Sunday, July 27, 2014

Birthday Edition of Hiking with Dogs Day: Kelly's Run at Holtwood

Fifty four turns around the sun today and it's Sunday - Hiking With Dogs Day. The coonhounds and I walked the top two miles of the Kelly's Run Trail at Holtwood, Pennsylvania. It's a blue blazed six mile loop (not to be confused with the Mason Dixon Trail, also blue) that I've done many times, but because of senior coonhound Annie and her wobbly hip and slow pace and lots of lay-down breaks and drinking breaks and stopping in the trail to pee breaks - well - three miles/two hours/too hot was long enough for her.

Bug is SO HAPPY for Hiking With Dogs Day - Every Sunday!

I am truly blessed to live close to so many trails. I can reach over thirty different trailheads within a half hour drive of my home, even connect to the Appalachian Trail by way of the MDT and Horseshoe Trails, our two long distance trails here in the valley. Kelly's Run Trail and the Pinnacle Trail System of the PPL Holtwood Dam properties are very popular as they go through some of the most rugged and most beautiful Susquehanna ravine forests and loop as circuits. 

Many property owners give permission for the Kelly's Run Trail to cross their fields and woodlots - walk respectfully.

Sunday mornings can bring out the best hikers. I met a man and his hiking buddy, Bob the Beagle. I am not always comfortable taking pictures of random people on the trail, so my stories will have to do. The man was Old Order Mennonite (they don't care for picture taking anyway) walking the trail down to a neighbor's house for Sunday prayer and group singing. We said 'Good Morning!" and stood a few minutes to chat about hounds - a favorite topic among the Amish who still hunt with dogs. He complimented Bug and Annie and explained that today was Bob's birthday. "Oh, so is mine!" The Amish hiker threw up both hands and sang "Happy Birthday!" and presented me with a bag full of ripe raspberries! 

Kelly's Run Trail follows the old Holtwood Road, perfect for hiking directy to the creek and river.

Small-leafed Cupflower along the trail was full of many species of Halictid bee.

The trail crossed over some open fields, down through the woods, and down a very steep section. Bug and Annie were hogging the narrow path when a family of four came up from the bottom section. They were beat. The temperature and humidity was rising and they looked sooo tired. I had to step off trail and tug on the coonies to clear the way. I stepped right into a HUGE patch of wild raspberries. "Oh, look!" I said to them as they huffed past. You would've thought I had handed them ice water. "OH MY GOD!" they all cried together and the youngest one said "You can eat these?!" Before I could step out of my accidental discovery the family was devouring the berries. And laughing. Their frowns turned upside down over those berries! 

Maple Looper clinging to a walnut sapling.

Once on the old Holtwood Road it was easier to let the dogs spread out. Annie sat down and decided to rest. I explored the brush around her and discovered some nice caterpillars. A large and long Maple Looper  clung lengthwise to a walnut twig. At almost three long inches, this highly variable brown and grey caterpillar will soon transform into a handsome two-toned brown moth.  With Annie still sitting, I explored some more and found a stunning Abbott's Sphinx moth caterpillar climbing the post that held a PA Game Commission sign. Handsome!

Abbott's Sphinx moth caterpillar.

Annie decided it was time to continue. She knows this path well, and knows too that at the bottom is some fine, cold drinking water spilling down Kelly's Run into the Susquehanna.  An older couple and their black lab were practically sprinting up the road. We stepped aside to let them pass and the woman, in her seventies I'm sure, fit as a fiddle, called back "We left you plenty of berries!"

Bouncing Bet on the old Holtwood Road.

At the bottom of the hill, our long rest break awaited. Bug waded deep into Kelly's Run while Annie drank her fill of the cold mountain-born waters from the rocky bank. This is our turn around spot for today. Annie was feeling the heat and her hip I'm sure was getting stiff. She laid across the cold stone bank and began to pant-snore, her signature sleeping sound. I let her to rest and took Bug further up the run. Soon we were shrouded in a thick forest of Rhododendron and I was lucky to get a few shots of the last blossoms of the summer. With bees, of course. 

Bumblebee probes a few of the last Rhododendron blossoms of the year.

The 'hood' or top petal of a Rhodie blossom is a welcome sign for bees.

Thick, glossy leaves adapted for humid, wet ravines.

With Annie peacefully snoring behind us, Bug waded some more, and I admired the last little cascade of Kelly's Run. Most people who come to this trail hike further up, along a tumbling, noisy stair-steps of waterfalls and boulder gardens, but at the bottom (few people come all the way down - knowing they have to hike all they way back up), there is just this one little spigot.  I'll be back soon to do the whole circuit when it gets cooler, but old Annie will have to stay home. I don't think she'll argue as she is quite the sofa hound now and her long hiking days, I'm sad to say, are over.

The bottom of Kelly's Run as it empties into the Susquehanna

As we headed back up the old Holtwood Road I met two hikers with full packs. We stopped and chatted. Annie laid back down. They were spending the weekend doing the complete Pinnacle Circuit, two nights out, three days hiking. They mentioned how remote it all felt, being from just south of the state line in Maryland.  "It's nice to know you can just put on your pack and head out for a few days so close to home," said one of the hikers. The other man grinned and added " And the raspberries are incredible!"

The hike back up the old road and the top-wise blue-blazed trail to the Holtwood Arboretum was punctuated by Annie's 'breaks' - laying down, peeing, eating berries (yes, she does that). I will admit that once we crossed the big hayfield, through the searing sun, I laid down with her in the breezy shade when the trail ducked back into the woods. The cool grassy flat was a wonderful place to spend a much-needed rest break with this old hound dog. 

Annie, the Old Coonhound.


PPL maintains the trails very well throughout the area, as do volunteers of scouts and a Friends group.

Mid-Atlantic Hikes group does a good review of this and other PPL hikes in the area. A great website!

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