By Alicia Dziak
For years, my family has been what we call weekend campers at Allegany State Park (ASP). We’d stay in a cabin for two or three nights during the off-peak season, or throw up our tent on the Diehl Trail for a couple nights in August.
Last summer, we decided to make the jump from weekend campers to weeklong campers, and the resulting vacation was so successful that we decided to make it an annual getaway.
One of the great things about staying for a week is that you can take advantage of all the in-park programming. You can pick up a program schedule from both the Quaker and Red House rental offices, or view it online on the Allegany State Park Facebook page.
When we checked into our cabin recently, I handed the week’s schedule to my kids and told them to pick a program they’d like to attend. They quickly chose Edible Wild Plants, so we all ventured over to the Red House side of the park to learn what we could about the topic.
The program was led by an ASP Naturalist named Adele. She walked the group of about 15 around the area where ASP 1 meets ASP 2, and she pointed out and had us sample a variety of edible plants.
While snacking on pine needles and dandelions wouldn’t be at the top of my afternoon snack list, it was neat to learn all about the plants you can eat if you were really hard up for some grub or for some inexpensive new additions to a salad.
We also got a kick out of “brushing our teeth” with strawberry leaves and freshening our breath with wintergreen. Adele also pointed out certain plants to stay away from, such as poison ivy and honeysuckle berries, the small round red berries that are everywhere this time of year.
“The program was interesting because there were plants there that I didn’t know I could eat,” said my 8-year-old daughter.
“The workshop was fun because it was something different to do with my whole family, and we all like learning about nature,” added my 10-year old daughter.
Edible Wild Plants is just one of dozens of free programs offered at ASP throughout the week.
Animal lovers can choose from programs entitled Birds of ASP, Butterflies, Salamanders, Damselflies and Dragonflies, Turtles, Snakes, Frogs and Other Critters, Tracks and Scat, and Ladybugs, among others.
Visitors interested in learning more about specific places within the park can take a tour of Thunder Rocks, the Bear Caves or the Beaver Colony.
Adventurists might enjoy Wilderness Survival, Monsters of ASP, or Pond and Stream Safari.
Guided family nature hikes are also offered throughout the week, as well as family-friendly, game-based education such as Mammal Jeopardy and Minute to Win It.
Artists will surely enjoy Creating Art From Nature offered through the Cattaraugus County Arts Council. These classes are also free, but require registration by calling (716) 372-7455.
Most ASP programs are offered Monday through Friday, with some special events on Saturdays. They are free, and do not require registration, unless noted. This means you can attend whatever fits into your schedule and you don’t have to decide until you’re there.
You don’t need to be a weeklong camper to take advantage of the free programming at ASP. Day visitors can also join the fun.
With most programs only lasting an hour, you can learn something new and still have plenty of time to enjoy the beautiful sights and sounds of the park.
For more information, visit ASP’s official Facebook page at www.facebook.com/AlleganyStatePark or stop into either rental office for a schedule.