Tag Archives: Pennsylvania

August’s Best State Park Events

wave, summer, beach, sand, surf

Image: nnym.youthministry360.com

August, already?! We here at ParksByNature can’t believe it either. End your summer right by heading to one (or all!) of these great events at the State Parks.

Woodsmen’s Show
Cherry Springs State Park, Pennsylvania
August 1-3, 2014

lumberjacks, log, tree, saw, cross-cutting, grass, crowd, people, summer, suspenders, woodsmen

Cross-cutting at the Woodsmen’s Show [Image: www.sungazette.com]

Want to see lumberjacks fell, saw, carve, haul, axe and roll giant logs? Come celebrate the life of a woodhick at the three-day annual Woodsmen’s Show at Cherry Springs State Park! Since 1952, thousands have flocked to the Woodsmen’s Show to watch cross-cutting, spring board chopping, chainsaw carving, and horse pulling competitions. Inspired by all the axe throwing and log rolling? Then sign up for the show’s amateur lumberjack competitions! At the historical logging camp, you’ll find demonstrations of traditional hunting, forging and raft-making techniques. Rousing live folk and bluegrass music will play throughout, and don’t forget to indulge in all of the show’s hearty food. Besides its logging history, Cherry Springs State Park is legendary for its dark skies. The skies at the park are so dark that the Milky Way casts a shadow! Reserve a campsite so you can see for yourself.

Jericho ATV Festival
Jericho Mountain State Park, New Hampshire
August 1-3, 2014

mud pit, ATVs, race, mud, helmets, arctic cat, fence, crowd

Nothing like a good mud pit! [Image: www.coupleofsports.com]

It’s all about the mud at the 5th Annual Jericho ATV Festival. For one weekend, hundreds of ATVs, quads, dirt bikes, and dune buggies will be mudding it up in the waist-deep mud pits, cruising down Main Street, and tackling Jericho Mountain’s plentiful ATV trails. From amateurs to pros, everyone can compete in poker runs, obstacle courses, ATV pulls, mud pit races and grudge runs, and the popular “wreck the dress” race. For demos, giveaways, live music, beer tent and plenty of good BBQ head to the festival’s Downtown Block Party in Berlin, New Hampshire. And be sure to check out the Rave X Freestyle Show: A dirt biker and quad rider will perform heart-stopping stunts 20 feet in the air!

Away from the competition, take a ride along the 80 miles of trail at Jericho Mountain State Park. This extensive trail network offers the best OHRV riding New England has to offer with breathtaking views and varied terrain to satisfy all riders. Use Pocket Ranger®’s Official Guide for New Hampshire State Parks to mark waypoints and keep track of friends while ATV-ing together on the trails.

Twin Peaks Festival
Olallie State Park, Washington
August 1-3, 2014

Twin Peaks, tv show, Washington, forest, sign, trees, road, car, mountains

Image: twinpeaksgifs.tumblr.com

This August, fans from all over the world will flock just east of Seattle to Olallie State Park for the annual Twin Peaks Fest. Aired in the early 1990’s, this cult classic TV show by director and writer David Lynch was inspired by the area’s waterfalls, dense woods, and small town-feel. Look forward to touring the show’s filming locations and watching the pilot episode of Twin Peaks on the big screen. On Saturday night, get gussied up as your favorite character for the costume contest and dine alongside actual Twin Peaks celebrities. This year’s celebrity guests include Sherilyn Fenn (Audrey Horne), Chris Mulkey (Hank Jennings), James Marshall (James Hurley) and more! The festival closes with a Tibetan rock-throw contest and that iconic piece of cherry pie.

Sioux River Folk Festival
Newton Hills State Park, South Dakota
August 1-3, 2014

folk music, festival, fiddle, banjo, musicians, sioux river folk festival, guitars

Image: www.folkatfestival.com

Get ready for three days of live fiddlin’ music, dancing, and family fun! The annual Sioux River Folk Festival at Newton Hills State Park features traditional music, such as folk, bluegrass, old time, and gospel played by some of the very best. Throughout the weekend, music and yoga workshops will also be held. During the Saturday break, musically-inclined festival-goers can sign up for a juried campground contest. Winners of this talent contest open for the festival’s big closing set on Saturday night and receive an original Headley Eyesore artwork signed by the artist himself. So you don’t miss a moment, reserve a campsite at the park using Pocket Ranger®’s Official Guide for South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks app.

