COOKSBURG, Pa. (EYT) – Sixty-five people welcomed 2020 by taking a snowy hike in Cook Forest State Park on New Year’s Day.
Hikers set out along the picturesque Tom’s Run Valley on Liggett Trail that winds through lightly traveled old-growth forested wetlands. The trees provided a snowy canopy, yet the sun filtered through.
Among the hikers were the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn and State Representative Donna Oberlander.
Secretary Dunn greeted participants, telling them that she’s not supposed to have a favorite park, but pointing out that she chose to take her first hike of 2020 in Cook Forest.
“I like to say that my favorite park is the park I’m in,” Dunn told exploreClarion.com. “But, when people ask me, and recently when the governor asked me, ‘What are the parks I must see?’ Cook Forest is always the first one I say.”
“This is unique in Pennsylvania. It’s got the cathedral forest, the old-growth forest. Pennsylvania’s state tree is the hemlock; there’s no place I can think of in Pennsylvania that you can get a better view of hemlock.”
Hikers learned from Carl Harting of Friends of Cook Forest State Park (who led the hike) that the hemlock trees are in danger from the invasive hemlock woolly adelgid (an insect that feeds by sucking sap from hemlocks). The pest first made its way to Cook Forest in 2013; however, a series of cold winters has helped keep the adelgid at bay.
Harting explained that the group is taking an active part in combating the pest that has destroyed the majority of the Eastern Hemlocks in the Great Smokey and the Shenandoah Mountains.
On the first day of 2020, the hemlock trees were beautifully adorned with a dusting of snow, providing a picturesque start to the new year.
The only complaint of the day came when several of the hikers agreed that they were caught up in the beautiful snowy scenery and tripped over a rock or root when they forgot to keep an eye on the trail.
Ten dogs also joined the trek.
First Day took place across the nation. The concept was introduced in 2012 as part of an effort to promote healthy lifestyles, as well as remind residents that state parks are open all year.