On Sat., Feb. 24th the Duncannon Outdoor Club (DOC) will be hiking an average paced, 6 mile loop trail on strenuous to moderate terrain at Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area. There are 2 climbs from 300 to 400 ft. Prior to the hike we will observe the migration of Snow Geese and Tundra Swan, provided the early migration this year is still ongoing. Meet at the Geisinger Holy Spirit Duncannon Center at 8:30 am. or alternately at the Kmart parking lot in Summerdale at 9:00 am. Please reimburse drivers 10 cents per mile and for turnpike tolls (124 miles total). Bring your binoculars and cameras. Call 717-395-2462 or email email@example.com to register. Pack snacks, water, and lunch. Hope to see you soon!
Starting at the Pole Steeple Parking Lot the group hiked up to Pole Steeple, along the Appalachian Trail to Mountain Creek Trail, which looped back to the start. A thank you goes out to Patrick Walsh for leading the hike.
So what did we learn about striped skunks? Well, there are four kinds of skunk species that live in the United States: the hooded skunk, hognose skunk, spotted skunk, and striped skunk. The striped skunk being the species found in Pennsylvania. The word “skunk” comes from the Algonquin Indian name seganku. Polecat, woods pussy, and enfant du diable (child of the devil in French) are other names for this stinky little critter.
Skunks are nocturnal and omnivorous. They sleep during the day and forage at night eating available seasonal plant and animal matter. Although they have poor hearing, sight and sense of smell, skunks are very dexterous with their paws, which have long sharp claws for digging. Their gate is in a plantigrade manner with the heel touching first and rolling off the front of the foot.
Skunks can be found in fields, towns, and woods, though they are rarely found in deep forests. During the summer months skunks usually bed down above ground hiding in grasses, logs, and even under porches! During the winter they will find an existing den, which is preferable, or dig their own. Skunks do not hibernate but enter a state of torpor where body functions become depressed with body temperature remaining near normal. They will live off body fat with females losing 10 to 30 percent of their body weight. In winter a warm spell will bring skunks out to forage for nuts, dried fruit, grasses and small mammals. Skunks have been known to den with rabbits, groundhogs, possums, and other skunks, which are usually offspring. It is common to find one male skunk denning with a group of females in an attempt to have first mating rights.
February to mid-April is the breeding season for skunks. The male will breed with numerous females and does not take part in the rearing of young. Males will fight for the right to mate but rarely spray one another. Females will fight off a male’s attempt at mating if she has already copulated with another. Mating is soundless and takes about one minute. Two to ten young are born 60 days later and will produce musk spray at eight days, though they will be incapable of directing that spray until three weeks of age when their eyes open. The striped skunk becomes sexually mature in its second year.
The striped skunk has three steps of defense with the third being the most productive. If threatened the skunk will first attempt to leave. If you have ever seen a skunk run you know there is little quickness involved. If the skunk cannot retreat from the situation it will growl, hiss and begin a dancing movement where it stomps its feet. (This is your warning to leave the situation.) If still threatened the skunk will next assume a “U” shaped position where its backside and head are facing you followed by a mist or spray of putrid smelling musk made of the sulphide mercaptan. This yellow oily liquid repels animals making them sick and blinding them if entering the eyes. A skunk can shoot the spray up to 12 feet.
If you have ever been sprayed by a skunk you know how difficult it is to “kill the smell”. Tomato juice baths followed by washing with soap and water or using a water soluble form of neutroleum-alpha (available at hospital supply houses) are helpful for removing the smell from your body. Wash your clothes with ammonia.
So you might think a skunk has a pretty care free life with such a defense mechanism. Such is not the case. The Great Horned Owl has a very poor sense of smell and a great liking for skunk meat.
Just remember if you are hiking and run into a skunk, and it offers to dance with you decline and exit stage left!