World’s Longest Yard Sale
DeSoto State Park, Alabama
August 7-10, 2014

yard sale, quilts, knick-knacks, barnyard, dolls, pink, bargains, Alabama

Miles of bargains! [Image: worldslongestyardsaleproject.blogspot.com]

Did you miss Kentucky’s 400 Mile Sale or are you just hungry for more thrifting? This August, the heart of the World’s Longest Yard Sale traverses Alabama’s DeSoto State Park. As seen on HGTV, USA Today, Newsweek, and The Tonight Show, the World’s Longest Yard Sale follows U.S. 126 Corridor from Gadsden, Alabama to Addison, Michigan for more than 690-miles of scenic beauty and bargain finds. Take a dip in DeSoto State Park’s Olympic-size pool before hitting the road for another day of yard sales.

Annual Day of Honor Event
Chief Plenty Coups State Park, Montana
August 30, 2014

Native Americans, Montana, west, grass, festival, feathers, beadwork, dancing

Traditional dancing at the Day of Honor [Image: visitmt.com]

A day of cultural sharing, the 20th Annual Day of Honor at Chief Plenty Coups State Park commemorates the last chief of the Apsaalooke (Crow) people and his legacy of promoting understanding, peace and harmony among races. Visitors can tour Chief Plenty Coups’ log house and gravesite, and place prayer flags at the sacred medicine spring. Throughout the day, listen to storytellers and watch traditional dancing accompanied by drumming. Browse the craft fair for treasures, such as beaded items, Native American dolls, and paintings. Don’t leave before partaking in the park’s FREE buffalo feast! To feed the 600 guests, the park staff at Chief Plenty Coups State Park slow-roast a buffalo in a giant pit for twelve hours on the Day of Honor. Roast bison is served with all the traditional fixings, including corn on the cob, fry bread, watermelon and berry pudding.

Attend any of these events? We’d love to hear about it!
Leave a comment or share a photo with us on our Facebook page!

July’s Best State Park Events

park rangers, demos, festival, Eno River, state park, kids

Image: www.ncparks.gov

July is bursting with great events (and fireworks!) at state parks around the country. We’ve combed through the event calendars and uncovered the ones that you won’t want to miss:

Three Rivers Regatta
Point State Park, Pennsylvania
July 2 – 4, 2014

Three Rivers Regatta, Point State Park, Pennsylvania, crowd, boats, water, festival

Three Rivers Regatta [Image: www.brooklineconnection.com]

Point State Park is the place to be this summer! Just a few weeks after holding the Three Rivers Arts Festival, Point State Park gears up for another colossal event: the Three Rivers Regatta. Work on your summer tan while at Regatta Beach (one of only two makeshift inner city beaches in the world), then mosey on over to the larger-than-life replica of the Battle of Ft. McHenry made entirely of sand. Don’t blink or you could miss the powerboat races, where boats frequently top speeds of 125 mph!

Looking for more excitement? This year, the Regatta is hosting the XPogo World Championships in addition to BMX and agility dog stunt shows. A fan favorite is “Anything that Floats,” a parade of handmade, crazily decorated parade floats that bob down the river. This year’s headliners include American rock singer Steve Augeri, former lead vocalist for the rock group Journey, jazz musician Kenny Blake, and Beatlemania Magic. The Regatta culminates with Pittsburgh’s Official 4th of July Celebration fireworks, widely considered to be one of the Top 10 Fourth of July fireworks displays in the country. And did we mention that all of this fun is free? There is no admission fee and no charge for any of the Regatta’s concerts, acts, activities, or events!

