NC comes to us! Also, Hawk Mountain! November, 2014

Staycation with guests!

Representatives from the North Carolina Fabulous family came for a few days and much fun was had.  They had a hotel with a pool and the kids lived it up with lounging and synchronized swimming while Dr. Mama and I caught up.  During the day while the Doc was at a conference, I took the kids to a raptor preserve in Berks County, PA.

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Lounging and synchronized swimming

Berks County

…has a special place in my heart since I was born there and lived there for my first 10 years.  It was not until long after I moved away that I realized what a beautiful and unique place it is.  One feature is the circular folk art on buildings in the Pennsylvania Dutch tradition known as hex signs.  We saw some while driving in the area.

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There are so many stone buildings, some dilapidated but many lovingly restored.  The hex signs are so beautiful on the red barns.  The roads do not seem to have changed much since my childhood; I am always pleasantly surprised at the dearth of strip malls and big box stores in the towns we went through like Shnecksville, Hamburg, and Fleetwood. There is a lot of farmland and forest, nice to see when we were in the higher elevations.

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Hawk Mountain

I wanted to get out of the city and this place had long been on my list of things to do.  Sometimes a guest or two can really spur a nice day trip.  I hustled 6 kids plus snacks and water for the day and off we went.

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kids at the entrance to visitor center, kids on the North lookout

I had heard about Hawk Mountain for many years.  It is raptor sanctuary with a history that goes back to the late 1920’s.  Apparently, people then were richly rewarded ($5 each- almost $70 today) for shooting goshawks, and the Hawk Mountain overlooks were a popular shooting spot.  The bird carcasses were photographed by amateur ornithologist Richard Pough, and the photos attracted the attention of noted suffragist Rosalie Edge, who acquired 1400 acres including the overlooks in 1934.  She hired a warden, invited the public for bird-watching, and by 1938 the area was made into a non-profit which today is the world’s largest member-supported raptor conservation organization.  Way to go, Pough and Edge!  Especially Ms. Edge who got us the vote and the birds!

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North lookout, original sign in visitor center

Autumn is peak viewing time for the migratory raptors such as Bald Eagles, Golden Eagles, Merlins, Kestrals and ten other species.  Of course, the autumn colors are also a big attraction.  I took my kids plus visiting sisters Miss A. and Miss M. Fabulous for a day trip to the area.  We hiked about 3 miles total between several amazing overlooks.  The North overlook is shown above.  Cleverly and Miss A saw a Northern Harrier there with the help of a guide.  The South overlook, though, was where it was really happening.

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South overlook crowd + views. Stuffed owl on pole (lower right) is to attract certain raptors for better viewing

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Different sights around the sanctuary.  Fiercely is being eaten by a raptor statue!

There were many bird watchers with their gear looking for raptors on their life lists.  We spoke with a couple who had recently gone to Alaska to bird-watch.  These were hard core birders!  Each lookout had a guide or two to assist with locating and identifying the various flying creatures.  The guides had binoculars we could borrow, and we also rented a pair from the visitor center.

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Cleverly showing us the Northern Harrier on a sign, some pics inside the visitor center. nice stained glass window on bottom right

The paths were rocky at times, and the area was windy with some rain, but our adventurers were not to be deterred, at least not for a while.  Plus I had a potential bribe up my sleeve that might motivate reluctant birders – ice cream!

The Oley Dairy

As I told the wildly unimpressed kids, this area was my childhood stomping grounds.  My parents hail from Reading, PA and Pottstown, PA and during some childhood drives in the surrounding country, we occasionally would stop at The Oley Dairy.  Yes!

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Inside and outside the Oley Dairy

The most expensive ice cream item was under $4 so I told the kids they could have whatever they wanted – not my usual MO!!  The light was beautiful outside.  There is really nothing near the intersection of Memorial Hwy and Oley Turnpike Road other than farmland and the Dairy.  An exciting addition since my last time there was the petting zoo outside, which did not disappoint.

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