By Alicia Dziak
Allegany State Park (ASP) is one of my favorite places in the world.
I’ve been summer camping regularly at ASP for about 15 years, introduced to it by my husband, who grew up going there with his family.
Five years ago, we decided to gather up some other ASP-loving friends and give winter camping a whirl. We all purchased snowshoes, reserved a large Beehunter cabin, and headed out into the ASP winter wilderness.
Year One: We didn’t venture far from the cabin. We followed the bike trail circling Red House Lake, sporting our new snow gear, and spent the weekend laughing.
Year Two: Set the bar for all other “snowshoe weekends.” Now, much more confident in our snowshoeing abilities, we packed up and headed over to Quaker, where we braved the Flagg hiking trail. The men and the women parted ways, as the women seemed more interested in socializing than exercising. The second year had its share of zany events, including a power outage, a megaphone, and an epic sledding adventure.
Year Three: We switched trails and stayed in two smaller cabins on McIntosh because other couples had planned to join us. We didn’t love being split up, but we made the best of it. That year, we hiked on the nearby Osgood hiking trail, which all of us swear was 90 percent uphill and 10 percent downhill.
Year Four: We moved back to Beehunter, still in two cabins to make room for a fourth couple. That was the snowless winter and our first year hiking without wearing our snowshoes. We managed to tackle the 6.5-mile Beehunter hiking trail in our boots, which is a getaway in itself.
Year Five: Last year reunited the original six in one big, brown Beehunter cabin. This was also the only year we didn’t actually take any kind of hike, but instead focused our efforts on finding a good sledding spot. My brother and his friend decided to come for a few hours, but their poorly planned hike led to them veering off the trail and being gone many hours after dark, leaving the rest of us trying to find phone reception and calling the park police. The story had a happy ending, and the tale of their wacky journey through the park will be one we recount for many years.
This brings us to Year Six-(2014): Once again, we stayed on Beehunter. Our friend got a new GPS that he used for hunting in the park in November, so instead of hiking on a marked trail, we set off into the woods behind our cabin. We left the snowshoes behind, as we didn’t think there was enough snow to make wearing them worthwhile, a decision I quickly regretted as soon as my boots were slipping all over the uphill slope. But, we pressed on, through the woods, enjoying the never-far ASP giant rocks that are scattered throughout the park and the other amazing scenery. We moved slowly, hindered by silly conversations and lots of brush.
By now, the essentials of this weekend have changed. We’ve swapped our menu over planning for a few hearty dishes in the crockpots and our five comforters for a toasty sleeping bag. We bring our favorite games and various artwork to prop up on the counters to make the cabin very homey for our stay. By this time, we’re all old friends who can say anything to each other, and make each other laugh at the drop of a hat. Our kids are friends and our families spend weekends together throughout the year, but for snowshoe weekend at ASP, it’s still just the grownups, acting like kids for a couple days.
Regardless of the amount of snow, and whether or not we actually snowshoe, this weekend is one of the highlights of winter. It’s a perfect way to tune out stress and catch up with good friends to make memories.
Whether you visit the park in winter, summer, or any time in between, ASP is a place where you can use the limited cell phone reception as a way to disconnect from your regular life in order to reconnect with the things that are important. That’s why I’m confident it will always be one of my favorite places.
Plenty of cabins are still available this winter! Plan your adventure today by visiting www.reserveamerica.com.