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Saturday, October 31, 2020

First Snow on Tobyhanna Lake

 On Friday, October 30, 2020, we woke up to snow.  It had started in the early hours and was due to continue until noon.  The early snowfall had already dusted everything around our mountain cottage:

We had resolved, earlier in this stay, to take a hike at Tobyhanna Lake the first time it snowed here, and we eagerly grabbed our hiking clothes, hopped in the Jeep, and made the short drive up to Tobyhanna Lake.  We decided to hike from the boat ramp, up past the beach, and on to the stream and the campground road where Ruthie and Maggie Puppy had had so much fun on our earlier hikes with Katie, Matt, Weina and William.  From our first steps on the trail, we were not disappointed.  The new snow graced the browns of bare trees and made a winter's counterpoint to the late colors of burnt umber and orange leaves:

It would have been spectacular if the sky had been porcelain blue, but the lake still gave up a new mood as we paused to look out to the opposite shore:

We thought about stopping and sitting on one of the trail benches to gaze at leisure on the lake, but the bench was too snowy, so we took in the view standing up:

It is just a quick half mile to the beach from the boat ramp.  We were not sure how many people would be there enjoying the first snow, but we were pleasantly surprised that we were the first to put our bootprints in the snow, and no one else was in sight.  Everything had the look of a sepia-toned dagguerotype:

We hiked on from the beach, and, by now, the snow had reached its peak, coating the branches of the trees:

We reached one of the two largest inlet streams, where recent rains had swollen the creek until it nearly filled a culvert under the trail.  When we had been here a few weeks ago, the stream merely trickled through the culvert:

In this photo, David stands below the culvert, enjoying the last splashes of Autumn color around the water:

We decided to hike on to the top of the lake, where Tobyhanna Creek empties into the lake.  The name, "Tobyhanna" is said to be Native American for "a stream whose banks are fringed with alder."  We weren't sure whether the trees along the banks were alder, but we could imagine the Shawnee, or the Lenape Delaware or Munsee Delaware tribes camped along the stream, fishing, smoking their catch, and gathering berries in season.  By now, especially with snow, they would probably be hunkered down, perhaps in wigwams, but, beyond this, we're not sure where or how they might have spent the winter here.  We realize there is so little we know of human history.

Full of ponderous thought, we came about and returned along the trail the way we had come.  The one splash of color we saw on the entire hike, other than the browning orange leaves, was this blue trail blaze:

We enjoy winter hikes and snowshoes, but it is difficult to do them often because we are not comfortable camping in our RV where we might encounter deep snow.  The last time we had a chance to snowshoe was near Prescott, Arizona in February 2019 where, hunkered down from a large storm that only produced rain where we camped in Salome, Arizona, we drove our Jeep two hours or so to enjoy the fresh, deep powder in the mountains near Prescott (see our blog entry, "Postholing in Snowizona").  One of the reasons we decided to shelter from Covid in the Poconos of Pennsylvania was to have a chance to enjoy the snow just outside our door.  This first snowy hike at Tobyhanna Lake offered a good omen for that!

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Red Rock Trail to Mount Sophia

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Hi Blog! 

On Saturday, we had a nice socially distant visit with Kathy's sister, Eileen, and her husband Tom. We finally got a chance to put a fire in our backyard fire ring. However, we were so busy kibitzing, grilling turkey burgers and sampling craft beer, we forgot to take photos.

After yesterday's frivolity, we decided to take it easy Sunday morning. The weather had turned much colder, so we were not in hurry to hit the trail. Since we got a late start, we decided to hike one of the shorter trails in our neighborhood. The Mount Airy Trail Network is maintained by the Mount Airy Casino in cooperation with Monroe County and Paradise Township for visitors and residents of the Pocono Mountains. We decided to hike the Red Rock Loop to Mount Sophia.

Here we are bundle against the cold.

There is no hunting permitted in this area, so we could leave our orange outfits behind.

We had a short climb to reach the start of the Red Rock Trail.

The path was well signed. We were surprised to discover at least five side trails. While today's hike was only 2.5 miles, we feel confident that we could make a whole day of it by following the various side trails. This area would also be great for snowshoeing.

