Monday, April 3, 2017

PA Lock 12 to PA Game Lands #181

I've walked this path many times and was happy to lead a small group from the Philadelphia Chapter of the American Pilgrims on the Camino (APOC). The weather could not have been more perfect for this group of past and future Camino hikers, many of whom drove over an hour to walk this section in the Mason Dixon Trail with me.  In my opinion, this 8 mile section of the MDT is one of the most remote and most beautiful.

The river was rolling today! Snow melt from New York and northern PA. Photo by Kim.

The Susquehanna was thundering over Holtwood Dam. Snow melt from central New York and northern Pennsylvania is raising the river by several feet and that, added to the much needed rain we had last week, made for some pretty rough waters below the dam. Even the ever-present white water kayakers stayed away.  Our hike took us up to the rocky bluff high above the river valley and as far as the eye could see upriver and down, the Susquehanna was fat and fast with gray-green flood water.

Roy, Philly Chapter outings coordinator, loved his first exploration on the MDT.

Spring is here! In the low creek valleys and down along the river banks we saw wildflowers just beginning to bloom. The River Hills area is known nationally for spring wildflower blossoming. People make pilgrimages up many of the remote creek valleys on both sides of the river to witness the week's long event. For most of our hike we had two spectacular steep ravine creeks to ourselves, and when we weren't threading our way through thickets of rhododendron, we were gawking at the beds of bluebells, Dutchman's britches, toothwort, and coltsfoot.

Virginia bluebells.
Dutchman's Britches.
Oak Run, a step ravine creek valley is loaded with waterfalls and wildflowers.
Rocky outcrops at every turn on Oak Run.  Photo by Kim.
The water was pretty high on the ravine creeks, too. At our final creek crossing we had to wet-foot across, boots slung over our shoulders. I noted my FOY Eastern Phoebe, Blue-winged Warbler, and Pine Warbler. A fellow Camino hiker and I exchanged notes about the birds we saw in Spain and what I think was a beech marten. Matt actually snapped a photo of his sighting and had it stored on his phone. It was exactly the white-fronted mustelid that I saw on a stone wall on the Camino Frances, while his sighting happened in a thick forest meadow on the Camino Norte.The marten stood on hind legs to look at him and he captured a perfect picture! 

Wet-foot stream crossing, putting sock and boots back on. Refreshing!
A mile-long slog up the hill to the shuttle cars waiting at the Gamelands parking area was just the huff-and-puff we needed to finish our hike with a flourish on the top of the plateau four miles from the river. Thanks to my hiking partner Kim for helping with the shuttle and for two of her shots taken along the way. Everyone had a great hike and many want to come back to hike more of the Susquehanna's many beautiful trails.

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