Tuesday, June 21, 2011

First Flight... KINDA. :)

     When we arrived here, at Canyon Country Campground, we were informed about where the particularly great sights of the area are located.  One of our favorite attractions in the area is the Eagle's nest, which is on the bank of Pine Creek, at Darling Run.  This is a part of the Rails to Trails.  We have spent a few evenings down there, watching the Mama and Papa eagles soar back and forth along the river, while the near-fledgling babies would bop around in the nest.  It's an amazing experience.  The other night we went down and the experience got even better, which I didn't think possible.  :)

     Our kids are staying with us for a few weeks, so we took them down to see the eagles.  We're on the East side of the creek, which is really low now.  I guess nothing feeds Pine Creek, except the water from the previous Winter's ice and snow.  The water level is actually higher than normal for this period of the year, because of the high amounts of rain we've had in May, and already in June.  Not complaining though, since this area has experienced three years of horrible Summer droughts.  The creek is low, but it's still not dry, which is fine by us.  We went to the usual spot along the trail, which is perfect for viewing the nest and seeing some fly-bys by Mom and Dad.

     The nest was very inactive today, though.  We couldn't see any of the juvenile eagles bouncing up and down as usual, so we took a very small trail that leads down to the actual river bank, just to get a little closer.  In the pictures, you'll see that there's a small "island" area in the middle of the creek.  We were looking at this particular area, when we noticed a very large bird "flying" horribly bad on the other side of the creek.  It crash landed into the top of a tree, after a very bad attempt at landing gracefully.  As my kids were asking "What is THAT???", it dawned on me that it was one of the baby eagles.  I assumed that perhaps they'd all fledged, and that we'd missed it.  The baby eagle, which by the way... is HUGE, sat at the top of the tree, just staring around.  I took a few pics, but I wasn't happy with what I was getting.  I only have a 250mm lens, and it wasn't doing the job I wanted.  There was no way around it... I was gonna have to get closer.  :)

     I always carry my hip waders with me, since you never know when you're gonna find a new waterfall, which is my favorite thing to photograph.  I kept an eye on the eagle, while I sent my son back to the van to get my waders.  Soon I was starting to cross the river, which was only about three feet deep, at the deepest part.  As I was nearing the tree that the baby eagle was in, I heard my wife yelling... "Ken... look out!!!".  I turned to the right quickly, to see a very angry Mama eagle coming straight at me.  I was stunned.  I should have been scared out of my wits, but how many times do you see something like this?  The Mama shrieked as she flew directly over my head, maybe four to five feet over me.  I couldn't react quicly enough to get a good shot, but I'll include one of the blurry ones I got of it after it passed by.  I also have a few far away shots from a previous night of eagle watching that I'll include in this blog.

     After that experience, I kinda had a feeling that baby was being watched, and that was a warning to me, to not get too close to him.  I had no plans of climbing the tree, or disturbing the baby at all... but there was no way I was leaving without getting a few shots.  With the sun setting behind the tree that the baby was in, they aren't the best shots.  I had to add plenty of fill light to get the pics up to decent enough to post.  Normally I wouldn't post shots like this, but it was such a unique experience, that I just had to share some of it with you.

     As I was nervously looking around, for Mama or Papa eagle to give me another warning, a Park Ranger approached my wife and the kids on the bank.  I couldn't hear what was going on, but I guess he explained to Carol that the baby had FALLEN out of the nest.  They had not fledged yet, but this poor guy had taken a premature trip out of the safety of his nest.  With me being so close, there was no way that Mom or Dad would come get him.  So I backed off and went back to the shore.  We waited there for about another hour, but he just sat there.  I'm sure his parents returned to him after we left.  It was quite an experience.  I feel that we were quite blessed to have witnessed it. :)  We'll be going down again to check out the rest of the babies, and see if they've fledged yet.    We'll keep you all posted.  :) 

Monday, June 6, 2011

Two Turkies Tackle the Turkey Trail. :p

     We’d planned on getting to Leonard Harris State Park by dawn, to take pictures of the mist rising in the canyon, but that wasn’t in the cards.  As usual, it had been raining all night, and was quite dark and damp.  This might kill most people’s hiking plans, but that’s the preferred weather for waterfall photography, so even though we slept in a little past sunrise, we were still up and out quite early.  After a quick breakfast and some coffee, we packed our gear and water and headed out.  All we had to stop for was some chicken for lunch.  We arrived at Leonard Harris by 8am.  The weather had at least dried up a bit, but it was still quite cloudy and overcast.  We enjoyed some time just checking out the canyon from the many different lookouts.  What a beautiful sight the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon is.  The river below, which is fueled by snow and rain only, was ripping through the canyon.  I SO wanted to be in a kayak, but I don’t have the skills for that kind of movement.  It’s normally a class 2-3 river, but at this point, it was easily a four.  Not for me.  Maybe in a few years, I’ll be ready for that.   :)

