaded a Maxtor. Unfortunately, I hadn’t read in the files. No problem, I’ll just map it with the same drive letter as the Passport – MusicMatch will never know the difference. Wrong.

 

All we have to do is read in the 53+k files into MusicMatch from the Maxtor source. Do you know how long that takes? Well, I do. It takes exactly as long as the drive from Naweedna to Little Pine. The notebook is not as robust as the desktop – it has only half the RAM and doesn’t have a dual processor. Thus, it was s-l-o-o-o-w. Hmmm, could it be that my library and playlist are too big? No way. Everyone needs 53,919 tracks for a four hour drive, right?

 

There were other problems. We had a persistent and progressively worse rattle coming from the back of RVan. Sound familiar? It should because this is exactly what happened on our last outing in October ’08. Remember the lost nut off the upper bolt securing the right-rear shock? I’d checked the damned thing a couple times before we left. We had the service station who installed the shocks (incorrectly) the first time check the damned thing. It seemed okay.  Seemed is the operative word here. Nonetheless, I just couldn’t believe the nut had come off AGAIN. So, just like the first time, we assumed the rattling was something loose INSIDE. There are lots of things to rattle; it just had to be one of them, right?

 

When I checked the nut before we left, I noticed a heat shield that rattled when I wiggled it. I put a clip on it and fully expected the rattle issue to be done with. Wrong. Okay, we could find nothing inside that was a likely source of the increasingly annoying rattle. It must be something OUTside, so I’m just going to have to stop at the first garage and have someone check it. By the time I’d made that decision, it was late on Saturday PM; what are the odds of finding a place … as we headed into increasingly rural PA? Not good. We did find one AAA garage but it was … CLOSED. A common theme as it turns out. We’ll just have to grit our teeth (ears) and make do. At least it isn’t something important … I hope. At least we have music to listen to. No, wait, we still don’t have MusicMatch loaded and on the air.

 

On a previous trip, we had stopped at the Ox Yoke in Galeton PA  where I had my very first Philly Cheesesteak. It was really surprisingly good. Hey, why don’t we try it again? After all, we were hungry, and we were in Galeton. In we go. The ‘hostess’ told us we could sit anywhere – in the absolutely empty dining room – just like the last time. We picked the same table we’d used the time before – one in the middle of a big picture window overlooking the string of motel cabins hugging the north shore of Pine Creek that flows between the structures and the rather steep valley wall to the south. When the waitress returned to take our order, I told her the story about our enjoyable Philly Cheesesteak from a few years ago. She said they still have ‘em, although Janie didn’t see it listed on the menu.

 

Apparently, things had changed. Rather than tasty cheese mixed and melted into chopped steak, we were presented chopped steak with a couple squares of forgettable cheese on top. Okay, another gastronomic bubble burst. While we were enjoying the view more than our meals, the chef/owner came out and said, “Nice view, eh?” He was wearing some flowery, loose-fitting pants that looked more like PJs than acceptable public attire. He said he lived right there in cabin #1 and we should take the walk down to the creek and enjoy the peaceful setting … like he does every day. Okay, let me tell you about the cabins. They are the old style, very small with moss-covered roofs … they were cute but … And #1 was by far the smallest of all … and this wasn’t a small guy. He had a small 40s-style metal-chair on his postage-stamp-size front porch, and I could just imagine him lounging in it during those ‘peaceful’ times. Strange.

 

We rattled in to Little Pine SP around 6:30. Had a beer and went to bed early … without any dinner after chugging down a week’s worth of meat during our late lunch. Tomorrow we hit the trail.

 

Sunday 5/10/09… Little Pine SP, Waterville PA … Day 2

Mother’s Day … Happy Mother’s Day to all you … Mothers. Where would we be without you? Duh!

 

We got up, did our morning routine, drove the five miles down to the Waterville trailhead, and were on the trail by 9:00. It was about 60 with high clouds and a gusty north breeze – a cool front has passed through yesterday. We took advantage of the tailwind and headed south toward Jersey Shore. Here are a couple maps so you can follow along on our Pine Creek rides:

 

Pine Creek Trail (DCNR)

Pine Creek Trail Map (PDF)

 

I begin my day with a couple cups of coffee and a bowl of granola. That means our morning bike rides are riddled with pee stops. It was just after one of those stops when we met a fellow biker riding from south to north. As he rode by, he volunteered that we were stopped at the “coolest spot on the trail”. I replied, “Cold air drainage from the small tributary tumbling down the valley wall.” He stopped and we engaged in a very fruitful conversation about the trail and some of his history with it.