On Sat., Feb. 17th the Duncannon Outdoor Club (DOC) will be hiking an average paced, 8.5 mile loop trail on easy to moderate terrain at Pinchot State Park. If there is snow on the ground you may want to bring micro spikes, yak tracks or snowshoes. Meet at 8:30 am. at the Geisinger Holy Spirit Duncannon Center or alternately at the Camp Hill Mall by the Santander Bank at 9:00 am. The theme for discussion will be moles and voles. Call 717-395-2462 to register or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Sat., January 20th join the Duncannon Outdoor Club (DOC) at Pine Grove Furnace State Park for an average paced 4.2 mile hike on moderate to strenuous terrain. Starting at the Pole Steeple Parking area we will climb up Pole Steeple Trail, take in the view, and descend on the AT, returning to Pole Steeple Trail trailhead via the Mountain Creek Trail. If there is snow make sure to wear hiking boots and micro spikes or Yak Tracks if you have them. The Theme for discussion will be that stinky creature, the skunk, presented by Debra Takach. Meet at the RT 114 Park and Ride at 9:00 am. or alternately at the Pole Steeple Parking area at 9:30 am. Call Patrick Walsh at 716-908-3676 or email email@example.com to register. Hope you can make it!
On Sat., Nov. 18th come out for a 5.7 mile, average paced loop hike on easy to moderate terrain. The hike will start at Lambs Gap parking area on the Darlington Trail to Millers Gap and back on a different trail. We will learn about that strange looking creature, the opossum. Meet at the Lambs Gap/Darlington Trail parking area on Lambs Gap road at the top of the mountain. (40.305052,-77.01427) at 10:00 am. Call Deb at 717-395-2462 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to register. Be sure to wear orange as it will be hunting season. Hope you can make it.
Did you ever want to hike up to Hawk Rock but didn’t want to go alone or were afraid to hold up a hiking group? On Sun., Sept. 30th the Duncannon Outdoor Club (DOC) is hosting a special hike to celebrate Family Hiking Day. Bring friends, family, or just yourself to a hike up and back from Hawk Rock Lookout for a total of two miles on moderate to strenuous terrain. Everyone hikes at their own pace so there is no pressure to finish at a specific time. Come join the beautiful view. Meet at the Geisinger Holy Spirit Health Center in Duncannon at 9:00 am. to carpool. Call 1-812-320-5184 or email Josh at Pureseeking@yahoo.com to register. Phone contact preferred. Hope you can make it!
On Sun., Oct. 1st join the Duncannon Outdoor Club (DOC) for a 2 mile average paced hike through the wooded Takach mountain land on moderate terrain. We will be looking for animal signs as we hike the property and learn how to establish a Hunter Management Program for those of you who own land. This hike is part of the “Walk in Penn Woods” effort, a statewide event to build appreciation for forests, the people who care about them, and the importance of tending them. Call Deb Takach at: 717-395-2462 or email email@example.com to register.
Schedule: Third Saturday of each Month. Time will depend on the hike event for that Saturday. Date may change due to conflicts.
Jan. 20th – Join the DOC at Pine Grove Furnace State Park for an average paced 4.2 mile hike on moderate to strenuous terrain. We will climb up Pole Steeple Trail, take in the view and descend on the
AT, returning to Pole Steeple Trail via the Mountain Creek Trail. If snow is on the ground make sure to wear hiking boots and bring micro spikes or yak tracks if you have them. The theme for discussion will be skunks. Meet at the Geisinger Holy Spirit Duncannon Center at 8:30 or alternately at the RT 114 Park and Ride at 9:00 am. Call 717-395-2462 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to register.
Feb. 17th – Come to an average paced 8.5 mile loop hike over easy to moderate terrain at Pinchot State Park. Bring micro spikes or yak tracks depending on the weather. Snow shoes are welcome provided there is snow on the ground. Meet at 8:30 am. at the Geisinger Holy Spirit Duncannon Center or alternately at the Camp Hill Mall/Santander Bank at 9:00 am. We will be learning about voles and moles! Call 717-395-2462 or email email@example.com to register.
