Can you believe we've completed 6 trail care events already?! With 8 incredible events left to go in our 39th Trail Care season, you still have time to sign up and join us as a volunteer!
Here's a glimpse of what we've accomplished recently:
We're grateful for all the time and effort our volunteers donate to keep our trails safe and beautiful for Pennsylvania hikers!
In recognition of all their hard work, we always make sure they have ample time to rest, enjoy camping at night, check out a local restaurant, and/or take breaks to appreciate the blooms!
by Brian Kane
Mid-Atlantic Regional Manager, Old-Growth Forest Network
Part of the joy of hiking is not knowing exactly what lies on the path ahead. An All-Trials tip might give us a sense of what we might encounter, but our boots on the ground are the only real way to experience the highlights - or the low points - of a hike.
Some surprises on a hike may be the vista revealed around a sharp turn in the trail where miles of a rolling landscape expand in the distance. Or it may be the rushing sounds of a creek, splashing its way over rocks and fallen trees in a tree-shaded ravine. Or the increasingly loud volume of a waterfall as it falls hundreds of feet from a rocky precipice.
When we enter an old-growth forest, something feels remarkably different.
There, fallen trees decompose with fungi clinging to its crumbling bark. Enormous tree trunks are embossed with lichen, beetles dodge under flaking bark of fallen trees, and dark crevices at the tree flare hint of some creature’s den. There are openings in the tree canopy against which we see tree antlers – those distorted, crooked limbs of trees misshapen by decades of wind, ice, snow, or lightning strikes. Or we glimpse the mysterious play of shadows from overhead limbs that animate the forest floor.
Scientists have much more to tell us about old-growth forests, as they have measured the carbon, counted amphibians, and dated the oldest trees. Ongoing research is immense in this time of climate change, as the power of old-growth forests to sequester carbon is astounding. These forests have been doing this work for centuries! Most of us recognize when we are under the aura of an old-growth forest without scientific verification - the earthy smell, the call of warblers, or battering beaks of the woodpecker confirm our suspicions. The ancient trees within support a deep and rich ecosystem. Plants, wildlife, insects, roots and fungi are intricately connected here,
While only 1% of old-growth forests remain in the Eastern United States, Pennsylvania is a national leader in protecting its old-growth forests. The state offers us abundant opportunities to explore them as twenty-seven of Pennsylvania’s old-growth forests are now registered in the Old-Growth Forest Network (OGFN), an national organization that recognizes publicly accessible old-growth forests protected from logging. State code protects these forests in its state-owned forests and parks.
The state’s Division of Conservation and Natural Resources has brought 15 of its forests in the national Network where we can walk adjacent to the ancient white pines (Pinus strobus) at Cook State Forest Cathedral Natural Area, or the Eastern hemlocks (Tsuga candensis) at Hemlocks Natural Area, or majestic white and red oaks (Quercus sp.) at Boyd Big Tree Preserve. On June 29, the National Park Service and the Old-Growth Forest Network will induct the old-growth forest at Delaware Water Gap in Monroe County (Details are here.)
Old-growth forests provide places of cultural and ecological significance. They also bring us moments of sheer wonder. To walk within trees that have witnessed centuries of time is sublime. Hiking through, we become aware that there is something different and larger than ourselves on this planet. To see and smell the richness of life within these Pennsylvania forests, visit an old-growth forest and enjoy the amazing and sometimes unexpected places on your next hike this summer.
What is most important to PA hikers? What do PA hikers enjoy most about our trails and want to experience in our forests? That's what Keystone Trails Association is venturing to find out!
The PA Hike Poll invites hikers throughout the Keystone state to raise their voice and share their opinion about hiking in Pennsylvania.
Data from this survey (submitted anonymously) will influence the development of Keystone Trails Association's strategic plan to ensure a safe and enjoyable hiking experience in PA.
Poll participants are invited to share about their:
Keystone Trails Association thanks everyone who participates in this milestone project for the organization and for hiking PA's cherished trails!
Not able to travel very far for a hike, but want to feel like you're heading out for an adventure? Try one of these 10 ways to hike the same trail for a new experience!
10. Change your pace
If you normally hike swiftly, try slowing down your steps. What else can you notice when you're taking your time? If you're typically out for a leisurely stroll, are you able to challenge yourself to hike a bit quicker (within your personal limits)? How does this impact your experience?
