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Hitting the trail safely

Nature has so many great things to offer, wonders to behold and beauty to lock our gaze on. There’s nothing like feeling more grounded thanks to this ecotherapy (or being in nature to boost growth and healing, particularly mental health). But fears can stop a lot of us from exploring the outdoors.

You don’t have to feel lost — that’s what we’re here for. Today, we’re going over some key tips to keep you safe while checking out state parks and trails. We’ll also seek the coolest corners of our region in the dog days of summer, and check in on the spotted lanternfly situation.

📮 What information would help you feel more prepared to navigate the outside world? Let me know by emailing me.

☀️ Your weekend weather outlook: Grab your umbrella on Friday, there’s a chance of showers and thunderstorms throughout the day. Saturday and Sunday should be more pleasant with a mix of sun, clouds, and light winds.

— Paola Pérez

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Did you know Pennsylvania has 124 state parks? In fact, we’re among the top 10 states with the most state parks. (California takes the crown with 270.)

From Ridley Creek State Park to Fort Washington State Park, there’s plenty of room for you to take a hike, go camping, or have a picnic. (And remember, you can explore these Pa. and NJ state parks — for free).

For those of us in Philadelphia, we don’t have to go too far from the city to connect with nature — trails around the Schuylkill and Wissahickon Valley Park await your visit and enjoyment.

But before you head to your next trail adventure, you should know:

🌱 how to detect poisonous plants

🦟 how to prevent mosquito and tick bites

🌊 why swimming is illegal in some rivers and streams

🐍 what to do in the very unlikely case of getting bitten by a snake

Keep reading for more of our experts’ recommendations on staying safe while enjoying the outdoors.

🎤 Now we’re passing the microphone to Jason Nark. You’ll always find his work here.

In the midst of a brutal heat wave last month, my family went camping in tents and sleeping bags. We gathered around fire too. We do this for fun.

There’s no middle ground with camping. Few say “it’s fine.” People, like me, love and obsess over it. It’s the one week each year where I tighten the bolts on family bonds. The bad internet connection helps. Some hate camping, and they like letting you know. I’d like to think that’s from one bad experience or a skunk/raccoon phobia. They’re campground mainstays.

Hot, humid weather can really ruin a camping trip, though. There’s not much you can do about it, besides leave or remove the tent’s rain fly to let more hot air in. I languished one sleepless night a few years ago, sweaty and alone in Caledonia State Park, wondering whether to bail on that sweat lodge and sleep in the car. It was worse than the February night I slept through a snowstorm at Ricketts Glen State Park, surrounded by coyotes.

Experts say the best sleeping weather is 65 degrees, and we’re lucky if we go below 75, locally, on some summer nights, hence the ever-present hum of air-conditioning. I rarely camp in local counties for that reason. After fretting over the forecast on my latest trip, I decided to probe further, to ask weather experts and locals across the state where the coolest places in Pennsylvania are during the summer. — Jason Nark

Keep reading on Jason’s quest to find some chill this season.

News worth knowing

Catch up quick: Nearly a decade ago, the faraway insect invaded the Pennsylvania woodlands, threatening the balance of the ecosystem and millions of dollars in losses to local agriculture. Since then, Philadelphians and the region at large went full Rambo, ready for battle against the trespasser.

I haven’t seen as many fluttering around this year, so I was beginning to think they were a thing of the past. But they are definitely still out there. Outdoorsy reader Debbie Russo of Chadds Ford told us about what things are looking like in her neck of the woods: “The summer of 2022 and this summer have brought very few. Occasionally I’ll see one or two and they feel the wrath of my flip flop. We can sit out and enjoy the summer.”

So is the spotted lanternfly still something to worry about these days?

The short answer: Yes, it’s still a pest to be dealt with, but the good news is that their impact is not as severe as initially expected.

What’s next: The battle to completely eradicate the insect was lost, but the war is not over. Scientists now lead the charge with new techniques to control their spread.

How to get rid of them: Stomp on adult and nymph lanternflies, scrape egg masses off of surfaces, or spray insecticides on infected areas (but use caution as insecticides can harm other plans or beneficial insects).

Keep reading to learn how we fared against the lanternfly and more of the facts from expert sources.

15 seconds of calm from somewhere in New Jersey

🎤 Jason says: Saw these hummingbirds this morning while on assignment in the New Jersey Pine Barrens.

Love the pair that flies off together.

🏕️ Your outdoorsy experience 🏕️

A few weeks ago, we ventured into the John Heinz Wildlife Refuge.

Catch up quick: John Heinz is America’s First Urban Refuge. It’s home to the largest remaining freshwater tidal marsh in Pennsylvania and supports a broad diversity of plant and bird species.

Outdoorsy reader Gail Pontuto, a former Delco resident now living in South Florida, shares this memory with us:

“My husband was a ‘Friends of the Heinz’ member. He took many great photos at the Center. Some were framed and hung there. We had many favorites. Our #1 was the Peregrine Falcon. The Kingfisher & Bald Eagle were also favorites. Nothing compares to the Heinz!”

There’s a reason why it’s considered “the ultimate spot to go” birdwatching.

📮 Give us a review of your outdoors experience for a chance to be featured in this newsletter by emailing me back.

👋🏽 We’re in that sweet spot between summer and fall where it’s not too hot to take on a trail, but it’s not too cool to prefer staying indoors. It’s safe to say I’ve got fall on the mind, so don’t mind me, just quietly breaking out the apple spice candles as we await the changing of the leaves…


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