 

Festival for the Eno
Durham City Park, North Carolina
July 4 – 5, 2014

Festival for the Eno, drums, band, live music, North Carolina, crowd, summer, tents

Festival for the Eno [Image: blog.fmrealty.com]

Looking for fantastic music this Independence Day weekend? Check out the 35th Annual Festival for the Eno in Durham, North Carolina. With over 65 acts on four stages, there’s sure to be something that strikes your fancy. All proceeds of ticket sales go towards funding important conservation of the Eno River Basin. An assortment of local food trucks will be serving up some great bites, and the Sweetwater Beer Garden at the heart of the festival will be happy to pour you a local brew. Be sure to rent a kayak or canoe so you can spend some quality time paddling around on the festival’s namesake! Need a place to crash for the night? Using Pocket Ranger®’s Official Guide for North Carolina State Parks, you can easily rent a campsite or vacation cabin at Eno River State Park.

 

World Championship of Catfishing & Independence Day Celebration
Pickwick Landing State Park, Tennessee
July 4 – 6, 2014

Catfish, World Championship, Tennessee, fishermen, summer

World Championship of Catfishing [Image: www.tnvacation.com]

Catfish, fireworks, bluegrass, golf. What better way to celebrate Independence Day? Pickwick Landing State Park will present an excellent fireworks display over Pickwick Lake on July 4th. Spend the night at Pickwick Landing’s inn, so you can tee up at the golf course or lounge at the beach bright and early the next day.

Nearby Savannah, Tennessee, also known as “Catfish Capital of the World,” is currently hosting the National Catfish Derby. Through July 5, any catfish caught in the Tennessee River is eligible to win. (Don’t forget to upload photos of your own monster catch onto Pocket Ranger Trophy Case®!) On July 6, the World Championship of Catfishing will have its final weigh-in at Pickwick Landing State Park with cash and prizes awarded to the winner. Not so interested in noodling for your own catfish? Then stick around for the after-party for free catfish and live music. Or grab a lawn chair and head to the 35th Annual Savannah Bluegrass Festival to listen to the best that Tennessee has to offer.

 

11th Toledo Lighthouse Waterfront Festival
Maumee Bay State Park, Ohio
July 12 – 13, 2014

Toledo Lighthouse, girl, sunglasses, water, Lake Erie, lighthouse

Toledo Lighthouse Waterfront Festival [Image: www.toledoblade.com]

Looking to tour the inside of a 100-year old lighthouse this summer? Head to the 11th Toledo Lighthouse Waterfront Festival at Maumee Bay State Park! Since Toledo Lighthouse remains active, this festival is one of only two times annually that the lighthouse is open to visitors. Afterwards, visit the Nautical Village arts & crafts show to pick up some lighthouse-inspired souvenirs and try your luck at the silent auction. With over 200 items at the auction, you’re bound to win something! Help yourself to delicious food like brats, homemade fries, shrimp, and funnel cake while listening to Jimmy Buffet-style musical entertainment at the park’s amphitheatre. And while you can’t spend the night in the lighthouse, you can reserve a campsite (or a yurt!) at Maumee Bay State Park.

 

Bannack Days
Bannack State Park, Montana
July 19 – 20, 2014

Bannack Days, Montana, collage, pioneers, old, horses, gunfight

Bannack Days [Image: blog.rv.net]

A fun-filled weekend celebrating 152 years of history, Bannack Days at Bannack State Park is something you don’t want to miss! Learn how to shoot a black-powder rifle, pan for gold, and hand-dip a souvenir candle. Watch the local blacksmith forge incredible works of art and take a wagon ride along Bannack’s historic main street. Get ready for good eats like ice cream, kettle corn, fry bread, corn on the cob, and fresh lemonade. Throughout both days, there will be plenty of live bluegrass, gospel, and old-time fiddler music. And keep your eyes peeled for a few staged gunfights!

