I have just returned from my trip and I am happy to say, it all went as planned.
I went to visit a friend near Philadelphia and every day was so much fun! I didn't actually go into the city itself, but we managed to keep ourselves entertained very well.
On Thursday we went to the Philadelphia Zoo, which is really an awesome place. It is one of the better zoos I've been to and it was so much fun to go to one again! It has been too long. I love everything about it, except maybe the fact that the air was so thick with pollen that there was a light fog everywhere you went. Other than that it was super cool and as my friend continually sneezed the entire day, I was secretly so thankful that I don't have allergies. (Except for bubble bath. I don't know why and I haven't had a bubble bath since I was really little, but I don't want to risk it.)
Then on Friday we drove to Hawk Mountain, which is a sanctuary for birds of prey and, well... you all know how I feel about birds. There are numerous trails in the area and we decided to take the "River of Rocks" trail that morning which took us down into the valley and around - you guessed it - a river of rocks.
Above is a view from one of the lookouts near the top of the mountain. The arrow is pointing to where we stopped and ate lunch. And here's a view from the above arrow, pointing to where I was standing when I took the first picture.
We thought "River of Rocks" was just a cool name until we actually got there and saw that it really is a river of rocks. It was super cool and I had a little bit too much fun clambering around on all of them. My friend wasn't as keen on pretending to be a Mountain Goat and hopping around all over the rocks, so here she is in the background functioning as a bit of scale so you can see the size of this place.
Unbelievably cool. Really, super duper cool. I couldn't get enough of it. And when we weren't clambering over rocks (which, admittedly, was most of the time) we were hiking through the woods and every so often one of use would exclaim something about Ferngully or pretend to be a forest sprite (I'll leave that up to you to guess which one of us that would have been.)
We said goodbye to the stoney river and continued on our journey back up the mountain to see what sort of view we could find.
And the view we found was incredibly spectacular! You could have knocked me over with a Turkey Vulture feather (of which there were many to choose from), but I'm glad I wasn't knocked over because, well, because I was on the top of a mountain.
It was soooooo cool!! I didn't realize how much I love hiking, but how could I not have guessed it?! I mean, I used to rock climb all the time. And I love being outside in the woods. And I love birds. And, well, this place is called Hawk Freaking Mountain and it involved climbing rocks and being outside in the woods looking at birds and really... how could it get any better than that?!
And I have to tell you the birds I saw because I was super excited and dorky like that. I didn't take pictures though, this is just going to be quick and dirty. In addition to the DOZENS of Turkey Vultures everywhere, and the Robins and all those usual birds, I also saw several birds I hadn't seen before. I saw Scarlet Tanagers (both a male and a female. I almost had a heard attack when I saw them. I may or may not have done a little dance, I don't remember. I was just so excited! I had dreamed about seeing these birds for years and I finally did! I even pulled out my bird book and made my friend verify that I was indeed seeing what I thought I was seeing. So cool!), an Indigo Bunting (So beautiful! And such a saturated color! Is that weird to say that about a bird?), a black and white warbler (which I have seen before, but it was cool anyway) and a male Baltimore Oriole. Oh, and I heard a Pileated Woodpecker and although this place is called Hawk Mountain, there seemed to be a noticeable lack of hawks. I saw one Red-tail, but I think that was it. The rest were Turkey Vultures. Except the Kestrel I saw. Hooray for birds!
Ok, so then we left because we had to go to a birthday party, but then two days later we had a decision to make. Do we go into downtown Philly and do all the things that one should do when visiting that city, or do we go back to Hawk Mountain?
Alright, so it wasn't really a very difficult decision. The first time we were there (Hawk Mountain, not Philly. Duh.) we reached that super cool lookout and then I sort of scrambled over a cliff and saw a sign right above this huge drop that labeled it as the "Skyline Trail." It was labeled as the most difficult trail and was recommended only for experience Appalachian hikers, but I couldn't resist. We returned to Hawk Mountain and hiked our way along this "most difficult" trail, the whole time patting ourselves on the back for being such experienced Appalachian Hikers, and then when we were resting and munching on our packed lunches and enjoying our abundance of water, some real hikers walked past. There were three of them and although they resembled the Jonas Brothers, I'm pretty sure they weren't. They said they had been hiking for days and had been out of water for the past three or four hours and then, well, and then it hit me. Maybe I'm not a real hiker... yet. But this is what our trail looked like, and I think it was so much more fun than wandering around downtown Philly.
...and I had my very first Cheesesteak.