While the leaves are past their peak in our area, there is still plenty of color to be found.

We learned a new expression this morning while watching CBS Sunday Morning - Forest Bathing. In Japan, they practice something called forest bathing, or shinrin-yoku. Shinrin in Japanese means “forest,” and yoku means “bath.” So shinrin-yoku means bathing in the forest atmosphere, or taking in the forest through our senses.  It is simply being in nature, connecting with it through our senses of sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch. Shinrin-yoku is like a bridge. By opening our senses, it bridges the gap between us and the natural world.  Below, Kathy waits for Dave to bridge the gap.

Being in no particular hurry, we took the time to read all the informational signs along the trail. One in particular talked about the various layers of the forest. 

The forest floor is often blanketed with decaying leaves, twigs, fallen trees and other detritus. Many of Dave's favorite fun guys can be found on the forest floor layer.

The herbaceous layer of the forest is dominated by soft-stemmed plants such as grasses, ferns, wildflowers, and other ground covers. 

Next up comes the shrub layer, followed closely behind by the understory. The understory contains immature trees and small trees.

You have to look up to see the canopy layer. The canopy is the layer where the crowns of most of the forest's trees meet and form a thick layer.  Above the canopy is the emergent layer. Emergents are trees whose crowns emerge above the rest of the canopy.

On the far side of the Red Rock Loop is a one mile spur trail that leads you to the summit of Mount Sophia. Dave points the way.

When we did our research on this trail, we discovered a local newspaper article on the trail system. It mentioned that Red Rock Trail provided great views of the surrounding mountains. By the time we came to the end of the Mount Sophia spur, we realized those views must have been visible years ago, before the summit became shrouded in trees.

After a picnic lunch, we began our return. On our way back, we chatted with two other hiking couples, about our age, who were out forest bathing themselves.  One couple are professional photographers.  While they were disappointed with the lack of a view at the top of Mount Sophia, they agreed with us that the forest still boasts many beautiful shapes, colors and vistas.

Most of the drama is found in small details.  As an example, we leave you with this image of fern in fall:

Friday, October 23, 2020

Fall Color on the Devil's Hole Loop Trail

 This story is an example of a hiking trail that offered us much more than we anticipated when we planned the hike.  Devil's Hole Loop Trail is described in All Trails, a hiker website, as follows:

"Devil's Hole Loop is a 4.5 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near Mount Pocono, Pennsylvania that features beautiful wild flowers and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking and nature trips and is best used from April until October."

We thought we would have a nice walk in the woods with some late fall colors.  Boy, did we underestimate this hike!  Here we our, in our pre-trail innocence:

The trail did not even wait a quarter mile before surprising us.  No sooner did we get past the Game Lands gate, than we entered a long, narrow, downward sloping tunnel of gigantic rhododendrons.  They were so big that they dwarfed us:

We thought, "Hey, what a great, unexpected reward!"  Already we were happy with our hike.  But just wait.

Here was our first view of Devil's Hole Creek:

Apparently there is no firm record why this area is known as Devil's Hole.  One of the local legends is that there was a bottomless lake in the area and anyone who swam in it sank and went to Hell—hence the name “Devil’s Hole.” The lake is said to have disappeared after the large flood that hit the area in 1955.  It is possible to imagine that the rocky terrain hides large caverns or spaces underground -- although none are known -- which might have swallowed up the lake when a flood or earthquake shifted the terrain.

We knew none of this as we hiked, but we did know that this stream was very pretty and drew us further and further into our hike.

