hiking north park – oriental bittersweettrek – 8
click to read the hiking posts


Today, I walked 4.7 miles. Once at the top of Walter Road, I followed a utility-pole access-path to the top of the hill and the North Park golf-course, this added more uphill to the walk giving the hike an average 110 feet elevation. My route has three parts to it: 1.Walter Road – the first half of Walter Road is the climb – to Pearce Mill Road (1.6 miles), 2.Pearce Mill Road to Babcock Boulevard (1.7 miles), and 3.Babcock Blvd. to East Ingomar Road, right onto Kummer Road and right onto the parking area on Lake Shore Drive (1.4 miles).

This was the first time I used a wide-angle lens – 17-55mm. Turns out it’s not the best lens for use in the Park; there aren’t any open landscapes; and I’m walking along the edge of an artificial lake at the bottom of the holler. (Yes, I’m using an Appalachian term.) I’ve used this lens very effectively up close, but the ravines and hillsides don’t allow me to get near any of the things I’m shooting. Several times today, I found myself wishing I had a second camera with a telephoto lens.

The main reason for the walking is to get in shape for the trip to Machu Picchu. When I walk, I wear a fanny-pack and carry a camera – d800e – things I will have with me on the trip. The wide-angle lens is heavier than the multi-purpose 18-300mm that I normally use, but I wanted to see if the results made it was worth packing and lugging it on the Inca Trail. Today’s pics decided that the wide-angle lens is not coming with me. I have one more lens to try the 80-400mm before making a final decision. (The 80-400mm needs to return great pics to warrant its weight.)

With a super blue sky, I decided to shoot the vines with the orange berries that cover many of the trees on Walter Road. The best results were impressionistic images showing a red/orange haze in the trees; the details – the berries – didn’t come through. There’s a large image of the vines and the berries cascading over a tree-trunk in the slide-show. The vine is Oriental Bittersweet and here in Western Pennsylvania it’s considered an invasive species – the vines twist themselves around the trunk eventually strangling the host tree. And let’s just add that all parts of the plant are poisonous to humans. The species is native to Eastern Asia, but was introduced to the US for aesthetic purposes – it has been used in floral arrangements. Now, the plant is recklessly affecting the ecology of over 33 states from Georgia to Wisconsin. And here in the Paris of Appalachia, in North Park, Bittersweet is everywhere.