Opportunities aplenty to spend quality time outdoors

Closeup of female legs hiking on a beautiful summer day.

It’s not officially here yet.

According to the calendar, summer doesn’t start until June 21. But schools are out or soon will be, meaning it’s time to think about getting outside.

The problem, seemingly too often and especially with children, is that no one “schedules” outdoor fun. Sign up to play baseball, and there’s a practice and game schedule. The same is true with soccer. High school bands schedule practice sessions and camps, as do football teams.

Dutiful parents adhere to those, with the result that family outdoor activities have to be crammed in around them. And sometimes they never are.

“I know a couple of young men who just love to spring turkey hunt, and neither of them even got out this year because of baseball commitments,” said Jack Lucas, a supervisor in the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s southwest region office in Bolivar.

With that in mind — and an eye toward planning time afield — here are some options for getting outside this summer.


While it’s possible to fish for something year round, summer brings special opportunities, said Bob Lorantas, warmwater unit leader for the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.

“Bluegills in lakes and ponds, and rock bass in streams and rivers are fish very well suited for young people, and everyone really. They’re plentiful and can be caught on simple gear, a bobber over a worm for bluegills and a jig tipped with a minnow or a worm for rock bass can be good,” Lorantas said.

“People can catch them from shore, from a boat, from a dock, from a pier, from a bridge, pretty much anywhere. They’re just top notch for summer fun.”

They’re widespread, too. Lake Arthur, Acme Dam, Lake Oneida and Cross Creek Lake are good for bigger bluegills, while Loyalhanna Creek and the Yough River hold lots of rock bass.

Channel catfish are another summertime staple, Lorantas said. They also can be caught on relatively simple gear — a nightcrawler or chicken liver below a sinker and fished on the bottom — in area lakes.


Nearly 2,000 miles of Pennsylvania’s flowing water has been mapped in the form of water trails. That’s more than in any other state, said Laurel Anders, director of the Fish and Boat Commission’s bureau of boating and outreach.

All of the trails have accompanying maps and guides highlighting river mileage, access points, attractions, hazards, historical sites and more.

“There’s all kind of information there that makes it really easy to go out and plan a float trip,” Anders said.

The commission maintains a list of the state’s 25 water trails at fishandboat.com/watertrails/trailindex.htm. All can be paddled; some are even suitable for larger motorboats.

Most all offer the chance to “get away,” Anders said.

“I’d say on most of our water trails, you can have what feels like a real isolated experience, even though you might be close to a city or town. Because we have such wonderful river corridors here in Pennsylvania, it’s easy to get on the water and feel as if where you are is very remote,” she said.

A number of the state’s water trails parallel rail trails, she added, making it possible to float downstream and pedal back.

Hunting and shooting

There are opportunities to do some gunning on public land, too. The Pennsylvania Game Commission maintains public shooting ranges on game lands in eight counties in southwest Pennsylvania, and on three more in the northwest.

All see fairly significant use. But that doesn’t always increase in summer, and it could.

“We don’t necessarily see an influx of people or kids in the summer,” said Tom Fazi, a supervisor in the commission’s southwest region office.

There are rules to follow, though, so check out www.pgc.state.pa.us, and look at the signs posted at the ranges.

At the same time, summer is a great time for parents and grandparents to introduce children to hunting, Lucas said. Groundhogs are fair game, even for children younger than 12 with a mentor permit, and most farmers welcome people willing to take a few, he said. The equipment needed, meanwhile, is simple: a .22 rifle, box of shells and some orange clothing.

“Granddad and his grandson or granddaughter can sit on a bucket in a corner of a field and enjoy some wonderful time together,” Lucas said.

Hiking and more

State parks and forests offer a variety of programs throughout summer. Some, like weekday hikes, are most popular with adults looking to stay fit. Others incorporating hands-on activities are good for families, said Rachael Christie, environmental education specialist with Forbes State Forest.

“So it really depends on the program,” Christie said. “There are a lot of interesting options, though, to suit just about anyone.”

There’s a lot going on — June is National Get Outdoors Month, and June 13 is Get Outdoors Day — and a visit to getoutdoorspa.org/ breaks down those activities, by date and region, for this month and beyond. There are orienteering and backpacking events, youth field days, archery shoots, geocaching, outdoor photography, wilderness survival and more.

“It makes it really easy to find something to do,” Christie said.

Now it’s just a matter of building time in the schedule and getting out there.

Bob Frye is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at bfrye@tribweb.com or via Twitter @bobfryeoutdoors. ___


This article was written by Bob Frye from The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.