By Helena Kotala
The Raystown Lake Region has no shortage of trails. With the internationally-recognized Allegrippis Trails at its heart, and the Standing Stone, Mid-State, Terrace Mountain, and Lower Trails connecting corners of the county, forested pathways abound. But what perhaps many people overlook are the watery ones, the network of streams and rivers that also connect places to one another.
The Raystown Region has no shortage of these either, with the mighty Juniata River as the nexus, and its branches spreading like fingers throughout the area. The Raystown Branch, which also includes the 30-mile-long and 8,300-acre Raystown Lake, Frankstown Branch, and Little Juniata all begin in very different places and are very different rivers, but they all meet and become one around Huntingdon, and then flow together to the Susquehanna, the Chesapeake Bay, and finally into the Atlantic Ocean.
Exploring these “trails” by boat is an activity that can be enjoyed by all ages and levels of expertise. While paddling the more-technical Little Juniata requires some level of skill and experience, the flatwater that makes up much of the mainstem or the Raystown Branch can be navigated by those with more minimal experience. Rothrock Outfitters, based in downtown Huntingdon, offers guides, boat rentals, and shuttle services to help you make the most of your experience. The Juniata River Sojourn is an annual multi-day river trip that takes place in June and offers participants a guided look at the region’s water trails.
So grab your boat and PFD, and get out there on the water!
Who doesn’t like the idea of treasure hunting? Searching for a prize, the friendly competition, the payday when you do find it. The idea seems very pirate-like and farfetched in modern day. What if I told you that you too can go on a treasure hunt today and experience the thrill and excitement that will surely come along with your hunt? You can, with a relatively new game called geocaching.
Geocaching is a modern day treasure hunt taking families and friends outside while using the technology of today. All you need to participate is a GPS unit or a smart phone, a free membership to http://www.geocaching.com, and some swag to trade. This can be just about anything, from a playing card to a rubber ducky, a little army man or even a collectible coin. Some of the most popular items include Happy Meal toys and small trinkets.
Geocaching started in 2000 with just a handful of geocaches, and has blossomed to over 5 million today all over the world. The word “geocaching” comes from the root words “geo” for geography and “cache” for a hidden stash of provisions. The game uses the website http://www.geocaching.com to organize the many geocaches available by location, type, terrain, and difficulty. To start your adventure, log on to the site, find the cache that interests you, grab something to trade, a pen and a GPS unit, and get out there.
If you do not own a GPS, or a GPS-capable smart phone, you can stop by the Raystown Lake Visitors Center at the Seven Points Recreation Area and borrow one for free. All you need is a valid driver’s license and a credit card to check one out for up to 2 days at a time. The GPS units have some of the area geocaches already programmed in, so you can get right out and start with your hunt. This is perfect for beginners that have never geocached before. You will be given a how-to on using the unit so you aren’t sent out blindly, and you can even program other geocaches into the units to explore other areas that are not already programmed in.
Geocaching can be a great excuse to go out and explore parts of your area that you never knew existed. Well-hidden nature trails, breathtaking overlooks, trips across the lake, and a walk through a birch tree field that will make your mouth water are all places you may come across here in Huntingdon County while geocaching. There are not very many places in the county that you can travel to without being close to a geocache. All you have to do is know where to look.
There are several different types of geocaches that you may encounter along the way. The most straightforward is the Traditional Cache, which will be at specified coordinates, in a container that will include a log book. If you want a bit of history or a well-thought-out puzzle to decipher before going out, choose a Puzzle or Mystery Cache. With these caches, you will have to decipher a sometimes-complex puzzle that will give you the coordinates to the cache. Another type is called a Multi-Cache. These geocaches will have several different locations that you have to visit, each one giving you a clue to find the next one. The final clue will lead you to the actual geocache or container. To find out about other types of geocaches, visit http://www.geocaching.com.
Geocaching doesn’t have to be an all day adventure. While there are many that require hiking and long trips, there are just as many that can be found in towns or right along the road. Geocaching can be fun for anyone regardless of age, ability or fitness level. Since they are all around us, you can be sure to find one that will fit to your ability level. You can plan a whole day around one or two geocaches along with a trip to Raystown Lake, a local cave, or a beautiful State Park such as Trough Creek. You can grab a quick one while passing through Huntingdon and shopping at the local artisan shops. Or try to log twenty in a day and travel all over Huntingdon County. The possibilities are endless. Just don’t forget to record your finds at geocaching.com, so that you can keep up with and even brag about how many you have conquered.
By Michelle McCall and Brigit Seager