Cook Forest Cabins in Snow
Photo by David Schmude

EXPLORE Natural Holidays

Heading into the holiday season, with its indulgent feasts, copious wrapping paper and tons of toys, I’ve been looking for easy ways to make my family’s footprint a little smaller this season, and bring the outdoors into the festivities. Blogger Charise Nulsen’s Five Ways to Have a More Eco-Friendly Holiday has some great ideas, like making your own wrapping paper and volunteering as a family.

One popular trend this year is bringing the outdoors inside with natural decorations, like pine cones, acorns and holly boughs (“deck the halls with boughs of holly”). Two Pennsylvania Parks & Forests Foundation chapters dress up the mansions at Kings Gap and Ridley Creek State Park this way. Head to for more examples.

Giving the gift of an experience is another way Nulsen suggests to green your holiday and reduce waste—like a gift certificate for a kayaking trip, museum membership, or a PA state parks gift card for next summer's campout. Show someone you care about them and our environment with a PPFF Living Gift in their name. Donations can be earmarked for new playgrounds, educational programming, planting trees and shrubs and other options, right in our state parks and forests.

And finally, in the spirit of slowing down and connecting with nature this year,  the Launderlife blog recommends a simple mantra for the holidays: “Inhale love. Exhale gratitude.” Works even better in the outdoors!

 ~Jen Rehill, Public Relations & Outreach Coordinator
Pennsylvania Parks & Forests Foundation

EXPLORE Pennsylvania's State Parks and State Forests

Buchanan State Forest

Did you happen to catch the most recent issue of Susquehanna Life magazine? Tucked in its beautifully illustrated pages was a feature on Pennsylvania's old growth forests and some of the best places to find them. And among those places were the Buchanan State Forest's Sweet Root Natural Area (where, tragically, the woolly adelgid has decimated much of the old growth hemlock stand) and Martin Hill Wild Area. 

As you drive along the Pennsylvania Turnpike near Bedford, you might not realize that the mountains you're crossing through tunnels offer some intense hiking experiences. The Mid-State and Tuscarora Trails both pass through the Buchanan and they serve up a memorable challenge and beautiful vistas as a payoff. 

EXPLORE Volunteerism

Decking the Mansion Halls

The great thing about volunteering in the state parks and forests is that there is an opportunity for every skill and interest. Nowhere and at no time is that more true than this "most wonderful time of the year" when two of the mansions that form the centerpieces of Pennsylvania state parks put on their holiday finery. At Ridley Creek State Park and Kings Gap Environmental Education Center, the PPFF chapter volunteers are gathering pine garlands and other greenery.

The Friends of Kings Gap host their annual Holiday Open House on Sunday, December 1and Sunday, December 8, with music (Celtic harp and hang drum on successive Sundays) and refreshments on a quiet afternoon. With Thanksgiving coming so late this year and the first open house coming so quickly on its heels, preparations had to begin in early November with volunteers Carl Leinbach and George Fohs out searching for the perfect tree while the rest of us were carving Halloween pumpkins! Fresh greenery goes on the fireplace mantels (three on the main floor) and on the tables as centerpieces; outside the mansion sparkles with lights and natural displays.

The Friends of Ridley Creek host their annual holiday dance on Saturday night, December 14 with a more boisterous celebration of the season. Refreshments,  music and an open bar let guests of the group kick up their heels and party like it's 1899.

Sipping a cup of warm cider or hot chocolate in a big cozy chair in a stately home is a pretty rewarding way to mull over the traditions of the holidays.

EXPLORE Through the Lens

From Ranger to Photographer 

Northeast Pennsylvania native Michael Gadomski grew up tramping the woods and wetlands of his native Poconos. The freedom to explore the beauty of Pennsylvania as a child combined with a 25-year career as a state park naturalist and ranger taught Michael the value of Pennsylvania's public lands. Lucky for him (and for all of us), his keen eye for spotting that beauty through the lens of a camera allowed him to forge a "second career" as a photographer after leaving professional park service.

His most recent book, Reserves of Strength (Schiffer Publishing, 2013), explores Pennsylvania's state parks and forests, wild and natural areas, and hidden natural gems but the goal here is not just to celebrate the beauty! Says Gadomski: 

"Seeing an increase in what is commonly referred to as “nature deficit disorder” in our population and how this condition often results in poor choices relating to our natural world and ourselves, I wanted to create a curiosity about nature so people would have the motivation to go out to explore and discover these natural wonders on their own. Pennsylvania’s public lands are a vital, and often the only, link that many people have to nature. They offer the awareness that we are connected and one with nature. And with this awareness we understand how a healthy natural environment is necessary for our well-being and how public lands are our 'reserves of strength'."

That sentiment sounds so like a Pennsylvania Parks and Forests Foundation newsletter that we were thrilled when Michael agreed to autograph copies of Reserves of Strength as gifts to our annual appeal donors. We look forward to introducing Michael and his work to a legion of new fans!

Green is the New Black

This year why not rethink "Black Friday" for a GREEN Thanksgiving weekend!

Green FridaySpend the day recreating in one of your favorite state parks or forests. Not only will you help to burn off calories from the Thanksgiving meal, you can begin a routine that will help you relax and remain focused during the holidays.

Small-Business Saturday—support local retailers by shopping in your downtown. Shopping locally not only invests in your local community, it supports community groups, reduces environmental impacts (less transport), creates jobs, and supports local infrastructure.

CyberMonday—Consider making online-donations to your favorite charities, shopping in the electronic store of non-profits, or visiting sites such as where you can purchase hand-crafted and vintage items.

Giving Tuesdayserves as a celebratory day to kick off the giving season. It celebrates and encourages charitable activities that support non-profit organizations. Look for PPFF’s participation in Giving Tuesday. Your parks and forests will feel the seasonal love!

Last Call!

Know a hard-working volunteer deserving of recognition? Nominate him, her or them for one of PPFF’s annual awards. The deadline for nominations is December 18 so act fast!


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