Shades of Death Trail / Boulder Field / Hickory Run State Park / Pocono Mountains

Here is my sister’s blog post about her camping trip to and her experiences with the Pocono Mountinas / Hickory Run State Park / the Boulder Field / the Shades of Death Trail. My sister Katie and her husband hiked the Shades of Death Trail and visited the massive Boulder Field with their five-year-old and their three-year-old.

A Bear, A Snake, and Two Eagles Walk into a Bar. Ouch! Pics or it Didn’t Happen. Well, Here are Some Pics.

Drummond Island. Lake Huron. Northern Michigan. August 2021.
(Photo: Jenny Gaffron Woytek)

If I ever end up on a reality show, I will list my occupation as “Wildlife Photographer.”

Here are some of the photos that I took in Northern Michigan. We stayed on Drummond Island, an island off of the northern Lake Huron section of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Drummond Island holds the remains of a fort from the 1700’s and 1800’s. Not an American fort. A British fort. British soldiers guarded this fort even after the War of 1812 ended and the Treaty of Ghent gave Drummond Island to the United States. The British kept a military presence on UNITED STATES SOIL for DECADES after this war. I bet that this urked old Andrew Jackson. I want to blog about this some time.

The island is a few miles from the Canadian border. It is physically possible to snowmobile from Canada to Drummond Island when this part of Lake Huron freezes.

Anyway. I saw a black bear run past me outside as I sat inside the kitchen of our rental house. I didn’t grab my camera fast enough to get a photo of said bear. Had I yelled, “Hey, bear! Hold still til I grab a shot of you!,” it would have ended poorly for me.

I DID see two eagles either fight or mate. I grabbed a photo of BOTH eagles after they separated but before they flew away.

Drummond Island. Lake Huron. Northern Michigan. August 2021.
(Photo: Jenny Gaffron Woytek)

Then, I saw a snake on “our” porch. My new snake friend ran off and hid under the porch after I took photos of him or her. Jonathan either saw this same snake hiding in our wood pile several times, or he saw a different snake of the same species hiding in our wood pile.

Drummond Island. Lake Huron. Northern Michigan. August 2021.
(Photo: Jenny Gaffron Woytek)

Here is a sandhill crane. In my post about the Jersey Devil folklore in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey, I mentioned that writers and podcasters theorize that the some of the alleged “Jersey Devil” witnesses actually saw sandhill cranes.

Drummond Island. Lake Huron. Northern Michigan. August 2021.
(Photo: Jenny Gaffron Woytek)

I love heron, and I will shoot heron (with a camera) every chance that I get. I said HERON. You know, the bird.

Drummond Island. Lake Huron. Northern Michigan. August 2021.
(Photo: Jenny Gaffron Woytek)

Now, I know that Jonathan took much better photos than I did, but here are some more:

Drummond Island. Lake Huron. Northern Michigan. August 2021.
(Photo: Jenny Gaffron Woytek)
Drummond Island. Lake Huron. Northern Michigan. August 2021.
(Photo: Jenny Gaffron Woytek)
Drummond Island. Lake Huron. Northern Michigan. August 2021.
(Photo: Jenny Gaffron Woytek)


Drummond Island. Lake Huron. Northern Michigan. August 2021.
(Photo: Jenny Gaffron Woytek)
Drummond Island. Lake Huron. Northern Michigan. August 2021.
(Photo: Jenny Gaffron Woytek)

As Seen From the Boat Deck of the SV Pinniped

Off the Coast of Presque Isle State Park (Coming into the Passage to Presque Isle Bay), Erie, PA. Lake Erie. As Seen from the Deck of Our Sailboat, SV Pinniped. July 31, 2021. (Photo: Jenny Gaffron Woytek)

My mom, Shirley, was extremely gifted in the textile arts. Everyone who knew her well knew that she was really, really good at knitting, crocheting, needlepoint, sewing, and quilting. Anything that involved fabric or yarn, really.

One of my earliest memories involves a pink rabbit costume. Mom was under the impression that the town’s trick-or-treating would be held on Halloween night. Well, about a week or so before Halloween, she walked to the post office. She learned from a postal employee that our community’s Halloween parade and designated trick-or-treating hours were actually planned for THAT VERY EVENING. So, she booked it home and got to work on finishing the rabbit costume. It was ready for four-year-old me to wear just before the parade started.

