As the temperature heats up, so does the excitement of spending time with your family in the great outdoors. Embrace the warmth of summer by trying one of the many family-friendly activities in the Allegheny National Forest Region of Pennsylvania. Many are free or low cost, but the memories they provide of your family enjoying time together in the great outdoors will be priceless.
GEOCACHING: THE NEW WAY TO TREASURE HUNT
Summertime is a great time to get outdoors and try a new sport. Geocaching is a real-world, outdoor treasure hunt. It is a fantastic recreational activity in which participants use a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver or mobile device such as a smart phone to hide and seek containers, called "geocaches" or "caches", anywhere in the world. This fun, free, interactive activity is an interesting way to enjoy the outdoors and technology, and it is suitable for all ages. For families it provides a fun way for children to develop critical thinking skills as they solve clues and use navigational techniques to locate hidden treasure. It shares many of the aspects of orienteering, treasure hunting, and way-making.
To begin, head to geocaching.com. Here you will find instructions on the sport and how to set up a free account. If you are doing this as a family, go ahead and set up a geocaching code name for each member. It is more fun if the children have their own secret code name to use during the hunt.
Next you will enter a zip code to bring up caches in the area you are interested in exploring. Then use the clues and a navigational device such as a GPS unit or smart phone to find the hidden caches. A cache, in geocaching language, is the hidden item containing either a code or stamp enabling you to obtain a trackable geocoin or other treasure.
A typical cache consists of a small waterproof container containing a logbook, along with a pen or pencil. When a geocacher finds a cache, they enter the date they found it and sign it with their established code name. After signing the log, the cache must be placed back exactly where the person found it. Larger containers such as plastic storage containers or ammunition boxes can also contain items for trading, usually toys or trinkets of little financial value, although sometimes they are sentimental. Part of the fun of geocaching is clue solving and seeing the sites along the way.
In the ANF Region, there are thousands of geocaches. Popular local zip codes to get you started are: 16701, 16735, 16749, 16731, 16347, 16333, 16740 and 14770. Two local geo-caching trails have extra special coins related to the lore and legends of the Allegheny National Forest Region - the Great Finding Bigfoot Trail and the Allegheny GeoTrail.
Be careful, this fun activity can become very addictive; many families start to plan their vacations and road trips around geo-caching.
THE GREAT FINDING BIGFOOT GEO-TRAIL
Bigfoot sightings are regularly reported in McKean County, Pennsylvania. Many locals believe Bigfoot lives here. Animal Planet filmed in McKean County and recorded positive sightings, and a game camera mounted in a tree by Rick Jacobs in a remote area of the Allegheny National Forest raises questions as to what type of creature is actually captured in the pictures.
Others just want to have fun searching for signs of Bigfoot. To add to the fun, the Great Finding Bigfoot Geo-caching trail was created. Secret clues are dispersed throughout the county; as you find the codes you record them on the Great Finding Bigfoot GeoTrail form. Once all the clues are found, you can come in person to the ANF Visitors Bureau Welcome Center at 80 E. Corydon Street in Bradford, PA to pick up your coin. Or if more convenient, you can mail in the form and a coin will be sent to you. All entries are then entered into a contest to win a free GPS unit. The wooden coins depict Bigfoot and are made of locally harvested Black Cherry. Forms can be downloaded from the visitANF.com website.
ALLEGHENY GEO-TRAIL PASSPORT
Before setting out to find the caches, you will need to register on www.geocaching.com
to retrieve the coordinates and other local information for this 10-county geotrail located in Pennsylvania. You will also want to order the passport, or you can pick it up at the ANF Visitors Bureau Welcome Center. Once a cacher successfully finds six caches in a county, they are eligible to receive a free geocoin. Present the passport with a minimum of six stamps from one county at the headquarters of that county, and a geocoin will be awarded and the passport will be validated. The passport will then be returned to be used with subsequent cache finds in other counties, or to continue to document finds in the same county.
Only one coin per county will be given to each cacher. Cachers who get six stamps from all ten counties in their passport are eligible for the special ten-county Allegheny GeoTrail coin, which is also available at any of the designated Allegheny GeoTrail headquarters.