 

4th Annual Wakonda Indian Festival
Glen Elder State Park, Kansas
July 19 – 20, 2014

Wakonda Indian Festival, Native American, dance, feathers, tribal dress, haybale

Wakonda Indian Festival [Image: www.sparkpeople.com]

Dancing, drumming, storytelling: Learn all about Native American culture firsthand at the 4th Annual Wakonda Indian Festival at Glen Elder State Park. Waconda Lake was once a spring, believed to hold great healing powers. On the shores of this lake, there will be traditional and contemporary Native American drumming and dances, such as the Hoop Dance and Crow Hop Dance. Stories and legends will be told by master storyteller Ron Brave in the festival’s tipi. Help yourself to delicious Indian tacos, fry bread, and buffalo burgers, and browse the fine silverwork, leatherwork, jewelry, and dreamcatchers on display. Since it’s sure to be a bit warm that day, bring along a bathing suit so you can take a dip in Waconda Lake.

 

Four Pennsylvania State Parks with Beautiful Water Views

Contributed by Katie Levy, Adventure-Inspired

One of my favorite ways to make the most of warm weather hiking is to target treks with waterfalls. There’s just something extra wonderful about feeling the cool spray of a towering cascade on a summer day. But waterfalls aren’t the only water-based destinations to be on the lookout for this summer. Streams, creeks, and rivers are great features to plan your hikes around. Here in Pennsylvania, there are plenty of beautiful water views, but four state park scenes stand out in my mind.

Hyner View State Park, View of the Susquehanna River

Hyner State Park

Hyner View State Park

I made my first trip to Hyner View State Park with Philadelphia-based TerraMar Adventures. At the park, visitors have access to a beautiful vista overlooking the Susquehanna River.  But it’s no ordinary vista; the overlook doubles as a launch point for hang gliders. The Hyner Hang gliding Club provides resources for hang gliders and park visitors alike if you’re interested in a different vantage point. It was awe-inspiring to watch hang gliders sail around in the sky, but even after they’d landed and as the sun set, the view just kept getting better.

To access the vista, drive up Hyner View Road straight to the overlook. The overlook wall was constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), and you’ll find a bronze statue near the overlook dedicated to the CCC. Though activity options at Hyner View State Park are limited, the largest state forest in Pennsylvania’s state forest system is right around the corner. Sproul State Forest offers plenty to do for hikers, campers, mountain bikers, and boaters.

Ralph Stover State Park, Access to Tohickon Creek

Beautiful Water Views

Ralph Stover State Park

Rock climbing is what initially brought me to Bucks County’s Ralph Stover State Park, but views of the Tohickon Creek provide an extra bonus when I’m not on belay. Though Ralph Stover is small, its 45 acres include beautiful picnic areas, a short hiking trail, and even whitewater boating opportunities when the creek is high enough.

To experience Tohickon Creek up close, use the hiking trail in the Island Picnic Grove. But if it’s a vista you need, or climbing you crave, head to the High Rocks section of the park. The cliffs are 200 feet tall in some spots, making Ralph Stover an ideal climbing destination. It’s also a great spot to enjoy views of Tohickon Creek and the surrounding wooded areas. Nearby Tohickon Valley Park offers overnight camping if you’re hoping to get some extra time at Ralph Stover.

Ohiopyle State Park, Adventures on the Youghiogheny River

Encompassing over 19,000 acres an hour south of Pittsburgh, Ohiopyle is a water-based recreation lover’s paradise. The twisting, turning Youghiogheny River Gorge passes right through the middle of the park and the lower portion of the river is a favorite for whitewater enthusiasts, including the Wilmington Trail Club’s kayakers.

Local rafting companies offer guided whitewater rafting trips if you’d prefer to experience “The Yough” in a bigger boat, but Ohiopyle is also a great destination for hikers. With the nearly 80 miles of trails, hikers have plenty of opportunities to see the river up close without a boat. From Baughman Rocks, visitors can see the deepest gorge in Pennsylvania, and both Jonathan Run and Meadow Run are touted as must-see spots. Ohiopyle is also home to a portion of the Laurel Highlands Trail, a strenuous 70 mile backpacking and hiking trail.

Tyler State Park, Wandering Along Neshaminy Creek

The first time I visited Tyler State Park, a 1,700 acre gem in Bucks County, my hiking partner and I had no idea what to expect. All we knew was that the relatively flat hiking, mountain biking, and equestrian trails meandered all over the park, and it was our goal to see as much of it as we could.