 

His name is Dave Kagan; he’s a retired English and Math teacher from Lock Haven University … among many other places; he lives in the village of Torbert, near the southern end of the trail; he rides the trail regularly, logging something like 1,500 miles last year; has an article in the Webb Weekly about his 12 favorite spots - this being number four (Link - search for Kagan); and had written a book about Pine Creek history. In fact, he was on his way to the McConnell Store to replenish their supply. Well, we got to talking about being retired university types, biking, and age-related health issues: his bad shoulders, my bad elbow. He gave us his card and a list of other good PA bike trails. I promised to email him when we get home … this will be my reminder. Maybe I can find out what those two nice field-stone buildings are in Cammal – the one on PA-414 has a sign announcing it as Stony Corner – and it’s been ‘For Sale’ at least since we were here last year.

 

It was a very pleasant exchange, and we decided then and there to stop at the McConnell Store in Waterville on the way back and get a copy of Dave’s book: Pine Creek Villages. That’s exactly what we did. He’s collected a lot of vintage pictures of people populating the valley. The RR was installed to remove lumber produced from the several saw mills constructed to process the logs gathered from the surrounding virgin white pine and hemlock forests. There were lots of train wrecks. Pine Creek Valley is referred to as “The Grand Canyon of The East” and has the expected steep valley walls. This results in very steep climbs out of the valley for the rail lines connecting the trunk RR with the cutting areas in the surrounding hills. As you might expect, there were several train wrecks, and Dave’s book is full of their dramatic pictures.

 

Dave told us about his third favorite stop on the trail: a grave marker just down the trail. It is a small head stone and an even smaller footstone – not very far apart because it marks the grave of Catherine Bonnell who died in 1852 at the tender age of 1 year, 2 months, and 22 days. Bonnell is a common name in the area, and the grave is located near Bonnell Flats.

 

Dave told us that he turned 61 this last Tuesday – happy belated B-Day to Dave. I immediately commented, “Sixty-one, hell, I’ll be sixty-six in a couple months. He remembered the comment and that we were geologists, and when we met him on the way back, he said, “You made a big deal of being older than me. How can a few years be important to a geologist?” Right on, Dave. It isn’t important at all. Just as long as we can keep doing the things we want to do … well, at least some of them. Dave’s 1,500 miles last year included the day he rode the 58 miles to the northern end … and back … for a total of 116 miles … in one day. Oh my, we’re lucky to get fifty in a day. There are just too many birds and flowers to look at, I suppose.

 

If anyone wants to connect with Dave Kagan, you can email him at DBKagan[at]Comcast[dot]net. You won’t be disappointed.

 

We were back at RVan for lunch around 2. While Janie was putting together our salami sandwiches, I crawled under the back end of RVan to have a look at that damned heat shield that’s making so much racket. Horrors … it is a loose shock … again. We had this problem last fall. The nut came off the top bolt holding the right-rear shock. The shock had moved inboard enough to come in contact with the heat shield. That’s what’s been rattling all this time. I had checked the bolt a couple times before we left and it seemed okay. Apparently, it wasn’t. The real scary thing is, if the bolt comes out, the shock would rotate forward and down until it hit the pavement below. And then … who knows what might happen … I can imagine lots of nasty consequences … and that’s what I did almost all night when I should have been sleeping. We had innumerable terrible crashes while driving to Jersey Shore, the nearest town of any size, to get it fixed. Ah, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

 

Back on the trail after lunch – we headed north toward Jersey Mills, Cammal (their phonetic spelling of Campbell, the founder), and Ross Run, our turn-around point. Along the way we came across an accident on the trail: an overturned tractor … one of those old gray/blue Ford jobbies.

 

Right there in the middle of trail, we came across an DCNR vehicle with an official-looking officer fellow, the shaken but otherwise unscathed tractor operator, an Akey’s Body Shop tow truck, and the entire Akey family: husband, wife, and two kids. We later learned that Akey is pronounced Ikie, but I liked Akey as in Achy Breaky Heart only Akey Body Shop, or better yet, Akey-Body Shop. You get the point. Hey, wait, a car guy. Maybe he can fix our shock … or at least suggest someone who could. I stopped and asked the wife. Nice person, but pretty vacant, if you know what I mean. She asked her husband while the two kids stared at me … literally stood there and stared blankly at my countenance.  He, of course, doesn’t do such things, but if we are staying in Little Pine SP and all I needed was a nut, there’s a guy right there in Waterville. Great, I’ll stop on our way back to the campground and see if I can roust him … on Sunday … Mother’s Day … okay, maybe I can leave a note and stop in tomorrow morning. Yeah, that’s what we’ll do. I biked on much relieved.

 

When we’ve biked with Jason, I’d watched him kicking sticks off the trail. After yesterday’s thunderstorms, there were lots of small twigs and branches littering the trail, so I thought I’d try Jason’s trick. Hey, not bad, if I concentrated, I can do it too. I kicked sticks all the way back on our afternoon ride. When I got off the bike, I discovered a pain in my right hip. This getting old is a bunch of crap. You can’t even kick a few sticks without hurting afterward. Tomorrow: NO Stick Kickin’.

