Tips I wish I would have known when I started hiking [Guest post by Christian Alexandersen, Hemlocks to Hellbenders Podcast]
Guest article written by Christian Alexandersen, Hemlocks to Hellbenders Podcast
Like many Pennsylvanians, I discovered my love for the outdoors during the pandemic. I didn’t grow up in an outdoorsy household. In fact, I come from a long line of air conditioner lovers and couch dwellers. So, when I found myself exploring Pennsylvania’s woods in my mid-30s, I learned a lot of lessons fast.
But that doesn’t have to be the case for you. You don’t have to wander blindly into the woods like I did. You have the opportunity to take your time, do research, talk to more experienced hikers, go on group hikes and so much more.
We are incredibly fortunate to have so many parks and forests to explore in Pennsylvania. Thousands of miles of trails, beautiful waterfalls, incredible vistas and overlooks and old growth forests are within your reach. But it’s important that you do it safely.
So, below, I’ve created a short list of tips I wish I knew when I first started hiking. These tips will help you navigate trails, be prepared for emergencies, have the supplies you’ll need and feel confident hiking in Penn’s Woods.
Research where you’ll be hiking
Pack the essentials
Hike your hike
Christian Alexandersen is the host of the Hemlocks to Hellbenders Podcast. The biweekly podcast is about Pennsylvania’s state parks, forests and great outdoors. You can follow him on Instagram and Facebook.
Christian fell in love with the outdoors when he ran a mile in all (then) 121 Pennsylvania state parks in 2021. He has now run a mile in all 124 state parks and enjoys spending his time hiking, camping and exploring Pennsylvania.
Where could the American Marten be reintroduced in Pennsylvania?
The "American Marten Reintroduction and Management Plan for Pennsylvania" proposes a few locations for reintroduction (see image below), including areas within the PA Wilds and Allegheny National Forest.
Some of these sites fall within wilderness areas. The USFS describes Wilderness Areas as “A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain” (USDA 1964)
Two ways you can help the American Marten be reintroduced in PA
#1) Email your comments of support for the plan and of reintroduction to: pamarten@PA.gov
#2) Attend the Board of Commissioner’s meeting on January 27th; this will be the absolute most important meeting to attend! Attend and provide your testimony, whether it’s a single sentence or 5 minutes long. A massive presence will make a huge difference. The plan will tentatively be voted on that day. The Meeting is at our HQ at 2001, Elmerton Ave., Harrisburg, PA 17110. Arrival should be 7:45 AM.
Items for review:
One of the (many) cool things about Keystone Hike Fest is that you get to create your own experience! Over the weekend, you can choose from 25+ outdoor recreation activities, 6 learning sessions, and endless options to explore downtown Johnstown.
As you look at all the options to create your itinerary, rather than asking yourself "is Hike Fest for me?" you'll find yourself asking "how will I choose?!"
When creating your weekend itinerary, consider what you want to experience, learn, or work on. Maybe you want to maximize your hiking miles and learn new skills, or perhaps this is could be a weekend for you to slow down and simply enjoy the company of others.
To get your creative juices flowing, here are six ideas for how you could plan your Keystone Hike Fest Itinerary!
Learn More and Register
Keystone Hike Fest is open to all ages, hiking experience levels, and walks of life. See all that Hike Fest has to offer and sign up here!
KTA's nominations committee has nominated new KTA Representatives at Large. Voting will take place at the fall board meeting during Keystone Hike Fest in Johnstown, PA. Get to know these awesome hikers below!
Meet David “Cyril” Quatrone
Since David “Cyril” Quatrone hikes with forearm canes, his trail name is Fourfeet. He’s hiked over 750 miles each year for the past 3 years, including completing 40% of the AT (all the AT in PA), and all of Thunder Swamp, Black Forest, and Darlington Trails. He is almost finished with the Horse-Shoe Trail, and is working on the Ticonderoga. This past year he hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back up. The 6.5-mile trip down the South Kaibab Trail was done in 3 hours, but the same distance back up took over 8! He has helped trail work crews several times, coming within 10 feet of a bear once, and has provided trail magic along the AT. Cyril has written an unpublished book, “Cripple on the Trail.” Most of his hikes are day hikes, but he is seeking a solution to a problem presented by his disability and hopes to one day be able to do more and longer multi-day hikes.
