The Audubon Trail at the Seven Tubs Nature Area is a loop trail named for the Greater Wyoming Valley Audubon Society, whose members constructed and continue to maintain it. The trail is blazed in blue, and it traverses various forest and riparian (stream-side) habitats along its approximately 1.5-mile length.

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Since the Audubon Trail is a loop trail, it can be accessed at either of two points, and can be hiked in either of two directions. The northern terminus is at the north footbridge near the confluence of Laurel Run and Wheelbarrow Run. The southern terminus is at a point on the west branch of the Tubs Trail just upstream from the Tubs, and almost directly across from the ship's ladder. The portion of the trail that follows Laurel Run is the easiest to hike. Hence, if you plan to hike the entire trail and you want the easiest part of the hike to occur at the end, you should begin at the southern terminus. To reach the southern terminus, cross the north footbridge to the west side of Wheelbarrow Run and turn left. Follow the Tubs Trail to the blue blazes.

 

PLANT LIFE OF THE AUDUBON TRAIL






The Audubon Trail traverses a variety of habitat types, so the hiker is likely to discover many different plant species along the way. Open areas, such as the ridge-top near the southern terminus, tend to be dominated by lowbush blueberry. This shrub's ripe berries are an important food for many species of wildlife, including birds, small mammals, and bears, while the twigs of the blueberry bush are eaten by rabbits and deer. Trees common to these open areas are bear oak and pitch pine, which is a fire-resistant species that grows well in dry, rocky soil. In the more densely-forested areas common tree species include oaks, birches, maples, sassafras, and tulip poplar, with different species dominating different areas along the trail. The forest's most obvious shrub is mountain laurel, whose evergreen leaves add a bit of color to winter's mostly-gray landscape. Stream banks, such as those along Laurel Run, are often lined with eastern hemlock, Pennsylvania's state tree. This evergreen provides wildlife with shelter from winter's snows, and creates cool shade for the hiker on hot summer days.





Wildflowers can also be found along the Audubon Trail from spring, throughout the summer, and into early autumn. Among the species common to the area are mountain laurel (Pennsylvania's state flower), sheep laurel, pink lady's slipper, fringed polygala, painted trillium, trailing arbutus, whorled loosestrife, bottle gentian, and several species of violets. Although wildflowers can almost always be found in sunny, open areas, the shadows created by the forest's canopy force many sun-loving wildflowers to make room for the shade-seeking fungi.







Summer and autumn rains can often be counted on to produce a variety of mushrooms, including the deadly-poisonous Amanitas, and edible boletes and chicken mushrooms. Many mushrooms are as colorful as, and in some cases even more colorful than, the wildflowers that preceded them, sporting bright yellows, oranges, reds, and purples. No mushroom should be eaten, however, unless it can be positively identified as non-poisonous, and then properly cooked.

 

ANIMAL LIFE OF THE AUDUBON TRAIL








The Seven Tubs Nature Area abounds with wildlife. Since the Audubon Trail traverses various habitat types, it is possible to encounter many different animal species along its course. Some of the mammals that might be seen are the chipmunk, gray squirrel, skunk, raccoon, cottontail rabbit, red fox, gray fox, white-tail deer, and black bear. However, since most of these animals are primarily nocturnal, and since the area is open to hunting, which makes the wildlife wary of humans, the hiker is more likely to find signs of an animal's presence than to actually encounter the animal. Such signs include tracks in mud and snow; skat, or droppings; and the remains of an unfinished meal, like a partially-eaten fish, or the discarded pieces of a cone, nut, or fruit.






More likely to be seen than the mammals are the many birds that inhabit the area. Some of these birds may be nesting near the trail. Others may be pausing to rest and refuel during their spring and autumn migrations. With the exception of the owls and a few others, the birds are all active during the daylight hours. Thus, they can be seen fairly easily, although a close look might require patience and a pair of binoculars. Different birds inhabit different areas. In open areas, like the area near the southern terminus of the Audubon Trail, a casual observation will likely result in sightings of field sparrows, flickers, blue birds, and rufous-sided towhees, while the forested areas are more likely to harbor ruffed grouse, hermit thrushes, brown creepers, and ovenbirds (less likely to be seen as heard, their song a crescendo of "teacher, teacher, teacher"). Also, many species of warblers may be seen, especially from mid-April to mid-May. From high, open areas like the power line crossing, hawks and turkey vultures may be seen soaring along the ridges. Near the streams, ruby-crowned and golden-crowned kinglets are likely to be observed flitting among the hemlocks. In winter, most birds have flown to warmer climates in Central and South America, but the ever-present chickadees can be counted on to liven up the landscape with their familiar song. Also, dark-eyed juncos, downy woodpeckers, and white-breasted nuthatches are common winter residents.








Reptiles and amphibians can also be found along the Audubon Trail. Wood frogs may be seen near pools of standing water, which occur at various points along the southern branch of the trail, and as evening approaches, spring peepers may be heard adding their harmonies to the chorus of forest sounds. Snakes are also common. While many are harmless, some are poisonous. Thus, appropriate caution should be exercised when hiking the trail during warm months, especially in early morning when these cold-blooded creatures sometimes crawl out from cover to bask in the sun in order to warm their bodies after a cool night.

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The Audubon Trail at the Seven Tubs Nature Area can provide the hiker with many enjoyable experiences. However, anyone who visits the Seven Tubs Nature Area and hikes the Audubon Trail, or any other trail, should use appropriate caution. The area is essentially wild, and we humans should always remember that we are guests in the home of the various wild creatures that live here. Thus, we should respect these creatures and their home. We can show respect by keeping the area litter-free, and by being careful not to damage plants upon which some wild animals might depend for their survival. While we may harvest the edible wild mushrooms and berries that grow in abundance, we should avoid uprooting plants because this will result in the plant's losing its future productivity. We should also avoid picking wildflowers since many of these are, or become, food for wildlife. Also, some might be rare, or even endangered. Even those that are common should be left so that others can enjoy their beauty. Remember, take only photographs, and leave only footprints.

Finally, you can help to maintain the Audubon Trail in two ways: first, by hiking the trail you help to keep the brush from growing back over it; and second, by carrying out any bottles, cans, and food wrappers that you carry in, and depositing them in a trash container or taking them to a recycling center, you help to preserve the trail's scenic beauty for all to enjoy.

Enjoy the Seven Tubs Nature Area.

 

Directions to the Seven Tubs Nature Area: I-81 to PA 115 South (Bear Creek Exit from I-81) or PA Turnpike Northeast Extension (I-476) to PA 115 North (Turn left at the stop sign after the toll booth.). The park entrance is a right turn from the southbound lane of PA 115 at the end of the concrete divider if you are traveling south (up the mountain) on PA 115, and a left turn from the northbound lane at the beginning of the concrete divider if you are traveling north (down the mountain) on PA 115. Follow the entrance road to the parking area on the left, or to the handicapped-accessible parking area at the bottom of the hill. From the main parking area, follow the road to the bottom of the hill. Follow the yellow-lined macadam trail to the footbridge. Cross the footbridge and turn either left or right to access the Audubon Trail, which is balzed in blue, and for which foot travel is most appropriate. (Mountain bikes are discouraged on the Audubon Trail, and motorized vehicles are prohibited in this Luzerne County park.)

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THE AUDUBON TRAIL

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SEVEN TUBS NATURE AREA