 

We stopped at Jeff’s Garage in Waterville on the way back to the campground. It, of course was closed, as was the restaurant to which it was attached – like an afterthought. We wrote out a note, and I wandered around to the side of the building where I found a locked entrance door. As I was about to stick my note on the door, I noticed an hours of operation sign. It was a laminated matrix with days of the week along the side and hours of operation as column headings. I looked down the column for opening times and discovered 9:00 listed repeatedly. Good, 9 is a good time; we can do this. Then I started looking for the most important bit of data: Monday. Yep, there it was in the left-most column: Monday. I followed it over to the opening time slot and found one word scrawled across all times: CLOSED. Tomorrow is Monday. Okay, now we are back to plan A: a drive to Jersey Shore where we will have to find a suitable mechanic with the proper nut. Another night of worry.

 

What did we see on our outing? Well, lots of things. Biking Pine Creek is like taking a safari. The trail represents a slice through natural and civilized terrain, and, as you slowly bike along, you intercept plants and animals doing what they do. As it turns out, the first couple weeks of May is a great time to do Pine Creek. Usually we are gone on a ND-SD-NE-KS outing, so we’ve never done Pine Creek in May. We’ll be doing it again, I’m sure. I’m just going to list the most notable things we saw – separating the plants from the birds, and I’ll make a few terse comments as warranted,

 

·         Dames Rockets

·         Flowering Dogwood

·         Celandine Poppy

·         May Apple with flowers – a couple plants had lost the leaf canopy that usually covers the flower; the exposed flowers on their long stems looked like those garden decorations you stick in your flower bed

·         Wild Creeping Phlox

·         Wild Geranium

·         Wild Ginger

·         Wild Lily Of The Valley (Canada Mayflower)

·         Wild Red Columbine

·         Bluets (Quaker Ladies)

 

·         Baltimore Oriole – lots and lots of ‘em; they eventually became a junk bird

·         Common Merganser – they are THE duck on Pine Creek

·         Eastern Bluebird – not so unusual but delightful nonetheless

·         American Redstart (male & female) – nearly as common as the Orioles

·         Brown Thrasher

·         Yellowthroat – otherwise known as the Yellow-Bellied Raccoon Bird; check out the pictures

·         Pileated Woodpecker – check out the full frontal view in one of these pictures

·         Eastern Phoebe

·         House Wren

·         Carolina Wren (frequently heard, but seldom seen)

·         Catbird – very common along the trail

·         Eastern Towhee - I actually prefer the female; no surprise there, eh?

·         Bluegray Gnatcatcher

·         Great Crested Flycatcher – weep, weep (check out their calls)

·         Yellow-Billed Cuckoo – the best view we’ve ever had; they are very interesting birds; long and slender who slip through the leaves with the greatest of stealth; they fly in a slippery sort of way

·         Chestnut-Sided Warbler – what an elegant bird

·         Yellow-Rump Warbler

·         Yellow Warbler – just love the orange striping on the breast

 

Tent Caterpillar – lots of ‘em – way too many; but they attract the Cuckoos so … at one place along the trail, we noticed some waiver-y lines crossing the trail. When we checked ‘em out, we discovered they were silk left by the hundreds of caterpillars crossing the trail. The tree they were leaving was stripped of leaves and bedecked with tents full of caterpillars. Apparently, they were moving on to greener pastures on the other side of the trail. A close look revealed that most, but not all, of the migrants were following the silky roads laid down by the pioneers. Interesting in a creepy sort of way.

 

Redstart building nest – this was really cute. We saw a female redstart flit across the trail in front of us. We stopped to check her out and discovered she was jumping from a tent caterpillar mass to a crotch in a small tree on the other side of the trial. Close inspection showed she was plastering silk in the crotch as the foundation of her nest. So that’s how they do it.

 

Bike Data: 40.45 miles; 5:32 hrs bike time; 9 hrs total time

 

Monday 5/11/09… Little Pine SP, Waterville PA to Pettecote Junction CG, Cedar Run PA …

After a stress-filled night dreaming up all kinds of shock-related catastrophes, we got up fairly early and had our morning beverages while discussing various approaches to our lost-nut problem. The second most important thing is to keep the shock from falling down and ramming itself into the pavement. This, of course, would only happen if the bolt comes out, which is the first most important thing: don’t lose the bolt. I remembered that I had a small piece of wire in my traveling tool kit, so I started trying to visualize how I might wrap it around the two ends of the bolt and thereby keep the bolt from falling out. It was sort of comical to think of such a little, wimpy piece of wire compared to the big ol’ bolt and shock. But that was all I had … we didn’t even have any bubble gum. However, I must admit that I didn’t check under the picnic tables ;-)

 

While we were finishing up our morning routine, we noticed a new camper had moved in a couple sites down the road. He seemed to be alone, and, like so many other campers, had a bike. His looked to be pretty sophisticated and he had one of those two-wheeled carriers that attached to it. Hmmm, wonder if he’s planning to bike and camp the trail. That would be neat. As it turned out, he stopped by the camper on his way back from the bathhouse and had a nice chat with Janie – I was otherwise engaged. He introduced himself as Dave Walsh and said he was planning to do the trail. He asked about the camping and such and Janie filled him in as best she could. Little did we know that our paths would cross again in the near future.

