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Hampton/Shaler

Hartwood Acres Park hikes help kick off spring's call for adventure

| Thursday, March 15, 2018, 1:27 p.m.
Braden Meiter, lead supervisory ranger for Allegheny County Parks, believes that April is one of the best times of the year to explore.
Justin Merriman | Trib Total Media
Braden Meiter, lead supervisory ranger for Allegheny County Parks, believes that April is one of the best times of the year to explore.

The onset of spring calls for outdoor adventure and Hartwood Acres Park answers with two hikes next month.

A Signs of Spring Hike on April 14 and a Full Moon Hike on April 28 provides visitors a chance to view the aesthetics of the 629-acre county park, located in Hampton and Indiana townships, complete with a Tudor mansion, stable complex and gate lodge.

The outdoor opportunities are one of the key features of the site, said Toni Hoffman, an event coordinator at the mansion.

“There are a wide variety of hikes available here throughout the year, and Hartwood is beautiful no matter the season. We are lucky to have knowledgeable guides in our rangers and naturalist, who are happy to share their expertise with the public on a regular basis,” said Hoffman.

The Signs of Spring Hike, from 2 to 4 p.m., will give hikers a chance to seek out early emerging spring plants and wildflowers like skunk cabbage, bloodroot, spring beauty, and trout lily, according to Braden Meiter, lead supervisory park ranger for Allegheny County Parks.

“This hike will take visitors through the forest during what I think is one of the best times of the year to be outside,” said Meiter.

He advised that visitors should be prepared for wet and muddy conditions depending on the weather. This hike is approximately two miles with slight elevation changes.

“We will also explore the other signs of spring as we look for returning migratory birds, discuss the newly budding and leafing trees, observe amphibians and search for the many other telltale signs that warmer months are coming,” said Meiter.

Both of these events are free of charge and hikers will meet at Middle Road Parking Lot on Middle Road, just past the entrance to the amphitheater for each, Meiter said.

A second hike, which is actually held several times of the year, is the Full Moon Hike on April 28, scheduled from 8 to 10 p.m., but this time hikers can view the nocturnal adventure in the spring season.

Meiter said park rangers will guide visitors through the field and forest to some ideal spots for viewing a full moon. While he said visitors should prepare themselves with a flashlight, they will try to use the moon's light to navigate instead.

Rangers will also interpret the park's resources that are unique to the night, he said. And there will be explanations on the habits of owls, bats and ways that animals “are honed for being active at night,” he said.

This hike is approximately three miles with moderate to difficult elevation changes, according to the county website.

“This is a great opportunity to get out in the parks after dark when they are usually closed,” said Meiter. “Hopefully, if we are lucky, we might even get to hear an owl.”

Pre-registration is required on the Allegheny County Parks websites and both hikes are limited to the first 20 participants. Meiter said these fill up fast.

Natalie Beneviat is a Tribune-Review contributor.

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