Exploring central Pennsylvania with the Ridge and Valley Outings Club

Trail along a stream in Shingletown Gap.
Trail along a stream in Shingletown Gap. For the Centre Daily Times

The email usually arrives in my inbox sometime in the week before the hike it describes. Sometimes a map is included. Sometimes there is a photograph.

The time and day — 6 p.m. and Tuesday — are always the same. The descriptions — where to meet, name of the trails, highlights, etc. — are almost always different.

Here is how one recent hike was described: This week’s hike begins in Shingletown Gap. We climb to a ridge and hike west along the Mountain Mist Trail to the Highline Vista. At this point, we loop back toward Shingletown Gap on the Lone Pine Trail. Once we get back to the vicinity of Shingletown Gap, we have several options to finish the hike depending on how much daylight we have left and how far the group wants to go. This hike will be between three and five miles long. This hike begins with a climb of about 600 feet.

Ridge and Valley Outings Club (RVOC) is the organization that offers Tuesday Night Hikes, which started in 1994. Greg Tothero is a longtime, revered leader of many of these hikes.

“We started Tuesday Night Hikes so that people that work Monday-Friday can get a break during the week,” Tothero said. “We walk fairly quickly, so it is a little bit of a workout. We do a lot of socializing. Plus, there are so many good hikes to do in the area that we rarely repeat a hike during the year.”

Currently, there are six people who share the responsibility of leading Tuesday Night Hikes. Hike leaders are familiar with the hike they lead, and many have done the hike multiple times.

Hikes are done at a brisk-but-conversational pace. Someone may comment on a wildflower along the trail, but generally stopping to identify or photograph it will not work on these hikes. Often, someone on the hike will identify the flower, tree or birdsong. Mostly, you keep moving.

On a recent hike around Highline Vista, we briefly stopped at a historical site where charcoal was made, in addition to a pool of water that contained tadpoles. At dusk, we took a moment to gaze upon the steep ascent of the Shingletown Rocks hike, a journey that Greg will be leading later in the summer.

Participation on a particular evening varies from five to 25. And the reasons for participation vary as well: streams, smells, wildflowers, exercise, wildlife, communion with nature, fellow hikers, etc. Some of the recent trails that highlight Tuesday Night Hikes include the likes of Mount Nittany, Alan Seeger Natural Area, Detweiler Run Natural Area, Musser Gap, Bear Meadows Loop, Frog Hollow Trail and Walnut Springs.

On a Tuesday Night Hike there is a good chance you will discover new trails even if you are familiar with hiking trails in Central Pennsylvania. It is also likely that you will become more familiar with the human and natural history of our area.

RVOC Tuesday Night Hikes include good company, interesting conversation and an aerobic workout on the trail.

Gary Thornbloom is the Co-Chair of the Public Lands Committee, PA Chapter Sierra Club; he can be reached at bearknob@verizon.net

If you go

Resources: To find out about upcoming RVOC outings, email RVOC-L-subscribe-request@lists.psu.edu

Emails are typically sent out once a week. Occasionally, there will be an additional email with information about a weekend hike or backpacking. Occasionally, the outing will finish up by meeting for dinner. RVOC also hosts an annual Full Moon Potluck for members.