“A walk in nature walks the soul back home.” - Mary Davis
Hiking is probably one of the most enjoyed recreational activities there is to do. It’s fairly simple, and on any given day, you will see people of all ages out on the trails enjoying the benefits of nature. But there are definitely some risks to consider and this article is here to provide some tips that will make even the most novice hiker feel more confident when hitting the trails.
1. Clothing/footwear - When you are out hiking, it’s best to avoid cotton when you can. Cotton tends to hold a lot of moisture so when you sweat, or even get stuck in an unexpected sunshower, your clothes will remain wet and heavy and can lower your body's temperature to dangerous levels, especially in colder temperatures. Synthetic materials like polyester, nylon and merino wool are excellent cotton substitutes that will wick away moisture and stabilize your body temperature.
If you want to go hiking, and enjoy every step of the way, it’s important that you have the right footwear (see what I did there?). Not all hiking requires you to have a bulky waterproof boot or even a lightweight minimalist shoe. Most of the time when I’m out hiking, I’m wearing some type of trail running shoe and a good pair of merino wool or polyester socks (no cotton!) which will work just fine for most beginner hikers.
The most important factor to consider when choosing the right footwear would be the shoe’s fit. You want to make sure that your heel doesn’t raise up when you’re walking on the trail and that there is enough room in the toe box so your toes don’t get scrunched when walking down steep declines. Having good fitting footwear is key to ensuring your hike is as enjoyable as possible.
Wear Blaze Orange - According to a 2013 article from the Quality Deer Management Association PA has the most deer hunter density in the whole United States! That’s good for wildlife management, but it can cause some concern for people using state forest lands to just enjoy a nature hike. Even though deer season tends to be when most hunters are in the woods, it’s still important to know that hunting in general is very popular in Pennsylvania and some animals, like coyotes, are allowed to be hunted all year round.
It’s best to make sure that some part of your apparel has the classic blaze orange color so that you can easily be spotted by a potential hunter. I made sure that the daypack I purchased was blaze orange so that way, I always have that color with me whenever I am out on a trail.
2. Know Where You’re Going - Fortunately, we live in an area where there are a lot of state parks and forests with clearly marked trails that are easy to navigate. Still, it’s a good idea to make sure you look and carry around maps of the area with you at all times. Alltrails.com is a great resource to use not only to find places to hike, but also to read what other hikers have written about the trails. Oftentimes, reviews are written frequently enough that knowing important information like recent trail closures or locations of hidden trailheads, is pretty current, and could help you feel more confident before heading out to hike.
Another thing to consider is whether the area you’ve been eyeing up on your commute home is actually public or private land. As of January 2020, Governor Wolf passed a law that would allow property boundaries to be delineated with two purple paint hashes. The paint is here to replace the old “No Trespassing” or “Private Property” signs that often need replacing because of how quickly they deteriorate being exposed to the elements.
It’s not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves. – Sir Edmund Hillary
3. Ticks - There’s no way that I can write an article about hiking in NEPA without talking about the dreaded pest, ticks. Ticks can easily cause great concern when you’re out on a hike, and rightfully so. There are numerous diseases that are transmitted by ticks including, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Lyme, however, you could still enjoy the great outdoors as long as you take the proper precautions before and after your hike to avoid getting bitten by a tick.
For starters, a good bug repellant that contains deet has always been suggested as a good defense against tick bites. It is stated that insect repellent containing deet is safe to use on the skin, however, I’ve always just applied it to my clothes and have had great success. Another option would be permethrin which is something you would apply to your clothes only, and will remain attached to your clothes for weeks and will even withstand multiple washes in the washing machine.
Another suggestion from experts is to tuck your shirts into your pants and your pants into your socks. If a tick can’t get to your skin, it can’t bite you. But this technique is not always fail safe because ticks can be extremely small (like the size of a pencil tip) and could sometimes squeeze themselves into the tiniest openings.
The next best thing to do is to check yourself regularly throughout your hike. If you are hiking with a partner, it’s a great practice to keep an eye on each other to make sure there are no ticks crawling around on the other person's back. As for my kids, I can’t help but to check them as often as possible. Areas to pay special close attention to are areas on the body that are usually dark and warm, like between joints (arms, knees, legs).
For more information regarding tick safety, I highly recommend reading this article from Dylon Stuntz at American Forests.org so that you feel prepared to hike without letting the threat of a tick stop you from getting outside.
