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The Roving Sportsman… During These Uncertain Times

A recent nationwide poll by the National Recreation and Park Association revealed that more than half of adults polled said that they plan to vacation close to home this summer. Most cited the COVID-19 pandemic as a reason, and noting the fact that the outdoors provide the ideal chance for social distancing and to enjoy a number of recreational activities.

Couple that with the fact that their primary activities of walking, hiking, biking, swimming, picnicking, fishing and gardening are all very affordable, especially when compared with long-distance travel for vacationing. The opportunities afforded by the onslaught of the pandemic actually give a great chance to connect with millennials. Further, sixty-four percent of millennials said they planned to stay close to home for their recreating.

With these factors in mind, you really don’t have to look far to realize that we fortunate folks who live here in Northcentral Pennsylvania have a huge array of opportunities right in our own back yards. Fortunately, you don’t have to be a property owner to take advantage of what is available to all of us. State Forests, World class hiking trails, parks and scenic drives are all around us. Loyalsock creek, Lycoming creek and Pine creek each provide truly world class fishing and small mountain streams and nearby farm ponds are also wonderful sources of fishing.

It is a scenic drive to the home range of Pennsylvania’s elk herd. Best observed at daybreak and during the hours approaching sunset, the herd consisting of around 1,000 animals is the largest wild elk herd in the northeastern United States. Start your trip at the Elk Country Visitor Center at the Sinnemahoning State Park in Austin, PA and then travel the 127 mile loop through portions of five counties which includes several established elk viewing areas along the way. The bull elk will be in velvet now and the cow elk will be accompanied by their calves.

The Pennsylvania Grand Canyon is always a scenic destination. Located in the Tioga State Forest and southwest of Wellsboro, PA, it stretches over 45 miles and at some points reaches a depth of nearly 1,500 feet. There are two vistas, Colton Point State Park on the western rim and Leonard Harrison State Park on the eastern rim, both of which provide excellent viewing and photo opportunities.

If walking, hiking or biking is your interest, then you just might want to head out to the Pine Creek Rail Trail. This picturesque 62 mile hiking and biking trail runs from Jersey Shore to Wellsboro, traveling through both Lycoming and Tioga Counties and following the Pine Creek Gorge. The very gradual grade of the old railroad bed makes for a very pleasant walk or bike ride. Multiple entry points along the way allow for a shorter hike or bike trip of a few hours, or for the more adventuresome, you can travel a greater distance and then enjoy a well-deserved meal at one of the restaurants in Jersey Shore or Wellsboro. Particularly during the early morning or late evening hours, whitetail deer, wild turkeys, ruffed grouse and the occasional black bear can be seen. Make sure you take your binoculars and watch overhead since bald eagles frequent the skies and treetops along this route.

Especially during these times of lockdowns, social distancing, mask wearing and other restrictions placed upon our normal activities, it is important to both your physical as well as mental health to get “out and about.” But, during these times, it means out and about in the outdoors. With local parks and state forests, families and individuals don’t have to look far to find fun, safe and affordable summertime activities close to home, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pack a picnic lunch and a few bottles of your favorite refreshment; grab your binoculars and camera (or rather, your smart phone!) and get outside in the fresh summer air. It’s all out there – just waiting for you to give you a chance to relax, meditate and realize just how lucky you are!

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