Cyril has a B.A. (Northeastern Bible College), a M.Div. from St. Tikhon’s Orthodox Seminary, and a M.Ed. from Kutztown University. He teaches mathematics (and sometimes history) in Allentown. With several former students, he started and ran a non-Profit corporation, “Ensuring Tomorrow” (ET) for 7 years. In addition to providing scholarships and calculators to students, the organization took them to museums, plays, restaurants, lectures, and introduced many of these inner-city students to hiking!
Meet Steve & Rita Black
Steve & Rita Black live in Ford City, PA (Armstrong County). Steve is a machinist at a local tool and die shop and Rita has had careers in real estate and Career & Tech Ed. They are members of the Butler Outdoor Club and enjoy hiking with the Clarion & Butler Chapters of the North Country Trail. Steve can be found walking dogs at the Orphans of the Storm or metal detecting in search of old coins and “treasures”. Rita volunteers at the Salvation Army Thrift Store, Ford City food bank & the local libraries. Together they enjoy workdays at the Outdoor Discovery Center, Geocaching, and collecting stamps for the PA State Parks/Forests Passport. Favorite hiking areas are Clear Creek/Cooks Forest and Crooked Creek Lake Park.
Meet Patricia Houston
While early childhood education and early intervention field are her profession and passion, Patricia is also an explorer who loves adventure…especially outdoor adventures. She loves being barefoot and carefree, chasing sunsets & rainbows, exploring the woods, swimming in waterholes, and hula hooping in the rain. Similar to her experiences working with young children, nature experiences also bring new adventures and challenges. You never get bored! Both her profession and nature are sources of joy, purpose, peace and rejuvenation.
Patricia approaches life with passion, creativity, and determination; a brave adventurer who often stands out as different and unique. A summer is not complete for her unless she has been to the beach and gone on a camping trip. This summer she finally made it to Ricketts Glen. It was a wild, solo camping adventure with lots of bear activity and some stormy weather. In Philly, her favorite hike is Andorra Meadow. Her most transcendent and magical hiking experience was her first solo camping trip where she spent 2 months hiking and camping from California to Oregon.
Currently, Patricia lives and works in Philadelphia. She is an Assistant Director of preschool with an outdoor program. She received her education at the University of Pennsylvania with a bachelor’s degree in psychology; at Community College of Philadelphia with an associate’s in early childhood education. As long as she can remember, she has been interested in the anthropology of child development. She has always been seeking to understand the different social worlds of children and how children learn about the adult social world to which they will eventually belong. Patricia has spent her life providing and caring for young children.
Nature is one of the passions that has continually sustained, healed, inspired and rejuvenated Patricia. She feels blessed to know where her true passions lie and is keen to transition into a role where she can engage in them equally. Patricia is excited to continue learning about wilderness survival, outdoor adventures, and nature preservation. Patricia hopes to one day live in a cozy cottage or cabin in the woods as her primary residence and travel the world frequently to experience the magic of all of Earth’s natural wonders.
Meet Blase Hartman
Blase has lived in PA for the past 40+ years. Time outdoors has always been a priority and upon retirement he rekindled his passion for backpacking, trekking many popular (and obscure) PA trails. With each step came a growing appreciation for PA’s natural resources, feeling privileged to immerse in such beauty and inevitably leading to a strong sense of stewardship.
The past few years have progressively focused on making good on that sense of stewardship; performing trail maintenance, participating in trail club activities, and expounding the benefits of backpacking (just ask him).
Current activities include maintaining a section of the Appalachian trail and establishing an annual Treksylvania Backpacking Rally (TBR) to encourage folks to get outdoors. The inaugural event is planned for spring 2024.
KTA's nominations committee has nominated Julie Queen and Tony Vigliano for KTA's board. Voting will take place at the fall board meeting during Keystone Hike Fest in Johnstown, PA. Get to know Julie and Tony below!
