Four Winter Festivals to Beat Cabin Fever

Polar vortex got you down? Well, there is an upside—all that freezing air means frozen lakes for skating and ice fishing, not to mention sledding, snowshoeing and more. PPFF’s Friends Groups are out there supporting these wintry pursuits with a variety of festivals across the state. So why not bundle up, pack up the sleds and a thermos of hot cocoa and enjoy what our public lands have to offer in the depths of winter?


Winterfest    Ohiopyle State Park     Saturday, Feb 1, 11:00am–4:00pm
This one-day event features lots of food, free family friendly events, interpretative programing, sleigh rides (For a fee) and good times! Sledding is usually the main event (Bring your own sled), as are the sleigh rides, but in the event of no snow, we’ll still be there enjoying the park with other activities! Click here for details.

Winterfest     Nescopeck State Park     Saturday, Feb 1, 11:00am–3:00pm    
Free annual event includes ice safety and ice fishing demonstrations with the PFBC, children’s games and crafts, cross-country ski and snowshoe loans, and more. Click here for details.

Mountain Pie Madness     Canoe Creek State Park     Sat., Feb. 8, 2:003:30pm  
Are you mad? Or just hungry? The Friends of Canoe Creek invite you to come out and try the classic mountain pie. Do a little hike, then try your hand at pie construction. It’s sure to be a great time! The Friends of Canoe Creek website or their Facebook page will tie you into the details.

Winterfest     Lackawanna State Park     Saturday, Feb. 22, 11:00am–4:00pm
It’s time for some family winter fun at Lackawanna State Park. New this year, an Ice Fishing Tournament sponsored by Nicholson Masonic Lodge No. 438. Also dog sled demos, snow shoeing, ice rescue demo, ice fishing demos, warming fires, kids winter crafts, hot food and beverages. Or make your own fun sledding or ice skating. Click here for details.

Sugar on Snow     Mt. Pisgah State Park     March 8, 10:00am–4:00pm
Learn how to tap a maple tree, cook the sap for syrup and taste the “sugar” over snow cones. Help crank homemade ice cream, make homemade donuts, cook hot dogs and s’mores over an open fire and make an old-fashioned rag doll. Sponsored by the Friends of Mt. Pisgah State Park. Click here for details.

sugar on snow


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The Art of Hiking with Children



Anyone who’s been hiking with children probably knows you are less likely to see wildlife or hear birdsong than you are to face endless questions about whether the walk will ever end, is this poison ivy, why are you torturing us, etc.

Nevertheless, inspired by the gorgeous fall foliage here in central PA, I set out on the trail with my kids (Lorelei, 5 and Luke, 10), promising them a grand adventure and ignoring their withering stares. What they didn’t know was that I had a whole new strategy for making it fun, courtesy of blogger Helen Olsson, author of the The Down and Dirty Guide to Camping with Kids: How to Plan Memorable Family Adventures and Connect Kids to Nature. In her top ten list of tips for hiking with kids, she advocates making it short, playing games along the way, letting the kids set the pace, and when all else fails, bribery.

Armed with healthy snacks & drinks, pop tarts (for bribery), and the Olsson plan, we hit the trail. We went in the morning, picked a short trail with a cool destination (a pond for skipping rocks & feeding fish), stopped frequently for drinks and snacks, and played games including Follow the Leader and Rainbow Walk, in which you look for all the colors of the rainbow on your journey.

The end result? A fantastic hike that my kids want to make into an annual event! It was definitely less stressful to have a bag of tricks at my disposal, rather than hoping for inspiration at desperate moments. Being flexible was key: for instance, when both kids were frustrated that we hadn’t reached the pond yet after quite a lot of hiking up a mountainside, we had a pop tart picnic right alongside the trail.  Also, I let my daughter wear her new Halloween butterfly costume, because she convinced me that “butterflies are a part of nature.” Best of all, we ALL had so much fun, and Lorelei’s butterfly outfit garnered lots of smiles from other hikers along the way. We’ll be heading out again soon. ~Jen

Ten Tips for Hiking with Kids by Helen Olsson

1. Time the hike. Most kids are at their best in the morning. And in many mountain environments, the weather is best in the morning, too.