Some hikers describe this trail as rocky, indistinct and unmarked.  That is all true, but we feel lucky enough to have experience trail-finding and bushwhacking, and we soon learned that the entire trail follows old woods roads.  At every turn, the trail was distinct enough for us to find it, and it led us through some beautiful terrain:

If you read the AllTrails description above, you will notice that it says nothing about stream crossings.  We just want you, and any future hikers, to know that this hike involves FIVE stream crossings.  While none have formal improvements such as bridges, etc.,  There are many rocks in convenient places, and we were able to accomplish all our crossings (admittedly in the Fall during lower water levels) simply by rock-hopping.  Here, David demonstrates the correct procedure for dancing across the water without getting any toes wet:

Within a mile or so, we came across these unsigned ruins situated near the creek.  We had no idea what they might be:

According to the website, Atlas Obscura, which we consulted after our hike, these ruins may have been built in the 1920's or 1930's, and could have been a ski lodge, resort, speakeasy or magnificent home.  As surprising as it may be, no one has found records to confirm what the ruins were.  The website states, "Whatever it was, it’s suspected that the building met its demise in the mid-1950s, either by a large fire or possibly [the flood that hit this area in 1955, referred to above]."

The most credible explanation of the ruins appears on a website called, "DCSki," which documents ski resorts, including a section exploring "lost ski area."  The author of the section on Devil's Hole did a substantial amount of investigation and analysis on the site and concludes, with significant credibility, that it was a ski resort.  He found remnants of old ski tow lines and what appear to be graded ski runs.  He buttresses his arguments with information from satellite photos and topographical maps.

Still, however, no one knows what the resort was, its name, or any further details.

We just could not ponder these mysteries for very long, because the late fall colors, and the leaves falling like snow around us, kept distracting us.  We were lucky to keep our footing on the rocky trail, we were so taken with the foliage:

We have spent October moving into a mountain cottage in Tobyhanna, Pennsylvania which will be our Covid Retreat for the winter of 2020-2021.  Unfortunately, we've done more than our share of cleaning and dusting and vacuuming and wet-mopping -- whether of our new cottage retreat or to store our motorhome in the driveway for the winter.  One thing we are familiar with is dust.  We marvel where dust can gather and how dusty things can get.  Yet, as we took this break from our labors and enjoyed the mountain scenery, we marvelled at how UNdirty and UNdusty the woods are!  Look at those crisp, clean lines and colors.  Not a dust mote to be found.  Even the fungi are beautiful, crispy white, without a smudge of dirt:

Our hike was advertised to be 4.1 miles.  With a side-trail out to a viewpoint, where we decided to stop for lunch, the total mileage was 5.5 miles.  At about halfway, we found the end of the sidetrail, which was marked with a fire ring and wooden cairn, and we recognized that we had gotten to our "viewpoint."  While there was no clear view from this spot, however, we nevertheless stopped and ate our lunch:

While eating lunch, we discovered a short, steep trail down the hillside toward the far stream valley.  Kathy led the way and found a beautiful viewpoint that reminded us of some of the views from Raccoon Ridge on the Appalachian Trail near the Mohican Outdoor Center, which we frequented with our Appalachian Mountain Club friends some 10-15 years ago (has it been that long???):

We finished lunch and returned to the main trail, which now began its steady descent back to Devil's Hole Creek.  Along the way, we marveled at complete hillsides filled with red splashes of high-bush blueberry bushes.  In this particular spot, one yellow-green-leafed plant dares to erupt through the riot of red:

We walked across a wide, flat plain that was so remarkable, it caused David to remark, "This must have been a very large river at one time, because it created such a big floodplain."  More likely, perhaps, is that we were hiking across the former lakebed of Devil's Hole Lake!

The silvery-blue colors evoked by the rocks and fog struck a calming counterpoint to the colorful fall leaves:

This trail was not done with its surprises.  At about mile 4 we ran into an old stone cabin -- obviously once a residence but now apparently an informal winter warming hut.  It was intact, with a good, though old and primitive roof.  It sat at a point where our old woods road trail suddenly became a very distinct gravel, then macadam, road.  Either this was the home of a settler who carved a road up to his place, or it was the residence of a watchman who kept a keen eye on highway construction equipment a quarter of a mile or so down the old road.