4. Hiking Etiquette - As I mentioned in the beginning of this blog post, hiking is probably one of the most enjoyed recreational activities that people do. With that being said, it’s a good idea to keep a few basic hiking etiquette tips in mind to ensure a great time is had by all.
Leave no trace - While it’s important that you stay hydrated and energized throughout your hike, it’s also important that anything that you take into the woods with you comes back out with you as well. Not only is garbage on the side of a trail unsightly, it could also become very damaging to the wildlife. Make sure to keep a small trash bag with you and properly dispose of all trash after you leave the trails.
Music - Most of the time, people are out on the trails to escape the everyday routines of life and to enjoy the sounds of nature. There is great debate about whether people should be listening to music while on the trails, and while I don’t want to wedge myself in the middle of the argument, I do want to suggest that if you are one who enjoys listening to the sounds of Wu-Tang on your hike, be sure to keep the volume to a minimum or you may even consider listening with headphones.
Passing - Just as you would use a blinker when you’re going to pass someone in a vehicle, it’s just as important to give the person you are about to pass one the trail a signal as well. Calling out “coming up on your right/left” or even a simple “hello” could do the trick. Just try not to startle them!
5. General Safety - Although all of the aforementioned information could constitute good general safety tips, it might not be a bad idea to take additional measures to ensure your safety on the trails. Some of those measures may include; checking the weather forecast before heading out, letting close friends or family know where you are going to be hiking, carrying a whistle for emergencies, and making sure your phone is fully charged. With all of these practices in mind, there really is no reason as to why you can’t start out on the trails to begin your adventure today!
Stay safe and enjoy your time with nature!
'And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul’ - John Muir
-Matt Giambra, Environmental Educator
Get in Touch with Nature Indoors
Due to recent events, many of us may be finding ourselves unable to get outside or fully immerse ourselves in the outdoors as much as we would truly like. During times like this, many of us look to science to help. As we have learned over time, nature and being outdoors in general, is a great immune system and mood booster (more on this in can be found in a previous blog posting by Matt Giambra). So how can we get in touch with nature when we can’t stray far from our homes? Here are just a few things we can do to pass the time and boost our moods:
On the other hand, if you are truly stuck indoors due to one reason or another, curling up with a good book and a furry friend is highly recommended. If you want to read more about the benefits of nature author Richard Louv’s book Last Child in the Woods is certainly a great place to start.
-Alesia Gallo, Environmental Educator
Notes from the Sugarbush
Each year for the past 43 years staff from the Conservation District’s Environmental Education Center have loaded up the Maple sugaring gear and supplies and opened the Meesing Sugar bush. A sugar bush is an area where you tap trees to make maple syrup. This small 30-40 acre site, which is located 5.5 miles north of Marshall’s Creek on DCNR land, has proven to be a very important part of the EE Center’s programing for over 40 years. The work involved to setup and operate the sugaring process is more than most people realize but also well worth it when you taste the sweet maple syrup that is produced at the end. Over the years many different people have been involved with the sugaring process and since 2003 a daily journal has been kept of the activities in the sugar bush. To get the real feel for the experience I have selected some of the log entries for your reading pleasure, please enjoy.
Thursday, February 20, 2003
Arrived at 9:30, Roger, Brian, Jamie, finished clearing trails of snow from the storm on Monday. Tapped 40 trees behind Indian station along creek and behind sugar shack. Temp. 44 in shade and sap running good, heard a few birds. We moved equipment into shack and got things set-up. We burned a small fire in evaporator to cure the bricks for approx. 2 hrs. everything worked great. We hung the signs at 2:30 and the new sugar shack was officially ready for business.
Tuesday, March 18, 2003
3:30 pm -60 degrees. Well in an attempt to be really productive I also burned a batch of syrup. Evaporator was running all too well and I decided to split a few pieces of wood. Alas when I checked on the syrup it was done and upon draining…well…crystallized maple syrup was the final product…moral of the story when cooking just cook.
Thursday, March 25, 2004
12:30 pm. The evaporator is going smoothly. If you listen closely you can learn to monitor it just by the sound, you can hear when to add wood and if the hose and regulator are working properly.
Wednesday, March 30, 2005
Woodcock behind sugar shack, Brian spotted a porcupine in the singing Hemlock tree. There’s animals everywhere!