9. Start at a different time of the day (or night!)
A trail can feel completely different if you start early in the morning or hit the trail later in the day to catch the sunset. How does it feel to be hiking while listening to the chirping of early morning birds vs the crickets as the sun is going down?
8. Travel the opposite direction
A change in perspective can reveal a whole new trail! If you're used to trudging up a section vs going down, or seeing the landscape change from a different view, hiking a loop in reverse could be a welcomed mental shift.
7. Watch and listen for the birds
Go to the library and grab a bird identification guide and head out to your favorite trail for a new adventure! Or, download the Merlin Bird ID app and identify the birds in real time by their songs.
6. Be mindful of the plants
Take a native plant book along in your backpack to see what is growing along the trail. Are they there just for the season? Are they safe to eat? Are they invasive? Knowing whats growing can add a layer of fascination and curiosity to your hikes!
5. Change who you're with
Do you normally hike alone? Invite a friend to join you! Similarly, if you normally hike with a large group, what would it be like to go with just one friend? Curating who you hike with can open doors for great conversations.
4. Make time to journal
Grab a notebook and jot down your thoughts as you hike. What's the weather like? What time did you start? What did you see? How did you feel? Documenting your experience can heighten your senses and your intuition.
3. Take (or don't take) pictures
If you don't normally take photos while you're hiking, try setting a goal to take 5-10 photos. What caught your attention? How would you summarize the trail in pictures? If you normally take a lot of photos, try keeping your phone tucked away. Can you be totally present while walking? Rather than capturing it with a photo, can you simply capture it with your mind?
2. Plan to stay all day
Even if your hike will only take a couple hours, can you stop and take breaks to enjoy simply being outside? Pack some extra snacks and make your trail experience last all day.
1. Hike it in every season
Hiking in Pennsylvania means trails are always changing. You can hike the same trail multiple times a year and with each experience see something completely different like snow covered trees, changing leaves in autumn, luscious greenery, and bubbling creeks.
What did you try? Tag us in a post on Facebook (@keystonetrails) or Instagram (@keystonetrails) to let us know!
When you find yourself in those down-time moments of being in-between hikes, a good read can be a source of inspiration and comfort until you get back out on the trail. Here are a few selections from our bookshelf that offer lessons, insight, and motivation for the summer:
On The Trail: A History of American Hiking
by Silas Chamberlin
"...I especially wish to recognize Maurice Forrester, long-time newsletter editor for the Keystone Trails Association, and Barb Wiemann of the Allentown Hiking Club. Both have volunteered decades of their lives to ensure that the one-hundred-year legacy of grassroots hiking continues well into the twenty-first century. The guidance and kind words they provided during the first few months of my research have led down a winding path to the publication of this book."
- Silas Chamberlin, Author (book acknowledgements)
The Backpacker's Budget Food Book: How to Select and Prepare Your Provisions from Supermarket Shelves
By Fred Powledge
"This book is intended to be a cooking guide for the recreational backpacker and one that demonstrates how any interested trail traveler can assemble light-weight, nutritious, appetizing meals largely from standard grocery-store sources." - Fred Powledge, Author (book foreward)
Walking with Spring: the first thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail
by Earl V. Shaffer
"Although I was then relatively new at the hiking game, I had already heard that name many times from many people – spoken sometimes with awe, sometimes with admiration, but always with respect. I was in the presence, I had sense enough to realize, of a man who had made some history."
- Maurice J. Forrester (book foreward)
Thornapples: The Comings, Goings, and Outdoor Doings of a Naturalist
by Charles Fergus
"Charles Fergus can make anything interesting. Hear him on weight loss in chickadees, and you want to join the Audubon Society. On Pennsylvania bears and you want to be one. The book's a delight."
- Noel Perrin, author of First Person Rural and A Reader's Delight (review)
Waste Not Everyday: 365 Ways to Reduce, Reuse and Reconnect
by Erin Rhodes
Waste Not Everyday is your step-by-step guide to simple lifestyle changes that will not only influence what you throw out but also have a genuine impact on the future of our planet. (back cover)
Pennsylvania Hiking Trails, 13th Edition
Editor: Ben Cramer
Produced in association with the Keystone Trails Association, this handy guide features the best trails by region from experienced hikers with local knowledge.
Keystone Trails Association