DATC Rejoins the KTA

DATC-Joins-KTAThe Duncannon Appalachian Trail Community recently rejoined the Keystone Trails Association (KTA) which was founded in 1956 to protect and promote all of Pennsylvania‘s hiking trails. With the help of hiking groups and their members, KTA builds and preserves trails and also interacts with state agencies and the legislature to maintain a vocal presence in Harrisburg and stand up for the interests and concerns of hikers.

KTA organizes numerous events in Pennsylvania to encourage people to appreciate and enjoy nature and our woods. KTA members and guests recently spent the weekend in Wellsboro for the spring hiking event and they were out on the trails despite record low temperature and 3 inches of snow. Upcoming activities are:

  • 4/26-7: Boundary Work on the AT
  • 5/13-15: Trek The Tiadaghton hiking weekend at Little Pine State Park
  • 6/5-9: Allegheny Front Trail Slackpack
  • 7/29-31: Prowl the Sproul hike weekend
  • 9/23-25: Quehanna Elk Quest.

There are many planned weeks and weekends to work on the trails. You can learn more about KTA on the KTA website, the KTA Facebook page or by visiting the KTA office located at 46 E. Main St in Mechanicsburg. Stop by to say hello and join the umbrella group that represents all of the hikers in Pennsylvania.

March DOC Hike to Middle Creek

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On March 12th the Duncannon Outdoor Club went to the Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area to witness the migrating Tundra Swans and Snow Geese.  Middle Creek Is an important way station providing  food and rest for waterfowl flying to northern breeding sites.  The warmer weather triggered an earlier migration, so we were lucky to see thousands of Snow Geese.  The Tundra Swans were visible only through binoculars, since they had settled down far across the lake.

After taking pictures and observing the birds and the many people observing them, we headed to the Visitor’s Center to begin our hike along a series of trails.  We started at the Conservation Trail to Spicebush Trail, up Valley View Trail, down Horseshoe Trail, to Middle Creek Trail, up Elders Run Trail, back to Conservation Trail to the Visitor’s Center for a total of six plus miles.  The two climbs required some effort, but lunch after the first climb re-energized us for further challenges.

We could not believe that horses could traverse down the section of Horseshoe Trail which was nothing more than a narrow, steep, deep ditch down the mountain.  Horseshoe tracks confirmed that it was possible.  On the Conservation Trail we were lucky to see a vernal pool, a temporary pool of surface water, full of Wood Frog and Jefferson Salamander eggs, an early sign of spring.



As with every DOC event we had an outdoor educational theme.  The theme for our event was Snow Geese and Tundra Swans so we had a brief presentation before starting our hike. First we reviewed the four major flyways in North America: the Atlantic Flyway (commonly known as the Kittatinny Ridge in the Harrisburg area), the Mississippi Flyway, the Central Flyway, and the Pacific Flyway.

(Please note that the Kittatinny Ridge is being threatened by development.  Refer to Kittatinny Ridge for further information on this topic and to find what you can do to save the ridge.)

The Tundra Swans use mostly the Pacific and Atlantic Flyways to reach Northern Canada and the Northern and Western edges of Alaska breeding areas.  They leave their wintering areas at their lowest weight relying heavily on way stations like Middle Creek and the lower Susquehanna. When winter approaches, the Tundra Swans east of Point Hope Alaska winter on the Atlantic Coast flying 4,000 miles.  Swans south of Point Hope follow the Pacific flyway to their wintering areas along the Pacific Coast.

Tundra Swans have black beaks, faces, and legs.  There are small yellow spots in front of their eyes.  Holding their necks in a straight position differentiates them from the Mute Swans, a feral or domestic non-native species, which hold their necks in an  “S” position.

The Mute Swans are easy to tell apart from Tundra Swans, because they have an orange bill with a black knob at the base.  This non-native species is very aggressive, taking and defending a half square mile as its territory.  It is a very aggressive bird and will hiss, stare, hit with the wrists of its wings and attack humans.   This behavior and a voracious appetite disturbs local ecosystems displacing native species like the Tundra Swan.

Tundra Swans are dabblers used to eating animal matter and nipping off submerged aquatic plants as deep as three feet below the surface.  However, due to vanishing wetlands they have begun to feed on agricultural fields.  Nipping off the tops of plants and eating seeds left behind after the harvest.

Tundra Swans build their nests out of grasses, sedge, mosses, and lichens on the ground  in a place providing good visibility.  Their territory covers a half square mile, but does not seem to impact the local ecosystem as negatively as the Mute Swans. Tundra Swan babies, called cygnets, are born with their eyes open and are in the water 12 hours after they pip the shell. They are light gray in color, are brooded by the parents for about a week, and are ready to fly after two or three months.

