Yorker plans to visit every Pa. park
Scattered across Pennsylvania's 46,000 square miles are 120 state parks.
York City resident Kelly Fields plans to visit them all, and she marked the halfway point this month with Neshaminy State Park in Bucks County.
Fields began her excursions about six months ago, hitting the trails with friend Jon Gass of Enola after the snow melted and breaking themselves from the winter "funk," she said.
The park visits are a way to return to a more active lifestyle, said Fields, a 32-year-old health and safety worker at a veterans hospital in Lebanon County.
The trips also offer a change of scenery.
"We never thought about how beautiful Pennsylvania is, but it's not necessarily true that you have to drive cross country to see beautiful parks," she said. "We drive through a lot of little towns, stop at nice restaurants."
Not a camper, Fields expects to rent a park cabin, house, cottage or yurt at the more distant destinations, such as in Potter County.
"I'm not the person who wants to sleep outside and then not shower," she said.
Perks in the parks: Fields and Gass focus mostly on hiking, since they feel it gives them the best feel of each park, she said.
Some parks are vast forested areas with creeks, rivers and lakes; others are historic or environmental.
They range from 17,000 acres (26 square miles) of Pymatuning in the state's northwest to tiny picnic areas such as the 3 acres of Sand Bridge.
"Sometimes, the time we spend at a park is small," said Fields, a Stewartstown native. "Sand Bridge is just a picnic area, but I took some good pictures there at the cute little creek. Whenever we visit a new park, we say 'Oh, I like this one the best,' and we'll spend more time there than we expected."
The farthest they've driven this year was the 160-mile trip to the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania, which includes Colton Point State Park and Leonard Harrison State Park near Wellsboro.
This month's trips include Pymatuning, Goddard and Yellow Creek in the northwest part of the state.
Fields graduated from Slippery Rock University near Pittsburgh with a degree in environmental science, and she has friends living in the area, she said .
She invites them — calling them "guest stars" — to join her on trips for a weekend of hiking, laughing and catching up.
Favorites: After visiting nearly 60 parks this year, she's found some favorites, parks to which she'll make return trips.
Ricketts Glen has the most beautiful falls, she said, but it's a rough, strenuous walk.
Despite all the travel, some of her preferred parks are right near home.
Susquehannock State Park Complex in southern Lancaster County is a favorite, as is the local Sam Lewis State Park, near Wrightsville, she said.
But her all-time favorite, she said, is Gifford Pinchot State Park in Warrington Township.
"I'd never been there until this, despite how close it is," she says. "There's good hiking all around the lake. It's close to home. I might go there after work once a week next year."
Fields said she'll take a break for the winter when the weather gets too cold and resume again when the weather warms.
After she finishes the state parks, she plans to hit the 58 national parks, she said.
"It won't be the whirlwind that this was," she said.