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Sunday, May 31, 2020

A Pig Tale on the Horse-Shoe Trail

Franklin the Pig was on the loose.  We didn't know it when we started this hike on a section of the Horse-Shoe Trail in Lancaster County, stretching west from PA 322 to PA 501, across the lands of Edward J. Mack Scout Reservation.  But there is no disputing that Franklin would prevail in the end:

Our hike began innocently enough, although we were bemused to find that a petting zoo and a Pretzel Hut restaurant occupied our trailhead when we started the hike.  We had to walk through the petting zoo as we proceeded up the trail.  Luckily, admission was free:

We have to admit, the petting zoo featured some pretty unusual creatures, including this gorgeous peacock:

There was also an all-white, albino peacock, a number of pigs and piglets, and some goats, one cute little kid that David tried to photograph, but his shot was photobombed by a non-socially-distant toddler.  As a result, we have no baby goat photo to share with you.

But we digress.  There is no doubt we were on the Horseshoe Trail, despite these distractions:

Some ways up the trail, we stopped to tie bootlaces and grab a sip of water.  Kathy posed with a V-shaped tree --

-- and David found an inverted-V-tree:

This being the forest, trees were everywhere -- even this skeleton of an old Ent that probably blew down in a windstorm some 10-20 years ago:

About a mile up the trail, we encountered this group of horse riders, who were out to celebrate the birthday of one of their members.  As we headed west toward PA 501, they were heading east from that trailhead.  Little did we know that these happy horse riders would figure centrally in a porcine drama later in the day:

About a mile-and-a-half into our hike, we reached the height of land at Eagle Rock.  Here, Kathy poses with the rock --

-- and here is Eagle Rock itself.  You can tell because it's name is tatooed on its face:

The spot is called Eagle Rock Overlook because, back in the day, this is what you could see from there -- obviously an overlook with a view north across beautiful Lancaster County:

The trouble is, that the woods have grown, and our overlook has overgrown.  From that same spot, we saw nothing but leafy trees and blue sky.  Oh, well.

Local plant life provided some beautiful sights, such as these fallen blossoms --

-- and these beginning blooms of mountain laurel:

Our plan was to hike 6 miles, so as we reached the 3-mile mark, where we would turn around, we spotted this little glen, through which burbled a little brook.  It was slightly off the trail, which allowed us to lunch in a socially distant fashion:

Having lunched, we retraced our steps.  As luck would have it, we re-encountered our horseback riders just about at the same place we had met them coming the opposite direction.  They were headed back to their horse trailers at the western trailhead.  We greeted them and they us.  But then they shouted, "A pig is following us!  He's been following us all the way from the petting zoo.  Can you try to get him to head back where he came from?"

Here is a photo of little porky making friends with one of the horses.  This photo is courtesy of the horseback riders, who immediately posted about the experience on the Horseshoe Trail Facebook page as soon as they finished their ride.  Obviously, the little feller made friends with the horses at the petting zoo and decided to take a hike with them as they left on their return ride:

The pig would not be turned back.  He refused to stop, and trotted up the trail after the horses.  So we resolved to tell the petting zoo's managers that we had spotted him on the trail.  When we returned to our trailhead, we found a volunteer staffer, who thanked us.  She told the petting zoo owner, who asked her to speed up the trail to find the pig.

Turns out the pig's name was Franklin, according to the horseback riders' FB post.  They related that the petting zoo volunteer had found them back at their horse trailers and tracked down little Franklin.  So the story has a happy ending.

We just wish we could have seen Franklin riding the motor bike back down the trail to the petting zoo.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Praying for Par at Chapel Hill

Wednesday, May 27, 2020
Hi Blog!

The last time we went golfing was in Myanmar with Matt and William over the Christmas Holiday. We were hoping this spring to hone our golf game so that we would be ready to golf again with Matt and William when they return to the U.S. in July. However, Covid-19 closed all the golf courses and driving ranges back in March. Things are just beginning to open up here in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. We are looking forward to getting our game on. 

Just a few miles from our campground is the Chapel Hill Golf Course. We were able to arrange a tee time and payments over the internet.

Chapel Hill Golf Course began as a driving range and chip and putt in the late 1980’s.  From the late 80’s to early 90’s the current golf course was under construction and by 1992 Chapel Hill Golf Course was completed.  Boasting trees and plenty of water, Chapel Hill was designed by Donald Holloway of Sinking Spring, Pennsylvania. The entire course and property has been owned and managed by the Holloway Family since Chapel Hill’s inception. There are lots of homey touches around the course.

