Monday, July 6, 2015

Big Valley Vista - in the rain

It isn't often that Scott and I get a Saturday off together and even more unusual for us to get an entire weekend to go hit the highways and byways. The last two weekends the stars aligned for us, we headed north... romped in the woods a bit... and then spent time with my parents before heading home.  It really makes for a good weekend for all of us. Forest time + family time = fun time... every time.

This past weekend we added our new vehicle to the mix... it was the maiden voyage for the dogs in the XTerra... I kept it dog hair free for less than two weeks but one of the reasons we chose it was because there was room for the dogs....

Big Valley Vista was our target for the July 4 trek. When we woke up to rain and fog, no one in the house was disappointed. In fact...  I was hopeful it meant very few people on the trail. The short loop we planned is easily accessible from Route322 and there is certainly a more direct route than the one we took but the joy is in the journey for us...

Leaving home, we headed up 74 and stopped at Waggoner's Gap Hawk Watch at the top of Blue Mountain. This is a 20 acre piece of land owned by the Audubon Society. We'll have to return another day when there is less fog. Based on the beer cans, hawk watching isn't the only activity that takes place at the tower.

We followed 74 to 75 then 333 to 322. The traffic was minimal. The rain started and stopped several times. The dogs slept most of the way.

A red truck was running in the roadside rest when we pulled in to access the trail head. We put on our rain gear and unloaded the dogs. All of a sudden, the gentleman in the truck got out and said he wanted to meet our dogs. Clara and Otter were both polite. We made small talk with the guy. Turns out he was from Lititz and was headed to Potter County to mow the yard at his cabin. He and his wife had been up the week before and it rained the entire weekend and they were disppointed and said they should have just stayed home. Hmmm... Scott and I talked about this a little later... I cannot imagine being disappointed about being rained in at my cabin in Potter County. To us that sounds just about like heaven. But anyhow...

We hit the trail and were not surprised to see that quite a bit of the trail was covered with five or six inches of water where originally no water crossing existed. We quickly came across the former turnpike ...

By the time we crossed this old turnpike streambed, it was evident that the waterproofing in my right boot had failed. 


The nature trail from the roadside rest joined the Mid State Trail about 100 yards from this photo. The MST never fails to challenge me. This ascent was particularly difficult because the rocks were very slippery. Somehow we managed to unknowingly choose the best route for this loop hike. Coming down those rocks would have been even more difficult. 

The view at the Big Valley Vista was not impressive, but the forest was so beautiful that the effort was well worth it. It smelled fabulous and everything green nearly glowed. The raindrops on the evergreens looked like tiny diamonds. 


We remembered to take our gorillapod and the rain slowed enough to take this photo ..  well -- we took two photos but the other one was not fit to share with the public...  that's another story completely. You have to look real hard to see Otter. 


This rock pile was just beyond the vista. We tried to make sense of what it might have been but came up with nothing. 

We signed the trail log. I need to come up with a quote to use with my trail log sign ins. On this hike I used a portion of one of my favorite Muir quotes, "The mountains are calling..." 



There were not many rocks on the descent to the car. We saw one of these little guys. (This is not my picture, but one I saved from an internet search.) The one we found promptly crawled underneath my boot and stayed there until I carefully lifted my foot and walked away. We were worried the dogs would step on it so we didn't stick around to take a photo. 

Red eft - terrestrial stage of the red-spotted newt

Our next find was this mushroom...  it really looked like a boob so I had to take a picture of it. 



The final 100 yards to the car was across this meadow. The crown vetch was rampant and I'm sure on a sunnier day it will be filled with pollinators. 



We left the roadside rest and made a spur of the moment decision to drive on Sand Mountain Road and head toward Bald Eagle State Forest. 


The rain continued to fall and traffic was unpleasant on the state forest roads. Even with all the rain, many people were in a hurry to get somewhere. We pulled over several times to let others pass us so we could enjoy the journey.


It wasn't long until the roads turned to this...  just packed dirt and a little gravel. We saw fewer people on these roads and it was a great chance to try out the 4WD. 

We stopped at Poe Valley State Park for some maps and the ranger there was awesome. She gave me some more maps and we talked a little about camping in state forests and the local state park campgrounds in the area. We headed to Poe Paddy State Park and hoped to see the vistas from Poe Paddy Drive but access to Poe Paddy Drive from the bottom was blocked. It was evident that the road was more like a steady stream flowing down to Penns Creek. We turned around and regrouped...  


Fortunately the state forest roads were very well marked and the maps are excellent. We wandered some back roads for a little while before getting on Route 45 and heading east. 


It was another great day to wander and then wonder where we will head on our next adventure.