Neshaminy Creek runs right through the park, and thanks to the extensive trail system, it’s possible to stay along the creek for the entire distance of Tyler State Park’s boundaries. The Schofield Ford Covered Bridge, accessible via the Covered Bridge hiking trail, is a great destination to visit. Trails are clearly marked and if you’re planning to include multi-use trails in your trip, be sure to note which trails are designated for different activities. In addition to miles of trails, Tyler State Park offers picnicking, fishing, boating, a center for the arts, and a variety of other activities.

Do you look for waterfalls, creeks, streams, and rivers when you plan summer hikes? Have you been to any of these destinations? Where are your favorite water-based destinations in warmer weather? Leave a comment!

 

June 2014′s Best State Park Events

Two Adirondack chairs on deck, lake, forest

Image: blog.weneedavacation.com

Looking for something to kick off your summer? Here are five rousing state park events that we think will fit the bill:

Three Rivers Arts Festival, Point State Park, Pennsylvania, crowds, music, festival, summer, river, trees, audience, park, green

Three Rivers Arts Festival, Pennsylvania [Image: www.3riversartsfest.org]

Three Rivers Arts Festival
Point State Park, Pennsylvania
June 6-15, 2014

For 10 glorious days, this large, bustling art and performing arts fair takes over Point State Park in downtown Pittsburgh. Listen to top-notch touring musicians, behold the work of acclaimed visual artists, and participate in creative hands-on activities and art installations. Best part about the Three Rivers Arts Festival? It’s free! Artwork from over 1,000 artists will also be on display, and this year’s top performers include: Lucinda Williams, Jeff Tweedy, Sam Bush, Amos Lee, and Trampled by Turtles. When your ears have had enough music for the day, make sure to check out Point State Park’s iconic, 100-foot tall fountain. Better yet, use Pocket Ranger®’s Official Guide for Pennsylvania State Parks & Forests to take a photo waypoint selfie in front of it to share with all of your Facebook and Twitter friends.

 

Map of 400 Mile Yard Sale, Kentucky

Image: www.kylandsales.com

“400 Mile Sale” Yard Sale
Blue Licks Battlefield State Resort Park, Kentucky
June 5-8, 2014

Get your bargain-finding game face on! From June 5th – June 8th, Kentucky will burst at the seams with yard sale goodies across 400 miles of its scenic and historic Highway 68. Camp at Blue Licks Battlefield State Resort Park to put yourself at the heart of the thrifting. Not sure if you’re ready to pay for a treasure you’ve uncovered at one of the hundreds of yard sale tables? Mark it as a waypoint using Pocket Ranger®’s Official Guide for Kentucky State Parks, so you can find your way back to it at the end of the day! While in the area, don your leather jacket for the Elkton Bike Night or pull on the family tartan for the Highland Scottish Games in Barren River State Park. And don’t forget to pick up your 400 Mile Sale t-shirt! There’s a limited supply of them!

Utah Lake Festival, Utah, mountains, lake, lawn, summer, boat, tents, forest

Utah Lake Festival, Utah [image: www.enjoyutah.org]

Utah Lake Festival
Utah Lake State Park, Utah
Saturday June 7, 2014

Like boats? How about scenic mountain views? How about a boat tour on a lake with scenic mountain views? The 10th Annual Utah Lake Festival at Utah Lake State Park has all of that and more. With a unique boat show, sailboat regatta, lake tours, and activities for the kids, there’s something for everyone at this festival. Admission is free, and in past years, we’ve heard the park’s provided free hot dogs and popcorn!

World’s Largest Swimming Lesson, Killens Pond Water Park, Delaware, bathing suits, pool, kids, summer, lifeguards

World’s Largest Swimming Lesson, Delaware [Image: catodayblog.wordpress.com]

World’s Largest Swimming Lesson
Killens Pond Water Park, Delaware
June 20, 2014

Wanna help break a Guinness World Record? Killens Pond Water Park will host the “World’s Largest Swimming Lesson” with the hopes of breaking the Guinness World Record for largest simultaneous swimming lesson conducted. This event is part of a global effort to raise awareness and encourage education for drowning prevention. In 2011, over 20,000 people representing 15 different countries participated! The lesson lasts 30 minutes; after that, spend the day lounging poolside. Or take a spin on Killens Pond State Park‘s new twisty pool slide!

