This is the eighth installment of our summer road trip travelogue, starring Artificially Sweetened (AS), her daughter Cupcake, and me, the Nittany Turkey.
Toejam had told me that he didn’t want to return to Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, having been there a few times; however, I wanted to show the ladies this beautiful place. With or without Toejam, we would be paying a visit. We agreed that AS, Cupcake, Toejam, and I would go to Ricketts Glen State Park (with its great waterfalls) the next day, Saturday, and in order to facilitate an all downhill hike on that mountain, we’d bring Judy along to hang out while we hike so she could meet us at the bottom, avoiding having to take two cars. That was the plan for tomorrow; today, we would go to Hawk Mountain while Toejam mowed his lawn.
Although we were a few weeks early for the start of the bird migration, Hawk Mountain Sanctuary is still a great place to visit, to learn something about birds, to stretch one’s legs, and to hike a bit if one so chooses. There are lots of overlooks just off the main trail; all have great views of the valley and the ridges beyond. The main trail is hard-packed dirt, rocky in places, but it’s basically an uphill stroll, not a serious hike. However, there are other trails that will challenge the most experienced hikers—lots of rock scrambling and elevation changes. For the casual visitor, the main trail leads to a set of stairs carved in rock up to the North Lookout, which is very rocky, as are most of the overlooks. The glaciers from the last Ice Age did Pennsylvania no favors, leaving lots of rocks and boulders behind.
We wound up eschewing any of the strenuous hikes because we weren’t wearing proper foot gear and besides, we were too lazy. Toejam and I had tried the River of Rocks trail last year and my right knee hasn’t been quite the same ever since. Today, though, we could still derive a lot of enjoyment from the sanctuary without breaking our necks.
I knew the way to Hawk Mountain, which meant that we wouldn’t have to listen to that wretched mechanical voice emanating from the BlackBerry every time we needed to make a turn. After using that damn thing for most of our road trip, I can still hear “Recalculating…” over and over in my dreams. There was no recalculation at all on the way to the sanctuary, as the noisy broad was safely and silently ensconced in my pocket.
We parked the minivan (I did, I mean, receiving the expected disapproval by the Cupcake). I lead the babes into the gift shop/welcome center building. In the vestibule, we passed a motorized wheelchair apparatus with huge balloon tires, which is used to transport handicapped people up to some of the lower lookouts. Once inside, I paid the trail fees while AS and Cupcake looked around the shop. No shop will ever be passed without sufficient perusal time. Eventually, we were ready to go back outside and start walking up the trail.
After crossing the highway, we stopped at the kiosk, which was manned by a volunteer. A chemical engineer in real life, he asked if we had been there before. I said I had, but the ladies hadn’t, so I pushed them forward to hear his “spiel”. He told us about the migration and why the raptors tend to concentrate their path particularly over Hawk Mountain, and that the migration would start in a couple of weeks. We were there too early, but had no choice in the matter. Both AS and I follow the Sanctuary’s page on Facebook, so we’ll be able to watch the migration from afar.
It is only a short walk up the hill from the kiosk to the first lookout, but we stopped several times to examine mushrooms, mosses, and ferns. AS is quite an appreciator, particularly of the latter two categories. She likes mushrooms, too, foremost in her spaghetti sauce.
Reaching the first lookout, we were treated to the song of a cheerful little blue bird on a bare branch. Immediately, AS was enraptured by the tiny creature, as she tends to be with animals that talk to her. We snapped some pictures of the little fellow, who turned out to be an indigo bunting, listened to his song until he was tired of performing for us, and then we moved on.
Speaking of talking to animals, Cupcake’s eight year-old brother, Shark Bite, has for a long, long time wanted to be able to talk with squirrels. Apparently, he and they share some common interests. I don’t know whether squirrels are quite as fanatical about weapons and explosions as Shark Bite, but they’re both pretty nutty. Along those lines, on one of our Florida wildlife preserve missions, we encountered serious bird watchers, which AS called “bird nerds.” Quickly, Shark Bite corrected her.
“A bird nerd is a snerd!” he stated authoritatively.
“Where did the ‘s’ come from?” I asked.
“No one knows!” interjected Cupcake.
Since that time, the word snerd has become part of our standard usage, as it serves to poke fun at both serious bird watchers and Shark Bite in one fell swoop.
Communications Officer Second Class Cupcake reported to us that she had been in touch with her 12 year-old sister BCH, then vacationing with Grandpa in Chicago. BCH had said that we were all snerds because we were visiting a mountain named after a bird for the purpose of looking at birds. And so, with that characterization in mind, the three snerds marched on to the next lookout. [Read more…]