Take a hike? Please do in Pennsylvania
Most forms of outdoor recreation have been somewhat challenging for the past few weeks given the brutal and unrelenting heat wave we’ve experienced.
Early morning hikes on wooded trails have been one option for beating the heat while getting some exercise and connecting with nature. Fortunately, there is also no shortage of hiking trails and similar venues in this area from which to enjoy the outdoors during any season of the year.
These routes are available in every possible degree of difficulty from easy to strenuous to suit the abilities and preferences of any trekker. As we transition into autumn in the coming weeks, exploring some of these trails is a wonderful way to enjoy the cooler weather and brilliant fall foliage.
Almost every state park in our region and throughout Pennsylvania offers a system of trails, many of which are designed to provide access to various points of interest throughout the park. The Raystown Lake complex provides an extensive network of trails that is generally regarded as the premier mountain biking trail system in the eastern United States. We also have a plethora of rail trails, which tend to be rather flat, making them ideal for the casual hiker or biker. The Lower Trail follows the Frankstown Branch of the Juniata River for 16 miles through Blair and Huntingdon counties is mostly on the towpath of the old Pennsylvania Mainline Canal. Its well-groomed surface, forested setting and frequent wildlife sightings along the trail always make for an interesting and enjoyable bike ride. Information on the trail can be found online at rttcpa.org. The Ghost Town Trail in Cambria and Indiana counties is another popular rail trail.
Long-distance or other avid hikers also have many options in the area. The Mid-State Trail system comprises more than 300 miles of trails in central Pennsylvania on a north-south track between the Maryland and New York borders.
Often referred to as “The Wildest Trail in Pennsylvania,” the Mid-State Trail traverses some of the most rugged and beautiful areas of the state. Pennsylvania also hosts more than 200 miles of the famous Appalachian Trail. Entering Pennsylvania just north of Hagerstown, Maryland, the Appalachian Trail angles its way north, crossing the Susquehanna River at Duncannon and continuing northeast to exit the state near Stroudsburg.
Here in our region, the 84-mile Standing Stone Trail winds its way through Fulton, Huntingdon and Mifflin counties connecting to Greenwood Furnace State Park, Cowans Gap State Park, the Detweiler Natural Area in Rothrock State Forest while passing through the towns of Three Springs and Mapleton. For more information on the Standing Stone Trail, visit www.standingstonetrail.org.
The website www.explorepatrails.com is a great online source for all things about trails in Pennsylvania. Here you will find maps and all sorts of information about virtually every trail in the Keystone State. This site’s advanced search features can be particularly useful. In addition to searching for trail locations by county or zip code, it is also possible to find trails that allow specialty users such as horseback, snowmobiling, cross-country ski, ATV, motorcycles, wheelchair and more. For specific information about state park trails, check out www.dcnr.state.pa.us/stateparks.
There’s usually no need for a lot of gear on a casual hike or walk in the woods, but a few things will add to the overall enjoyment ad safety of the activity. Obviously, a good pair of shoes or boots will do much to ensure hiking pleasure. As most enthusiasts well know, you’ll never regret having good shoes that are comfortable and perform as they should in the outdoors, so buy the best you can afford.
The same thing goes for socks; spend a few dollars more to get a pair of top-quality hiking socks. Bug spray can also be a relief from mosquitoes and other pesky insects. A camera is almost a must for capturing some of the spectacular scenery, wildlife or wildflowers you are likely to encounter on most trails. A lightweight pair of binoculars in the range of an 8×21 to 10×42 will be handy for getting a closer look at birds and wildlife. A handheld GPS unit can be useful for tracking your progress or for some piece of mind against getting lost if you are hiking in unfamiliar territory.
What’s in your wallet?
Like many hunters, I picked up my new hunting license a few weeks ago in order to send for a doe license. Because we no longer are required to display a hunting license while hunting in Pennsylvania, I enjoy the convenience of keeping my various hunting licenses and tags in my wallet.
So after making sure all the various licenses and permits I have are properly signed, I stash them and all the appropriate tags in my wallet. I got into this habit a few years back when I forgot to put the new license in my wallet and almost started the new hunting season with my expired license and tags. That is easy enough to do, of course, because all hunting licenses and tags look exactly the same except for the small license year designation in the upper right corner of each document.
Not only is it important to put your new license, permits and tags in your wallet or whatever license holder you use but also to remove all last year’s documents as well. According to page 22 of the Pennsylvania Hunting and Trapping Digest, “It is unlawful to possess an expired, fulfilled, revoked, suspended or invalid big-game harvest tag or hunting license while engaged in hunting or trapping activites.” Make sure all the hunting licenses and tags you carry are marked for the license year 20/21 remove ones from any other year.