Mar. 3rd – Come to the Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area and observe the migration of Snow Geese and Tundra Swans as they touch down at this important way station. Then hike an average paced 6 mile hike over moderate to strenuous terrain on a series of trails that form a loop back to the visitor’s center. There are 2 climbs from 300 to 400 ft. Meet at the Geisinger Holy Spirit Duncannon Center at 8:30 am. or alternately at the Kmart parking lot in Summerdale at 9:00 am. Call 717-395-2462 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to register. Please reimburse drivers 10 cents per mile and for turnpike tolls (124 miles total). Bring your cameras and binoculars if you have them and pack a lunch.
April 21st – Come to a family/dog friendly, average paced, two mile hike over easy terrain from Scotts Farm to Sherwood Drive and back. We will identify violets along the way and make violet syrup at hikes end. Meet at the Geisinger Holy Spirit Duncannon Center at 8:30 or alternately at Scotts Farm at 9:00 am. Call 717-395-2462 or email email@example.com to register.
May 19th– Come to a dog friendly, average paced 6 mile loop hike on moderate terrain from RT 850 AT trailhead to Darlington Trail to Miller’s Gap Road back to 850. We will learn about dogs, what to do if attacked, dogs and hiking, etc. Meet at the State Game Lands 170 parking lot along 850 at 9:00 am. Call 717-395-2462 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to register and for directions if needed.
June 16th – Join the DOC on a canoe/kayak trip from Blue Mountain Outfitters (BMO) to West Fairview for an opportunity to observe the nesting birds on Wade Island and learn about the biodiversity of the Susquehanna. Cost is $12.50 if you bring your own boat. Rent a kayak for $45.00 plus a $7.50 shuttle fee, a two man kayak for $65.00 plus $7.50 each person, a canoe for $45.00 plus $7.50 each person. Tax is not included in these figures. Call 717-395-2462 or email email@example.com to register. We will meet at the Geisinger Holy Spirit Duncannon Center to carpool at 9:00 am. or alternately at BMO at 9:30 am.
July 21st – Join us for an average paced 6 mile hike over moderate to strenuous terrain starting at the AT RT 850 trailhead to Scotts Farm. The theme will be Daylilies. Meet at the Geisinger Holy Spirit Duncannon Center to carpool at 9:00 am. or alternately at RT 114 Park and Ride at 9:30 am. Due to limited parking, if there are a large number of cars we will drop some cars off at Scotts Farm and then carpool to the AT RT 850 trailhead. Call 717-395-2462 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to register.
Aug. 18th –Join us for an average paced 9.6 mile hike over moderate terrain from the AT RT 225 trail head to the RT 325 trailhead. The hike follows the ridge of Peter’s Mountain and has 3 nice views. At the beginning of the hike we will be making a delicious drink out of Sumac Berries and learn the difference between Staghorn Sumac and Poison Sumac. Meet at the Geisinger Holy Spirit Duncannon Center at 9:00 or alternately at the AT parking at the RT 325 trailhead/Clarks Valley Rd (40.451386,-76.776430) at 9:30 am. Bring water and a lunch. Call 717-395-2462 or email email@example.com to register.
Sept. 15th – Hike an average pace 2 mile loop hike over moderate terrain as we bushwhack through the Takach Property in search of galls. This is a kid friendly/family friendly hike. Meet at the Geisinger Holy Spirit Duncannon Center at 9:00 am. to carpool. Call 717-395-2462 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to register.
Oct. 20th – Join the DOC for a 5 mile average paced, shuttle hike on moderate to strenuous terrain up the Canyon Vista Trail at Worlds End State Park to a beautiful vista onto Link Trail following a creek down to the park office. This is a difficult hike with steep sections. Pack lunch, snacks, and water. Wear orange. Meet at the Giesinger Holy Spirit Duncannon Center to carpool at 8:00 am. Driving distance is approximately 196 miles total. Please pay drivers 10 cents per mile for gas. Call 717-395-2462 or email email@example.com to register.
Nov. 17th – Want to learn how to identify trees. Come out for a 2 mile average paced hike over easy terrain off RT 325 on state game lands. Be sure to wear orange! Meet at the Geisinger Holy Spirit Duncannon Center at 9:00 am. to carpool or alternately at the intersection of RT 225 and RT 325 parking area (40.38867,-76.94168) at 9:30 am. Call Paul at 717-648-8226 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to register.