Around this same time, Mom made me a pink (see a theme here?) quilt. She entered said quilt in the community quilt show. She took me to view this quilt show. I threw a temper tantrum when I saw “my” quilt in the exhibition, complete with a tag. How dare Mom attempt to sell “my” quilt!

I didn’t legitimize my own mother’s hand crafts. I don’t excuse myself for this, but I think that this was because a lot of my mom’s work fell into the arena of stuff that they did on “Little House on the Prairie.”

You know – “Women’s Work.”

(By the way, I loved both the “Little House on the Prairie” books and the television show. Mom sewed me and my sisters bonnets and ruffled dresses so that we could be just like Laura Ingalls Wilder.)

But – Mom was an artist. Several years ago, Mom and I visited the Carnegie Museum of Art (in Pittsburgh) while my dad went hunting back home in Somerset County. Mom specifically requested that we view a special exhibition about the hand crafts of women around the world. A lot of the art in this exhibit were the exact same mediums that Mom had created for the people that she loved for decades.

That being said, in the last year or so of Mom’s life, she decided to learn how to paint landscapes. She picked out painting supplies as her Christmas gift from my dad for from Santa Claus or whomever. She watched Youtube tutorials on landscape painting. She painted seashores. This was during the same year that she battled cancer.

Jonathan gives me photography lessons. Our photo outings got me through the chaos of the past few years. When I take photos of boats and birds and water, I feel the peace that I imagine that Mom felt when she painted beaches a few summers ago.

I and my two youngest sisters celebrated a June birthday by going to one of those places where you pay a flat fee to paint a sign. You know, where you can bring your own wine and charcuterie board, or your own beer and nachos, or whatever food and drinks make your own life worth living. It was fun. It reminded me of eighth grade art class.

I’m so grateful to my mom for teaching me to survive through life’s rough patches by clinging to anything that gives me joy. Also, for finishing my pink rabbit costume at the last minute.

Presque Isle Lighthouse

Presque Isle Lighthouse, Presque Isle State Park, Erie, PA. Lake Erie. June 27, 2021. Lighthouse put into service in 1873. (Photo: Jenny Gaffron Woytek)
Presque Isle Lighthouse, Presque Isle State Park, Erie, PA. Lake Erie. August 1, 2021. Lighthouse put into service in 1873. (Photo: Jenny Gaffron Woytek)

Did the Jersey Devil Fly to Pennsylvania? Also, What is REAL Fame?

Sandhill Cranes. Moraine State Park, Butler County, Pennsylvania. October 10, 2020. (Photo: Jenny Gaffron Woytek)

The Jersey Devil is a mythological creature. Its origin story maintains that the Jersey Devil was the result of a 13th birth to a (human) colonial family in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey. The Jersey Devil terrorized the family (or killed the family, according to some versions of the tale). Then, it flew up the family’s chimney. People have reported it flying for hundreds of years now. Mostly in New Jersey, of course. However, at least one person reported seeing it in Pennsylvania, across the Delaware River.

This Cryptid also named a professional hockey team and inspired its mascot. I speak of the New Jersey Devils. I work in an office in Pittsburgh. My one manager – a Philadelphia-area native – sits directly across an aisle from me. He placed a pillow featuring the New Jersey Devils’ “devil” mascot on a shelf directly above his desk. I see that devil pillow every time that I look at his office’s glass front wall.

So, the locals adopted the Jersey Devil as a beloved part of their culture.

I listened to these podcasts about the Jersey Devil:

Episode 9:  A Devil on the Roof from the Lore podcast by Aaron Mahnke

Episode 314: The Jersey Devil from Last Podcast on the Left

(Just a warning that Last Podcast on the Left (LPOTL) includes adult language and content.)

I’ve read several books on folklore that include chapters or at least mention of the Jersey Devil. Depending on your source, you will read different things about the Jersey Devil.

