Folks took advantage of an opportunity to get up close and personal with the great outdoors on Saturday, during a free guided nature walk sponsored by the Endless Mountains Nature Center.
Nine people walked along the Trail of Faith, a level walking trail running through the Vosburg Neck.
Naturalist Rebecca Lesko provided valuable and often fascinating information concerning the local flora, fauna and animals throughout the area.
The trip began with people liberally applying insect repellent to their clothes and skin.
“Pennsylvania has the highest cases of Lyme Disease in the nation,” Lesko warned, urging participants to stay alert.
Most of the trip was very pleasant, although a bit of a drizzle fell during the walk.
Lesko pointed out some invasive species such as the emerald ash borer are affecting the local ecosystem. Along the trail are many emerald ash trees which have died, waiting to be cut down, victims of the ash borer’s voracious appetite.
She explained that many trees produce a thin layer of nutrients just under its outer bark. The emerald ash borer lays eggs inside the tree which when they hatch into larva, feed off the nutrients, killing the tree in the process.
One person asked what can be done to protect the trees from such decimation.
Lesko replied there have been instances where certain trees have developed a resistance to insect attacks, and it is hoped young ash trees will be able to do so.
Such incidents are not limited to modern times, Lesko explained. American chestnut trees used to be a dominant species before they were wiped out by disease. Then the white pine moved in.
“It changed the whole landscape,” she said.
Someone spotted bald faced hornets nest - also known as paper wasps - which prompted a discussion about the species.
“It’s real paper,” Lesko explained about the nest’s construction. “They digest the wood and produce cellulose.”
Hornets have a tendency to be nasty in the fall, because the queen has gone into hibernation. With no one issuing orders, food becomes short, and the insects become more aggressive.
“That’s why more people get stung in the fall,” she said.
Along the trail, Lesko picked a plant with a small red berry, about the size of a small pea.
“These are false strawberries,” she explained, saying their seeds are on the berry’s surface, while seeds are impregnated into real strawberries.
“They’re edible but not tasty,” Lesko said, explaining that many young people sample them for the first time when hiking along the trails. “They taste kind of like styrofoam.”
One point of interest was the remnant of the North Branch Canal, a man-made waterway constructed parallel to the river in the 1800s to haul goods.
According to Lesko, overspending on the canals throughout the state caused Pennsylvania to eventually go bankrupt, with the railroads ultimately taking over many of the canal rights-of-ways.
Poison ivy is spotted along the route, and Lesko cautioned people to avoid contact with the plant, even though it is obviously dead.
She said that the oil from the entire plant - not just the leaves - is what causes the rash which makes so many people miserable.
Participants are treated to a view of a bald eagle nest, and even spot one further down the river during the walk.
Lesko said it takes about 10 weeks for an eagle to develop from an egg into a full-sized bird. However, the eagles do not develop their traditional white head and tail feathers until about their fifth year.
The bald eagle spotted on the river had a white head, and waited patiently in a tree, watching the river for food.
Lesko said that bald eagles appear to be adapting to living near humans - although the situation can still get a bit tricky.
During the winter, she said, a bald eagle that’s interrupted in its search for food can face the possibility of starvation.