Friends of Swatara State Park recently sponsored a vernal pool walk with Dick Light, Tom Powers and Steve Rannels, naturalists and amphibian and reptile experts.
A group of about 20 people of all ages met at the Swatara Rail-Trail trailhead off Monroe Valley Road. Tom brought a salamander he'd rescued from a highway in Mt. Gretna, he said. Dick described how salamanders survive the winter, their life stages starting with the egg mass, and how they evade predators such as other amphibians, and hawks.
As he spoke, first one frog began peeping, and then another.
While we explored the vernal pools, Dick related observations on plant life as well. Seeing shell husks on the ground, I asked what tree they were from. He said the husks were from shellbark nuts, then looked around and found the tree (photo, right). Betty Groff's cookbook has a recipe for shellbark taffy. You won't find them in supermarkets, but at least they're still around.
Check out upcoming events on Friends of Swatara's website. These interesting excursions include something for everyone who loves the outdoors. Next week's gathering features Lebanon County's only waterfall.