 

I drove over to the recycling area where there is lots of relatively clean pavement. I got my wire and crawled under RVan. I had a little chuckle when I put the small wire up to the big bolt, but I wrapped it around anyway as best I could. Meanwhile, Janie sauntered over to the entrance booth where they have racks of brochures. She was hoping to find something that might have an auto repair place advertised. While she was looking though the available literature, a very nice lady named Nancy drove up and asked if she could be of any help. Nancy turns out to be the regional clerk for the DCNR. Janie related our story and Nancy said, “I thought there might be a problem when I saw the two legs sticking out from under the camper.” Nancy pulled out her list of numbers to call for this and that reason – she called it her “panic” list – and started calling local mechanics. It was only about eight, so most of them were either not answering or otherwise engaged. When I got to the booth and explained that all we needed was the right size nut and a big wrench, Nance just dialed up Arliss over at the maintenance shop. Yep, he’s got some nuts … er, well, you know what I mean … how big is the bolt? I’d measured it at about ½ inch, but it could be anything from 7/16 to 9/16. Arliss said he’d bring some of various sizes over. OMG, what a relief. If just one of Arliss’ nuts fits … er, I mean, one of the nuts Arliss brings over fits … we’ll be happily on our way. My mind filled with frivolous greetings: “Arliss, show ‘em your nuts”; “Got nuts?”; “Nuts to you.”; “One nut or two?”; “From one nut to another.”; Hey, Arliss, I like your nuts.”; things like that.

 

It turns out Arliss is the son of the guy whose house sits right across PA-44 from the Waterville trail head. I’d noticed this house several times because it has a big Dale Earnhardt sign and a couple of race cars in various stages of assembly or disassembly sitting outside his big two-bay garage. It clearly isn’t a commercial garage; just a place where a guy works on HIS cars. However, when we were finished biking yesterday, I did notice him out mowing his yard and I thought I’d might just stop in and see if he had a spare nut. But then it was Mother’s day, he was mowing the yard, and we expected to be fixed up by Jeff at Jeff’s Garage – closed on Monday.

 

So the Waterville area is small and everyone is either related to or knows everyone else. We’d gone from Akey to Jeff to Nancy, to Arliss, to his race-car dad all in a few short hours. Arliss is a big man, and I was a bit concerned about him crawling under RVan, which really doesn’t have a lot of clearance. Well, Arliss has grown up crawling under vehicles, and he took his assortment of nuts with him right into RVan’s undercarriage. He found one that fit, and he held it while I turned the bolt. We cranked it down hard before he crawled out and said, “That’s not the right bolt, so be sure to have it replaced as soon as you can, but it should be okay for a while.” I said, “It will announce itself; it always does … rattle, rattle, rattle … but we will be sure to have our mechanic check it out when we get home.” I also took the opportunity to ask Arliss what might happen if the bolt came out and the shock fell down. His rather terse reply: “It wouldn’t be good.” Yikes!

 

Thanks to Nancy, Arliss, and the DCNR, we were happily – and noticeably quieter – on our way by nine. I told Nancy that Little Pine had always been one of our favorite parks, and it is even more special now. She sent us on our way with a big wave and an admonition to “Take Care Now”. But she (and Arliss) had already taken care of us. We drove over to Cedar Run where we intended to stay at a private CG called Pettecote Junction. We’d stayed there once before and said, “Never again.” But that was on a July 4th weekend and the place was a literal zoo.

 

Pine Creek Trail (DCNR)

Pine Creek Trail Map (PDF)

 

We arrived at Pettecote Junction around nine. We stopped at the house that used to be the office and that is where we found a sign directing us to the Caboose. At the Caboose we found a note directing us to the camper over by the bathhouse. At the camper, we were greeted by a small child wearing an oversized sweat-shirt proclaiming: Never Enough Dirt. Shortly, a nice lady came out, along with the tantalizing smell of frying bacon. Ah, that smell wafting across the morning air and punctuated by raucous bird calls and shafts of morning light filtering down through the trees is just heavenly – bacon is one of my favorite health foods. She obviously was in the middle of making breakfast for “the men” who were busy tidying up the campsites. She told us we could pick any site we wanted and pay whenever it was convenient – even as late as tomorrow when she’ll be doing paperwork in the Caboose starting at nine. This time we found Pettecote Junction very quiet and really quite pleasant – the bacon smell helped. We picked out a place down at the very end – pretty much all by ourselves. The real advantage is that the CG is right on the trail. We were biking by 10:00, and I’d expected it would be noon or later before we got to having some fun. You see, all that worry was all for nothing … thanks to Nancy and Arliss.

 

Oh, as we were driving down to pick out our site, we noticed the campground speed limit signs. They looked just like official speed limit signs but the wording was a bit different: 5 MPH … Or … Walk. Yeah, I found myself biking down the road at 15 MPH – but not raising much dust.