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DOC Canoe Trip – Observe Brooding Herons, Egrets and Comorants

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On Sat., June 12th (Sunday) – Join the DOC on a canoe trip from Blue Mountain Outfitters (BMO) to West Fairview for an opportunity to observe the egrets, cormorants, and herons raise their young on Wade Island. This trip will be under the guidance of BMO with a cost of $29.40 per person for a group of 10, and $31.80 for less than 10. Call 395-2462 or email dtakach@duncannonatc.org to register. We will meet at the Duncannon Family Health Center to carpool at 9:00 am. or alternately at BMO at 9:30 am. Bring water, a snack, and binoculars. Don’t forget your sunscreen.  If you register for this event please do not cancel unless absolutely necessary.  We need that magic 10 or more!!!!!!!!


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On Sat., May 14th – Come to a kid friendly scavenger hunt at the Cornerstone Christian Church Trails for a leisurely paced 1.43 mile hike over easy terrain. See how many hidden things can be found along the trail. This hike is appropriate for children 5 and up. Adults without children are also welcome. Meet at the Cornerstone Christian Church, Duncannon at 10:00 am. Call 395-2462 or email dtakach@duncannonatc.org to register.

DOC April Event – Plants and Animals at Wildwood

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On Sat., April 16th – Come to an adult, family, kid, dog friendly 3 mile average paced hike on easy terrain at the Wildwood Nature Center. See how many items you can cross off your observation card. Dogs must be leased. Bring water, a snack, and binoculars. We will meet at 9:00 am. at the Duncannon Family Health Center to carpool or alternately at the nature center at 9:30 am. Call 395-2462 or email dtakach@duncannonatc.org to register.

DOC Feb. Hike: Leave No Trace and Hiking Etiquette

Our hike on the Stoney Valley Rail Trail was a leisurely 4 mile hike, two in and two out.  The weather was  perfect, almost reaching 60 degrees. While the air was warm there was still the remnants of snow and ice underfoot.  It was a tad scary driving back to the trail head on a snowy, icy dirt road.  At the last section if one did not stay in the tire tracks the risk of  a sudden drop off the road into the forests was evident.   Fortunately we all made it without incident.

Prior to the hike we had a discussion on Leave No Trace and Hiking Etiquette.  A 10 question quiz started us off on an interesting talk on the do’s and don’ts of hiking.  Take the quiz below and then check your answers to see how well you do.


    1. It is okay to leave apple cores and other food items in the woods for animals to eat.

2. Defecate 200 feet and urinate 100 feet from a trail, shelter or water source.

3. Hikers should yield to mountain bikers.

4. Pass another hiker on the right and let them know you are passing.

5. Hikers stay on the uphill side when horses are passing on an incline.

6. Cairns are acceptable as a means of marking trail heads since they are made of natural material.

7. Hikers going downhill should yield to hikers coming uphill.

8. Since flora and fauna are so prevalent in the forests it is permissible to take small samples.

9. You may veer off the trail to bushwhack or follow a path that proves an easier way to traverse to conserve your energy.

10. Make all fires in a fire ring and use small diameter wood found on the ground.


#1 False – Leaving food items will attract animals and insects into the hiking areas exposing hikers to rabies or other diseases.  It also disrupts the animals’ natural foraging behaviors. Other hikers do not appreciate looking at your garbage.  (Incidentally, orange peels last forever, and to my knowledge I do not know of any animal that eats orange peels!)

#2 True – Defecate by digging a cathole 6″ x 6″ x 6″ (some say 6″ x 8″), removing the dirt plug and putting it to the side.  Do your duty in the hole and replace the dirt plug.  Take any toilet paper and hygiene products with you. Urinate 100 ft. away from a trail, shelter, or water source, again taking any toilet paper or hygiene products with you. (When on an expedition with Outward Bound in North Carolina we rated our toilet areas.  A beautiful view with a log to sit on over your cathole and a cool breeze was rated 5 stars.  When you returned from your duty you were required to kiss the shovel as proof that you dug your cathole properly, YUCK!)  Another tidbit of info, when brushing your teeth move 200 feet away from water sources and broadcast your spit from your mouth in a half-circular pattern to spread out the toothpaste scented water.  The same holds true for disposing of waste water.

#3 False – ATV’s yield to everything, hikers and bikers yield to horses, bikers yield to hikers.

