BY GINA GARGANO
Fall seems to be everyone’s favorite season. It’s not mine, but I have to admit that it is a very lovely time. It’s as if Mother Nature has been saving up her energy for this last vibrant burst of beauty. The grand finale, if you will, before winter’s dormancy.
October is traditionally a beautiful month in Pennsylvania and Schuylkill County is particularly lovely with its mountains, valleys and pastoral scenes. In fact, Pennsylvania is one of the best places in the world for leaf peeping.
This may sound hard to believe, but it’s true. I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before but I’m going to repeat myself anyway. According to Pennsylvania’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Pennsylvania has a longer and more varied fall foliage season than any other state in the nation. Or anywhere in the world for that matter, because most of the world’s forests are either tropical or dominated by conifers.
Eastern North America is one of only three regions in the world consisting of deciduous forests. Consequently, Penn’s Woods is the meeting ground for northern mountain-top loving tree species, Southern tree species and many more shrubs and vines that contribute to our lengthy and diverse display of autumn color, which, according to PA Parks and Recreation Association, is supposed to peak Oct. 18 to 28 in Schuylkill County. That means October is an excellent time to get outside.
Hiking (and/or biking) our trails is a fine way to take in autumn colors and enjoy the nip in the air. The historic Tow-Path Trail in Port Clinton, Landingville Marsh, Schuylkill Valley Trail, The Irish Flats Trail in Schuylkill Haven, Tri-Valley’s Environmental Education Center, the Sen. James J. Rhoades Nature Trail and the Lehigh and New England Trail in Tamaqua all provide excellent views, exercise and lush fall color this month.
If you prefer hiking with a leader, we’ve got plenty of opportunity for that as well. On Sunday, you can join Sojourner Steve for the Kalmia Tunnel Hike in Tower City or join in on this year’s A Walk in Penn’s Woods at Swatara State Park in Pine Grove. On Oct. 19, you can meet Mandy Fitzpatrick in Port Clinton for the Appalachian Trail to Schuylkill River Trail Hike and on Oct. 20, Hiker Jim Murphy will take you on the County View Hike in Buck Run.
Leaf peeping is not the only popular October activity. Here in East Central Pennsylvania, the Kittatinny Ridge, also known as the Blue Mountains, serves as a thoroughfare for many of Mother Nature’s most impressive flying creatures.
This month, hundreds of raptors, including northern harriers, golden eagles, sharp shinned hawks, American kestrels, osprey and even a few American bald eagles will fly southwestward along the ridge of these mountains. At Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, hundreds of visitors will take in this awesome nature show while enjoying the changing colors of autumn on the hillsides below. They also have some fabulous programs this month including Raptors Over the Ridge on Sunday, Primitive Skills workshop on Oct. 12 and Family Fun: Art in Nature on Oct. 19.
Hiking, biking, nature, birds and foliage are just the beginning of October’s fun. Here in Schuylkill County almost every weekend features harvest celebrations of one kind or another. You can enjoy the area’s best scenic mountain hayride, as well as more than 20 different activities, every weekend through Oct. 27 at Pioneer Evergreen’s Fall Festival.
The Walk In Art Center’s Regional Folk Art & Culinary Festival is Saturday, featuring pysanky, needlework, paperwork, textiles, delicious ethnic foods and more. Pioneer Tunnel Coal Mine & Steam Train’s annual Fall Festival is Oct. 19-20 and 26-27, so you have two weekends to ride the historic Henry Clay before he takes his winter nap.
Some more harvest happening opportunities include Lessie’s Fall Festival at Avenue’s and Frackville Annual Pumpkin Fest on Saturday; Pioneer Pole Building’s Fall Fest Car Show and Schuylkill Country Club’s Oktoberfest on Sunday; Walk In Art Center’s Night Gallery on Oct. 10; Schuylkill Haven Island Park Food Truck Festival and Ashland Apple Fest in Eureka Park on Oct. 12; Schuylkill Haven Island Park Pumpkin Patch, Famous Reading Outdoors’ RORR Dual Sport, Tamaqua Heritage Festival and WK&S Fall Foliage Train on Oct. 13; Owl Creek Reservoir Haunted Hay Ride, Schuylkill YMCA Halloween Party, The Majestic Theater’s Alice Cooper: A Majestic Nightmare, Tamaqua Community Arts Center’s Bark at the Moon: Ozzy Ozbourne Tribute and Pine Grove Autumn Stroll, Craft Show and Halloween Parade on Oct. 19; WK&S Pumpkin Patch Train on Oct. 19 and 20; Poe Readings at Schuylkill County Council for the Arts on Oct. 21; Schuylkill County’s VISION’s Halloween Hustle 5K Zombie Run/Walk and Alchemist’s Cove’s Halloween Comicfest on Oct. 26.
It wouldn’t be October without Hamburg’s 56th annual King Frost Parade on Oct. 26. Galen Glen kicks off its Chambourcin Weekend Oct. 12 and hosts walking tours of the winery among the beautiful foliage the weekend of Oct. 19. Benigna’s Creek Winery will have your taste buds tingling at its Harvest Festival on Oct. 12. Long Trout Winery has Yoga and Wine on Oct. 19 and Murder at the Sit-In on Oct. 26.
Winetober Customer Appreciation Day is Oct. 19 at Stone Mountain Wine Cellars, and King Cole Winery is the place to be on Oct. 26 for its Halloween Scavenger Hunt with tarot card readings.
It’s Vinyl Night every Thursday at Stoker’s Brewing Company in Tamaqua. There’s a Witch’s High Tea at the Maid’s Quarter’s on Oct. 27 so call 484-223-9497 to reserve your spot today! Fairlane Village mall’s Mall-o-ween is Oct. 30.
SKIP Fall Clean Up is Oct. 18 and 19. For more information, call 570-449-4760.
Sweet Arrow Lake entertains our children with a Wee Ones Walk-Autumn Adventure Saturday and treats us to Going Batty on Oct. 23. As always, there is no shortage of activity and entertainment this month.
A complete listing of harvest happenings, the trail directory, Outdoor Recreation Map and many other resources can be found at www.schuylkill.org, so get out and get your autumn on!!
Gargano is executive director of Schuylkill County Visitors Bureau.
Caitlin Heaney West is the content editor for Access NEPA and oversees the Early Access blog in addition to working as a copy editor and staff writer for The Times-Tribune. An award-winning journalist, she is a summa cum laude graduate of Shippensburg University and also earned a master’s degree from Marywood University. Caitlin joined the Times-Shamrock family in 2009 and lives in Scranton. Contact: email@example.com; 570-348-9100 x5107; or @cheaneywest