Here are some of the most frequently asked questions I get:
What do you charge for your trips?
All of our trip are free. Sometimes we may go along with the University of Pitt at Bradford Outdoors Club, and some of their trips have a charge. For example in the spring we go white water rafting at Letchworth or Zoar Valley and there is a charge for renting the raft and equipment.
Who can come along on trips?
Well, basically we are open to anybody, but I am an environmentalist and prefer to be with like-minded individuals. We clean up trails and the woods. Anybody with an interest in the outdoors or adventure is welcome and we are more than willing to teach the needed skills.
Can I bring my kids?
Children are welcome on most trips with absolute parental control. I expect the parent(s) to be monitoring their child, or children constantly. And I prefer to be asked about bringing children in advance, as some of our trips might be inappropriate.
How hard are your hikes?
Some are hard and some are not. To be honest, we usually will set the pace to the slowest person. Or sometimes if separating is ok, we will split into a fast and a slower group. We NEVER leave anybody alone in the woods!
Are cell phones allowed?
We haven't, as of yet, banned cell phones, but may soon. We explore and hike in the wilderness to "get away from" civilization for a while. That is what our outings are about. To "escape" for a while. Who wants to have the serene silence of the woods disturbed by a cell phone ring. I carry a cell phone on trips for outgoing emergency calls only. My phone is never on during a trip. Common courtesy and proper cell-phone etiquette would be to only carry a cell phone if you are expecting an emergency call.
Where do you hike?
We are mostly centered in the Allegheny National Forest area in North Western Pennsylvania, and the Allegany State Park in Western New York and the surrounding areas. We go to Zoar Valley near Gowanda NY a lot to do hikes, kayaking trips, and other various activities. We sometimes travel further, but we have so much to enjoy in this area, why travel?
I tried to make the hike, but you were not there.
When we meet at a specific time, and I post "10:00AM SHARP", THAT is the time we leave the meeting place. We do not often wait around for anybody unless they make arrangements before hand. Since we do not charge for these (very valuable) guided, and often outfitted trips, the LEAST you can do is show up by the announced time. Often we meet others along the way at other meeting destinations. Waiting at the various meeting spots could cause a chain reaction that could piss away the whole day! We played that game before and thus we have the zero tolerance for late arrivals. My job is to organize and guide an exciting trip, yours is to show up on time, properly prepared.
What do I need to bring on a trip?
That depends on the trip! I usually post clearly what to bring for each trip, but you must use some judgment and common sense. Or e-mail me with specific questions.
Can I bring my GPS to help with directions?
You can bring your GPS for your own use, but I know every inch of "trail" we hike before hand, so we do not navigate with GPS, Compasses or trail maps. Very often we are bushwhacking and do not follow established trails.
Are the caves big?
No, the caves in our area are mostly tectonic caves, or cracks or splits in the bedrock or cap rock of the hill tops. Some are several hundred feet deep, or long, but usually are very narrow. Often a "big room" is just wide enough to stand facing forward and stand straight up. There is a lot of crawling and squeezing involved.
Do you supply the gear?
Well, I do have several cave sets to loan out, and when we do a climbing or rappelling trip we often have gear to loan. Even when we do a kayaking trip, we often have boats to loan. But you should not assume I'm prepared to outfit you or your group. Always check with me first.
Do you run into bears?
Usually by myself, yes, often. With a group, very seldom, but we are prepared with whistles and pepper spray. But actually it's VERY RARE in North America to have trouble with black bears (the only bear in our area). I'm more afraid of running into a mountain lion (cougar, panther etc.).
Are there cougars in this area?
I have personally seen full sized cats (panther, puma, cougars, mountain lions) three times in the past 15 years. I have come across tracks another three or four times. My eye witness experiences were all clear, absolute sightings. No question, there are large cats in our area, and they especially like the Large Rock areas we frequent. I carry pepper spray in case of a cat encounter.
Can we share transportation?
Yes, I encourage it. If I know of two (or more) people coming from a common direction, I will try to hook them up. Often we have transport vans for the trip. We often carpool.
Is your group a good place to meet singles?
I've noticed that a lot of outdoors groups are more of a "social group" or made up of mostly singles looking for other singles. Or even "married but looking". This is not what we are about! Our main interest is in sharing adventures with other outdoor enthusiasts. I want our group to be a "safe place" for woman, and girls to participate, without fear of being badgered by a bunch of "horn-dogs" posing as outdoorsmen.
Are the Zoar hikes dangerous?
Zoar can be a very dangerous place. However it is possible to hike there relatively safely. If you stay away from the cliff edges and avoid falling rocks and swift river currents, you should be ok. I have led hundreds of hike to Zoar without any serious injuries.
I see you hike through the nude area at Zoar, do you hike naked?
We hike all over Zoar in the summer, in all areas, including the "nude area". We have ran into nudes in all areas in the gorge. I have been on hikes where nobody was nude, some where some people were nude while other were clothed, and even hikes where everybody was nude. Skinny-dipping is very common at Zoar in the summer. It depends on the group. I always warn the group when we are hiking Zoar that we may encounter nudes in the summer or even in the spring on our kayaking and white-water rafting trips. If you are offended by nude people, do not go to Zoar in the warm weather! A lot of people (hard-core outdoors enthusiasts) consider nudism, a part of the complete outdoors experience ("one with nature"), that can only be experienced nude. We have never, or would never push, encourage, or intimidate anybody into removing their clothes on a hike.
Do you have cross country ski trips?
Yes, we will be announcing them shortly. We cross country ski every weekend when there is snow. Look for Saturday ski trips and Sunday hikes or cave trips.
Do you play paint-ball?
Well, we might get into that a little. It bothers me to see people "shoot up the woods" with paint-balls, even though they are "environmentally friendly" and completely biodegradable.
I'm a single woman, interested in your outings, but I'm apprehensive about hiking in the woods with strange men.
"Strange" we might be. However, we are, for the most part, harmless and mostly respectful and courteous to woman and girls. Nearly all our hikes and outings have other woman and girls participating, so you wouldn't be the only woman alone in the woods with a bunch of men. To make you feel more comfortable, I can notify you of a hike where there will be several other woman or girls and you can get to know us that way. I'm sure many of the "girls" of our group will tell you the men are safe to be around.
How is an indoor kayak water polo game considered an "outdoor activity" or "outdoor trip"?
Thanks for your concern. I'm glad to see somebody is paying attention so closely. Well, truth be told, activities in an indoor pool is not ACTUALLY an "outdoor activity" per-se, BUT everybody who participates are "outdoors people", who, but the actions of God, can't practically practice their preferred sport (kayaking) outdoors at this particular time, so that paddling indoors is the next best thing. It keeps us "trained" and in shape for the spring time OUTDOORS events, coming soon. If you really want to get technical, CAVING is not really an OUTDOORS event ether. It's as "indoors" as you can possibly get!
The above questions are actual questions I have been asked, or edited versions of actual questions.