President: Thyra Sperry, Boiling Springs, PA
"We are so lucky to have thousands of miles of hiking trails in Pennsylvania at our doorsteps.
Growing up in New York City’s Long Island suburbs, I walked all the time and rode a bike everywhere, but there weren’t many hiking challenges at sea level. Plenty of beaches, but not many wooded areas. Our summers were spent at my Grandpa’s camp in southeastern Connecticut, near West Rock. There, we hiked on cowpaths and over low hills to get ice cream.
Later, after graduating from the University of the City of New York with a B.A. in Political Science, a Masters in Education, and some teaching experience, I moved to a rural area in Central PA, with its downhill skiing and Penn’s woods hiking. I loved being outdoors as a respite from work.
After reading a newspaper blurb about an “ice cream hike” led by the Susquehanna Appalachian Trail Club, I eagerly signed up. I had no idea that this would lead to meeting many new friends and eventually hiking almost half of the Appalachian Trail (A.T.).
Getting involved led to more than just hiking. I became involved in trail maintenance on Peters Mountain, and volunteered a few years later when SATC needed a Vice-President. Later, as President of SATC, I began to attend the spring and fall hiking weekends with the Keystone Trails Association. SATC often had the largest attendance at those weekends.
Encouraged by other hikers in the Mid-Atlantic Region, I soon found myself on the Board of the Appalachian Trail Conference, serving 10 years as Mid-Atlantic vice Chair and working on the Executive and Human Resources/ and other committees. Somehow, I even found time to backpack New Zealand’s famous Milford Trek and the Abel Tasman Trail!
After chairing the 2001 Biennial ATC Shippensburg Conference (with the support of twelve Pennsylvania A.T. trail clubs) I understood the importance of KTA. Trails were being severed by development or new ownership and it was time to focus on the challenges of protecting hiking trails and lands in Pennsylvania. That was over thirteen years ago – and how it came to be that I now serve as your President on the Board of Directors.
By the way - protection of another trail (the A.T.) resulted in an 840-acre purchase in Cumberland County that ended at my back yard. It’s wonderful to have the National Park Service property (and unlimited hiking) right outside my back door. I can see the White Rocks side trail, leading to the A.T., from my deck. Life is good in the woods on South Mountain. It doesn’t get any better than this!
My favorite trail quote is “there’s no such thing as bad weather; it's inappropriate gear.”"
Vice President: Wanda Shirk, Ulysses, PA
Bio coming soon!
Treasurer: Ernest Werstler, Stevens, PA
Ernest (Ernie) W. Werstler, Jr. lives in Reamstown, PA but was born and raised in Boyertown, PA. In 2008, he retired after 22 years as Business Manager/Board Secretary for the Exeter Township School District. Prior to working at Exeter, Ernie held several accounting and financial management positions in the Reading area.
Ernie has hiked a lot of trails in Pennsylvania as well as some in New York and West Virginia. It's hard for him to pick a favorite, but he has come back to the Mid State Trail many times over the years. His favorite gear includes boots that stay dry and tents that don't leak. As far as a favorite trail story, Ernie can’t decide between the “Velcro and the Bear in the Campsite” or “Proving White Men Can Jump by stepping on a Rattlesnake.”
Why join KTA? Ernie says "The only way the many trails we have in Pennsylvania will remain is by each of us getting involved. Joining KTA was another way to get involved and try to ensure my grandchildren will have trails to hike."
Secretary: Norman Lacasse, Harrisburg, PA
Norman Lacasse is a native of New Hampshire but has lived in Pennsylvania since 1963. A veteran of the Korean War, Norm earned a bachelor's degree in forestry and a master's degree in botany from the University of New Hampshire. He later earned a Ph.D. in Forest Pathology. He was employed at the Pennsylvania State University and later with the Tennessee Valley Authority and finally with the Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry.
Norm was instrumental in starting the Capital Area Greenbelt Association (CAGA) for the purpose of restoring and completing a 20-mile greenway surrounding the city of Harrisburg. The greenway was initially conceived in 1901 under the City Beautiful movement but was abandoned in 1981 until the CAGA was formed. The CAGA is made up entirely of volunteers who do most of the maintenance on this urban hiking/bicycling trail. For example, Norm works with court-adjudicated youths from the Dauphin County Probation office and the Diakon Wilderness Center twice a week and with other adult volunteers on other days year-round. He obtained grants to purchase equipment - such as two John Deere tractors, building materials and tools - for trail maintenance and expansion.
Norm joined the Keystone Trails Associaton a few years ago and serves as a director on the board as well as Secretary. Norm finds his involvement with KTA to be very rewarding as he has learned much about trail maintenance and especially the dedication of KTA's volunteers.
Robert Best, York, PA
Bob shares: "I started hiking when I was living and teaching in the public schools in the Wilmington, Delaware area, following stints in the U.S. Army and graduate school. As a member of the Wilmington Trail Club, I participated in day hikes up into Pennsylvania on the Appalachian Trail, the Horseshoe Trail and others. I hiked in the WTC’s End-To-End super hike many times and actually came in first in one of them.
After I moved to York in 1980 to work as a Programmer/Analyst for York International, I spent more time running than hiking. Then about six years ago I put aside running to get back into hiking, as a result of having a hip replacement and being told not to run. I participated in KTA's very first week-long Trail Care event, and many thereafter (as well as some of the weekend trail care events). Hiking and trail care folks are the best people to be acquainted with -- even though they tend to mostly talk about trail care and hiking stuff. Besides, where else can you become friends with chipmunks, snakes, deer, and bears (yep I encountered one of them on the trail – face to face)? Yes, I also have a few Trail Care stories to tell. Now, after retirement, I am an adjunct with the Harrisburg Area Community College and agreed to take on some extra work as a Board Member of the KTA. I will look for you out on the trail!