All we know is that it is now known as, "The Cabin":

And if you thought that there was no highway construction equipment for the cabin resident to watch over, well, my friend, think again.  David found this piece of machinery whose pistons are as shiny stainless steel as they day they were born.  The equipment seemed to be used in a rock and gravel mining operation for the construction of nearby roads, but we learned no more than that.  David was pleased just to sit on the seat of history:

From here, we hiked back down to Devil's Hole Creek, crossed it one last time, and climbed back up through the Rhododendron Tunnel to the trailhead parking lot, where we met some young hikers that had popped over to explore the trail but had stopped at the creek without really crossing it or exploring it, and had no idea what adventures this trail would offer them, if only they would accept the invitation and dive across Devil's Hole Creek.

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Eddie and George Begin Their Poconos Hibernation

Winter is coming, Eddie and George.  You'd better get ready for your hibernation.

We moved into our Poconos cottage on October 1, 2020.  While it is fully furnished, we had lots of work to do to make it our own and make it homey for our 6 month stay here.

The cottage has a pretty setting:

The boys set right to work.  Eddie ordered some furniture that would be useful, and the deliveries started the very day we arrived!  It was George's job to assemble the furniture while Eddie got the kitchen into shape.  In the photo below, George scratches his head about the next step in assembling the hall tree for our coats and shoes:

Eddie was less confused.  Here, she is whipping the kitchen into shape:

It was a long day's work, and everyone was exhausted by the time dinner arrived.  After dinner, Eddie and George joined Bubu Bear and Rugie Bear in a quiet evening of television before their well-earned first night's sleep in their new home:

It took a couple of days to finish the move-in chores, but the bears were up to the challenge.  They finally sank into bed and began their long Poconos winter hibernation:

"Good night, George."

"Good night, Eddie.  See you in April."

Winterizing Buster or Lessons in Murphy's Law

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Hi Blog!

Did you know that Murphy's Law ("If anything can go wrong, it will go wrong and usually does go wrong.") was born at Edwards Air Force Base in 1949. It was named after Capt. Edward A. Murphy, an engineer working on Air Force Project MX981, designed to see how much sudden deceleration a person can stand in a crash. One day, after finding that a transducer was wired wrong, he cursed the technician responsible and said, "If there is any way to do it wrong, he'll find it." The contractor's project manager kept a list of "laws" and added this one, which he called Murphy's Law.

Now, you might be wondering why we started this blog by mentioning Murphy's Law. Well, for the first time in almost 9 years of RVing, we are winterizing our RV.  What could possible go wrong. After all, thousands of RVers put their rigs to bed every winter.  However, Mr. Murphy's Law kept running through our heads.

Dave studied the Owner's Manual and came up with a game plan.

First, empty the hot water heater. While the anode rod couldn't be saved, the draining of the tank went more or less as planned, well except for the wet shoes.

Next, give the holding tanks a good cleaning. We use this short extension hose to drop down through the compartment floor when we have the sewer hose hooked up for longer stays. In three years, we have never had a problem with this little hose, until today. Yes, it popped off just as the black tank was emptying. Dave to the rescue. Needless to say, his shoes are now beyond just wet.

With the sewer hose firmly in place, it was time to clean up. Unfortunately, the water spigot was frozen open. The campground attached a splitter, however, one side of the splitter wouldn't shut off. High pressure water began spewing from the faucet. Dave was able to muscle the broken splitter down to a mere trickle. With all the water than sprayed, Dave's shoes, while even more wet, were at least a lot cleaner.

Once the holding tanks were empty, it was time to use the air compressor to "blow out" the water lines. As we unpacked the compressor, one of the handles on the clamp was missing. Seriously Murphy, haven't we suffered enough!

After 9 years of RVing, we have amassed an amazing tape collection - scotch tape, double-sided tape, duct tape, metal tape, teflon tape, masking tape, painters tape, 3M industrial double-sided tape and insulated electrical tape. After a quick wrap, the handle of the clamp was good as new. Adding the antifreeze went according to the instructions. Perhaps Mr. Murphy heard our prayers after all.

The RV is now parked in the driveway of our rental house in Tobyhanna, PA. It will get a good cleaning before going into hibernation. In the meantime, we are busy nesting in our new temporary home. Ruby was happy to help line the cupboards with new self paper. She's such a good little helper!

It may take a few weeks to settle in, but we hope to get out and explore our new neighborhood. Stay tuned.