It's into the woods with a program for hikers and geocachers led by Megan Taylor, the Environmental Education Specialist at the Hickory Run State Park Complex.
A Thursday morning hiking program began on April 28, and will continue until October 20. Participants will meet every other Thursday morning at 9 a.m. at the designated meeting place.
"Wear comfortable hiking shoes, not water shoes or flip-flops," Taylor advises. "I recommend bringing water. It's also good to wear a hat and have sun block and bug spray available. Cell phones add an extra measure of safety, she advised, although reception can be spotty and she discourages cell phone calls during the hike.
The 12 hikes in the series are free, open to folks of all ages, and preregistration is not required. The terrain varies as does the distance-with hikes from two to five miles in length. She advises those inexperienced with hiking to stick to the shorter hikes, especially in warmer weather. The hikes will take place in rain or shine-but may be cancelled because of thunderstorms.
The hikes will cover portions of Hickory Run State Park, Nescopeck State Park, and State Gamelands 141. "The most scenic trail in the hiking series is a trail on Gamelands 141," Taylor said. "We will be walking to Tank Hallow, a gorgeous vista of the Lehigh River Gorge. The hike is scheduled for Aug. 25 at 9 a.m. with a meet-up at the State Gamelands 141 parking lot off of Behrans Road in Penn Forest.
As the hikes span three seasons, Taylor notes that hikers can expect to see: migrating warblers, thrushes, and tanagers in the spring, nesting and new families of birds in the summer, and birds migrating from north to south wearing their autumn plumage against a fall foliage forest.
For those interested in geocaching, Hickory Run is offering four Introduction to Geocaching workshops. The hour and a half sessions are offered on Friday, May 27 at 5:30 p.m., Saturday, June 11 at 2:30 p.m., Sunday, July 10 at 11 a.m., and Sunday, August 21 at 11 a.m. Each workshop will be held at the campground amphitheater and is limited to 20 participants. Preregistration is required by calling 570-443-0400. Those completing the workshop may borrow a handheld GPS during the Geocaching Hiking series.
"Geocaching is a high tech treasure hunt," Taylor explained. "You use a GPS unit to find a location where something is hidden, or to find an unusual place. If there is a box, inside there will be a log book and prizes. You sign your name to record your visit. If you bring something to trade, you can take something. There's always little toys for kids.
Five geocaching hikes are offered between June 5 and Sept. 4. Preregistration is not required if you are bringing your own handheld (not automotive) GPS unit and know how to operate it. If you have taken an Introduction to Geocaching workshop, you may reserve a unit by calling 570-443-0400.
You begin by inputing coordinates from the geocaching.com web site. "It will tell you which way to go and how far away it is," Taylor explained. "Once you start moving, it will tell you approximately how long it will take to get there. You follow it to your treasure. The units get you within 15 feet of the cache. Then you have use your detective skills to find it."
For an online schedule, see: www.dcnr.state.pa.us/Calendar.