Some of my sources speculate that people who reported seeing the Jersey Devil actually saw a sandhill crane. That’s why I included at the top of this blog post a photo of two sandhill cranes. Here’s another photo of the same pair of sandhill cranes:

Sandhill Cranes. Moraine State Park, Butler County, Pennsylvania. October 10, 2020. (Photo: Jenny Gaffron Woytek)

I took these particular photos in October 2020 from a kayak on Lake Arthur at Moraine State Park in Western Pennsylvania. The park sits about 90 miles south of PA’s Lake Erie shoreline. When I took my photos of these birds, the birds ate in the wetlands at the lake’s edge. I made a lot of noise. The birds ate. They did not flee from me. They just ate. I took these photos during the same week that I read that biologists anticipated significant numbers of migratory birds to fly south for the winter. I am under the impression (I am NOT a scientist) that these birds stopped at Lake Arthur to feed during a migration from somewhere on the Great Lakes to somewhere south.

Here are different sandhill cranes that I saw on an island of Lake Huron in Northern Michigan in August 2020 and August 2021:

Sandhill Cranes. Drummond Island. Lake Huron. Northern Michigan. August 2020. (Photo: Jenny Gaffron Woytek)
Sandhill Cranes. Drummond Island. Lake Huron. Northern Michigan. August 23, 2021. (Photo: Jenny Gaffron Woytek)
Sandhill Crane. Drummond Island. Lake Huron. Northern Michigan. August 23, 2021. (Photo: Jenny Gaffron Woytek)
Sandhill Crane. Drummond Island. Lake Huron. Northern Michigan. August 23, 2021. (Photo: Jenny Gaffron Woytek)

I’ve established what sandhill cranes look like. My crane photos are all from the Great Lakes region. However, from what I understand (again, I am NOT a scientist), sandhill cranes have a range that includes other areas of North America.

Was the New Jersey Devil actually a “Pennsylvania” Sandhill Crane?

Also, what does it actually take to be famous through the ages?

I blogged about American Naval hero Stephen Decatur a few days ago. He defeated pirates. He won a Medal of Honor. He married a socially elite woman. He and his wife were an early 1800’s power couple! He lived in a mansion near the White House. He seconded Oliver Hazard Perry in a duel. He then died in a duel himself. A bunch of people who were born before the American Civil War were named after him.

And – he (allegedly) saw the Jersey Devil while he was testing cannons for the United States military. He (allegedly) fired a cannonball at the poor creature.

And – for me – the whole Jersey Devil story is what convinced me that Stephen Decatur will not be forgotten in America. He was famous enough to be linked in folklore to a beloved American figure – the Jersey Devil.

Just for the record, several sources that I consumed also linked Napoleon’s brother, Joseph, to a Jersey Devil sighting. Joseph Bonaparte used to be the King of Spain. After Napoleon’s defeat, Joseph had to move to New Jersey. The Canadian band Moxy Früvous has a song titled King of Spain that begins with the lyrics “Once I was the King of Spain, now I eat humble pie.” The song’s lyrics include mention of employment in a North American pizzaria. I personally think that the song is a dig at Joseph Bonaparte – the former King of Spain who had to move to Jersey, and then went down in folklore for his alleged run-in with the Jersey Devil.

“Just Like” the Uber Rich; Meet Our New Trophy Tree

April 25, 2021. New Kensington, PA.

The New York Times has a firewall.

I can read ten free New York Times articles a month from my personal devices. Then, the firewall blocks me from reading more.

Sometimes I think about purchasing an online subscription to the Times. However, the Times published something or fired someone with which I disagreed. Did an editor tweet something stupid? Perhaps an organized labor dispute? Anyway, it was enough to keep me from giving money to the Times. (Same reason that I don’t pay to read past the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette‘s firewall.)

(I can also log into my work computer and read such firewalled-stories using my employer’s corporate subscriptions, but I don’t like to do too much reading about personal interests on my work computer. Surveillance and all that.)

I mention all of this ’cause the Wall Street Journal has a similar firewall. If I’m not willing to pay to read my 11th Times article of the month, I’m not going to pay the Journal to read one or two articles posted there each year.