If you have any questions, please call the ANF Visitors Bureau at 800-473-9370 or visit the office in Bradford, which has the Allegheny GeoTrail passports, the McKean County coin and the ten-county GeoTrail coin. Check out www.alleghenygeotrail.com
for additional instructions.
GET OUTDOORS AND PLAY ... IT’S GOOD FOR YOU!
Outdoor play is essential for children’s health and well-being. In the article, “8 Science-backed Reasons for Letting Your Kids Play Outdoors” written by Edward Shepard, research confirms exposure to environmental-based education significantly increases student performance on tests of their critical thinking skills. Some of the benefits listed include: better vision, better resistance to disease, increased Vitamin D, less stress, better attention spans for children who spend regular time in unstructured outdoor play, better physical fitness, better physical coordination, and better classroom performance.
CAMPING TIPS FROM THE U.S. FOREST SERVICE
One of the tried and true ways to get children outdoors is by planning a camping trip. There are over 1,200 campsites within the Allegheny National Forest and many, many more in private campgrounds within northwestern Pennsylvania. Whether you're roughing it in a tent, renting a cabin, or planning a family picnic, there are many ways to make sure that your experience is fun and safe.
The following are a few basic camping tips from the U.S. Forest Service:
• Be prepared. Pack a first aid kit and bring emergency supplies such as a map of the area, compass, flashlight, knife, waterproof fire starter, personal shelter, whistle, warm clothing, high energy food, water-purifying tablets and insect repellant.
• Check the elements. Check the weather report before you leave home, keep an eye on the skies for change and if possible, carry a compact weather radio. Stay dry; wet clothes can contribute to heat loss. Also, keep sleeping bags and important gear dry at all times.
• Survey your surroundings. Plan your trip so that you arrive early at your actual campsite with enough daylight to check over the entire site and safely set up camp. Check for potential hazards such as glass, sharp objects, branches, large ant nests, poison ivy, bees and hazardous terrain.
Avoid Areas of Natural Hazards. Check the contour of the land, and look for potential trouble spots due to rain or snow. Inspect the site looking for level space with enough room to spread out all your gear. Pitch your tent, keeping it a safe distance from the campfire. A site that has trees or shrubs on the side of the prevailing winds will help block strong unexpected gusts. Build fires in a safe area.
Outdoor Awareness. Ensure your fires are always attended. Be sure to have an area for a campfire that cannot spread laterally or vertically - a grill or stone surface is ideal. When putting the fire out, drown it with warm water. Make sure all embers, coals and sticks are wet. Embers buried deep within the pile have a tendency to reignite later. Use caution with propane stoves and grills. Never leave them unattended. Watch out for bugs. Dispose of trash properly, remembering to recycle. Beware when encountering wildlife. Beware of bears, keep you campsite clean, and know which plants are poisonous.
• Keep it clean. Wash your hands, particularly after using the toilet, and before handling food to prevent the spread of germs and disease. Use biodegradable soap. Keep your campsite clear and don’t forget to remove all the trash. Pack it in, pack it out.
TENT, RV OR CABIN
Camping offers a variety of outdoor experiences. One of the first decisions you should make is what type of camper you would like to be. Do you want to be deep in the forest away from everyone with your own little piece of the world? Or do you prefer the convenience of a cabin with electricity, bathrooms, a playground for the kids, and a local store within walking distance for food and supplies?
Families that have never tried camping and who are looking for a no-stress way of experiencing the outdoors, sometimes find it easier to rent a cabin. A cabin is also a low cost way to take the family for a forest getaway without investing in camping equipment. For those with an RV or tent, many options are available. A variety of cabins and campsites with many different levels of amenities and fun locations are available within the region. Take your time to review the sites below to find just the perfect fit for your family getaway.
Allegheny Site Managementmanages the camping and cabin rentals in the Allegheny National Forest. Their cabin rentals range from the Farnsworth cabin with full amenities to charming rustic wooden cabins with porch swings, electricity, a fire ring, and shared public shower/restrooms. There are four reservoir campgrounds: Willow Bay, Dewdrop, Kiasutha, and Red Bridge.