Wednesday, March 29, 2006
Maple Sugaring Season
by Karen N. Boyle
It starts in February sometimes a cold snowy day
The day after the Presidents Holiday
Setting up buckets and tubing galore
Cuz the staff can’t carry as much sap anymore
The sugarbush has been asleep all winter long
Waiting for the singing Hemlock to sing its song
The groups come to visit us
Often times many in one bus.
They walk into the woods and down the trail
Following their noses smelling smoke in the air
They want to find out what all the fuss is about
Hoping to see just a little sap drip out of a spout.
They came to learn all about maple syrup
Walking along the nice trails trying to keep up
Going to the Indian and Pioneer stations
The staff are able to answer all of their questions
Around the stations they go
Waiting for the best part of the show
A taste of the sweetest syrup we’ve made
Spending six weeks of bliss while getting paid!
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
I always forget how peaceful the sugar bush is in the morning. It is 32 degrees, sunny and the snow is slightly frozen, bird calls around the bush but none at feeders. I hear Nuthatches, Downy Woodpeckers and Chickadees. We are tapping today and the weather looks good for sap.
Friday, February 27, 2009
Birds finally started coming to feeders but it was quiet early in the day. Collected sap in the rain 106 gallons. The Indian #2 line is really flowing we added a second garbage can at the end. Hope our system works.
Saturday, March 7, 2009
Public Day: Purpose of the day-serve the finest lip-smacking pancakes to the public, who have braved the weather to attend this monumental festivity. Fun and education, camaraderie and work. Everyone loves it. A record setting day in the sugarbush 703 people attended.
Friday, March 11, 2011
Major flooding from the 4 inches of rain. Streams over their banks and water flowing over the bridge in public day area. Up to the bottom of the Indian bridge. The “Sometimes Raging Stream Trail” is definitely raging!
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
11:00 warm and sunny 55 degrees. Sap flowing from tree when tapped but other holes not flowing. Lots of birds singing. Evergreen school students were wearing shorts and complaining about the nats, the nerve of kids these days.
Thursday, April 3, 2014
Arrived at sugar shack and was treated to a gobbler behind the public day tree area, phoebe was singing. Not much sap in buckets so we will spend today and tomorrow finishing up sap in tank Geese flying and even some insects flying around.
Monday, March 30, 2015
The evaporator is humming, regulator is functioning and the steam is rising at 10:15 am. Add to that the fact that the sun has come out and the brown creepers are singing- it is a beautiful day in the Sugar bush.
Tuesday, February 23, 2017
Unbelievable, it’s Feb. 23 and its 65 degrees and sunny, but then there is no such thing as climate change!
Thursday, March 9, 2017
The Phoebe arrived at 10:52 am and perched on the maple by the big rock. We negotiated with him to continue to make maple syrup for at least 2 weeks, we’ll see.
Tuesday, March 14, 2017
The blizzard of 2017 22” of snow fell.
Thursday, March 29, 2018
8:00 am cloudy and damp. Slight misty rain. No one came yesterday a catch-up day in the office and not much sap. We will make the final push today with sap/syrup and plan on taking down all the buckets and tubes.
Thursday, March 7, 2019
8:00 AM , 12 degrees, BRRRR! Sunny slightly breezy as the day went on. Not collecting sap today everything is frozen in buckets and tubs.
Wednesday, March 27, 2019
10:00 just realized that after cleaning evaporator pans on Mon. I put the sap blocker on wrong side of syrup pan, OOPS. It should work better now. After 16 years of using this evaporator you would think that I knew what I was doing, oh well chalk it up to a long season.
There is no day quite like a day in the Sugar bush! All the staff work together to produce the syrup that we use for our programs and tree sponsors. I must admit we also look forward to being outside and getting a chance to see winter transition to spring each year. Please spend some time with us in the sugar bush this year on our Public Day, Sat. March 7 tours ongoing from10:00-3:00. Learn about the history of the process and enjoy some of our syrup on the best pancakes you will ever taste. Stop by a bucket and watch the sap drip, which is more exciting than it sounds. And finally just enjoy the day outside.
I am not one who follows or celebrates celebrity culture. In fact, I tend to be dismissive of how much celebrities use their influence (or “brand”) to sell products and push ideas to the rest of us. After all, these are still imperfect human beings just like the rest of us, yet their specific talents (and/or powerful connections) have lifted them above the vast pool of humanity, where they enjoy much more power, influence, and money from their success. They can afford to pay mighty sums to perfect their public appearances and somehow fend off bad repercussions from their wrongdoing.