 

For our morning ride, we headed south to connect up with our turn-around from yesterday. It was very pleasant. This is a portion of the trail that we don’t do very often, and we found it very rewarding. We had planned to return to RVan for lunch and then head north for our afternoon ride. However, we’d seen so much and dawdled along the way that we were late getting back. We had packed some snacks – never go out without some sort of sustenance – so we weren’t famished. Thus, we decided to just bike on by and go up to our usual parking spot: Rattlesnake Rocks. It was a kind of short biking day in mileage, but we more than made up for it in (s)mileage. But without Nancy and Arliss, it could have been a long day of driving to, and waiting around in, service stations in Williamsport and/or Jersey Shore. That would not have resulted in much (s)mileage.

 

Here are the things that we saw that were different from yesterday.

 

·         Wake Robin

·         Jack In The Pulpit – we’d remarked that we hadn’t seen any of these and, bam, there they were in bunches right along the trail

·         Toothwort

·         Foam Flower

·         Tall Buttercup

 

Garter Snake with a bulge; while Janie was IDing the Toothwort, she noticed the snake all curled up nearby; it had a big bulge about a fourth of the way down its body; must have been relaxing and digesting its last meal

 

Bumble Bees rolling and tumbling on the ground and in the air; they would slam into each other, grab hold, and fly straight up and then straight down; once on the ground, they’d wallow around like a couple of wrasslers; we watched this for some time

 

·         Osprey with a fish – not nearly as big as the one in the picture

·         Eastern Kingbird

·         Ruby-Crowned Kinglet

·         Indigo Bunting

·         Grouse feathers along the trail; probably residue from hunters that use the trail to access the public hunting grounds in the surrounding hills; the feathers were the most marvelous browns tinged with iridescent deep blue

·         Canada Warblers – two of ‘em in the honeysuckle; they were chasing each other but we got some pretty good views of ‘em; beautiful birds and not frequently seen … by us anyway

·         Soaring Red Tail (finally) – this was our first RT; usually they are much more visible

·         Belted Kingfisher

·         Great Blue Heron

·         Green Heron – we actually saw several of these little wonders – more than ever before

·         Least Flycatcher – identified by its call because all the small flycatchers tend to look alike

·         Black & White Warbler – male and female frolicking in the leaf litter; we saw lots more of these ‘referee’ birds

·         Scarlet Tanager – got one of the best looks ever; they are spectacular –very tropical looking

·         Black-Billed Cuckoo – another great viewing of a Cuckoo; we just don’t get to see these birds very much

·         Bald Eagle nest with an adult and possibly eaglets – there’s a nest about halfway up the western ridge at the village of Cedar Run; we’d seen it before but never the eaglets; we think we saw a couple fluffy blobs this time

 

We got to watch an Oriole eating tent caterpillars. At least that’s what it looked like. Orioles normally eat nectar and fruit, so we were very interested in this behavior. He was sitting in a small tree that was festooned with several caterpillar tents. He’d bound up beside one of the tents and reach out and grab a caterpillar. We didn’t seem to be actually eating the caterpillar. Rather, he just seemed to squeeze it and then do another one. Our best guess is that he was squeezing out the juices like he would if it were a succulent berry. We noticed a lot of desiccated caterpillars hanging down from the tents, so maybe that was the result of his work. Whatever, it was pretty interesting.

 

A little farther down the trail, we got to see another interesting bit of bird behavior. I was biking along and noticed something flutter up about a foot from my front wheel. I assumed it was a leaf. I took a casual glance and noticed that it was a bird - a bird that seemed to have no intention of flying away. We stopped, wheeled around, and pulled up beside what turned out to be a Pine Siskin. The bird paid no attention to us whatsoever. It was completely occupied eating everything in its path – peck and hop, peck and hop. The bird was very scruffy and had a whitish dingleberry hanging from its rear end. Our guess is that it had just arrived from points south, was very hungry, and hadn’t taken time to clean itself up after a long flight. We watched it for a long time before it eventually flew off the trail and into the bushes along the creek bank. Okay, get yourself filled up and cleaned up so you can claim a territory and mate – and raise a brood – of what we hope won’t be parasitic Cowbirds chicks.

 

Janie learned why Cowbirds lay their eggs in other bird’s nest. It seems they co-evolved with Buffalo. Buffalo are continually on the move finding new pastures. Thus, the Cowbirds followed the herd and never had an opportunity to set up housekeeping on their own. Rather, they lay their eggs in the nests of local residents who then feed the hatchlings, although they don’t look a thing like the parents – and are often much larger. The domination of the cowbird hatchling is such a problem for the stressed bird population that naturalists are attempting to remove or destroy Cowbirds. Good luck with that. The Cowbird Life History tab makes for some interesting reading.