2. Dangle the destination carrot. Choose hikes with landmarks, like a bat-filled cave, a pond with a beaver lodge, a ghost town, or a waterfall.

3. Play mind games. The homestretch on a hike is often the time to break out your arsenal of thinking games. Try “Name that Tune” or just sing songs to pass the time. Other thinking games ideal for the trail: I Spy with My Little Eye, Twenty Questions, I Went to Africa, and the Never-Ending Story.

4. Play physical games. One of our favorites is Hot Lava. The trail is covered in hot lava, and kids need to hop from rock to root to log to avoid having the soles of their shoes melted clear off. Another is to have kids search for trail blazes, the colored plastic or metal trail markers that are affixed to trees. A hike is also the perfect time to do a photo safari or a scavenger hunt.

5. Recalibrate your expectations: Let the kids set the pace. You might not cover too much ground, but you’ll have a more relaxing hike if you’re not prodding and cajoling reluctant kids at ever bend in the trail in an effort to log miles.

6. Start seeing things. Just as you can stare at the clouds and see sharks and turtles, you can see animal shapes in inanimate objects in the woods.  With a little imagination, you might see a dragon’s profile in big boulder or a bird’s head in a broken stick.

7. Take breaks: Stop often for water breaks, tossing rocks in a lake, or to sit near a burbling river reading a picture book. Curious George Goes Camping, perhaps. Take time to listen to birdsong and smell the pines.

8. Keep topping off the tank. Keep energy levels up by stopping for a healthy picnic lunch and plying kids continuously with ample snacks and water. Each child should have a water bottle or hydration system.

9. Bring a friend. Having a buddy on a hike helps motivate kids, and they seem to whine less in front of their peers. Just like adults, kids chat along the way.

10. Incentivize with treats: On hikes, bring a bag of M&Ms or gourmet jelly beans. When kids begin dragging their feet, start dispensing one sweet for every stretch of ground covered. I won’t sugarcoat it (pun intended), this is a bribe. But when all else fails, a little sugar boost can propel you back to the trailhead.


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Healthy Pet, Healthy YOU

outdoor dog october 2013

Come visit intern Kristina tomorrow at the Capital Blue Cross Headquarters in Harrisburg. She’s our designated representative for the annual Healthy Pet, Healthy You Expo.

In celebration, we put together a little newsletter called The Outdoor Dog and, with the help of our friends Bernetta and Molson Golden, a little piece on pet first aid.

Get ‘em here!

outdoor dog october 2013 pet first aid
outdoor dog october 2013

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Tea Time with PPFF

tea timeWe’re about to launch a new product for the store! Custom blended teas from some lovely folks up in New York State. A tea tasting took place on Monday and the final four selections are said to be fabulous. They’ll be named Bearfoot Meadow, Firefly Magic, Morning Laurel and Memories of Summer. I don’t recall which blends are going with which names, frankly, so you’re just going to have to be ready to visit the website and check them out for yourself as soon as the concoctions are blended!

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Adventures in the Field

asimos clanPPFF Board member George Asimos recently shared this great photograph of his family at Marsh Creek State Park from last weekend.

Their voyage took place in an aluminum boat George received from his Dad for his 16th birthday. George modified the boat by adding seats for the crew and it has been pronounced sea-worthy as a two-hour paddle yielded no leaks! Says George, “The real treat was an osprey about 30 yards from us dropped into the lake like a rock and came out flapping with a bass probably 12 inches long and carried it down the lake right past us. A flying fish! I’m pretty sure the ride did not end well for the fish.”

Just so you know – we LOVE to hear your adventure tales!

