Friday, July 25, 2008

And so it ends...

Goodbye creek campers, you will be greatly missed as you return to your homeland (Pittsburgh).
I have posted the video on and the blog. I hope you enjoy it and had an amazing time at Creek Camp!


Salamanders and Toads Galore!

The very last activity we did on Thursday was traveling to the Bousson Preserve owned by the college with Patti and April. We were there to find as many different types of salamanders and amphibians as possible.

Originally we stopped along the vernal ponds to try and find salamanders. We were not particularly successful and moved on to a small creek were our luck turned. There we found several types of salamanders including; a red-spotted newt a few northern spring salamanders as well as mountain duskies and two-lined salamanders. A few more amphibians were found on higher, dryer ground. Overall we had an extremely successful trip to Bousson Preserve.

Into the Ravine

After successfully aquiring the pirate treasures, our group faced our greatest obstacle yet, the ravine. Here is where slimy, gooey, and man eating lizzards live. We started our journey on a path and followed it until we successfully got past the man eating plants and bugs. When we got to our destination, we set out on a search for the world's most dangerous animal, the salamander. To find these crazy buggers, you had to search through rocks on and off the stream. You never knew what you were going to find under these rocks. Sometimes you were lucky, but other times you weren't. After finding the salamanders you had to capture them and put them into a cup for analysis. We would show our findings to one of the leaders who would identify the specimen. Then you had to let them go or they would die. After struggling through this ravine we were able to make it out and move on to our next destination..... The horrors of eating the next meal!

Eddie's and Casey's

On Thursday we all went out for some good hometown treats. Have you ever had foot long hot dogs at Eddie's? Well if you haven't, you've got to try them. We all sat around and ate our freshly grilled dogs on the picnic benches.

After we stuffed ourselves with hot dogs and french fries, the whole group walked over to Casey's for some some local flavors such as Meadville Mud, Conneaut Lake Crunch, and last but not least, Linesville Lion's Paw. Every flavor was delicious!!

Vine Farm

Well Creek Connections took us to Vine Farm yesterday and we got the chance to see many things. When we arrived we were introduced by the Vines, Dave and Jess. After that Dave took us to see the animals Dave and Jess kept on the farm. They had a donkey, some chickens, a goat and two alpacas. When we walked to the chicken coop one of the chickens was laying some eggs. After that, Dave took us to see the various vegetables they grow. I tasted a purple bean and it was delicious. I got to taste some lettuce too. Then we got to see the many different potatoes they grow such as, the golden potatoe, the blue potatoe, and huckleberry. The blue potatoe is really purple but they looked pretty. After we saw that, they took us around to the back of the farm and we got to see the apple tree and the creek that ran behind their land. We got to see the different kind of berry bushes they harvest and they harvest mushrooms as well. When we arrived back to where the van was parked, Jess had made us some cookies and unsweetened ice tea. I loved that farm it was really fun. Its a farm I would definiately visit again.

And the Cows Come Home

When we arrived at the dairy farm we were shockingly surprised by the awful smell of cow manure. The owner's son was kind enough to give us the guided tour of the farm, from the milking station to the newly born calves. While with the calves, we got to feed them from bottles of milk. The farm was also a location for a good home for cats waiting for adoption. At the end of the tour we saw one of the biggest tractors ever. The back wheels were over 6 feet.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Swimming in a Lake

Today while we were on our canoe trip we decided to stop on a sandy beach for lunch. After we had all eaten we decided to go swimming. At first only a few people went in, but as time went on everyone got in . . . except Laura. Then we played Jackpot in the water. It is a game where someone throws a ball or other object and calls out points from 1-10 thousand or Jackpot. Whoever gets to 10 thousand first gets to through next. It would have been easier if we didnt have to wear life jackets and water shoes. But we had fun though with lots of fighting. As we left we were all soaked and were ready to continue on our adventure

Canoe Trip

Today we canoed on Lake Pymatuning with the sun in the sky and the wind blowing strong. Originally we were to canoe on French Creek, however, the water level was too high and the location was changed. Our guide, Brian, showed several aquatic plants such as duckweed and different species of lily pads.
Afterwards we paddled across part of the lake to an island were we ate a great lunch and swam . Even though it was supposed to rain the weather was beautiful but the wind made it difficult to paddle efficiently.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Learning the Tricks of the Trade

Today us campers went for a fun filled and informational canoening adventure!!
Initially our teacher and guide filled us in about the different types of life jackets. Did you know..?
There are 5 different types of PDF's aka personal floatation devices..aka life jackets.

After our quick lesson about the PDF's we moved onto the proper way to enter and exit a canoe, different stokes used when in a canoe, and last but not least how to function and maneuver when in a canoe.