Since we haven't golfed in months, we decided to take it easy on each other. We opted to play best ball and share the score for each hole. We also opted to tee off from the easiest tee box. For most of the day, Dave's drive was always 20 yards longer than Kathy's. However, Kathy had her fair share of approach shots.

As Kathy rummaged through her bag for a pretty ball, she found a bright pink Flying Lady with "Gaila" printed across the surface. The last time this ball saw action was in 2016 during our Boomerville - Tuff Golf outing. If you are curious about desert golf, click this link. Unfortunately, Gaila's ball did not make it to the turn. She lived a short and happy life and died by drowning in the creek that runs through the course.

In order to promote social distancing, only one golfer is allowed in the club house at any time. Masks must be worn in the buildings. Only one golfer is allowed per golf cart, unless you are sheltering together. The golf course management warned that there may not be enough golf carts to go around. However, they were more than happy to let us walk the course, and we were more than happy to do so!

We did our best to keep ahead of the next set of golfers. Even using the short tees, we had four holes over 300 yard and the longest was 387. By the time we finished, we had walked more than three and half miles.

After losing Gaila, Kathy pulled out a bright blue ball called "Van Gogh." This was Nan Finlayson's favorite ball. It, too, found a watery respite from the heat.

Hole 17 is a par 3. It was only 107 yards to the pin. However, it was 107 yards straight up a steep hill. This picture taken from the green doesn't do it justice.

After climbing the hill at 17, we were beat from the heat. We finished with a double bogey on 18.  Our final score was 88 on this Par 70 course - for a solid bogey game. It was a good start. We celebrated completing the course with burgers and beers as we watched the afternoon golfers tee off.

We have had three nice weather days this week. Today's round of golf completes our trifecta. We paddled on Monday, fly-fished on Tuesday and golfed on Wednesday. 

The weather is not looking good over the next few days, so it may be a while before we blog again. 

Until then, stay safe my friends.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Today the Fishing Was For the Birds

Tulpehocken Creek empties Blue Marsh Lake, where we have hiked and paddled, and empties into the Schuylkill River in Berks County, Pennsylvania.  It is a beautiful trout stream and is stocked annually.  Just below the spillway of Blue Mark Lake's dam, in Stilling Basin, begins a section of Tulpehocken Creek that only permits artificial lures and requires delayed harvest (June 15).  Prior to that date, it is only catch-and-release.

That's okay, our 2019 Alaska trip, and all of its daily catches of fat trout for dinner did not spoil us for catch-and-release fishing, which seems a little like only getting to third base -- but we digress.

This was our first fly-fishing outing of the season in Pennsylvania, and we were excited to get back into the swing of things and explore the stream.  Here's where we parked at Stilling Basin, looking upstream toward the spillway.  Our wading would take us the other way.

This is an extraordinarily heavily fished stream in normal times, but in this era of Covid-19 lockdown, which still affects this area, many more fisherman are out on the stream weekdays to cast away their Covid blues.  We arrived before 8am, which is relatively early, and already we counted six fishermen on the stream just in the first 1/8 mile.  Combat fishing, they call it.

Kathy seized a location just below the spillway which, for some reason, was not presently occupied.  David hiked down a way to look for a likely -- and empty -- spot.  It wasn't long before David found this pretty little stretch, which boasted a pretty view upstream, a barrier of rocks to create a pool and a channel for fishy delights --

Looking downstream, which is this view from Kathy's camera toward David, you can see how the stream stretches leisurely through the rural Pennsylvania hills:

Kathy picked a rocky peninsula for her fishing, too, and in the photo below demonstrates the proper enthusiasm that a fly-fisher should bring to the stream:

No sooner had David gotten to his perch at the end of his rocky outcrop, than he was joined by a whole host of feathered observers:

When Kathy came on the scene, the first arrival, a great blue heron was perched across the stream watching Dave fish:

The heron had flown to a branch high above the stream and assessed whether Dave presented any danger --

-- then s/he flew down to streamside and spent the next 2 hours watching him.  We assume that local birds have learned that, if a fisherman is standing still, then there must be fish in the offing.  This one was clearly awaiting lunch:

