Vultures 4, Eagles 2
No alumni weekend retreat at Mansfield University would be complete without the vultures’ annual 17-mile bike ride along the magnificent Pine Creek rails-to-trails path in Tioga County. For three hours, from Ansonia to Blackwell, we’re enveloped in a natural world of soothing green. And if that were not enough, this year we hit the daily double—two bald eagles perched in a tree right along our bike path.
The pair of eagles seemed unperturbed by the fuss below. People pointing, whispering, clicking, oohing, aahhhing. All in a day’s work as an iconic American symbol.
The Pine Creek Gorge is always full of surprises. Not long after we saddle up our bikes (and secure our essential front baskets) from Pine Creek Outfitters outside of Wellsboro, we hit the trail and immerse ourselves in wilderness. During the ride, we coast through cool, shady forests and see everything from blooming wildflowers, deer and rattlesnakes to crazy rattlesnake hunters and Mennonite girls in dresses who look like they’re ready for the Tour de France.
Part of the challenge on each ride is trying to find at least one eagle. Just one. And every year, about five miles from our pick-up point, we get lucky. The gorge widens and the birds perch on trees close to creek banks to scan the water for fish. But what do we know, really. Nobody here has legit Ranger Rick credentials. The point is that they are always on the OTHER side of the creek. Our eyes are scanning the western side of the gorge. No one here is EVER looking in the branches overhead. Except for the sharp-eyed pedalers in front of us. As we approached we knew they had seen something. Their necks were arched, hands shielded their eyes, and they were telegraphing the universal sign of “Hey, there’s something up there,” the sky-poking finger. By the time we rolled up, the eagle sighting was confirmed and everyone went on high alert for viewing and picture taking. The trail was buzzing. Except for those two up in the trees. They were ready for their close up and never ruffled a single feather. It was a sight to behold.