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Forestry bureau implements fall 'Take a Hike' program as foliage creeps into Laurel Highlands

| Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013, 9:02 p.m.
Peter Turcik | for the Ligonier Echo
Forbes State Forest Environmental Education Specialist Rachel Christina (left) leads a hike on Laurel Summit Trail, part of the new 'Take a Hike' program. Also pictured is Ryan Mahony.

Forbes State Forest spans 50,000 acres across three counties. With so much space it can be difficult to know where to go and what to see. It is with this in mind that the DCNR Bureau of Forestry has devised its “Take a Hike” program, which provides a guided introduction to the outdoor recreational resources available throughout the park.

Environmental Education Specialist Rachel Christina has presented free Saturday excursions, which began in early September and will continue on into October. Christina was given the task to come up with public programs to increase visitation to the forest and state parks in the area.

“We have all of these recreational opportunities up here, I figured why not utilize that and implement outdoor recreational programs focusing on hiking, backpacking, trails and incorporating all of that together,” Christina explained.

The first program in the series involved a short walk to Spruce Flats Bog to learn about the ecosystem. Christina noted that it is a unique geographic feature, because most bogs are found in low-lying areas, whereas Spruce Flats Bog is on top of Laurel Mountain.

On other weekends, Christina offered an introduction into day hiking, walking trails such as Laurel Summit and providing a show-and-tell about the necessary equipment for day hiking. These materials include water, rain gear, a medical kit, knife, matches, rope, a light and a map. As well as these tools, Christina said one of the most important things to do before going on a hike is to let someone know where you will be and when.

“It doesn't matter if are going on a trail you have been on a million times, always tell someone where you are going and for how long you are going, because it's likely that you don't tell someone what is going on, something terrible is going to happen,” Christina commented.

In addition to these programs, Christina will conduct a fall foliage session on Oct. 12, presented by management forester Dave Planisek. The following week, an evening campfire program will be offered. Though meant primarily for beginning-level outdoor enthusiasts, Christina said the programs can be enjoyed by people at all skill and knowledge levels.

“What I want people to take away from the programs is a greater appreciation of the resources that I have shown them so that they can hopefully garner some kind of relationship with Forbes State Forest,” she said. “They will want to come back, they'll want to conserve it, and they will want to use this land. It is such a great resource that is so often overlooked.”

For more information on future “Take a Hike” programs, call 724-259-2201 or email

Peter Turcik is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.