     We found the entrance to the Turkey Trail and took a deep sigh, as we contemplated the hike before us.  It says it’s a 1 ¾ mile LOOP, but I’m not too sure about that.  I’d say it was easily a mile and a half just one way.  Regardless, the going down is beautiful and kinda easy.   The decline is pretty steep, and you feel it in your shins as you descend.  The painful part, is KNOWING what it’s going to be like on the way back.  :(   Still, with what we knew was ahead of us, we took that deep breath and began the descent.

     Within a short while, we saw the first waterfall.  As a waterfall geek, I’ve seen a lot of breathtaking ones.  The pictures I’d seen of this one, hadn’t really impressed me much.  I imagine that the pictures I’d been able to see had been taken during regular flow.  On this particular Tuesday morning, we were not looking at regular flow for late May.  We had been suffering WEEKS of torrential rains, so this river/runoff was moving at FULL THROTTLE.  She was GORGEOUS.   I set up the tripod for the first of many times through the day, and was in my glory, as I captured shot after shot of the first waterfall that I could get a clear shot at.  I’m not the best climber yet, so I stayed on the trail at this point.  Going off-trail to get closer, would be suicide for me.  The steep decline to the water was nothing but soggy mud.  No tree roots to grab hold of or any secure rocks, just mud.  We sat on the bench for a bit and enjoyed the sights and then proceeded down the trail.

     The hike is one gorgeous waterfall after another.  I couldn’t get shots of some, because of the mud, but as we got further down the trail, I finally was able to get my waders on, and get right in the water for some decent compositions.  Carol was taking video of the waterfalls and the trail as we would stop almost every ten minutes for another fall.  It was second to only Rickett’s Glen, in my opinion, for sheer beauty and number of falls.  Sadly it’s not a constant flow.  I’ve heard that it turns to a trickle within the next few weeks.  :(

     After a three hour descent, we finally arrived in the canyon itself.  We were exhausted, but so exhilarated at the beauty of what we’d just experienced.  We looked around for a nice place to have lunch, and found a nice, big, flat rock along the river to set up.  Another beautiful hour or so was spent here, enjoying our lunch and conversating about how gorgeous the place is, and how much we’re going to love it here.  Oh, and as we set up for lunch, the clouds parted, and a long forgotten stranger finally showed up.  We’d not seen the sun in nearly two weeks, and here he finally was, making the day beautiful.  Luckily, I’d already gotten about two hundred waterfall pics, so I wasn’t cursing his arrival.  :P

     We finished eating, packed it all back up and decided it might be best to just call in for an emergency rescue, rather than risk the potential heart attacks we were sure to suffer by climbing back UP the Turkey Trail.  Oh wait… that was just what I SUGGESTED to Carol.  She told me to grow a set, and pushed me, kicking and screaming, all the way back up the ridiculously steep Turkey Trail.  ?  We took many breaks and talked to some other people who were trying to survive the hike.  After about two hours, we finally made it out without any scrapes, or need for artificial respiration.  A MIRACLE I tell you.  ?  We headed straight to the water machine to purchase some more bottles of water, as we’d kicked ours halfway up the trail.  I pounded two full bottles in about three chugs.  I was quite parched.  Then I stole Carol’s bottle as well.  ?  We then headed to another lookout and just relaxed a bit, enjoying the scenery some more.

     WHAT A DAY!!!  Enjoy the pics.  :)   

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Since We've Arrived

Well, I know I haven’t been really on top of this journal since we arrived here, at Canyon Country Campground, on Friday the 13th of May, 2011, but I’m going to try to remedy that.  To bring you up to date with things, here’s a short recap of how it’s gone. 

We took off on Friday morning, from Carol’s mom’s house at about 6am.  The camper and the van were fully loaded, and ready to go.  This wasn’t the first time I’d driven the van with the camper attached, but it would be the first time I’d driven it more than ten miles.  I was a bit worried, but more eager than anything.  We stopped shortly, along the way, for breakfast.  We LOVE the food and the coffee at The BlueBird 2 in Tunkhannock, so that’s where we stopped. 