The redeeming question is often, can celebrities use their platform and popularity to inspire and better our world and society?
Maybe they can.
The 77th Golden Globe Awards were held just after the New Year in Hollywood, and over a thousand celebrities were in attendance for the ceremony, which included a pre-show dinner. For the first time ever, the feast was completely plant-based, a decision made by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) out of concerns about climate change. Additionally, the awards show has taken steps toward sustainability by eliminating single-use plastic and water bottles.
“If there’s a way we can, not change the world, but save the planet, maybe we can get the Golden Globes to send a signal and draw attention to the issue about climate change,” HFPA president Lorenzo Soria said. “The food we eat, the way we grow the food we eat, the way we dispose of the food is one of the large contributors to the climate crisis. The climate crisis is impossible to ignore, and after speaking with our peers, and friends in the community, we felt challenged to do better.”
Actor Joaquin Phoenix, who took home the award for best actor for a motion picture drama for his role in the “Joker,” thanked the HFPA for making sustainable choices during his emotionally-charged, brutally honest acceptance speech. He also commented that “by acknowledging animal agriculture’s role in the degradation of our planet and boldly taking measures to do its part to reduce harm, the HFPA has shown great leadership.” Joaquin acknowledged that while many celebrities are sending well wishes to Australia due to unprecedented and utterly disastrous wildfires, “We have to do more than that.”
Joaquin resolutely expressed his wishes for Hollywood to unify and take responsibility in “making changes and sacrifices in our own lives.” This includes more than being conscientious about food choices, it’s about changing the extravagant lifestyles associated with celebrities, to be more thoughtful about their carbon footprints when it comes to travelling and material consumption. He concluded, “I’ll try to do better, and I hope you will too.”
As it turns out, lots of regular, non-celebrity Americans are trying to do better too. Vegan options are slowly becoming more common and mainstream. Even traditionally “unhealthy” fast food restaurants are starting to offer meat substitutes to appease conscientious consumers. The Economist reported that 25% of 25 to 34 year-old Americans say they are vegan or vegetarian. With technological advances in global food production, there are more creative plant-based meal alternatives than ever before.
The plant-based dinner served at this year’s Golden Globe Awards sounds so deliciously inspired it could make even the most devoted meat-lover drool: a first course of golden beet soup followed by a main course of king oyster mushrooms cooked and presented to mimic scallops, on top of wild-mushroom risotto and colorful roasted veggies.
When you consider all the tasty and satisfying options available, reducing our reliance on animal products really doesn’t seem too difficult. Meatless meals are based around proteins from beans, lentils, vegetables, and whole grains, which tend to be less expensive and offer more health benefits than meat. But it doesn’t have to be all or nothing: the lower your meat consumption, the lower your risk for heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. So switching from red meat to poultry is a good move. Switching from poultry to fish and seafood is a better move. Going vegetarian is still a positive move, even if you can’t do entirely vegan plant-based eating. In fact, there’s a new term – flexitarian – that describes someone who eats mostly plant-based, but occasionally eats meat, poultry, and/or fish.
However, there always seems to be a backlash against any movement away from traditional meat-centric meals. Reading comments from many cynical folks online makes me wonder: why do some people seem so personally insulted by lifestyle choices that reduce meat consumption?
National Geographic recently reported that an international commission of experts have analyzed the planet’s food productivity vs. growing population trends and have come up with scientific targets for a “nutritionally sound and sustainably produced planet-wide diet.” They propose the only way to feed 10 billion humans by the year 2050 would mean that our global consumption of foods like fruit and nuts needs to double, while cutting our appetite for red meat and sugar in half. The diet of our future successors will need to be about 90% plant-based in order to be sustainable. That’s a tough pill to swallow when you consider how many societies on Earth currently enjoy cuisine that revolves around meat. The meat industry also holds a lot of power in the economy and on Capitol Hill, and meat is typically subsidized by the government to make it cheaper for the masses.
The bottom line is that we should aim to be more thoughtful about our food consumption. To ensure a healthy planet and future for our grandchildren, we need to consider our indoctrinated consumption habits, and begin to reshape them. The plant-based dinner fed to celebrities at the 2020 Golden Globes demonstrates that it can be possible, sustainable, and satisfying as well.
Did you know? A person who is vegan will save 1,100 gallons of water, 20 pounds CO2 equivalent, 30 square feet of forested land, 45 pounds of grain, and one sentient animal’s life every day.
-Brittney Coleman, Environmental Educator