Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Great Outdoors

It’s time to get outdoors and explore. Whether it’s hiking, biking, bird watching, or boating, northern Lancaster County offers it all. Middlecreek Wildlife Management Area offers hiking, biking and bird watching opportunities for all ages and skill levels. There are miles upon miles of hiking trails. The Willow Point Trail (.5 miles) is one of the easiest with a level path to a lakeside vista. We enjoy hiking the Millstone Trail (1.1miles) which is very steep with a rewarding vista at the top. The Conservation Trail (1.4 miles) is a loop from the Visitor Center that offers an interpretive guide up a ridge, though forest, field and wetlands. The Horseshoe Trail intersects the Millstone, MiddleCreek, and Elders Run Trails creating a number of rewarding routes.

The loop around the lake is about 5.5 miles of flat to gently rolling hills on paved and gravel roads and makes a nice leisurely bike ride on which you can watch song-birds and waterfowl. For the more serious road cyclists, the area offers limitless routes on back roads through farmland and forests on level roads, rolling hills, and some of the most challenging climbs in the region. For mountain bikers, the horseshoe trail and other connecting trails offer moderate to extreme trail riding opportunities.

Bird watching is a favorite at Middlecreek. The lake and many wetlands provides prime habitat for a variety of waterfowl, including the impressive migration of thousands of Snow Geese and Tundra Swans in Late February and early March. The expansive grasslands and fields provide a unique opportunity for viewing songbirds. Middlecreek is also home to a pair of Bald Eagles. The Visitor Center/ Museum (free admission) is filled with many local bird and mammal specimens that are labeled for your viewing. There is also a child-friendly area for children to explore with ‘touch-and-feel’ items and coloring pages.

For the kayaker or fisherman, Speedwell Forge Lake is a PA Fish and Boat Commission lake and offers fishing and non-motorized boating. Speedwell makes a nice quick evening paddling trip and almost always offers great wildlife viewing. We frequently see Great Blue, Green, and Black Crowned Night Herons, Kingfishers, Canada Geese, Red Tail Hawks, and turtles sunning themselves on logs. The other night we saw a variety of birds, including an Osprey, many Cormorants, and a Tern that caught a fish right in front of us. Occasionally, one of the Bald Eagles from Middlecreek stops by, and once my husband saw a beaver.

So, make sure you get out and explore our big beautiful outdoors. Hope to see you out there.

Posted by: Liz Ehrhart, Innkeeper at Furnace Hills Bed and Breakfast

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