The ride was pretty smooth.  I had one incident with stopping too quickly, where the camper felt like it was going to jump hitch and crash into the back of the van, but other than that one time, the journey was easy.  We stopped once for gas along the way, and one other time to stretch our legs. 
We arrived at Canyon Country Campground in decent time.  We met the owners, Jim and Lindy, and their most beloved and absolutely gorgeous dog, Zoe.  Jim took us up to our spot and helped me back her in, which was definitely a problem for me at first.  I couldn’t grip my head around the whole turning the wheel OPPOSITE of the way you want the camper to go.  I finally caught on, thanks to Jim, and we were in.  Jim told us to take our time and set up before coming down for our job briefings.  The site is nearly perfect.  Not the most level of sites, which is a pain for my hammock and our screen tent, but it’s so gorgeous up top here, that we can easily overlook the slight pitch. 

After setting up, we went down to the office and had a brief meeting with Jim and Lindy.  Basically, it was a “get to know each other” kind of thing.  They familiarized us with what we’d be doing, and then told us we didn’t even have to start today.  COOL!!!  After that ride, I didn’t really need to start working.  ? 
We checked out the campground, and lounged around our own site.  We’re in the seasonal section, and one of our neighbors, Doc and his wife Judy, had already arrived.  They invited us over to their campfire for drinks on night one.  Very nice couple and very helpful.  They knew we didn’t have a tent for our picnic table yet, so they told us to take theirs, since they were leaving in two days, and wouldn’t be back for three weeks.  We took it over, but it wasn’t good for us.  We didn’t like the location, so wound up putting our table in the woods, behind the camper.  We’ll get a smaller cover for it soon. 
FINALLY got to sleep in our enormous, wall-to-wall bed.  I must tell you, it was FABULOUS!!!  Loved every minute of it.  Probably the best night sleep EVER.  ?  Got us ready for the next day, which started with breakfast and coffee, and off to our first day “on the job” at Canyon Country Campground. 
Our work week is Thursday through Monday, from 10am to 2pm.  Not bad, eh?  We’ve got time to enjoy our mornings before the day of work begins.  I hate to even call it work.  It’s more like chores.  The day flies by.  We usually start with the cleaning of the office, porch and laundry room.  From there, we hit the outgoing cabins and campsites.  This is one of the most immaculate campgrounds I’ve ever been to.  Jim and Lindy have very tough standards on how clean their sites and cabins have to be.  When we’re done with a cabin, you won’t find a spider web, or a fleck of dust anywhere.  I’ve taken great joy in my role of spider eradicator.  LOL  I’m mostly a wuss, and just attack them with my broom, but on one occasion, I really manned up and grabbed a HUGE spider, from the ladies room, by one of the legs, and threw it outside.  I have no idea how I momentarily conquered my arachnophobia for that, but somehow I did it.  Okay… so Carol had doused it with some chemicals, and it was quite lethargic, AND I was wearing gloves… but still… impressive.  LOL  After the campsites are done, we do the bathrooms, which are also immaculate.  Nicest bathhouses I’ve EVER seen in a private campground.  After that, we hop in the truck and collect the garbage from the sites.  That’s the basic day.  Sometimes we paint things, or clear fallen trees from the surrounding woods, but those are the basics of our duties.

So, not too bad a deal, huh?  We really love the place, and for the first time in my life, I can say, without a doubt, that I LOVE MY JOB!!!  It seriously can't be beat.  There's been some tough days, but for the most part, it's cake.  The campers are, for the most part, all very nice and appreciative of what we do. 

After work, we usually take a break to have lunch, and relax.  Sometimes a nice siesta is in order.  When the wind has those trees rustling, it's a natural sleeping pill.  So we sit in our zero gravity chairs and pass out for a bit.  After waking, we take care of some of our normal chores around our site, and maybe take a hike or hang out with some neighbor campers.  It's a sweet life folks.  We're loving it.  :)  

        Our site.  We feel quite envious, sitting next to that gigantic fifth wheel next door.  :)  S'okay though, we'll upgrade soon.  :)

     A look at some of the beautiful cabins available to rent,  at our campground.

One of the prominent images you see upon entering our campground, is our Flag.  The owners here, are quite patriotic, which we LOVE.  You should see this at night.  Very gorgeous.  I'll get a shot soon.  :)

As you walk out of the campground circle, you see the game room and the general store/office.  Sometimes, I get to zip around the campground in that super awesome Gator you see.  LOVE IT!!!  :)

This beautiful lady is Zoe.  I'm the furthest thing there is from being a "dog person", but this girl has stolen my heart.  She's the absolutely BEST dog I've ever met.  She loves us too, especially Carol.  <3  

Okay folks, that's a small tour of the campground and what's been going on.  I'm still not completely caught up here, so there's a lot more to come.  We took a few beautiful hikes that I want to share with you.  Hope you like waterfall pics, cuz I got a LOT of them coming.  :)  See ya' soon.  :)