(Above photo by David Raymond taken at Point State Park. People’s Choice Award Winner for Historic Value in PPFF’s 2021 Environmental Rights Amendment Photo Contest.)
Part 2: Here’s What I Learned From Visiting All 121 State Parks in 224 Days
John Muir once wrote, “In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” As someone who spent much of 2021 exploring Pennsylvania state parks and forests, I couldn’t agree more.
In the first part of this blog, I discussed some of the many things I learned while working toward my goal of running one mile in all 121 Pennsylvania state parks in 2021. In this second part, I’ll go over what you’ll encounter when you decide to explore the commonwealth’s parks and forests.
Pennsylvania is packed with history.
There is so much more to Pennsylvania’s history than what many tourists might expect. Yes, we have the Liberty Bell and Constitution Hall. But we have a lot to offer those looking to learn.
One *minor* obsession of mine that came out of the 121 In 21 Challenge was learning about the Civilian Conservation Corps. Created by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the CCC provided jobs for young, unemployed men during the Great Depression. Pennsylvania parks and forests were home to dozens of CCC camps.
For $30 a month – which most was sent back to their families – these young men “fought forest fires, planted trees, built roads, buildings, picnic areas, swimming areas, campgrounds and created many state parks,” according to the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. Pennsylvania is home to two museums and many statues memorializing the work of the “CCC boys.”
(Learn about what life was like in the CCC for African American Camp S-62 in the blog series written by fellow PPFF guest blogger, Jacob Hockenberry. The blog posts can be found on PPFF’s News Page.)
Want history from even farther back? There’s so much incredible information available about the indigenous peoples of what is now Pennsylvania and the state parks and forests. There’s information about the state’s early settlers, hunters, trappers, explorers and naturalists.
Fun, funky small towns
I found so many fun towns while I traveled more than 7,500 miles around the commonwealth running at state parks. The restaurants, shops, monuments and people brought so many lasting memories from my journey.
Pennsylvania’s small towns are such a delight. There’s nothing I love more than trying homemade pies from a small town diner or finding the perfect gift for my wife in a quirky shop.
Pennsylvania state parks are economic drivers. In the Economic Benefits of PA’s Parks and Forests video by the PA Parks and Forests Foundation, several experts speak about the incredible impact state parks and forests have on local and state economies. Several of my park runs required overnight trips. That meant money on hotels, restaurants, gas and attractions.
Being outdoors is beneficial to your health
As the Pennsylvania Parks and Forests Foundation detailed in their Health Benefits of Outdoor Recreation video, being outside can make huge improvements to your physical, mental and emotional health.
In the video, Dr. Michael Suk said that health benefits from outdoor recreation can include improvements to your cardiovascular system, respiratory system, blood pressure and more. I can tell you, my time in the outdoors kept my weight down and kept me active throughout the year.
Suk went on to say that being outside had beneficial mental health aspects as well. Studies show that even being near a park puts people in better moods and elevates their outlooks. Running at the parks certainly kept my spirits up in a time of COVID, when it seemed like everything was trying to keep me down.
I entered Pennsylvania parks searching for nothing in particular and found everything. I listened to babbling brooks. I ran up mountains. I saw sunsets that brought tears to my eyes. I found wildlife in their natural habitats. I was converted from someone who vehemently believed “traveling” means leaving home to now believing that traveling is what you make of it.
For me, I intend to spend the rest of my life exploring Pennsylvania’s state parks and forests. I hope to see you out there as well.
PPFF’s Guest Blogger, Christian Alexandersen, has visited all 121 state parks in Pennsylvania, running one mile in each! Now he shares with us tips and tales from his journey. To read more blog posts from Christian and other PPFF guest bloggers, visit our News page.
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