By Joe Sebastiani, Seasonal Program Team Leader
During the first week of August every year, Dave Pro and I take our Teen Naturalist club on a 5-day trip for outdoor fun and adventure. The last four years, we have gone to the Adirondacks of NY for a hardcore, tough expedition-style trip. This year, we decided to stay a little closer to home and take it easy on everyone by going to the Poconos for a laid back, multi-activity trip. Backpacking, kayaking, camping, swimming, waterfalls, and high and low ropes courses filled our week.
We got the grueling (for some of us) part of the trip out of the way first…backpacking the Pinchot Trail in Lackawanna State Forest. This 23-mile trail traverses gently rolling terrain with a few hills and campsites along small creeks. On our first day, we managed to narrowly skirt a thunderstorm, briar patches, and poison sumac on our 5-mile hike to a campsite along Choke Creek.
We practiced low-impact camping and were in full bear-precaution-mode by eating away from our campsite and putting food, toothpaste, etc. in a bear bag hanging from a tree overnight. No bears came for a visit that night.
On day two, we needed to hike about 13 miles to the next campsite. We only made it 8 or so, due to some bad blisters and general fatigue (as I said, it was grueling for some of us). We decided to abandon the hike, and retreated to Promised Land State Park for a campground with showers, a swimming lake, and an ice-cream stand. (If my former co-leader Tom Guyer is reading this, he is calling me and Dave a couple of wimps right now).
Promised Land State Park wasn’t all fun and games, however. At 11pm, I heard other campers about 100 yards away banging pots and pans and screaming. This can only mean one thing in the Poconos…a BEAR! The racket went on for about 15 minutes. In my experience, scaring bear away is usually pretty quick, so it must have been one determined bear. At one point, a woman from the campsite under attack yelled, “HELP US!!” I wisely stayed in my tent, and Dave, my co-leader, slept through the whole noise-fest. I guess if we were the Boy Scouts we would have ran around in our underwear to help scare off the bear and save little children. Well, we are the Teen Naturalists, and we stay in our tents under such circumstances. The next morning I heard that the bear injured no one, and possibly ran off with a box of cookies.
Next on our agenda was the Pocono Environmental Education Center in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. The staff guided us through a low-ropes challenge course, which was a lot of fun, and perfectly age-appropriate for teenagers.
The main activity in the Water Gap was a kayaking trip down the Delaware River. We had the river to ourselves practically, and paddled the easy riffles and flatwater for 10 miles.
This is a beautiful area with just ridges, woods, water, and wildlife. We were told about a secret rock with a deep pool next to it that is perfect for plunging into the water. We took advantage of that for a while, and it turned out to be a gorgeous and very fun day.
Finally, we ended the week with a visit to the zip-line and high ropes course at Spring Mountain near Lansdale, PA. The course was really fun, and very difficult. It took about 3 hours to proceed through the 7 zip-lines, and balance and strength challenges. Rope climbs, tightrope, rapelling, upside-down crab crawling, and monkey-bar challenges took place 40-feet up in the trees. Between challenges, you zip across the canopy at high speed on suspended wires. Awesome!
And so ended another great year of the Delaware Nature Society Teen Naturalists. If you know someone 13-17 years old, and you think they would enjoy monthly outings of adventure, nature study, and volunteering for the environment, please register them for the Teen Naturalists here.