#4 False – When passing another hiker you pass on the left notifying them of your intentions by saying something like, “Passing on your left.”  Greet people you meet.  This will help them remember you if something should happen and a search for you is necessary.  If hiking and you meet someone that gives you those creepy vibes and you are ahead of your group or worse yet, hiking alone, it is wise to say something like, ” I must be ahead of my group etc.”

#5 False – Hikers stay on the downhill side when yielding to a horse on an incline since horses usually run uphill when spooked.

#6 True or False – This question led to a lot of discussion.  Some of us felt it was true while other had the opposite opinion.  Upon further research it was found that cairns, piles of rocks to indicate a path, have been used since the 1800’s in the Northeastern United States, usually above the tree line.  According the the Center for Outdoor Ethics it is permissible to build authorized cairns and they should not be tampered with.  Otherwise cairns should not be constructed since they lead to rogue trails and confuse other hikers.

#7 True – Hikers going downhill should yield to those coming up.  Still, many hikers who are climbing may yield to provide a short respite to their labors.  When yielding or stopping for a rest step off the trail selecting a used area or a durable surface.  When hiking in a group, it is the groups responsibility to yield to single or pair hikers.  Since it is harder for a group to get of the trail often times the other hikers will let you pass first,  It is their call.

#8 False – Go by the saying, “Take nothing but pictures and leave nothing but footprints.”  If every hiker took plants and other items with them their would be nothing left to see,  Good foragers, people picking edible plants, on the other hand will pick plants knowing to follow the policy of a sample here and a sample there leaving behind plants for regeneration.

#9 False – When you bushwhack you kill additional plants and create rogue trails which often lead to erosion.  Hikers want to see nature, not a series of trails in all directions.

#10 True – Leave standing dead trees, called snags, and fallen trees alone since they provide a source of food and habitat.  Do NOT cut live trees!   Do not build fire rings when you can use those which already exist.  Make sure you are in an area where fires are permitted.  Clear all leaves and debris away from the fire ring.  Make sure your fire is under control at all times and do not leave it unattended.  Make sure the fire is out when done.  Forest fires are most common in the late fall and early spring when there are no leaves on the trees prohibiting the sun from hitting the leaf litter on the ground and drying it out.

So how did you do?  One bit of info left unsaid was the importance of keeping your noise level down in respect for other hikers, and please do not play music for others to hear.  If you wish to read more about the 7 principals of Leave No Trace go to http://duncannonatc.org/leave-no-trace/.

Works cited:

Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics/LNT.org “The Leave No Trace and Cairns,” 2014 Web. 20 Mar,. 2016

Save the Doyle Hotel

The world-famous Doyle Hotel needs your help!

The Doyle Hotel in Duncannon

If you have ever been to The Doyle, if you have ever imagined going to The Doyle, if you know someone with a great story about The Doyle; then you know how important this iconic landmark is to the local community and the hiking community at large. More than a thousand “seasoned” (code word for “smelly”)  through-hikers are expected to visit the Doyle Hotel this year to pay their respect to both the establishment and the quirky couple who has devoted the past 15 years of their lives to serving hikers from around the world as well as local friends and families.

The legendary Doyle is in need of your immediate support to ensure that its legacy can carry on throughout the near and distant future. A slower-than-usual winter season has placed the owners Pat and Vickey Kelly in dire financial straights. Fortunately, some of their friends have started a GoFundMe page to rally supporters from far and wide to take action before it’s too late.

More information about their plight can be found at The Doyle Facebook page, Fox 43 News, ABC 27 News, PennLive.com, Penn Live’s Facebook post, DATC’s Facebook Post, this video interview, and most importantly, The Doyle’s GoFundMe page. Spread the word and share as many of these links as you possibly can. We need this to spread beyond the local Duncannon community and proliferate throughout the wild and wonderful community of past, present and future Appalachian Trail hikers. This won’t be an easy task but we all know that every difficult journey begins with a single step. Share the story and support The Doyle today!

DOC Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area – Snow Geese and Tundra Swans

DOC LogoMarch 12th – Come to the Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area to observe and learn about the thousands of Snow Geese and Tundra Swans as they  migrate to  this important way station.  Then hike an average-paced 6 mile hike over moderate to easy terrain on a series of trails that form a loop back to the visitor’s center.  There are 2 climbs ranging from 300 ft to 400 ft.  Meet at the Duncannon Family Health Center to carpool at 8:30 a.m. or alternately at the K-Mart parking lot at 9:00am.  Call 395-2462 or email dtakach@duncannonatc.org to register.  Please reimburse drivers 10 cents per mile and for turnpike tolls.  Bring your cameras and binoculars if you have them.


