Category Archives: Duncannon Outdoors Club

Get outside and learn about the nature surrounding us all.

Duncannon Outdoor Club Kayak Trip: Wade Island, Watersheds, Water Quality, River Basins

DOC LogoOn 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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wildwood Hike: Furbearing Animals

On Saturday February 18, 2017 the Duncannon Outdoor Club (DOC) gathered for an opportunity to hike 3 miles at Wildwood Park, Harrisburg. The theme of this hike was, Fur-bearing Animals.

The park provides ideal habitat for many of the fur-bearers that we learned about. With a 90 acre shallow lake and many different tree, shrub and other plant species there were plenty of opportunities for viewing wildlife.

Pennsylvania has 13 critters that are legally harvested to manage animal populations. Beaver, bobcat, eastern coyote, fisher, grey fox, mink, muskrat, opossum, raccoon, red fox, river otters, striped skunk and weasels. Proper licensing and certifications are required to participate in wildlife management. Abiding by the laws, regulations and bag limits set forth by the Pennsylvania Game Commission ensures safe and effective practices.

We enjoyed our time outdoors, especially in the sun filled areas of the park, as the air was cold on this February morning. The park was busy with hikers (dogs included), runners, and photographers.

Another successful trip for the Duncannon Outdoor Club! We look forward to seeing you next time!

Duncannon Outdoor Club Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area – Migrating Snow Geese and Tundra Swans

DOC LogoOn March 11th Come to the Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area to observe 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 strenuous terrain on a series of trails that form a loop back to the visitor’s center.  There are 2 climbs ranging from 300 to 400 ft.  Meet at the Duncannon Family Health Center to carpool at 8:30 am or alternately at the Kmart 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 (total mileage is 124 miles).  Bring your cameras and binoculars if you have them and pack a lunch.  Hope you can make it!

Duncannon Outdoor Club Hike at Wildwood Theme: Fur Bearing Animals

DOC LogoOn Sat., Feb. 18th the Duncannon Outdoor Club (DOC) will be hiking an average paced, three mile loop trail on easy terrain at Wildwood Nature Center.  Come and learn about fur bearing animals in PA.  This family friendly hike is for all ages and is dog friendly.  We will be meeting at the Duncannon Family Health Center at 9:00 am.to carpool.  Alternately meet at the Wildwood Nature Center at 9:30 am.  Call Deb at 395-2462 or email dtakach@duncannonatc.org to register.

Ned Smith Center Hike – Theme: Coyotes

DOC LogoOn Sat., January 21st join the Duncannon Outdoor Club (DOC) at The Ned Smith Center in Millersburg for an average paced 5 mile hike on moderate to strenuous terrain.  There is one .75 mile climb up Mountain Laurel Trail to Berry Mountain Trail with a nice view at the top.  Return on Berry Mountain Trail to Deer Run Trail.  Then take Drumming Log Trail back to the starting point at the Ned Smith Center.  If snow or ice is on the trail bring Microspikes or Yaktrax if you have them.  Wear something orange for the hunting season. The theme for discussion will be coyotes.   Meet 9:00 am. at the Holy Spirit Duncannon Center, a Geisinger Affiliate (formally the Duncannon Family Health Center) to carpool or alternately meet at the Clarks Ferry Bridge (RT 147/322) parking lot at 9:15 am. Please reimburse drivers 10 cents for a total of 36 miles.   Call Deb at 395-2462 or email dtakach@duncannonatc.org to register. Click here for larger printable versions of the Ned Smith trail map.

Spooky Stories on Halloween Hike

The Duncannon Outdoor Club went on a spooky night hike for Halloween. It was a beautiful, clear sky with a large harvest moon. While the moonlight helped it was still dark and eerie, especially at the grave yard.  It was also a little unnerving when something was moving in the bushes next to the path.  We continued to hike with a heightened pace and a lot more noise!

Participants listened to ghost stories told by the witch named Wilhalmina Dorothea Roskabower Kaufman.  The story, “Evil Woman” had everyone jumping out of their boots.  Of course the tombstones gave an added chilly feeling to all of the stories.  In the end fun was had by all – especially the dog.

DOC/ATC National Family Hiking Day

DOC Logo The Duncannon Outdoor Club (DOC) joined the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) in their efforts to celebrate National Family Hiking Day in September, 2016.  The DOC offered a “hike at your own pace” hike up to Hawk Rock.  Prior to the assent participants decorated tree cookie necklaces provided by the ATC.  They were so popular that other hikers at the top inquired how to get a necklace.

A group shot with out tree cookie necklaces.

A group shot with out tree cookie necklaces.

Participants included a wide range of ages.  A baby, kids, adults and three dogs comprised our list of adventurers.  Many of our hikers had always wanted to hike Hawk Rock but were hesitant to do so independently or in a group because of the difficulty.  When given the option to hike at one’s own pace in a group with an experienced leader, hikers chose to enjoy a safe, comfortable alternative and mastered the climb.  Everyone made it to the top and back successfully without incident.

Checking out one of the riddles posted along the way,

Checking out one of the riddles posted along the way,

In order to motivate the hikers and make it entertaining, thirty riddles, with answers on the flip side, were posted along the way.  Many hikers, not with our group, read the riddles as they hiked up and down the mountain.  A big thank you goes to Sean O for posting the riddles ahead of time.  Riddles were removed by the sweep so as to leave no trace.  What was the riddle at the top? :  What does a mountain and an addition problem have in common? (answer at article’s end).

Below are pictures depicting the event.


 

Answer to the riddle: You sum it.

 

Duncannon Outdoor Club Hike at Pine Grove Furnace State Park, Theme Lyme Disease

DOC LogoOn Sat., Dec. 17th join the Duncannon Outdoor Club (DOC) at Pine Grove Furnace State Park for a 7 mile, average paced, loop hike on moderate terrain to Pole Steeple.  This hike will include one climb that rises 500 ft. for three-quarters of a mile.  If there is snow on the mountain tops wear micro spikes or Yak Traks if you have them.  We will be learning about Lyme Disease and how to prevent it.  Meet 8:30 am. at the Duncannon Holy Spirit Center, a Geisinger Affiliate (formally the Duncannon Family Health Center) to carpool or alternately meet at the K Mart in Enola at 9:00 am.  Pack a lunch and don’t forget fluids.  Wear something orange for the hunting season.   Please reimburse drivers 10 cents a mile. Total miles = 52 miles from  K Mart and back. Call Deb at 395-2462 or email dtakach@duncannonatc.org to register.  Hope you can make it!

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.

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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 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.

HIKING ETIQUETTE AND LEAVE NO TRACE – TRUE OR FALSE?

    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.

Answers:

#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