Willow Bay Campgroundis located along the northeastern shoreline of the Allegheny Reservoir, west of the City of Bradford and just south of Allegany State Park in New York. With mature forests providing shaded lots, a wooden picnic table, and fire ring for each site, families can enjoy a scenic, fun getaway close to the water. It is one of the most developed recreation sites in the Allegheny National Forest. Some sites have boat to access, and there is a developed boat launch and a large parking lot for boat trailers. Boat, kayak and outfitting rentals are available. A pavilion with views of the water can be rented for reunions or other functions. Red Bridge is another favorite with fishermen. Non-reservoir campgrounds include Tracy Ridge, Minister Creek, Buckaloons, Hearts Content, Loleta and Twin Lakes. For more information please call 814-368-4158 or visit www.alleghenysite.com
Woodhaven Campgrounds & Cabinslocated at the edge of the Allegheny National Forest are a short drive to the Kinzua Beach area and the Kinzua Wolf Run Marina at the Allegheny Reservoir. This family owned facility is both family friendly and pet friendly. Cabins which sleep four and feature two rooms with a bathroom, kitchenette, refrigerator and microwave are available for rent. RV and tent sites are also available. Outdoors, under the tree shaded sites, a picnic table and fire ring are waiting for you to roast PA. For information and reservations please call 814-368-6806 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Pat & Pam’s Camps arenotyour traditional cabins, but privately owned rental units where you can choose from a small cottage or an air-conditioned mobile home - both with a big yard, fire ring and horseshoe pits in a rural location. Each unit has two bedrooms with twin beds, a bathroom with shower and kitchens stocked with pots, plates, silverware and a microwave oven. TVs and DVD players provide for stay-in evening entertainment. Each rental has a two-night minimum stay. Pat & Pam’s Camps are located west of the City of Bradford, along the access road to the North Country Trail and Willow Bay in the Allegheny National Forest. 28 Calhoon Road, Bradford, PA, phone 814-368-7017.
High Pines RV Parkis a fun family campground along Rt. 219 near Lantz Corners, just a short drive to the Kinzua Bridge State Park and the Kinzua Sky Walk. High Pines offers rustic cabin rentals, RV and tent sites. Their facility features a mini-golf course, shuffleboard courts, fire truck and trail rides, a laundromat, game room, pavilion, volleyball court, basketball hoops, and a playground. Located among majestic pine trees, you will have a good chance of viewing wildlife. Propane, firewood, ice and RV supplies are available at the camp store. Their pull-through lots can accommodate up to a 45-foot RV with vehicle in tow. 3183 Route 219, Kane, PA, phone 814-778-5336.
Wapiti Woods Guest Cabinsoffer modern guest cabin rentals surrounded by the beauty of nature. Knotty pine guest cabins are set up to meet the needs of anyone looking for a romantic getaway or excursion into the great outdoors. All kitchens are fully equipped with quality utensils and tools, stove and oven, refrigerator, microwave and coffee maker. Cabins include indoor wood burner, outdoor fire ring, picnic table and a porch swing. Here you can get into the heart of the Pennsylvania Wilds with an overnight stay in the wild elk range. “Wapiti” is the Shawnee word meaning “white butt,” or elk. Cabins are located close to the Elk and Moshannon State Forests. Picnic pavilion and cabins are available for group gatherings, weddings, anniversaries and small reunions. 5186 River Road, SR 555, Elk Scenic Drive, Benezette Township, Weedville, PA, phone 814-787-7525, www.wapatiwoods.com
Mystic Water Resort offers year-round log cabin rentals situated beside a private 20-acre lake. Cabins provide the comfort of home in a get-away setting. Cabins have a fully equipped kitchen and bath, 2 bedrooms, living room, and private porch, and can comfortably sleep up to 4 people. Nearby is a championship 18-hole miniature golf course and driving range. This facility is also able to host large groups for family reunions, company picnics and wedding receptions. They offer a large pavilion, restroom facilities, an athletic field and room for caterers and dancing if you wish! 620 Parkside Drive, Limestone, NY, phone 716-925-8553, www.mysticwaterresort.com
Other lodging close to the forest, state parks, and trail systems include a variety of hotels, bed & breakfasts, or for those seeking complete pampering - Glendorn, a four-star resort with a variety of spa and outdoor activities. For the full list of lodging options, nearby attractions, and other things to do and see in the great outdoors, go to www.visitANF.com
or call 800-473-9370 for personalized assistance.