Instead, I use the same workaround to get beyond the Journal‘s firewall that I use to snoop around the Times‘ firewall:

I Google key words from the article’s title to see if somebody else republished the story as an AP story, or to see if another, non-firewall publication already posted a story about the firewalled story that I actually want to read. Sometimes, I go onto the publication’s Facebook page to see if they posted a link to the story there. Then, I read the story’s Facebook comments. If the story has enough comments from enough engaged readers, I get a synopsis.

If I’m still not satisfied, then I break down and read the story on my work computer.

The TL;DR from all of this is that I only read the first four paragraphs of the Wall Street Journal article The Newest Status Symbol for High-Net Worth Homeowners: Trophy Trees,” by Katherine Clarke, dated April 22, 2021. The firewall blocked the rest of the story for me. I had to go read a synopsis of the rest of this story on

So, here’s the gist that I cobbled together: Really, really rich people – referred to as “super rich,” “superrich,” “uber rich,” etc., have a new way to spend enormous amounts of money: they hire consultants to scout out other people’s trees and offer those people lots and lots of money to purchase said trees. Then, they hire specialists to dig up the trees – root systems and all – and transport these trees to the rich person’s estate. The specialists transplant the trees on the rich person’s estate, just as if the tree had been there for years.

I’m not talking about the time that my dad went to a nursery and purchased baby trees in little buckets for our front yard, or the time that Jonathan and I hired landscapers to bring baby trees in buckets to our house and plant them along our sidewalk.

I am talking about a tree just doing its tree thing, setting down roots in the earth. Some human digs up the tree’s roots, moves the tree to a new location, replants said tree in the new location, and tells the tree, “This is your new home now!”

So, I pieced together what I could without reading the full original article, and I thought, “Jonathan and I are on trend!”

You see, a much-beloved Japanese maple tree used to live in our backyard.

We spent years trying to keep the tree from dying. The tree eventually died, though. We were very sad.

Before the tree died, though, it dropped seeds all over our backyard. Japanese maple saplings popped up all over our yard. Most of these saplings popped up in poorly shaded areas or other spots that were not very good locations for us to host brand-new trees.

Several times, Jonathan attempted to transplant these saplings to other spots in our backyard. Each time, the saplings died.

By last fall, the original Japanese maple which shaded our backyard was dead, cut down, and existed as firewood next to our backyard chiminea.

Jonathan noted that one of the Japanese maple’s saplings still thrived very close to a rear corner of our house. Despite that particular location’s intense shade, the sapling was now quite large – a regular little tree, in fact. Unfortunately, this little tree grew way too close to our house’s foundation for our comfort.

So, we decided to risk digging up as much of this little tree’s root system as we could. To replant this little tree in a different part of our yard. The tree could die in this replant. However, we couldn’t let the tree put down more roots in its current location – next to our house’s foundation.

We chose our front yard for the replant because the front yard gets more direct sunlight than does our back yard.

So, here is what our little tree looked like in autumn 2020 after our replant. I took this photo off of my smart phone:

October 2020. New Kensington, PA.

Here is the same tree today, from a different angle:

April 25, 2021. New Kensington, PA

So, you see, Jonathan and I are “just like” the “uber rich!”

Now, I know that so few uber rich exist, that any publication can take any dumb thing or not-so-dumb thing that a handful of the extremely rich people do, and say, “You see, a significant number of the people in the X tier of wealth are doing this thing! It’s a trend!” For instance, a few years ago, I listened to a podcast about this one tech billionaire who flew around the world in his private plane looking at birds for a year so that he could cross all of these birds off of his list of “birds that you MUST see – but they MUST all be seen in a one year time period in order for you to get bragging rights!” The podcast episode intended to highlight the “trend” of “extreme bird watching” among the ultra-wealthy.

I know that having Jonathan dig up a little tree so that it doesn’t damage our house’s foundation, and then replanting this same tree in a sunnier patch of our yard in order to give the tree a second chance is NOT the same thing as purchasing somebody else’s fully-grown tree, moving it on a flatbed truck, and replanting it beside a billionaire’s new construction mansion as if the tree “always” lived there.

I took this close-up of the newly replanted Japanese maple’s leaves the morning after a snowfall, late April, 2021. New Kensington, Pennsylvania.

However, with all of the money that I save by not purchasing subscriptions to websites with firewalls, I might someday be as wealthy as the Uber Rich.