Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Local Wilderness Vacations: Scott Park

While talking to several friends at a picnic this weekend, one of my oldest friends, Chris Zimmer, reminded me of a wooded park that is easy to explore, yet I hadn't been there in years. Scott Park, located on W 6th St, in Millcreek, just east of Peninsula Dr is sandwiched between private property on the east and west, yet it extends all the way to the head of Presque Isle Bay. This locale lends itself to quick little wilderness excursions with the kids, a light yet scenic trail run, birding for the shore birds that call Presque Isle home or scenic views of Presque Isle Bay.

Since Memorial Day found me in the possession of 2 rambunctious boys, while Jen slept off her 3rd shift work, I figured we would explore a new area. Besides, what better way to run off some youthful energy, then peaking around the next bend in the trail?

Arriving at the trail head marked Bay Trail, I turned on what is quickly becoming my favorite smart phone app, My Tracks. My Tracks uses GPS to track your progress as you hike a trail and gives you several useful stats as you proceed, then saves the stats plus the map you've created for future reverence.

To the left is a screen grab of the Stats tab that was created as we walked the Bay Trail at Scott Park. 1.1 mi is not an extensive hike by anyone's definition. Both my 7 and 2 year old have been on longer hikes. Admittedly the 2 year old has finished those longer hikes in our pack, but that's a different story. And the 2 mi/h pace is respectable for the youngsters. To the right is the map that My Tracks created during the walk. Both tabs are accessible while recording, making the app not only useful for compiling data for future, but also if you found yourself lost your map view could help you regain your bearings.

As we reached the cliffs to the bay we heard the familiar rat-a-tat-tat of a woodpecker on a nearby tree. We never did see him, but judging from the volume I think it may have been a Pileated Woodpecker, which if you've never seen one you will be astonished at the size. Roughly the same height as a Red-Tailed Hawk, or Sharp Shinned Hawk, the Pileated Woodpecker is quite large. As you can imagine when he starts rattling on a tree, the whole woods knows about it.

I always find it astonishing the way some plants seem to pop up out of the blue. Take these Virginia Waterleaf plants in full bloom. This patch was immediately to the left of the path opposite a large cliff that went down to the water's edge. From a light lavender all the way through a dark purple, these patches of flowers seemed so wildly out of place.  While not uncommon in PA, just as the name suggests the plant is native to Virginia. I imagine the moist micro-climate right along the bay lends itself to this plant thriving.  Altogether there were 3 large patches, each measuring 6-8 feet across. Very pretty and a lovely surprise for the boys and I.

As we reached the corner of the property you can clearly see the portion of Sara's Campground that is accessible from Presque Isle Blvd on W 6th St. Camping so close to where people live full time has always struck me as funny, but that's just because I've had access to some lovely remote campgrounds. Plus I have had the privilege of growing up near Presque Isle. Not everyone has that, so a campground near such an awesome attraction really does make perfect sense to outsiders.

The trail continues back out into the same parking lot we departed from in between the softball field and the BMX track. There is another ball field plus a playground and pavilion for group picnics.

Can you think of any other hidden gems nearby? Maybe a park with an unmarked trail that is just emerging, or maybe a trail that's been there for years, but only locals know about it. Leave a suggestion in the comments. I'd love to hear about new spots to explore!

Happy Hiking
Scott M

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