Dec. 15th – Come to Little Buffalo State Park for an average paced 5 mile hike over moderate and strenuous terrain. There are approximately 8 short climbs and one big one. This hike is not for beginners. Learn about where animals go in winter. Meet at the Geisinger Holy Spirit Duncannon Center at 9:00 am. to carpool or alternately at Little Buffalo Park Office at 9:30 am. Call 717- 395-2462 or email email@example.com to register.
On Sat., Sept. 16th the Duncannon Outdoor Club (DOC) invites you to attend an in and back, average paced hike for a total of 3 miles on easy terrain at the Stoney Valley Rail Trail. This is a family friendly/dog friendly hike. If you cannot make the 3 mile distance you are welcome to turn back earlier. We will be learning about Pennsylvania’s Natural Symbols. Meet at the Geisinger Holy Spirit Health Center in Duncannon at 9:00 am. to carpool or alternately at Dauphin Park and Ride at 9:30 am. Call 717-395-2462 or email Deb at firstname.lastname@example.org to register. Hope you can make it!
On July 24th the Duncannon Outdoor Club had 11 participants kayak from Blue Mountain Outfitters to the West Fairview boating access. Weather was perfect for the 6 mile venture down the Susquehanna River which was completed in record time due to the swift moving waters from previous rains.
Two stops were incorporated into the trip. The first, was a pullover to Wade Island where we were lucky to find some Double-Crested Cormorant, Black-Crowned-Night Heron and Great White Egret hatchlings still in their nests. One could hear the continuous squawking from all the birds remaining on the island. Many of the kayakers were not aware that the Black Capped Night Heron and Great White Egret are endangered in Pennsylvania and are being overrun by the increasing population of Cormorants.
For our second stop we docked on an island to eat lunch and learn about watersheds, assessing water quality and river basins.
A watershed is land where surface water runs off into lakes, creeks, reservoirs and other bodies of water. A river basin is a land mass made up of many watersheds. (The watershed we were in is the Lower Susquehanna Swatera Watershed.) Maps were used to help participants visualize the 5 river basins in Pennsylvania: the Susquehanna, Potomac, Ohio, Great Lakes Basin, and Delaware Watersheds. Yes you guessed it, we are in the Susquehanna River Basin, the largest basin, making up the vertical mid-section of the state.
For assessing water quality, plans were to collect larva and nymphs from rocks on the bottom of the river shallows near the island, but due to the rapid river flow and muddy water we opted not to collect samples but discuss which larva and nymphs indicate good water quality. On past trips when samples were collected mayfly and dragonfly nymphs, and caddisfly and water penny larvae were found. Mayflies, caddisflies, and water pennies are sensitive to pollution, while dragonflies are moderately sensitive to pollution. The presence of these macroinvertebrates indicate acceptable water quality. Stoneflies were not evident, but are normally found in waters with high oxygen content such as that found in riffles, which were not present where samples had been collected.
Our samples were taken upstream from the mouth of the Conodoguinet. Recent studies downstream have indicated the Susquehanna is not that healthy. Mutated bass have been found to have two genders (intersex). Lesions, sores, and cancerous growths have also been evident on bass caught in the Susquehanna River. Studies have indicated a correlation: a higher percentage of agriculture in a watershed results in increased mutations. Natural animal hormones are excreted in manure which is spread on fields and washed into water sources by rain. Complex mixtures of chemicals such as chemical fertilizers and pesticides seem to be contributing to the problem. Round up, which is used by many homeowners in pursuit of the perfect lawn, is an endocrine disruptor (a chemical that interferes with hormone systems), and inevitably ends up in watersheds polluting our water sources. Another source of hormonal disruption, found in more populated areas, is the improper disposal of prescription drugs which are often flushed down drains, contaminating the water.
The Susquehanna is beautiful river providing many recreational pursuits. We all need to be cognizant of our influences upon it. Let’s make the Susquehanna healthy again!