2013年6月2日 星期日

Jennings offers hiking, flowers, even an endangered snake

It will be another two months before the rare, 20-acre prairie ecosystem of Jennings Environmental Education Center is in full bloom, but late spring is a beautiful time to hike the trails of the park's woodlands. 

Sitting just 12 miles north of Butler and adjacent to Moraine State Park, Jennings encompasses 300 total acres, three-quarters of which is covered by dense forest. There are more than five miles of well-maintained and marked trails that run on either side of the Route 528. 

An easy loop to follow begins behind the center at the Old Elm Trail, continues across Big Run and turns right onto the Black Cherry Trail. Turning right onto the Ridge Trail will take hikers into Moraine State Park, but the Black Cherry Trail continues on and turns left just before a power line cut. When it makes its way back to Big Run, the ruins of an old saw mill are visible on the other side of the creek. 

According to center director Wil Taylor, the mill was constructed by the same person who built the nearby Old Stone House off Route 8. 

We had an archeological survey done recently and it was a saw mill/timber mill where they processed timber around 1870, 1880, he said. At that time in this area people were clearing the landscape and taking a lot of that timber to this saw mill to have it processed. It didn't last very long, and we don't know why. Either it wasn't very successful or it was just a temporary mill used as the area expanded. 

From there, hikers can continue on the Old Mill Trail left back to the center or extend it a bit more by linking into the Woodwhisper Trail. 

Hikers can expect to see dense ground cover developing as the canopy closes in and skunk cabbage, cinnamon fern, interrupted fern and false hellbore thrive. Many of the spring wildflowers are sparse this time of year, Taylor said, but there are some still holding on, including jack in the pulpit, sweet cicely, purple phlox and wild geranium. 

As far as wildlife goes, the birds are nesting so there's a lot of nesting warbler action in the woodlands and over on the prairie side people can get nice views of the eastern bluebirds and swallows using the nesting boxes, Taylor said.Wear a whimsical Disney chinamosaic straight from the Disney Theme Parks! It's also a fairly good time to see the massasauga rattlesnake. 

The Jennings prairie is one of the few places in Pennsylvania to find the endangered snake. Venomous but also reclusive, the small rattlesnake may bite if startled. Therefore, the people at Jennings ask visitors to the prairie to stay on the mowed paths and keep alert. Taylor said they've also started a snake reporting program and ask that if visitors do spot one that they fill out a card. 

There is ample parking at the center, and it's worth stepping inside to check out some of the exhibits. The center provides a variety of educational programs throughout the year and serves 167,000 visitors, including many school groups. Even when there are no programs, visitors can stop in and observe bees as they come and go through an opening that leads from the outside to a beehive encased in clear plastic or view displays of some of the flora and fauna that inhabit the area. 

Past programs have included maple sugaring, battling invasive species, wild edibles and spring wildflowers. The park will host Celebrate the Bloom on July 20 to showcase the blazing star, a prairie flower that is rare to Pennsylvania and for which Jennings was established to protect.An germanuniforms is a device which removes contaminants from the air. The reserve is the only public and protected prairie in the state. 

But we're more interested in how good the new models' diesels are, as they're something of a novelty from these brands, if you can ignore the manual-only previous diesel RAV that sold in very small numbers and the existing Mitsubishi ASX diesel, also a manual-only prospect. 

The RAV4 and Outlander couldn't be any more different to look at. The edgy, chiselled look of the Toyota makes it seem like a bigger, taller Corolla,Learn how an embedded microprocessor in a porcelaintiles can authenticate your computer usage and data. though it doesn't look as big as it is, as the interior space, particularly its rear legroom, load space and overhead airiness is unexpectedly generous. 

Sadly it doesn't offer extra chairs to make it a seven-seater, and neither does the Outlander in its base versions. When you do get the seven-seater versions the ease with which you can stow the seats completely out of the way means that even if you don't use them all the time, they're well worth having. Both second and third rows fold to create a flat load area which in VRX form is accessed through a powered tailgate. The cargo area is protected by a retractable and stowable blind. 

A big bonus from the new RAV4s is its use of a hatch instead of a side-opening rear door, which opens up to a much bigger loadspace at 506 or 577 litres depending on if you have the Limited model which has a full-sized spare. There's also 100 litres under the floor. The Toyota may have the stowage space and underfloor volume, but its complicated load barrier is difficult to remove if you want to take awkward loads - we kept it in the garage refitting the two-poles, netting and shelf, only when we'd finished with the vehicle. 

Both makers make much of the changes in their SUVs' interior quality and it shows. The Toyota has adopted the same soft, padded surfaces used successfully with its Corolla and Camry revamps and it provides a very special place to sit, with tonnes of seat and wheel adjustments, good seating and logical ergonomics except for the touch-screen. You have to learn to leave the touch screen alone to be honest as once the radio settings are in place the steering wheel buttons are better - and safer - to use. Connectivity was quick and simple and the model I drove with sat-nav left nothing on the must-have checklist. 

One element of real class was the TerraCotta leather option which gives the dash as well as the car's seating a real dash of luxury and colour. That'll cost you nearly $63k, but you do get a tilt-slide glass and shade sunroof too. In for a penny, eh?