When we finally got in the water the whole group followed our guide around some buoys and different obstacles. Lets just say we weren't the most experienced group of canoers.

Electroshocking fish


Today we went on the woodcock creek to go on a electroshocking expedition. Due to the rain the night before the water was quite muddy so it was a little difficult to see all the fish when they would float past you. Even though conditions were not perfect we did manage to get some different species of fish such as log perch, hog nose suckers, creek chub and black nose dace. In some of the deeper pools of the stream we had some bigger fish float up like small mouth and one trout but still after they get shocked the fish are still challenging to scoop them up.

Pirating New Gold

Remember back when you were a little tyke and you went searching for buried treasure? Well now there is a new way to find actual buried treasure. We are not talking about raiding a yacht and threatening a crew with force to get their goods, we are talking about a little thing called Geocaching. You don't need money and an earring to go find gold. All you need is a GPS device, so you can find a special container with goods in it.

We started off our journey into the high woods...and along the way we faced many dangers. From poisonous plants to man-eating bugs, we faithfully followed our GPS. It made us travel through the darkest parts of the woods, straight into deep mud, and had us fight blood-sucking mosquitoes! Because of the help we got from pirates, we were able to come to the final obstacle and claim our prize! But we forgot about the final challenge...we had to sacrifice something in order to claim our gold. Through life changing events, we made our decision and collected our treasure.

An Electrifying Experience!

Today, we spent the better half of our Tuesday morning shocking fish. Now I know your thinking, "What in the WORLD were they doing!". We decided that we would send spurts of pure electricity into the water to stun the fish. Believe me, it is completely safe for the fish. Derek Smith, a fish shocking expert, started the wave. We slipped, quite literally, our way up and down the upper part of Woodcock Creek. We had to wear hipwaders to keep us excited campers safe. Despite some accidents, *ahem Waist High D'Ann ahem*, it was pretty succesful. We identified around eleven different species of fish. We almost caught a big fish, but it slipped through our fingers. Overall, it was a very shocking experience for all. Some caught many fish and some kissed a crayfish. Everyone had a STUNNING time!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Bird Rehabilation

Good Evening,

This afternoon, after a delicious lunch, we met Carol Holmgren of the Tamarack rehab facility. She graciously showed several of the residents, including two drastically differently sized owls as well as a Peregrine falcon. Two of the birds began to get hot and therefore began to pant, who knew? Besides viewing the permanent residents, who cannot be released into the wild, we saw many other birds who were in the midst of their rehabilitation.

Some of the visitors included geese as well as a duck who, together, had formed a family of sorts. There were other birds as well, who were kept in large enclosed spaces called mews, where they were able to fly around. The highlight was most definatly the two bald eagles who some helped by finishing repairing the floor of their enclosure. Others chose to clean out the living quarters of the permanent residents, some had to do so with the bird keeping a very close eye on them. No problem, we all left the facility in one piece.

The birds flew the coop

During the dove banding... (What dove banding?) oh yeah, that's right, there were no doves! When we got to the site, there had been no doves caught for banding. But Sarah, the Pennsylvania game commission intern, showed us the traps and the bands and told us how they get banded. So... we went to the spillway. There were people throwing loaves of bread at these HUGE carps which were flailing around on top of each other, but were too stupid to swim under the bridge where there was more room.

The Dangers and Adventures of the Creek

Have you ever been pinched by a crayfish? Well, here at creek camp we experience only the extreme sport of crayfish earring making. It is fun, and also very painful. Crayfish belong to the family of macros, along with many other creek critters. Macros are the creepy little bugs that attach to your toes and won't let go. Beware! You may just lose a toe! Make sure to look out for the damsel flies!!! They may look harmless from a distance but they can be dangerous. A fellow creeker was attacked but luckily it flew off, in search of its next victim to terrorize.

Well, when you're not getting terrorized by creek critters, testing the water can be an adventure all on its own. Just walking into the creek can cause mass chaos. The rocks are very slippy and its easy to fall into the macroinfested waters. Once you get past the danger of the waters, it can be a blast. For starters, you get to experiment with different chemicals, such as phenylethylene. This is a chemical in which it helps indicate the end of a titration. This is a fancy way of saying a color change might occur. Furthermore, we tested temperature, alkalinity, nitrogen, and pH, just to name a few. We did this to see how healthy the stream was. With the results in, the stream was very healthy. This is very nice to both people and the environment.

GPS activities

After we ate dinner on the first night, we got a tour of the campus using our newly acquired GPS devices. A scavenger hunt had been set up beforehand. We were given latitude and longitude coordinates at each point we found, but we had to search for them first. For a lot of us, the activity served as a crash course in geocaching. Sorry, muggles. Each point was about a quarter mile apart, though we definitely got frustrated when we realized how much more efficient the tour could have been.

