By Laurie Crawford, Executive Director of the Lebanon Valley Conservancy
Nature is regenerative and resilient; it is strong and constant. Despite the challenges of our world, nature holds fast, reaches for the sky and continues to grow. It is unlike any force I have ever felt or encountered. I offer it my respect.
As I search for the next great hiking trail or biking spot in Lebanon, I think of the many visitors who seek the same respite in the wilderness. The quiet and peacefulness that comes from a day in the woods. The sound of wildlife, the wind in the trees and the tumbling water in the stream. This time is enjoyable and I know that other families are hoping for the same experience. With the woods filled with people, how can I be a better visitor in nature?
- Have patience; leave space for others and treat fellow hikers with kindness.
- Get an early start, there would be less people in the early morning, avoid times of high use.
- Go farther; take the longer hikes, into new areas and explore in a less crowded area.
- Explore new areas, try public nature preserves, local parks with trails and lakes, state parks and state game lands for alternative hiking areas.
- Use a hiking app or maps for new areas to explore and always plan your hike, watch the weather and bring water.
After a day of hiking, biking and paddling, I rest in the shade of a tall oak tree, thinking of the great exercise and adventure of the day. Because of my experiences with nature, I will want to protect these treasures and make sure they are sustainable in the future. My children deserve to grow up and enjoy these same hills and valleys, streams and watersheds and natural wonders of the Pennsylvania forest. What actions will help to sustain these natural places today and in the future?
- Travel on durable surfaces, stick to the trails and avoid sensitive areas such as seasonal nesting or breeding areas, meadows, and wetlands. Do not create new trails.
- Dispose of waste properly, carry in and carry out. Take an extra bag and pick up litter you may find along the path.
- Leave what you find: Preserve the present, leave rocks and plants, do not disrupt the soil and allow vegetation to inhibit the area. Take a picture instead.
- Respect Wildlife: Keep your distance from wildlife and avoid feeding them. Store your food and waste securely and control your pets.
- Be mindful of your impact and preserve the wild.
These forest treasures, beautiful trails, clean and vibrant streams and natural areas were preserved for all to enjoy. Organizations like the Lebanon Valley Conservancy, local watershed groups, local hunters and wildlife organizations, Pennsylvania Game Commission and State agencies have worked tirelessly to provide and protect these areas for us and for the wildlife who call Lebanon home. Do your part to support these great organizations and their important land protection work. As the naturalist John Muir said “In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.”