 

We also saw some strange human behavior. Along with the numerous trout fisherman plying the cool waters of Pine Creek, we saw two hunters on bikes – and one of them was a young woman. They were not together other than their similarities. They were both wearing camo hunting outfits and biking along the trail with their very large shotguns slung over their shoulders. It was pretty interesting to see them biking along. Sure beats seeing ‘em on ATVs.

 

Bike Data: 24.47 miles; 3:50 hrs bike time; 7:30 total time

 

Tuesday 5/12/09 … Pettecote Junction CG, Cedar Run PA Day 2 …

This was going to be our BIG DAY biking through our favorite part of the trail. We’d planned to go north all the way from the CG to Darling Run – close to 50 miles roundtrip. This was our first day not having RVan for a lunch stop so we packed lots of food and got on the trail around nine. We’ve been having some beautiful weather and today was the best of the lot.

 

Pine Creek Trail (DCNR)

Pine Creek Trail Map (PDF)

 

We passed Rattlesnake Rocks and Blackwell and arrived at Tiadaghton where we decided to have a bite to eat before continuing on. We pulled into one of the picnic tables close to the stream and watched some fly fishermen pulling their lunch out of the stream. There were several tent camps set up - the first time we’d seen campers here. It was the week of the Pine Creek Fly Fishing Derby, so most of ‘em were engaged in that. One, however, was just a biker like us. Not any biker mind you, but the very same Dave Walsh Janie had talked to at Little Pine a couple days ago. He was camped a few sites down from where we were sitting. This was Dave’s inaugural Pine Creek outing, and he was curious about other bikers and their gear. Thus, he started wandering over to where we were. When he got within hailing distance, Janie said, “Hello, Dave Walsh.” That startled him because he hadn’t recognized her, and as far as we know, he had never seen me. So we “meeted and greeted” and started talking about biking and biking gear. He was most interested in our rear racks and rack packs, but we talked about lots of other gear and such. Janie wrote out some references, bike trials, and our email address on a piece of paper for him. Then he said, “Come on down and I’ll give you my card.”

 

We all ambled down to his camp where he produced his business card so we could contact each other. OMG! His card says: “David Walsh, Bowlmaker” and is festooned with pictures of his wares. “Got to bring in the Shekels, you know,” he said when we commented on the beautiful bowls. It turns out his bowls are featured at the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery … among other places. But you really should read (and see) it for yourself: David Walsh- Bowlmaker. Hey, you can even see a picture of Dave himself. After you read his story and look at some of his work, you can click the Auction or eBay Store tabs and see that his stuff is very reasonably priced. Hey, if you need a gift for a wedding or anniversary or birthday or any other occasion – for someone you really care for – give ‘em a Dave Walsh Bowl. I’m sure it would be treasured.

 

Okay, so we’ve met a writer and craftsman on this outing … along with a whole lot of wildlife and beautiful scenery. This has been a very good outing … will it get any better? Let’s see.

 

Here are the unique-for-this-trip things we saw today:

 

·         Black Squirrel – we used to only see these in Canada, but recently glimpsed some in Letchworth and now in PA

·         Mallards – two males snoozing on a rock in stream

·         GBH – behind Mallards

·         Wood Duck – male & female in same view with Mallards & GBH

·         Common Merganser with a ball of 8-10 hatchlings on a rock

·         Immature Bald Eagle – gliding from behind in and just over our heads; he swooped up and started soaring a thermal in front of us; pretty impressive; this is near the place we saw an immature when we were here last October; same one?

·         Rose Breasted Grosbeak – male/female pair

·         Soaring Red Tail Hawk – only the second one of this trip

·         Common Sandpiper working the opposite shore

·         Warbling Vireo pair hanging out in a honeysuckle next to the trail

·         Common Raven pair soaring up at ridge level

 

Bike Data: 44.07 miles; 6 hrs bike time; 9.5 hrs total time

 

Wednesday 5/13/09 … Pettecote Junction CG, Cedar Run PA to Tioga-Hammond Corps of Engineers, Tioga PA …

Time to pull up stakes and move on. We may not have left the campground at only 5 mph, but we sure weren’t going to walk out! At least our “bucket of bolts” now has Arliss’s nut on its bolt to keep us from “rattle-clank-banging” on our way out of the quiet campground.  Our good weather was running out and pesky wind & rain were predicted for later today and tonight. We still have the new northern extension to do, so we headed up to Darling Run – our stopping point on yesterday’s ride. We parked RVan, geared up, and headed up the trail. It was very cool, although the temps would rise as soon as we got out of the shadow of the eastern ridge lining the “Grand Canyon Of The East”.