We heard some stories of the campus, including alumnus President McKinley's fun prank in Bentley. Apparently, he was a trouble-maker and thought it might be amusing to lead a cow up into the bell tower. For those less accustomed to being on the look-out for good senior prank ideas, cows can be led up stairs, but not down. Unfortunately, the only solution was to slaughter the cow in the bell tower. McKinley got into a lot of trouble.

A few other stories involving fraternities, suicide, the thirteenth plank of a bridge, and various upperclassmen verses lower classmen legends were shared. Oh, those crazy Allegheny kids!

Welcome To CreekCamp

Well, when we were first welcomed at creekconnections we took our parents to our room to see what the rooms looked like. After our families left, matt and the other counselors showed us so camp games and they were weird. One game was called "Wa." This games was the weirdest game i have every played, but it was really fun after everyone got the hang of it. My favorite game was the "Knot Game." Everyone had to hold hands with the person across from them, then with the othere hand they hand to hold hands with someone else that wasn't next to them or the person who they were already holding hands with, but the tricky part was to become a perfect circle..."THE HARD PART." When everyone figured out how to get untangled we went outside and played a game called "Bibity Bopity Boo." If you want to know about that one you will have to ask one of the campers. It is hard to explain. It had many steps and it really didn't make any sense but it was very fun.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Goodbye Creekers!

So it's our last day and it was very sad to see you all go. We had an awesome time with you all and hope you could take away a lot from your experiences with us.
As requested, I have placed the final counselor video up on Hope you guys all enjoy it!

Kelsey and all of the counselors

Dairy Farm!!!

At the dairy farm we walked around a lot and it was really hot. The farm smelled really bad because of the cow food and cow maneur. We saw cows getting milked, calves, lots of cats, and we fed cows. The most interesting part of it was the crap pit of the cows and the calves sucking on our fingers.

Hellbender creek

After touring the farms Erik ( the muscle man) came to talk to us about local watersheds and the effect they had on the environment. After we listened to him, April Claus, a local herpetologist came and talked about the local reptiles and anphibians. She brought in many reptiles and even let us hold some, there were different species of snakes, salamanders, and turtles. Afterwards we went to French Creek to look for Hellbenders, and freshwater muscles. Even though we did not find any hellbenders we did find some muscles and had a blast in the process. when we were done playing in the creek we dried off and went searching for salamanders and other anphibians in Bousson. We found many different species there, at least seven. When we were finished looking for salamanders, we tried to call for owls but to no prevail. This was our last day at creek camp and it was a nice way to end things.

The Vines Farm: Fresh From the Vines

After looking around a smelly dairyfarm for an hour or so we went to another farm called the Vines Farm. They didnt have as many animals as the other one, so the smell was wonderful in comparison. The guide showed us around the place and we looked at the various plants growing in both the ground and in the Heat Tunnels, which are like green houses. After walking around in the hot sun and in steaming hot Heat Tunnels, we were exhausted, but after being treated to som herbal tea and some cookies, we felt more refreshed.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Don't Rock the Boat: The Creek Camp Canoe Trip

This morning, instead of going to the creek, we drove to Pymatuning Lake for the canoe trip. We were supposed to canoe on the creek but, the water was too high from excessive rain. We launched the canoes and set off. First we took a little detour into an alcove to learn about some of the plants in it. Brian, the canoe insructor from yesterday, knew everything we wanted to know about the lake and its plantlife. We paddled our canoes until our arms were tired and our stomachs grumbled. A small island in the middle of the lake made a perfect place for a picnic. We sat on the beach and ate our lunch. The alure of the water was too much, soon most of us were in the lake, bathing suit or not. We splashed around in the water until we regretfully left the cool water to get ready to return. Before we left the island we made sure to give a big hug to anyone who was still dry. On the way back, we spotted two great blue herions and a few canada geese. We pulled the canoes back onto the shore and loaded them up. At the end of the day we were exhausted but we all had a great time!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Learning to Canoe

Tomorrow we will be going on a canoe trip down the creek so today we went to the lake to work on our canoeing skills. We started the outing with a healthy lunch of sandwiches, fruit and veggies, and cookies. Then we settled in to listen to an educational lecture on life jackets and how to properly use them. Then the real fun began. Before we got the canoes out, we found a small brown snake. We launched the canoes and were off. We learned how to turn and stop and maneuver around objects. With the help of Brian and Vallery, we all gained a sufficient knowledge of how to canoe safely.

Everything tastes like black cherries!!!