Meet Julie Queen
Julie Queen is a passionate outdoor and adventure educator currently serving as the Manager of the Appalachian Trail Museum in Gardners, PA. Julie received a BS in Environmental Biology from Millersville University before going on to serve in the Peace Corps as a Natural Resource Conservation Volunteer in Ecuador. Julie has worked for the PA Department of Agriculture, PA Bureau of State Parks, and Girl Scouts in the Heart of PA. She thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2016 and served as a Ridgerunner in 2017. This is her third season as the AT Museum Manager. Julie also works as an Associate Adventure Guide with Adventure Explorations. She currently resides in Harrisburg, PA.
Meet Tony Vigliano
Tony Vigliano lives in Dillsburg PA with his wife and his dog and cats. He is a CPA that owns his own accounting firm and notary office. He and his two employees enjoy helping the community and small businesses and organizations. Tony likes working on cars, reading books, playing video games, exercising, and chocolate. Tony has adopted 3 sections of PA highway with PennDOT’s Adopt a Highway program. He also plays guitar, drums, keyboard, and cello and has recorded a couple music videos. Although Tony first started his career as a diesel mechanic, he went to college at the age of 30 and became an accountant in 2012 and finally a CPA in 2015. He started his own accounting firm in 2016. Although he’s extremely busy with his business he hopes to hit the trails again someday.
Meet Joanne Heimer
Joanne Heimer is a retired French teacher who has organized dozens of groups of students and adults for hikes and international tours. She is an end-to-end or circuit hiker on many Pennsylvania trails, including the Mid State, Laurel Highlands, Donut Hole, West Rim, Allegheny Front, and STS, and has also hiked hundreds of miles of the Appalachian Trail and run the Hyner View Trail Challenge countless times. For KTA, Joanne organized the 2022 fall hiking program and has volunteered at numerous trail care weekends and initiated the TC on the Elk Trail. She has coordinated Volunteers for several local events such as Clinton County's "Frozen Snot" race in February and the 2023 USCA Canoe & Kayak Nationals. Appreciating cooler weather, Joanne's AT trail name is "Three Season" --"and it ain't summer!"
Though typically hot and humid, August offered some great weather for our two Trail Care events. Mostly, the rain held off until we were off the trail. When it did rain, though -- hoo boy! August 10-13, we partnered with the Allegheny National Forest and the ANF Chapter of the North Country Trail, to tend to some neglected trails between Tracy Ridge Campground and Allegheny Reservoir. They have not seen much attention since KTA's last Trail Care event there in 2019. In total, 13 volunteers contributed 200 hours toward clearing 16 miles of trails! Sincere thanks to: Tom Bastian, Steve Black, Syvia Grisez, Volunteer Leader Joe Hardisky (whose scouting report and workplan were invaluable), Dave Kazmierczak, Tom O'Donnell, Katie Prindle, Tony Robbins, Mike Toole, Jenn Ulmer, Shawn Weishaar, and Sam Zambardo. Thank you also to Allegheny National Forest for securing our camping at Tracy Ridge Campground, and showers at Willow Bay.
The last weekend in August, we had another successful event working on the Thunder Swamp Trail System in the Poconos.The thunder did indeed make an appearance, with a fantastic storm that some volunteers apparently slept through Friday night. The rain brought out hundreds of red efts, however, making for an awesome sight and some tricky footing the next day! We put a huge dent in trail needs along the main loop, and hikers should enjoy not having to clamber over downed trees or wade through thickets of saplings and berry bushes. A hearty group of seven volunteers worked 120 hours (miles being tabulated). We had another great stay at Resica Falls Scout Reservation (see pic of rain-swollen falls!) and owe Delaware State Forest a debt for opening some gates to allow better access to trail segments. Huge thanks to volunteers Shira Blady and Brian MaNamara (Volunteer Leaders who thankfully backpacked and scouted trail conditions), Tom Bastian, Al Germann, Tony Robbins, Dave Schurr, and Jenn Ulmer. Volunteers were treated to some new snacks donated by Kate's Real Foods, and received t-shirts from the fresh crop of Trail Care shirts.
In September, we'll be working on the gem in the Pine Creek Gorge that is the Golden Eagle Trail on Sept. 21-24. Unfortunately, Oil Creek State Park has decided to postpone their late September Trail Care until next spring. Since some people have already requested those days off from work, I'm coordinating with Sproul State Forest to get us back on the Chuck Keiper Trail. Watch the Trail Care website for updates!
Keystone Trails Association