Lake Shore Trail – Little Pine State Park, Pennsylvania
The Lake Shore Trail begins at the top of the dam and then follows along the shoreline on the east side of the man-made lake that has formed behind the Little Pine Creek control dam. (Route). On the way up the road to the start of the trail we had been entertained by a number of Zebra Swallowtail butterflies. There were a number of different varieties of butterflies visible among the native flowers growing among the rocks and soil of the dam embankment but enough of a breeze was blowing to keep the butterflies airborne when we were in the area. I would return later to spend more time photographing the butterflies.
The dam operates as a control dam during periods of Spring flooding and regulates water flow in the lower section of the Little Pine Creek waterway. The dam has a spillway behind the spot where I was standing for this shot but that spillway has only come into play on one occasion since the dam was constructed. Driftwood part way up the embankment gives some idea of height the water would be in the Spring. The marooned logs and roots were interesting to look at. In some cases, the roots had grown around rocks to get a foothold and these rocks were still held tightly by these now dead roots.
While we were examining the roots more closely a bit of noise high in the sky caught my attention. A Bald Eagle was hard at work chasing an Osprey out of its district. (photos heavily cropped)
After watching this aeronautical display until both birds disappeared from sight further down the valley, we headed uphill along the trail that hugged the side of the valley. The trail is easy to follow but does have some ups and downs.
Compared to the flaky shale structure on the west side for the valley (see previous post), the rock formation along the east side is much more defined and solid in nature.
As we walked along the trail, we were treated to a number of Dogwoods in full bloom. Their bright white blooms are beautiful to see at this time of the year. On closer examination, this year’s crop of blossoms generally sported brown marks on their edges, a likely result of the strange warm weather that we experienced much earlier in the season.
The dogwoods weren’t the only flowers along the trail as buttercups, wood violets and numerous Question Mark butterflies (Polygonia interrogationis), Red Admiral butterflies (Vanessa atalanta) and Pearl Crescent butterflies (Phyciodes tharos) added colour to the wide palette of greens that the forest provided.
At the end of the lake, the trail drops down and crosses a small cut in the hillside. I expect that, in the early Spring, this area would be quite wet but, although a bit damp, we had no problems following further along the trial to where the trail branches off to a further loop up the valley.
We decided not to do the loop and headed back along our tracks toward the campsite. Although the trail follows fairly closely to the lake, the lake itself is usually difficult to see through the intervening foliage.
Whenever I travel to a new location, invariably I find some bug or plant, reptile or amphibian that I have never seen before. This walk along the Lake Shore Trail didn’t disappoint me in this regard. I have seen plenty of different tree fungi, plenty of unusual plants such as the Jack-in-the-Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllium) and plenty of colorful insects but on the walk along this trial, it was a large, brightly colored Millipede (Apheloria virginiensis) that caught my attention. I learned later that this particular species produces a cyanide type chemical as a defense mechanism and can cause illness in humans that handle it! Happily, I just took pictures :-).
Other things in the forest were also interesting to see, such as the Jack in the Beanstalk vine that was tightly wrapped around the trunk of a tree and a Shagbark Hickory (Carya ovata) that was beginning to show the shaggy bark appearance which gives it its name.
As we emerged back out into the daylight at the dam, a couple of Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus) scurried across the path in front of us and it wasn’t long before we were back at the beginning of the trail where a nicely coloured Azalea had been planted.