This week, staff writer Laura Rysz talks with George Johnson about the free winter ecology hikes at Pocono Environmental Education Center.

Residence: Dingmans Ferry

Professional background: Employed in the environmental education field for approximately 10 years and with the Pocono Environmental Education Center for the last three years

Title: Weekend workshop manager

Q: Tell us about Pocono Environmental Education Center.

A: PEEC advances environmental education, sustainable living and appreciation for nature through hands-on experience in a national park. The Pocono Environmental Education Center is located within the 77,000-acre Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, along the Delaware River, and is within driving distance of New York City and Philadelphia. PEEC is an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and a 44-year education partner of the National Park Service.

Q: Who is the winter ecology hike open to?

A: The program is mostly geared toward families, but it is open to all members of the public. It’ll start off with some small outdoor activities/games, and then we’ll be taking a shorter/easier hiking trail to search for signs of wildlife. The trail is approximately 0.75 miles long and relatively flat. Pets are allowed as long as they remain leashed and owners clean up after them, but the trail is not stroller-friendly.

Q: What animals will you learn about?

A: Along the hike, we’ll be talking about the winter adaptations for birds, bears, beavers and squirrels. In addition, we’ll chat about the physical characteristics of trees and how they survive the winter as well. Finally, if we’re lucky enough, we’ll observe some animals in the wild and learn what they are up to.

Q: What supplies do you recommend?

A: The program will take place entirely outside, so guests should come dressed in layers for warmth. A good portion will take place on the trails, so sturdy footwear is a plus. I also always recommend having a water bottle to drink from, too.

Q: What is unique about this event?

A: The winter setting makes this a unique program of ours. Not many people feel comfortable exploring the trails during this time of the year because of the snow, cold, ice, etc. This is a great introductory program to expose families to the harshness of winter and learn about how other critters survive during the season.