Reflections: Woods and Waters

For my money, April and October are the best months for backpacking in Pennsylvania. The weather is neither too cold nor too hot, you have a decent amount of daylight to work with, and those transition times can yield some amazing wild woods experiences.

My husband and I packed up our gear on Sunday morning, and by mid-day, we were on our way to Sproul State Forest for a much-anticipated backpacking trip into a campsite we refer to as Pine Glen. By early afternoon, my tent was up and we were sitting on our chairs in our camp in the piney woods, enjoying our day.

I had high hopes for finding amphibians in a little woods pond we know of nearby, and so a bit later in the afternoon, we walked there for a little visit. I'm not sure I think it's rained any more lately than usual, but the woods were full of vernal pools and puddles. Our trek was somewhat more difficult than expected, but I got some odd but pleasing reflection shots along the way.

For some reason, I found the monochrome shots more to my taste this time. You may see some of the vernal puddles in the main shot above. The little pond itself - which I have featured here in color several different times - is included in an extra photo, half in shadow, half in light.

Yes, there were amphibian eggs pretty much everywhere, but you can't see that level of detail in either photo. But see if you can spot my husband waving in the middle of the extra shot.

Evening found us back at our campsite. I had made us each two sandwiches: one chicken and cheese, the other ham and cheese. We ate the chicken ones for supper and saved the ham for breakfast the next day.

And as the light began to dim and the day drew down to a close, we engaged in one of the oldest games that backpackers play, which is to say: bartering for snacks! The goal is to trade snacks you want less for those you want MORE.

On this evening, our own particular version of the game included red Swedish fish, Bugles, cashews, Ghirardelli dark chocolate sea salt caramels (until recently my very favorite), and (LORD HAVE MERCY!) Lindt white chocolate truffles.

My final trade of the night was to offer two Ghirardelli chocolates for the very last white chocolate truffle. I made the trade and counted myself quite lucky. MMMmmmmMMMMMM!

I was in my tent by 8:30, when almost all of the usable light was gone, and asleep by shortly after 9. The overnight low was around 40 degrees F. I wish I could tell you what a delightful night's sleep I had, but in all truth, though my campsite was flat enough, I suffered from Gear Envy.

For you see, my husband has recently purchased a brand new (deeply discounted) state-of-the-art inflatable sleeping pad which is awesome. He loves it and sings its praises. I myself use three thin el-cheapo sleeping pads.

And so it was that I awoke in my tent the next morning feeling vaguely sore all over, as though my body had been assaulted by the very ground beneath my tent. A newer or better sleeping pad system may be in order at some point.

We also awoke to what I can only describe as an amazing RACKET, as we did not order, but somehow received (courtesy of The House) a pre-dawn wake-up call from a very loud and brash whippoorwill! It sat in the trees right above us and hooted and hollered its distinctive call. I finally put in ear plugs and tried somewhat successfully to get back to sleep.

We spent a delightful sunny morning at our campsite and walked out, as we always do, when just about all of the food and drinks were gone. By early afternoon, we were back at the car and getting ready to head for home. How timely: rain was in the forecast for the overnight, and we arrived at our car just as a wall of white clouds replaced the perfectly blue sky we'd had so far for our backpack trip.

On the drive out a long dirt road, we saw a spiffy little long-necked bird strut across in front of us, all alone. It looked like a roadrunner, but we don't have those around here. We compared notes and agreed it was a ruffed grouse (our official state bird), with a little crest on its head.

We decided that with our relatively early departure from our site, we'd have time for one more stop for hiking. And so a few miles down the road, we turned off on another dirt lane.

The instant we pulled in, I spotted ANOTHER roadrunner type bird. I almost expected it to shout (like they do in the cartoons): "MEEP MEEP!" Once again, it was all alone, and it managed to look both furtive and startled at the same time, as though we had interrupted it in the midst of planning and pulling off a major international jewel heist!

There is one last delightful surprise from our trip that I must tell you about, and I just can hardly wait! But I'll close here, and save the rest of my tale for tomorrow's blip. In the meantime, please enjoy my story from our wild adventures and these two photos of my beloved Pennsylvania woods and waters.  :-)

I know I have used this song once before, but I love it and so here it is again. The trees standing on clumps of ground among the flooded woods above appeared to me like islands in the stream against the afternoon light.

And so the song to accompany these watery images is Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers, with Islands in the Stream. Here's an original version, plus a second version done 15 years later (actual music begins around 2:20). Enjoy!

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