Barnegat Lighthouse, New Jersey , dusk, sunset, sky, light, bridge, ocean

Barnegat Lighthouse, New Jersey [Image: www.familyvacationcritic.com]

Lighthouse Campfire
Barnegat Lighthouse State Park, New Jersey
June 28, 2014

What better way to close the month of June than on a sandy beach making s’mores and listening to live music with friends? On June 28th, listen to the Basement Musicians Guild play some country and folk favorites and take an evening stroll down the beach. Afterwards, climb to the top of Barnegat Lighthouse for the best view of the night sky. You’ll be glad you did.

Four Challenging and Fun Southeastern Pennsylvania Mountain Biking Destinations

Mountain Biking

One step out the door here in Southeastern Pennsylvania and you’ll know one thing’s for sure – it’s spring! Between the birds singing, amiable temperatures, blooming trees and flowers, it’s hard not to get excited about being outdoors this time of year. Though hiking is the first outdoor activity I gravitate toward, the promise of nicer weather got me particularly excited about mountain biking this year. And with a handful of great spots so close to home, it’s easy to find plenty of trails to ride!

Fairmount Park – Wissahickon Gorge (Pennsylvania)

Fairmount Park is a stunning oasis in the middle of the fifth largest city in the United States. The Wissahickon, a part of the Fairmount Park system, offers miles of challenging mountain biking along with hiking, trail running, and other recreational opportunities. It’s an easy ride along Kelly Drive from Center City Philadelphia to get there, and after you’ve left the city streets behind, Forbidden Drive gives you access to just about every trail you could need. Cyclists frequently bike “the drive” as a warm-up before heading into the woods, and it’s an ideal running spot, too. Being able to bike to the Wissahickon is a big bonus; there’s no driving necessary to gain access to mountain biking spots.

It’s also difficult to get lost; the creek bisects the trail system and the Wissahickon area is bordered by neighborhoods on either side. But be warned; the Wissahickon isn’t for the faint of heart, or for cyclists just starting out. If you’re an experienced mountain biker, the Wissahickon is perfect for you. Trails are technical and steep, roots and rocks abound, and there are plenty of obstacles and opportunities to go fast. Visit the SEPTR for more information.

French Creek State Park (Pennsylvania)

While most of my trips to French Creek State Park involve camping, hiking, or paddling around Hopewell Lake, the park also offers plenty of fun for mountain bikers. With over 20 miles of bike-friendly trails, it’s easy to spend an entire weekend exploring. It’s an hour drive from Philadelphia, and the trails are challenging but beautiful, winding through some of the park’s nicest areas.

If you’re planning a mountain biking day at French Creek, be sure you have a hardtail bike to ride at minimum; the trails are quite rocky. The single track trails are a bit less technical than the Wissahickon, but navigating the maze of rocks and roots as well as a handful of steep uphill climbs will challenge seasoned riders. Use your Pocket Ranger® app to learn more about the park, or visit the park’s website.

Fairmount Park – Belmont Plateau (Pennsylvania)

If the technical Whissahickon trails and French Creek’s rocks and roots aren’t appealing, Belmont Plateau offers the best of both worlds. Also part of Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park system, Belmont Plateau sits less than two miles outside of the city’s downtown area. It’s a good change of pace from the lung busting climbs the Wissahickon offers, but with plenty of obstacles and logs to maneuver around, it’s a great place to spend a few hours of riding time.

The trails are mostly singletrack and beginner-friendly, but without clear landmarks like the neighborhoods and creek in the Wissahickon, navigating can be a challenge on your first trip there. Visiting with someone who knows the trails, or has a higher-than-average sense of direction, is highly recommended!

