Written by ClearWater Conservancy's Centred Outdoors Team
Photos by Sandy Miller, Communications Specialist, ClearWater Conservancy
In 2015, REI (Recreational Equipment, Inc.), the outdoor recreation apparel and gear company, opted to close its stores on Black Friday, one of the busiest shopping days of the year, and give employees the day off to enjoy the outdoors with their family and friends. The company referred to this day as #OptOutside, and eight years later, the movement continues to gain impressive momentum around the globe. On Instagram, for example, the hashtag has over 19 million posts.
Locally, ClearWater Conservancy’s Centred Outdoors program offers opportunities for the public to #OptOutside through free, guided group outings throughout the year. Of the more than 30 destinations that participants have explored with Centred Outdoors since 2017, the Centred Outdoors team of experts got together to offer a few suggestions for nearby natural places to #OptOutside with your family and friends this year.
#1 For great views of the valley, you can drive to the overlook at Jo Hays Vista, southbound along PA 26 S just outside of Pine Grove Mills. From the vista parking area, you can hike the Mid State Trail south 0.5 miles, to the site of the Tussey Mountain Spring Hawkwatch. Don’t forget to sign the Trail Register along the way! For a different vantage point, park on the 26 northbound side and take Jackson Trail 0.75 miles north to David’s Vista. This view of Rothrock State Forest offers another opportunity to see what makes our ridge-and-valley topography so memorable.
#2 For a fun, family-friendly jaunt, explore the Lake Loop trail at Black Moshannon State Park in Philipsburg, PA. Beginning from the Beach area, this trail hugs the edges of Moshannon Lake, providing the opportunity to observe lakeshore habitat to one side and wooded scenery on the other. Look for evidence of beavers along the trail! With the leaves down, there’s plenty of visibility for younger hikers to fully take in their surroundings along this short yet satisfying 0.7-mile trail.
# 3 To get your blood pumping after all that turkey, challenge yourself with a vigorous 4.54-mile hike along a portion of the Standing Stone Trail beginning near Greenwood Furnace State Park. This loop utilizes the Standing Stone Trail (SST), Turkey Trail, Lorence Trail, and Monsell Trail for a beautiful traverse of the Appalachian Range. The trails feature rocky pathways and switchbacks, eventually leading to the Stone Valley Vista atop Stone Mountain, and a breathtaking view of Stone Valley's rolling hills and farmlands. Bring your trekking poles!
For specific information, directions and parking information for these adventures, visit the “All Destinations” section of the Centred Outdoors website, www.centredoutdoors.org. Email email@example.com with questions or for more information. All destinations mentioned are open to the public at no cost.
When recreating outside in the fall and winter, be aware of all hunting season dates (regular deer hunting season opens Saturday, Nov. 25) and safety tips, including any requirements to wear orange when on state game lands. More information about these dates and safety requirements can be found on the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s website.
Hiking poles or walking sticks can be especially helpful in the fall when fallen leaves often cover trails. Remember to bring plenty of water and a few snacks to enjoy along the way. Learn more about safely preparing for your outdoor adventure on the Centred Outdoors website, www.centredoutdoors.org/safety.
Whether you choose to take in the scenic beauty of our region from a vista, alongside a lake, or as deep within the forest, spend a moment or more reflecting on the natural world around you. Take a deep breath of fresh air and keep an eye out for the plants and wildlife supporting the ecosystems we rely on for fresh air, amazing local food, and healthy drinking water supplies. This #OptOutside, consider extending Thanksgiving by one day to give thanks to nature and all those working to protect it for future generations.