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Dear AT

At about 10 pm last night my phone rang, it was my brother asking for my mom. I handed her the phone and across the room I could hear him asking, “Do you have any rope? Why don’t you have any rope?”

You see, he and his friend were packing for a 4 day trip on the Appalachian Trail which they had known about for five months and started packing for about 8 hours before they wanted to leave. We’ve all heard the stories of the ridiculously over-prepared people hiking the AT (the guy with 16 rolls of toilet paper in his pack?) but it was interesting to see firsthand what a first-time backpacker thought he would need. Pillow? Cups? Dish washing liquid? Add little chocolates for the pillow and he might be going to a 5-star resort not a dirty, sweaty trek along a mountain.

When I stumbled downstairs this morning with bedhead and blurry vision, I expected to see his gargantuan pack gone. Instead it still lay there, taking up half the living room, and I had to hurtle myself across it to reach my morning baked good fix. They are supposed to hike 4 days and 45 miles in 95 degree heat and storms starting several hours ago.


Dear AT,                                                                                                                                                 Please be kind.                                                                                                                                        Thanks,


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New Adventures Inside & Out

Hey folks, I’m Jen Rehill, the new PR & outreach coordinator here at PPFF! As a long-time user of our state parks, it’s a blast to advocate for Penn’s Woods. If you’re a public radio fan, you may have heard my reports from the state capitol for local NPR stations over the past decade. Most recently, I’ve done media consulting for Radio Free Europe and other international outlets, and started an online vintage housewares business.

In my spare time I love kayaking, camping, knitting and hanging out with my lively kids, Luke & Lorelei. Our home state park is Gifford Pinchot, where we often go to play, and one of my GPOC goals this summer is to hike at five new parks or forests with my kids. I’ll be sharing some of those adventures along the way, so stay tuned…


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An Elusive Insect…

One would have thought from the media coverage the raucous bugs get that cicadas were about to take over the planet. All over the internet, newspapers, and television stations were people running around like headless chickens squawking (figuratively of course) ”The sky is falling! The sky is falling!” But, unfortunately for my neighborhood 7th graders, the 17-year brood seems to have passed on most of Pennsylvania’s luscious forests. The pack headed instead for New Jersey possibly vying for a role as Snookie’s co-star.

While I’m relieved that our forests are relatively safe from at least one threat, I have to say I was a little bit sad when only a few lonely cicadas emerged near my home. As I drove back to Camp Hill from Winchester, Virginia the forests became quieter and quieter until the song of mating cicadas simply disappeared. Now, not that I’m a huge fan of noisy, 17-year-old insects using my backyard as a mating ground but its always kind of exciting to see where you’ll find the first casing or cicada of the season.

Alas, I will wait until the next brood squirms out of their burrows in 2016 and hopefully at least a few will come swing by my house.

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Revenge of the Rock Snot

It’s every bit as yukky as it sounds – rock snot. Found earlier this year in the Youghiogheny River of southwestern PA, didymo has now been discovered in the northern tier’s beautiful Pine Creek. The good news? It doesn’t appear that “full blooms” were found but any evidence is enough to make waterways experts cringe.

And there is actually a way you can keep the stuff from spreading. This comprehensive article by our friend Marcus Schneck tells the story nicely. 

Be governed accordingly.

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A Tree Hugging Adventure


Today, Intern Ellie took Teddy (another intern) and his friend Quinn out to several state parks and forests. They were on a mission to capture pictures of picnics, pets, disc golf, and big trees. Surprisingly the one that proved to be the most interesting to find was the big trees.


The Bicentennial Tree Trail sits off the AT at the very bottom of Michaux State Forest. However, the group was starting from the top of the forest at Pine Grove Furnace State Park and instead going back out of the park and around to the bottom of the forest, they decided to go through it. This lead them down an “improved dirt road” over a mountain and finally to the road which would take them to the trail.


When they finally found it, everyone was happy but exhausted! It was definitely an adventure to remember.

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