White Clay Creek State Park (Delaware)

After visiting White Clay Creek for the first time this spring to hike, I knew I wanted to make a return trip with my mountain bike. Located just north of Newark in Delaware and about an hour from Philadelphia, the park’s 30+ miles of trails offer challenges for beginner, intermediate, and experienced riders. The trails are well groomed, smooth, and devoid of the numerous rocks and roots riders can find in the Wissahickon or at French Creek.

On my first visit, a friend and I used Paper Mill Park as our jumping off point. We followed the Paper Mill Park connector to the Lenape trail, then took the Chestnut Hill connector over to the Judge Morris Estate area and the Chestnut Hill trail, which I’d hiked on a previous visit to White Clay Creek. After touring around the estate, we backtracked to the cars. Though we stuck to easy and moderate single track trails, the eight miles of riding we did were plenty challenging for a relative beginner like me. Use the unofficial trail map to plot your route and use your Pocket Ranger® app to find out more about what White Clay Creek has to offer.

If you’re a Southeastern Pennsylvanian, what spots did I miss? 

A Winter Tour of Pennsylvania’s Ricketts Glen State Park

Contributed by Katie Levy, Adventure-Inspired

Pennsylvania’s Ricketts Glen State Park is best known for its stunning waterfalls, babbling brooks, access to nature, deep gorges and generally stunning scenery. The park’s campgrounds are perfect places to spend a warm weather weekend away from it all. Summer is a pretty spectacular time of year for waterfall watching and hiking at Ricketts Glen, but it’s also a great park to visit in the winter. Though the waterfalls look familiar and the trails are as beautiful as ever, the park is an entirely new world during cold weather months. It can be a real treat to visit if you’re adequately prepared.

Winter Activities at Ricketts Glen

Ricketts Glen State Park

Though some of my favorite warm weather activities like swimming in Lake Jean are out, there’s still a ton to do in the park in the winter. Hiking is always an option, and footpaths like the Mountain Springs Trail (4 miles, difficult) and Cherry Run Trail (4.6 miles, difficult) are great choices. The popular 7.2 mile Falls Trail is closed in winter to all except hikers and ice climbers with adequate equipment (see “tips to prepare” below), but if you are properly equipped, it’s one of the most spectacular winter hikes in the region.

Icy Trail

A handful of friends and I visited Ricketts Glen on New Year’s Day several years ago and it was an unforgettable trip. Some of the waterfalls had almost frozen entirely and the Falls Trail was like a giant, winding skating rink. We took our time, passing safely through the park with crampons and ice axes, marveling at how much the landscape changes in the winter.

Ice Climbing

On separate trips, I got in some of my first and most memorable ice climbs. Ricketts Glen is an ideal area for ice climbing due to the sheer number of climbable formations available in good years. When it gets cold and stays cold enough in Northeastern Pennsylvania for ice to form and last, the variety and number of climbs available is unparalleled in the area.

Camping is available in some parts of Ricketts Glen year round while the park’s trail systems and roads offer great cross country skiing and snowshoeing opportunities. If hiking, climbing and skiing aren’t your cup of tea, there’s always ice fishing on Lake Jean if the ice is more than four inches thick.

Tips to Prepare for Your Visit

Before you head out, do your homework. Download the trail map on your Pocket Ranger® app and be sure to check the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources winter report for Ricketts Glen before you leave. (If you’re planning on ice fishing, the winter report will tell you how thick the ice is.) Make sure you understand the type of equipment and clothing you need to stay warm and safe on your visit.

Though it goes without saying, be sure to bring proper equipment. Parts of the Falls Trail are completely covered in feet of ice, which is navigable if you have the right gear. If you’re planning on hiking, wear crampons, bring hiking poles and/or a mountaineering ice axe and take extreme caution on the trails. Learn how to wear crampons and how to walk on solid ice and steep ice without falling. Heed the warning signs at the trailheads, which remind visitors that some trails are closed during the winter to all except registered ice climbers and experienced, properly equipped hikers. The consequences of a slip on the ice and a fall into one of the gorges can be dire.