The last activity we did today was looking at trees and learning about them in The Erie National Wildlife Refuge. We saw black cherry trees, elm, hemlocks, yellow birch, maple trees, and pines. We also tasted trees and learned how to tell the age of a tree. The last thing we learned was how you would grow trees taller and what makes them be tall or short. In conclusion, everything in the forest tasted like black cherries.

Water Chemistry and Macroinvertabrates Part II

Today morning it was just another time doeing Water Chemistry and a Macro Hunt again. But this time upon the Woodcock Creek Dam. The chemical test and the way of catching Macros were the same as downstream. But it seemd to be different results. More species were found downstream so the Pollution Tolerance Index (PTI) was better there.

Birds Rehab at Tamarack(15/07/08)

After the chemistry tests above the dam in Woodcock Creek, we went to a little bird rehabilitation house. First we met Carol Holmgren, the director of a program that has the purpose of healing and rehabilitating birds. She showed us some interested birds such as an owl, a falcon and a bold eagle... All these birds were injured before they came to this refuge. In here they get medical attention, food and all the cares they could need. After watching the birds she took us to a cabin, she had a little project for us: fixing the place. Some of us used a wheel barrow to take sand into some holes, others used the shovels to spread dirt on the floor while others put soil into some holes and finally some were cleaning the place. This was our visit to the Tamarack rehabilitation house. It was a nice activity in wich we all worked hard and help in this im portant project for our environment.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Macro Hunt


This morning we went down stream of the Woodcock Creek Lake. After the water testing activity we went into the water for the first time. In there we needed to catch macro invertebrates. How did we do it? Two people held a kick net while the others make the "river dance" to scare the invertebrates into the net. After a few minutes we took the net out of the water and put it on a bench so we could look and examine what we had caught. We picked the animals and put them in a tub with clear water. We saw hundreds of worms, crayfishes, nymphs, etc...
We had lots of fun!


Today, we went above the Woodcock Creek Lake to examine the different species of fish live in the water. The divesity of fish are a good indicator to the health of the water. We looked at the variety of species by first giving a small electric shock through the water, then scooping up the fish in a net, and placing them in a bucket. Once we caught a good number of them, we examined ech fish and determined it's species. Then we let them go. No fish we injured, but some died. Oh well, that's Nature. : )

Water Chemistry :)

This was the first part of our water investigation. We tested water with different chemicals for pH, phosphorus, alkalinity, dissolved oxygen, dissolved solids and made sure that it was healthy so thats why a variety of animals live there. We also tested for temperature, turbidity, and nitrogen in the water samples. So we need to compare it with other samples from the creek.

Dove Banding and the Spillway

After a long, fun-filled day of searching through the creek, we decided to end the day with a bird's eye veiw of things, dove tagging. In order to monitor the dove population, the Pennsylvania Game Comision catches and tags wild doves. We had the opportunity to assist Sarah, one of the workers for the Game Comision, in tagging and releasing the doves. We thought it was funny that the traps were so simple yet the birds could not escape. Sarah told us that doves are not so bright. Sarah taught us how to estimate the doves' ages and there gender. All the doves were juveniles because not many make it past their first year. The traps attracted more than just doves. Many female red-winged black birds and a few caterwauls. We were permitted to hold the doves while Sarah taged them and then throw them into the wind.

This would have been a nice end to our day but we were not quite done. On our way home we stopped at the Spillway. Hundreds of carp gathered by the spillway bridge waiting for people to toss them some bread. We bought some stale bread and made the carp very happy. Some of us discovered that if we threw peices of bread high in the air, the gulls would catch it. To bad they cannot play for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

One more day

Are you packed? Ready to go?  I'm putting the last things in my suitcase (have to remember my sunglasses, water sandals, raincoat... what else?) and getting excited to meet everyone.  See you soon!

(Maybe I should rethink my packing list?  Do you think a suitcase for each day of camp is a little excessive?)

The next post will be from camp.  Please check back!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Rain or Shine

Hopefully you guys like the changes to the site. Many of you would be right to question the terrestrial toad displayed prominently on your background... Yes, I know, the toad is probably the least "Creeker" of all possible Pennsylvania amphibians. In fairness, there aren't that many blog templates that capture the wildlife of streams. We will leave that to you creek campers...

In the meantime, I encourage you to check out the links that were added to the right of this post. Much of the information on those websites will freshen your memory regarding stream life, and for those of you coming from other countries, it's a good source of information on the watershed you will be exploring. Don't think of it as homework, more as a head start that will make the trip more enjoyable.

Finally, I wanted to open up suggestions to former creekers and camp counselors on a topic our leaders brought up early this summer: What activities would be good backups if the weather doesn't cooperate? Hopefully, this effort won't be necessary, but it's always good to be prepared.