Friday, September 03, 2010

Pennsylvania Field Trip: Hawk Mountain Sanctuary

Hawk Mountain Sanctuary has been on our list of places to visit for a long time.  Today was our first visit and we wish we had not waited so long.  It's a beautiful and interesting place. From their website:
Located in east-central Pennsylvania, Hawk Mountain is the world's first refuge for birds of prey. Open year-round, visitors enjoy scenic vistas, 8-miles of ridge and valley trails, a Visitor Center, Bookstore, and native plant garden, and each autumn, the chance to observe large numbers of hawks, eagles and falcons as they migrate past our lookouts. 
We started at the Visitor's Center to look at the displays and (of course) have a quick browse in the gift shop  Then we paid our trail fees, picked up a map and started walking.

Their website advises hiking boots, and that is good advice. The trail up to the first lookout is well-groomed and smooth; after that it's a little more rough and rocky.  Not difficult, but not a place for weak shoes.

There are several miles of trails in the Sanctuary but we opted to take the direct route to the lookout.  This is the season for seeing raptors so we didn't want to mess around.  The route to the lookout has a couple of options for your hiking pleasure.  The kids wanted to take the Escarpment Trail:
The escarpment trail leads off the North Lookout Trail closer to the ridge, and requires much boulder scrambling (climbing over large rocks). Be sure to wear hiking boots and to carry any items in a daypack so both hands are free for climbing. This trail connects to the Express Trail, leading hikers to North Lookout.

 I really didn't want to.  It was interesting to see how my kids took charge.  My boy and I had been trading the backpack and  he took it over. He and his sister went ahead of me to guide me to safe rocks.  I felt a little old, but I have always been clumsy and unbalanced. And, I have that mother fear of seeing my kids in precarious places. I really got a kick out of the way they took care of me.

It isn't a long trail to the top; about a mile, I think.  This is part of the view:

It was a pretty hazy, hot day so the visibility was not great.  There was not a lot of bird action at first. I somehow always get the expectation at these sorts of places that there will be birds flying around up close, as in a zoo. Well, of course it's not that way.  We did see some vultures and a hawk or two - I couldn't tell the difference but the ranger at the top could.   Binoculars are a must here.

Besides getting a lot of exercise, fresh air, and information about raptors, my kids got a little lesson in - I have to say it - socialization.  When we reached the top of the lookout there were several people already there, but no one was talking except the members of one family group.  And they were loud.  And the kids were not happy to be there and were ready to go home.  I can only imagine how the ranger felt hearing these kids complain about this horrible place their mother had brought them to.  They left shortly after we arrived, and after a few minutes the other people started talking quietly about the birds.  The atmosphere changed completely when the family left.  That was when we first started seeing birds, too, though they were too far away to be bothered by the whines of bored children.  That was a topic of conversation in my little family as we went back down the mountain.

We took the easier way down.

The Sanctuary also has a small native plant garden with a bird blind and a pond.  

Hawk Mountain is about 45 minutes west of Allentown and is absolutely worth a visit.  Check out their main site for information and a virtual tour, read their blog, or find them on Facebook.  If you've been there, tell me your favorite place at Hawk Mountain.  

This post is linked to Outdoor Wednesday at A Southern Daydreamer


carolina mts said...

Sounds like a lovely place to go and great for the kids. Our area has a rehab center for raptors - neat to see these big birds up close.

wayside wanderer said...

What a beautiful view!

J Bar said...

Great shots.
Sydney - City and Suburbs

3 Giggly Monsters said...

Hello I am a new follower from the OW. I would love a follow back at

Katie@LeBeauPaonVictorien said...

Beautiful pictures of the lookout! It sounds like a wonderful place to visit. Thanks for sharing!

The Paint Splash said...

Love your ability to hike even a short hike. What a beautiful view. Have a blessed week. Debbie

Marina Capano said...

just beautiful place!



Cindy said...

What a lovely place and I'm sure you are glad that you went. I love hikes like that where you can see some great things. Your photos are really wonderful.
Hugs, Cindy

Ms. Bake-it said...

It is rather weird when the tables are turned and the kids take care of you. My boys are rather protective of me; especially my youngest. Hawk Mountain Sanctuary looks beautiful. I love hiking in the mountains and cannot wait to go to Maine in November so I can do just that.

~ Tracy

Linda said...

What a great hike...I'm so glad that your kids enjoyed it! Beautiful photos!