BROOKVILLE — The recent snow storm made conditions just about perfect for a February 2 event at Cook Forest. Now Dale J. Luthringer, environmental education specialist at Cook Forest State Park, is hoping those conditions will still be perfect this coming Saturday.
The event is one that has been held for several years but is still unique. While cross-country skiing may not be new to the state park, the event takes that activity and holds a night skiing trip in Tom’s Run Valley and the old growth forest at the base of the Forest Cathedral National Natural Landmark.
The trail, Luthringer said, is lit by the lanterns used during the French-Indian War encampment later in the year, making it almost magical. With the lanterns illuminated through the Forest Cathedral, he says the area is gorgeous.
One doesn’t have to be a veteran skier, as the trip is made on mostly flat ground. There is a small loop at the halfway point of the trip that has a bit of an upgrade. Anyone who is doubtful of their ability to ski the slight incline can wait at the Kiddie Fishing Pond for the 10-15 minutes it takes for the rest of the group to make the loop and return to the pond to continue back the same way they’ve skied into the forest. The trip travels the Tom’s Run Trail and across the swinging bridge to the loop up a little hill. The entire trip is about 2.5 to 3 miles long, he says.
The event, which begins at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Log Cabin Inn Environmental Learning Classroom (113 River Rd, Cooksburg, PA 16217), will be held no matter if there is perfect conditions for cross-country skiing or not. If the snow is too deep in the up to the shins or the knees level, the group may be using snowshoes instead of skis and if there would happen to be no snow or so little one can see sticks and such poking through, then a hike will take place. Although Luthringer is hoping for those perfect conditions – 1 inch of crust beneath and 4-6 inches of powdery snow on top – for skiing. If conditions are icy, making the trail too slick, then the event will be canceled, he said.
As participants ski the old growth forest, Luthringer will also be teaching them how to identify animal tracks in the snow.
He noted that if anyone wanted to participate but didn’t have cross-country skis, the Cook Forest Riverside Cabins have agreed to remain open until 6 p.m. the day of the event for anyone wishing to rent skis. The skis, shoes and poles can be rented as a package for $10. Also, skiers are encouraged to bring headlamps as well.
The entire event is expected to last about two hours and with temperatures forecast to be very cold, people should dress appropriately. There will be a “cozy cabin and hot chocolate” to warm everyone up after their nighttime adventure through the park.
For cross-country skiers who want to try a day trip in the park, there are three trails for them to use – Fire Tower Road, Tom’s Run Road and Part of Forest Drive. Snowshoeing is allowed on all trails. The winter report found online at https://www.dcnr.pa.gov/StateParks/WinterReport/Pages/default.aspx provides ice and snow depth information for the park.
To learn about other events, such as the Snowman in the Forest Day at 1 p.m. Feb. 16, at Cook Forest State Park, go to https://www.cookforest.org