“Staycations” Offer Affordability, Convenience
“Staycations” are becoming a popular means of taking a break that is both affordable and convenient. Here in Fulton County where residents are surrounded by God’s natural beauty and wonder, several often overlooked destinations can lend themselves as an ideal spot for a “staycation” that is not only affordable and conveniently located but fun.
Popular with the locals during hunting season, Buchanan State Forest goes well beyond hunting opportunities to offer an array of activities for those wanting to enjoy the great outdoors for an afternoon or an overnight stay.
Recreational forester Steve Keiper notes that even though the state forest is renowned for its hiking possibilities and clean and conveniently located picnic areas, Fulton County’s portion of the state forest that stretches into neighboring Bedford and Franklin counties holds some well-kept secrets. Among those secrets are horseback riding, all-terrain vehicle and snowmobile trails and overnight camping.
Even though camping is limited to “low impact, disbursed recreation,” which translates into a lack of luxuries such as water, sewer and electricity, permits can be obtained for a primitive overnight stay in the state forest. Keiper said there is no fee or charge to camp in the state forest, but a permit is required and can be obtained through the district office in Mc- Connellsburg.
Keiper went on to say the locations for camping opportunities are endless in the state forest, but campers are prohibited from setting up camp in several locations, including vistas, picnic grounds and wild and natural areas.
Horseback riding is also available with one of the most popular destinations in Fulton County being the Oregon Road area. According to Keiper, the majority of the district’s trails are open to horseback riding while state forest trails such as the Tuscarora, Standing Stone and Mid-State are limited to hikers.
Hikers may notice at this time of year an overabundance of growth along some of the trails making them harder to distinguish. The changes in the appearance of trails at this time is linked to tree mortality from gypsy moth damage, according to Keiper. In many districts, such as the Buchanan State Forest that tallies 70,000 acres, trail maintenance and upkeep fall upon the shoulders of volunteers, who are currently small in numbers.
Aside from peak hunting season, district trails often see little use by local hikers at this time of the year but can serve as a source for hours of enjoyment for those seeking exercise or just a chance to reconnect with nature. Individuals wishing to venture onto district or state forest trails are urged to pick up a map at the district office and to ask questions regarding terrain when in doubt.
In addition to following several key steps in the state forest such as leaving no trace behind, being considerate to others on the trail and refraining from littering, Keiper said that possibly the most important aspect of hiking is letting someone know of your plans, time frame and how you can be reached.
In reviewing the newest and recently improved areas of the state forest, Keiper touched on both the Glatfelter/ Knobsville and Kerper tracts. The 514 acres in Big Cove Tannery known as the Kerper Tract or Redbud Valley play host to 2.2 miles of blazed trails, a footbridge to span the stream and strategically placed picnic tables and benches to observe birds and wildflowers.
Meanwhile, the Knobsville tract boasts a perfect location for hunters, hikers and mountain bikes. Work crews are in the process of developing hiking trails that will connect the state forestland with Cowans Gap State Park.
Those wishing to enjoy a little motorized fun are encouraged to visit the Sideling Hill All-Terrain Vehicle Trail accessible in Wells Tannery or Childer’s Ridge. Utilizing special funding through a Pennsylvania Recreation and Trails Grant and ATV/snowmobile registration money, the Bureau of Forestry’s crew on Sideling Hill were recently able to reslate and reroute half of the trail’s existing 15 miles to provide easier trail riding. An upcoming improvement through specialized funding will be the addition of a latrine for ATV enthusiasts along Cove Road.
The existing trail spans a series of old forest roads, trails, logging roads and skid trails. Conditions permitting, the trail is open from the Friday of Memorial Day weekend through the last full weekend in September.
No person between the ages of 8 and 15 may operate an ATV on state forestland without having a safety training certificate. A license plate must be displayed as well as registration and liability insurance. Helmets are required, and ATVs cannot be operated on state forest roads and picnic areas.