 

They’ve put up some information kiosks, and one of them has a panel explaining the geologic history of Pine Creek – the Holocene part. To my continuing amazement, it shows Pine Creek valley as being glaciated all the way down to Cedar Run. I see no obvious evidence for glaciation, but the sign clearly shows a tongue of the glacier going down the valley. The information clears up a confusion we’ve had. The upper reaches of Pine Creek flow from W to E along in a valley now occupied by US-6. At Ansonia, where it crosses the Pine Creek Trail, the stream makes a 90 degree bend and heads south forming the Grand Canyon. This bend occurs where Marsh Creek, another, smaller, and much more sluggish stream flows in from the N. Thus, at Ansonia, you have a “T” where the streams co-join. This has always been confusing to me. I assumed it must be glacially related, but, until seeing the sign, didn’t understand how.

 

The original Pine Creek flowed in its current channel until it got to what is now Ansonia. Then it continued on though an ever-widening valley that is now occupied by Marsh Creek – and lots of marshy areas. There is a recessional moraine just a little north of Ansonia that blocked the original W-E flow and caused a backup that eventually spilled over and cut the “Grand Canyon” and the new Pine Creek channel that heads generally southward and flows into the Susquehanna at Jersey Shore. It all makes much more sense now. Well, better sense than it did anyway ;-)

 

Pine Creek Trail (DCNR)

Pine Creek Trail Map (PDF)

 

As we biked along the northern extension, the valley got wider and wider … and marshier and marshier. Marsh Creek is just a meandering, muddy stream compared to the mountain stream that is Pine Creek. However, the different habitat means different wildlife. We were cranked to see some different things and we weren’t disappointed.

 

Wider valley means more area for civilization. More civilization means cell towers. We biked past the first one we’d seen since leaving NY. I had not been able to call Mom since we left, so I was due to check in. However, it was a bit early to be calling the woman who’s been known to stay a-bed until 10:30, so I just checked the connection and planned to call on the way back. When we reached the end of the trail, there was another cell tower within spittin’ distance. It was now around noon, so I made my call. She sounded like she had been sleeping, but it’s not the Big Sleep, so we are only constrained by the deteriorating weather … or so we thought.

 

Here are some of the things we saw on our morning ride.

 

·         Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker – mostly their sap wells are little rows of little holes, these were multiple large rectangular patches

·         Hooded Merganser - 2 sets of recent hatchlings each with female adult; one set was napping on recent beaver mud dam; all scurried away except one especially sleepy chick

·         Yellow Warbler – building a nest in honeysuckle adjacent to trail

·         Turtles – our first sightings of the trip; it’s getting warmer

·         Rough-Winged Swallows – soaring around over pond and adjacent wetlands

·         Bluebird eating Sumac flowers – like the Catbirds we saw the previous day

·         Marsh Hawk (Northern Harrier) – female soaring around very un-marshlike

 

We met up with two guys from Nature Quest doing an inventory prior to leading a tour. The senior guy thought the Marsh Hawk was maybe a Broad Winged then maybe an Accipiter and finally settled on Northern Harrier (Marsh Hawk). His younger companion, Brad, didn’t seem to have any opinion – he’s the one leading the upcoming tour. Good luck with that. We exchanged info about things we’ve seen – them and us – and the senior guy, who used to work for the DCNR, reminded us of the Bald Eagle nest at Darling Run. We remembered to check it out when we got back for lunch. There were two Eaglets bobbing up and down in the nest and an adult perched in a dead tree nearby. We got out the scope and watched while having our lunch.

 

As we were setting up for lunch and Eagle watching, we noticed an old car parked a few slots down from RVan. It was all beat up and sorta looked like it had been one of those junkers they use at take-out-your-frustrations-with-a-sledge-hammer contests. The driver’s window had been replaced by plastic and duct tape. It was clear plastic so you could see there was no one in the driver’s seat. Now, the most interesting part was … it was idling … and there was the pungent aroma of uncombusted gas. I assumed the driver was the fly fisherman we saw down at the creek, and he left his engine running because he was afraid it might not start if he turned it off. That’s what I thought - for the first half hour.

 

By the time we were into the second half hour of idling car, a couple DCNR guys showed up to mow the grass around the parking area, information booth, and bathrooms. I watched one of ‘em fire up a John Deere Z-Track just like mine. The other one got out his weed-whacker and did the edging. I sauntered over to the whacker guy, got his attention, and told him about the idling car. As it turns out, they’ve had deep budget cuts and there was only one guy remaining to do all the mowing. The fellow I spoke with was his supervisor who’d volunteered to help out. He shot a glance up at the car and said, “I’ll call it in.” I headed back to RVan just in time to watch the car pull out of the parking lot. I have no idea where the driver came from – he certainly wasn’t the fisherman. He must have been in the back seat … or out in the adjoining woods. Whatever, he shot me a menacing glance as he drove by. I yelled at the DCNR guy just as he was pulling out his communication device. Strange.

 

We talked a little bit to the other DCNR guy and learned that he used to work in the Rochester area delivering John Deere equipment. This has been an unusual trip in terms of meeting people. All of it rewarding in one way or another.