Boy Scout Troop 64: Keeping Duncannon Green

Duncannon Recycle Center February 2016The second Saturday of each month our community has the opportunity to dispose of recyclable materials, saving tons of waste from going to a landfill.  From 8-11am at the Recycling Center in Penn Township, alongside Shermans Creek, recyclable materials can be dropped off.  This is the same parking area used to access one of our favorite hiking destinations, Hawk Rock.  Borough residents can set recyclables at their front doorstep for pickup, as well.

Duncannon’s very own Boy Scout Troop 64 is to thank for this time consuming, tough and dirty work.  The Troop’s efforts in keeping Duncannon green date back to the 1940’s!  Funding for recycling in the 17020 zip code comes from Penn Township and the Duncannon Borough.  At one time this project was conducted in the parking lot of the Old Sled Works on North Market Street in the borough.

Keep Hawk Rock Beautiful - Duncannon AT SignThis past Saturday, February 13, most of us had no thoughts of climbing out from under our warm blankets. The temperature was single digit and the winds were gusting between 20 and 40 miles per hour! Yes, the sun was shining bright but if you did not have to go outside, you probably did not.  These conditions did not stop the scouts and their helpers to be at the Recycling Center before 8, bundled up awaiting tons of recyclables to be delivered.  After all they have been doing this for more than 70 years!

At one time recyclable material had more monetary value than it does today.  Also, the many rules for sorting and separating that are required now, did not exist.  These changes have not discouraged the Troop from completing the tedious work.  Residents can make the work easier for everyone involved by breaking down containers, sorting papers and separating items by the code or color.

Recycling logo wrapped around a dollar signMoney can still be collected for certain materials today such as aluminum cans.  Paper once put money back in the pocket of these dedicated scouts.  Today our paper is being sent to a Perry County farmer to be used for bedding material.  At one time there was enough money being returned to the Troop that individual scouts could earn credit for their hard work and dedication.  Scouting supplies could be purchased or camping trips paid for. This was great incentive for the young boys to continue working toward their goals.  Today, with less monetary incentive, they continue to take pride in their work and have a positive influence in their community.

Thank you and keep up the great work Boy Scout Troop 64!  Also, thank you to the Duncannon community for keeping our town green!

DOC Little Buffalo Hike and White Tailed Deer

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Duncannon Outdoor Club group photo at Little Buffalo state park

Taking a break at the top of climb number eight.

On Saturday, January the 16th a group of  daring hikers braved the weather to hike the trails of Little Buffalo State Park.  It was a cold, damp, drizzly morning to start and we did get rained on for a short period of time.  We were fortunate that the sun did stick its head out a few times before the wind hit.   With all the climbing we did the weather didn’t phase us.

A total of 5.5 miles was traversed over trails where we counted 10 climbs.  We started at Middle Ridge Trail to Buffalo Creek Trail and connected with the Buffalo Ridge Trail, finally ending up at the covered bridge,  then walked back to the office parking lot for the completion of the hike.

The theme for the event was, “The White Tailed Deer”.  The white tailed deer, belonging to the Cervidae family, are referred to as Cervids meaning hooved.  Most people are familiar with deer tracks which exemplify a cloven or split hoof.  When deer walk through deep mud or heavier deer leave  prints you can see the dew claw impressions. There are two dew claws above the back side of each hoof.

White tailed deer are also classified ruminants meaning multiple stomachs and cud chewing animals.   Deer have four stomachs.  They are active at dusk and dawn making them crepuscular mammals.  During this time they come out of cover, quickly eat, return to cover, regurgitate their food from the first stomach, and chew it (chewing their cud).  This behavior limits the amount of time the deer are out in the open exposed to predators. Deer eating habits change depending upon what is available each season. They are vegetarians eating herbaceous and woody plants.  In Spring and Summer they will feed on green plants.  Hard and soft mast are their preferred food source during the fall.  This includes nuts, buds, seeds,and fruit.  In winter food sources are scarce when they select bark, tree branches (ends), vines, and bushes.  Deer will gravitate toward food sources providing the most nutrients, one of the reasons why they prefer acorns in the fall and hemlock during the winter months.  These items are high in nutritional value.

No matter the season, do not feed the deer!  You may think you are helping them survive when you are really  increasing their chances of death and disease.  Feeding the deer disrupts the micro-organisms in their digestive track which can often lead to death.  In winter deer will migrate long distances to reach feeding  stations causing them to use up their fat reserves.  Feeding deer results in the congregation of large groups of deer exposing them to the diseases such as: CWD, Chronic Wasting Disease, and EHD, Epizootic Hemmorrhagic Disease. Continue reading