After half an hour or so, the heron started moving along the water, trying to do its own fishing:

It carefully assessed a dead trunk jutting out of the water --

-- and worked its way up to a more strategic perch --

-- eventually reaching the right spot:

Eventually, after a full two hours, the heron grew tired waiting for Dave to catch its lunch.  It flew off and Dave caught it in this stop-motion sequence, as it moved downstream for greener fishy pastures:

But the heron wasn't the only observer.  Immediately after the heron first arrived, first one vulture approached, circled --

-- and landed in a nearby tree, followed, over the next half hour, by three other vultures.  Eventually, they all were perched there calmly, pretending not to watch this fisherman to see if some piece of trout might be left behind for their nourishment:

Not just the heron.  Not just the vultures.  Ducks arrived.  This duck flew upstream, eyeing Dave's line as it passed.  It seemed to disappear, but --

-- in fact it landed, with its mate, behind Dave and poked around the stream bank, gobbling bugs and fry, but always eyeing the fisherman.  Eventually, the ducks made a sound.  Dave turned around to see them kibitzing, but when they spotted his gaze --

-- they took off downstream post haste:

But that's still not all!  The ducky ruckus startled a mother duck and her ducklings, who figured that there must be some disaster approaching, and they scooted out into the current and headed downstream, away from the only obvious source of danger -- the fisherman:

Neither of us caught any trout.  Kathy caught a little bluegill, and Dave got four or five hard nibbles in a pool near his spot.  We saw lots of rises, which only added insult ("I'm actually here...") to injury ("...but you can't catch me...").  After nearly three-and-a-half hours of hunting the elusive salmonid, we hung up the waders and returned to our campground to handle the mundane life of chores.

You can see from this why we titled this blog, "Today the Fishing Was For the Birds."

But our day was brightened by a Zoom Happy Hour call with our good RV friends, Bob and Cathy.  We enjoyed hearing about their adventures, comparing notes about hunkering down from the virus, and commiserating about other matters of present existence.  We wished each other safe travels and agreed to tune back into each other this Fall when we all start dealing with the onset of cold weather.

But for now, the weather is warm, the trout are calling, and we can't wait for our next fishing trip!

Monday, May 25, 2020

Paddling Middle Creek Lake

Monday, May 25, 2020
Hi Blog!

Today is Memorial Day. This weekend has always been special for our family. Every Memorial Day Weekend we traveled to the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania for three days of Rug Rat Camping. After eight years of being on the road, we were going to hold a Rug Rat Camping Reunion this year. Well, that all went to hell in a hand basket when Covid-19 put the region in lockdown. Rather than sit around the RV park feeling sorry for ourselves, we decided to head out for some socially distanced kayaking.

We were interested in exploring Middle Creek Reservoir. The reservoir is over 369 acres. We were not sure we'd be able to make it all the way around, but were willing to give it a go. When we arrived at the boat launch, we sadly learned that most of the reservoir is set aside as part of a bird sanctuary and fish propogation area. The boaters and fisherman are confined to only 40 acres -- about 1/10 of the entire lake. 

Well, we're here. Might as well make the best of it.

As we began our paddle, the clouds began to thin out.

The winds were light, creating small ripples on the water.

You shall not pass.

After reaching the end of the permitted boating area, we turned and followed the "Closed Area" buoys backs across the lake.

With no particular place to go, we leisurely paddled back down the lake.

By paddling right next to the closed area buoys, we had an unimpeded view of the lake.

When we reached the far end of the permitted paddling area, we worked our way along the shoreline toward the spillway. Fishermen lined the banks, so we had to stay a way off the shoreline as we followed it.

Old stumps make great nurseries.

To keep us from falling over the spillway, a string of large red-orange buoys warn us of the impending danger.

This picture makes you think we had the whole lake to ourselves.

During our second trip around the permitted boating area, we tried to pick out some really cool features like this small stand of tulies.

We had to give this tree a wide berth as it reached its arms out into the lake.

We found an old stump to raft up for lunch. As we munched our sandwiches, we watched the lake trout leap out of the water in pursuit of their lunch.

One last pass.

In three laps, we managed to kayak 4 miles. It was a good day on the water.

Back at camp, it was time to get the camp fire going so we could roast our purple Brussels sprouts.

Tomorrow, we hope to check out the fly fishing only section of the Tulpehocken Creek. Stay tuned and stay safe!