 

The weather was holding, so we decided to retrace our tracks from yesterday and bike down to Tiadaghton before heading up to Tioga-Hammond Reservoir to set up camp for the night. We were rewarded with a view of an adult Bald Eagle soaring high overhead. Could it be the mate to the one we had been watching at the nest? Probably. We got about halfway to Tiadaghton when I discovered yet another problem.

 

I’d been wondering about this sort of thing what with all the branches and twigs littering the trail – it was impossible to avoid running over all of ‘em. We were biking along down gradient with a significant tail wind, so I was pretty much just coasting for the most part. I found myself wondering if it would be so easy with the old larger, knobbier tires when I looked down at my front tire. It looked like I was biking through deep dust because I cold only see about half the bottom part of the tire. Hmmm, this is dry mud we’re biking on. My tire’s going flat!

 

Sure enough, when I stopped to check it out, it was only about half inflated. We could see a bench and a bike rack – what are the odds? - down the trail so we biked on to that. I removed the tire and searched for the offending object. There it was, the tiniest of thorns. How could such a little thing punch through the tread? Dunno, but it did. I always carry a spare inner tube, so I took up residence on the bench as started the repair process. When I tried to pump up the replacement inner tube, Janie could hear a loud hiss and no matter how much I pumped, it never inflated – just hissed at us. She thought the hissing was coming from the valve area, so maybe the pump was not securely seated on the valve. But I tried the pump on the punctured tube, which inflated properly. There must be something wrong with the replacement tube. After a bout of cussing and deep sighing, I got it out and handed it to Janie. She inspected it while I put the original tube back in – more cussing and sighing. While I was doing that, Janie discovered a long abraded place on the “good” tube. And where was the abraded place? Yeah, right next to the valve stem. Apparently, I’d been carrying this spare innertube around in my repair kit for a long time and the valve stem had worn a large hole in the otherwise good tube. Hence the hissing when we tried to pump it up.

 

The only option we had was to pump up the tube with the small hole and ride as far as we could before repeating the process. I knew it was a slow leak because I’d been watching it go down for some time and the thorn was, well, really very small. What appeared to be storm clouds were gathering during the half hour it took us to get back on the trail. We decided to call it a day and head back to RVan. As it turned out, the tube stayed inflated all the way back. In fact, it lasted until late that evening when I discovered it was dead flat again. Ah, but it was securely mounted on RVan and we’d declared an end to our Pine Creek biking for this trip. I’ll fix it all up when we get home.

 

Bike Data: 28.09 miles; 3.5 hrs bike time; 4.25 total time

 

We arrived at Tioga–Hammond Reservoir in the early evening. The retiree volunteer (wo)manning the entrance booth assigned us a really good site because “you’re just staying one night.” What if we’d been staying longer; would we get a crappy site? Actually there aren’t any crappy sites in this campground. They are all so good that normally they are all reserved at this time of year. It is run by the Corps of Engineers who are responsible for the three flood control dams in the area – gotta protect Corning. She gave us a site at the end of a loop with a grand view of the reservoir. We immediately got out the scope and started scanning the shore. Unfortunately, it was a pretty sterile view. We only saw a lonely Immature Common Loon and one male Mallard. Oh, there was a Bobolink off in the far-side mowed area. It was a glorious evening so we just hung out by the picnic table until the breeze kicked up and chilled us enough to force our retreat to RVan’s cozy warmth.

 

Thursday 5/14/09… Tioga-Hammond Corps of Engineers, Tioga PA to … Naweedna

 

It rained during the night and it was spitting rain as we left the campground. On the way out of the camping area, Janie caught a glimpse of an Osprey winging its way across the lake. That’s what we were hoping to see last evening – Osprey and Bald Eagle. Ah, but that would have to wait until lunch at Cowanesque Reservoir which is where we were heading.

 

We drove along the south side of Cowanesque checking out every pull out we encountered. At the first one we saw a nesting pole with a meager collection of sticks and maybe a head or two bobbing inside the nest – but no adult. We checked out a couple more boat launch areas but only saw another Immature Loon. When we got to the very last one, we decided to just pick a good spot and have our now overdue breakfast. I’d just finished orienting RVan and turned off the engine when Janie yelped, “There, just overhead …” It was a Bald Eagle gliding in at tree-top level and right in front of us. Then, just like the Immature Bald Eagle we saw on Pine Creek, it caught a thermal and started circling – right above us. Three Turkey Vultures joined in the giddiness, and we watched ‘em soaring higher and higher for a long time. There you go; this site is Eagle Approved.

 

After breakfast, Janie knit together a series of back roads that finally connected with our tried-and-true NY-36, which heads to Dansville to connect with NY-63, which in turn connects with East Groveland Road and eventually Naweedna’s driveway. We were home by mid afternoon and spent the rest of the day cleaning out RVan … and taking a much needed shower. We had a beer on the porch while savoring the residue of our outing. It really was grand and we hated to come back … always leave ‘em wanting more, you know.

 

Total Driving: 336 miles

 

Total Bike Data: 137 miles, 19 hrs bike time, 30 hrs total time