When you get to the park, pay attention to your surroundings. Though the ice is beautiful, it’s also impermanent. On our New Year’s Eve visit in 2011, Pennsylvania was hit by a warm spell and though the waterfalls looked climbable, large chunks broke off while we were there. Stay in safe areas and be aware of falling ice.

And of course, don’t forget to have fun! If you’ve never ice climbed before and want to try, guiding services provided by outfits like the Bloomsburg University Quest program are great options. Philadelphia-based TerraMar Adventures occasionally runs winter ice trips in conjunction with BU Quest.

Who’s been to Ricketts Glen in the winter? Sound off in the comments!

5 Great Locations to Spot a Sasquatch

 

Sasquatch

Image: www.bloodsprayer.com

The elusive sasquatch is a large bipedal hominid believed to reside in North America’s more isolated parks and forests. While most scientists are skeptical about the creature’s existence (no doubt out of fear that such a terrifying creature exists), several reputable scientists, including world-renowned primatologist Jane Goodall, have expressed interest in the subject. Witnesses usually describe a 6-11 ft. ape-like creature with a thick brownish coat weighing upwards of five hundred pounds. Sasquatches are known to communicate over great distances using a loud, blood-curdling howl similar to a wolf’s. These five locations offer a rare combination of geographic isolation, excellent Sasquatch habitat, and high number of confirmed sightings.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN

image: www.timbertours.com

Image: www.timbertours.com

This national treasure and known sasquatch hideout is one of the oldest and largest protected areas in the United States. It is also the most visited national park, making sightings frequent. With such a rich biota, scientists estimate that as many as 90,000 undocumented species may be present, including several species of sasquatch. This Tennessee sasquatch blog will help you understand the idiosyncrasies of the Smoky Mountain ‘squatch.

Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness, ID

image: www.fs.usda.gov

Image: www.fs.usda.gov

At 2,367 acres, this ominously named protected wilderness area is the second largest in the adjoining 48 states. Together with Gospel Hump Wilderness and surrounding Forest Service land, it forms a contiguous 3.3 million acre roadless area that, with its vast elk herds, craggy mountains and dense forests, can offer ample food and shelter for a large population of sasquatches. The area appears so promising to Idaho professor Dr. Jeff Meldrum that plans are in work to use drones for aerial Sasquatch searches.

Michaux State Forest, PA

image: www.flickr.com

Image: www.flickr.com

Sixty-percent of Pennsylvania is covered by forests, making it one of the prime areas for sasquatches in the Northeastern United States. According to Chris Moneymaker of the BFRO (Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization), “The area’s apple orchards keep the deer population healthy and that, in turn, attracts sasquatch-like creatures.” Michaux State Forest, like much of Pennsylvania, is rich in mast producing trees like beech, oak and hickory, which provide valuable winter protein for deer and sasquatches alike. Use the Official Pennsylvania State Parks and Forests Pocket Ranger® App to safely navigate the terrain and mark the location of sasquatch prints.

John Muir Wilderness, CA

image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/56156808@N00/891665103/

Image: www.flickr.com/photos/56156808@N00/891665103

The Muir Wilderness has 57 peaks with elevations over 13,000 feet, raising the distinct possibility of a high-altitude dwelling subspecies of Sasquatch. At such an elevation, a band of sasquatches could easily avoid detection by man and survive by feeding on the area’s abundant population of California Bighorn Sheep. The area’s clear mountain lakes abound with various species of trout and may even afford a place for sasquatches to cool off during the warmer summer months.

Strawberry Mountain Wilderness, OR

image: www.outsideonline.com

Image: www.outsideonline.com

This wilderness area is a vast and varied tract of land located in northeast Oregon that contains 5 of the 7 major life zones in North America. What that means in scientific terms is plenty of food and habitat for a Sasquatch. With over 125 miles of hiking trails, you can cover a lot of ground, too. The abundant vegetation is rich in strawberries, huckleberries, Oregon grapes, thimbleberry and, favorite among sasquatches, the swamp gooseberry. Stable populations of Rocky Mountain elk, antelope, sheep, and mule deer provide plenty of game once the berries are picked over.