Join a hiking group near you

Goal number one in Audubon’s Education Master Plan is to provide opportunities for people of all ages to have positive experiences outdoors. In recognition of the fact that we cannot do it all, one of our strategies is to share information about ways you can get outside other than through Audubon programs. To that end, let me introduce you to two clubs in our region, the Allegheny Outdoor Club and the Chautauqua County Hiking Club.

Club president John Young provided this information about the Allegheny Outdoor Club:

In 1939 Warren hikers Ike Reed and Bob McKay formed the Allegheny Hiking Club, but when World War II came along the club disbanded. Then in 1968 Warren County residents Ted & Nancy Grisez restarted the hiking club, and to reflect the new group’s interest in various other outdoor activities, they named the club the Allegheny Outdoor Club (AOC). From that small beginning, the club now has more than 120 members, including six charter members and our activities include hiking, bicycling, canoeing & kayaking, and cross-country skiing.

Although most of the club’s activities are local, members have traveled to Switzerland, Mt. Hood, Oregon, the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania, Ricketts Glen State Park, the Laurel Highlands, and Somerset County to the Pennsylvania’s highest point at Mt. Davis. Bicyclists have ridden 400 miles along the Erie Canal in New York, done the Five Boroughs Ride in New York City, ridden along the river at Niagara Falls, and through mile-long tunnels on the Great Allegheny Passage rails-to-trails that runs from Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C.

Throughout the years the club has been active in creating and maintaining a number of local hiking trails. Foremost among these is the North Country National Scenic Trail, which was completed in 1992 and stretches 96 miles within the Allegheny National Forest. The club also laid out the popular Toms Run Trail at Hearts Content and maintains the Interpretive Trail there as well.

Beginning with an idea in 2008, the AOC planned and built a bird watching platform and handicapped accessible trail on the banks of Allegheny River, just below Kinzua Dam. In 2010, with the help of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the Penn Soil Resource Conservation and Development Council, the Riverside Watchable Trail and Viewing Platform was completed and has since become a major attraction. In 2009, working with grants received from Keystone Trails Association the club began resurfacing the first half mile of the Morrison Trail on the Allegheny National Forest.

As part of the Adopt-a-Highway program the club maintains six miles of scenic roads in Warren County and two miles in McKean County. For its efforts in making Warren County trails and highways more appealing, the club was awarded a $2,000 grant from Warren County to buy equipment which is used for regular trail maintenance and to help maintain the North Warren Hike & Bike Path, as well as other trails throughout Warren County.

The club is a member of the Keystone Trails Association and The North Country Trail Association. We have alliances with the Allegheny National Forest, the Pennsylvania Game Commission, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

For those hikers who complete the 96 miles of the North Country Trail, the club provides a patch for $5 to celebrate their achievement. A map of the trail and hiking log are accessible at the AOC website.

There are weekly activities and every three months there is a planning meeting to schedule upcoming events. Dues for a family membership are $5 per year and $3 per year for an individual. For more information go to www.alleghenyoutdoorclub.org, or call club President John Young at 814-730-2915. New members are always welcome and just need to show up at an advertised gathering to join.

North of the NY-PA border you might want to consider the Chautauqua County Hiking Club whose coordinator, Eileen Campbell, provided this information:

The Chautauqua County Hiking Club does not have a regular meeting schedule. The nature and frequency of the activities is dependent upon members who organize the get-togethers. Information about the events is communicated through an email list kept by Eileen. You can also learn about the activities of the club on their Facebook page: www.facebook.com/pages/Chautauqua-County-Hiking-Club. To join the list, send an email to chautauquahikes@aol.com. You can also call Eileen for more info at (716) 548-3417. There are currently no dues required to belong.

While hiking is the primary activity of the club, some outings involve skiing, kayaking, canoeing, and bicycling. On occasion the club has held seminars, such as wilderness first aid, which are open to the public.

The late Herb Hern started the hiking club in 1974 by publishing an article inviting people to attend a meeting. The hikes and other activities are open to anyone who would like to participate. Participants are asked to come prepared for the length and style of hike including wearing appropriate clothing and footwear for the weather and trail conditions and bringing plenty of water and food. Respect for the hike coordinator is also expected and hikers are asked not to break away from the group without letting the leader know.

Current members are mostly from Chautauqua County but the membership ranges from Niagara County to Pennsylvania. Over the years relationships have developed with other area clubs and businesses.

Whether by yourself or with a club, whether at the sanctuary or elsewhere, we here at Audubon encourage everyone to get outside regularly! The Audubon Center & Sanctuary is located at 1600 Riverside Road in the town of Kiantone, one-quarter mile east of Rt. 62 between Jamestown, New York and Warren, Pennsylvania. Learn more by calling (716) 569-2345 or visiting jamestownaudubon.org.

Jennifer Schlick, Program Director at Audubon, wrote very little of the text for this article and is grateful to the club members who provided the information!