Robert Davey, Jr., Flemington, PA
Robert (Butch) Davey lives in Flemington, PA and is a retired forester who worked for more than forty years with the Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry. He became acquainted with KTA through the trail care volunteers. Tom Thwaites had led a great crew in reestablishing a trail in Fish Dam Hollow (part of the Chuck Keiper Trail) following a tornado that obliterated the original trail. Every year since 1986, KTA Trail Care has worked effectively on trails in the Sproul State Forest. After retiring Butch joined KTA because of the organization's dedication to trail care and the future of hiking and has served on the KTA board of directors for eight years. Butch hopes that more hikers will join trail care and keep maintaining Pennsylvania hiking trails and recruiting more hikers.
Butch's favorite hike is the Hyner View Trail Challenge, which he has participated in each year since its inception. His essential hiking gear includes water, a Clif Bar and compass. Butch's tale from the trail: "Each summer for the past decade I have hiked for a week with a loosely formed group called the 'Rolling Boils Hiking Society.' One of the main arguments in our group concerns when water for trail food reaches a rolling boil. The cooks want the water to really boil hard, but some hikers (the hungry ones) think a rolling boil is the first formation of bubbles."
James Foster, Mechanicsburg, PA
From Jim: "I got bitten by the hiking bug several years ago. Since then, I have thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail (A.T.), the John Muir Trail in the High Sierras of California, and the Long Trail in Vermont. Outside of the United States, I have climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa, hiked trails in New Zealand, completed the "W" Trail in Patagonia, South America, and explored the beautiful Dingle Way in Ireland.
I've been an active trail maintainer for several years, personally maintaining a one-mile section of the Appalachian Trail in Cumberland County. I am the immediate past President of the Cumberland Valley Appalachian Trail Club. I am currently an active volunteer at the Appalachian Trail Museum, serving as chair of the A.T. Hall of Fame selection committee and the banquet committee. I enjoy leading hiking and backpacking trips in Pennsylvania and elsewhere. Retired from the practice of law, I live near Enola, PA."
Jeffrey Mitchell, Tunkhannock, PA
Jeff Mitchell has been a member of the Keystone Trails Association's board of directors since 2008. He is the District Attorney of Wyoming County and resides near Tunkhannock, PA. Jeff has also written several outdoor guidebooks, including "Hiking the Endless Mountains", "Hiking the Allegheny National Forest", "Backpacking Pennsylvania" and "Paddling Pennsylvania". Jeff is a conservation volunteer with the Loyalsock State Forest and helps maintain a section of the Mid State Trail. His favorite hikes in Pennsylvania are off-trail treks to the Waterfall Wonderland, Flat Top Cliffs, Rock Run and Bartlett Mountain Balds, and his favorite backpacking trails are the Loyalsock, Black Forest, Quehanna, sections of the Mid State and Standing Stone Trails. While hiking, Jeff usually brings his trekking poles and headlamp. Jeff joined KTA to help promote hiking trails and feels one way to protect our public lands is to get more people on the trails.
Molly O'Brien-Foelsch, Lewisburg, PA
Molly O'Brien-Foelsch is in her second term on the board of KTA. Originally from Hamburg, PA, she now lives in Milton, PA and works at Bucknell University as Associate Director of News and Recruitment Communications. She has a B.A. in English from Cedar Crest College, a diploma in Graphic Design from Lehigh Valley College and an M.A. in English from Bucknell University. She is married to Brian Foelsch, a graphic designer at Geisinger Medical Center.
Molly enjoys hiking and backpacking around the world. She has gone on adventures in the Spanish Pyrenees, Iceland and Quebec. She became involved with KTA when she joined a trail care team working near Dimock. Afterward, Paul Shaw and Ed Lawrence convinced her to get even more involved (they have a habit of doing that to people). Molly believes everyone should get out and experience natural habitats, fresh air and clean water. She serves KTA to ensure that current and future generations can enjoy Pennsylvania's phenomenal natural beauty. Her favorite trail in PA is the Quehanna Trail.
Paul Shaw, Sunbury, PA
A resident of Sunbury, PA, Paul Shaw is a lifelong hiker and backpacker. A Life member of KTA, Paul joined KTA in the 1970s. He first served as Conservation Chair, and from 2006-2008 Paul served as KTA’s first Executive Director. He was elected to the Board of Directors in 2009 and has been the volunteer Director of the Susquehanna Super Hike since its first year. Paul also leads the Super Hike Preview Hikes, was a co-leader of last year’s Chuck Keiper Slack Pack and is the organizer of KTA’s hiking trip to Ireland’s Dingle Way.
Paul is a founding member of the Mid State Trail Association and has maintained a section of the MST for many years. While he says choosing a favorite trail is like choosing a favorite child, he is frequently found on the Quehanna Trail. (Ask him about camping next to a rattlesnake den.) A self-described Luddite, Paul always carries a trail map in his pack. Paul is co-owner of Treks & Trails International, an adventure travel service that provides “hiking adventures of a lifetime” to destinations in the U.S. and around the world.
Favorite trail quote: “Just one more climb to go!” -Paul
Steve Stroman, Lewisberry, PA
Bio coming soon!
Curt Ashenfelter, Harrisburg, PA (Executive Director)