Conservation Volunteer Stories

Consider Volunteering

It’s wondrous how a simple conversation can lead a person out of their comfort zone and onto a path of new discovery and added friendships. Such a conversation led to my most recent adventure at Sinnemahoning State Park (, nestled in the Pennsylvania Wilds.

It occurred in June, just before leaving Sinnemahoning after attending a Woman in the Outdoors program they presented. The park staff told me they were always looking for someone to come and stay at the campground to run the Eagle Watch program. As it happened, I was looking for a place to camp from mid August to mid October and this conversation got my mind to thinking. The major disadvantage to this would be that I would not have sewer and water hook up, nor would there be any cell coverage. Sinnemahoning sits deep in a valley of tall mountains, so the nearest place to get coverage was about 30 miles away. I needed time to think.

I’m one of those who looks on the internet and e-mail every day and although I don’t use my cell that often, the thought that for nine weeks I would have only limited time to use it was disconcerting to say the least. But while in Maine on a trip with several RVing Women (RVW) friends, I took time to consider the offer, work out the logistics, and after a few weeks I had made up my mind to try it out. So I called the Park Manager, Lisa, and we came to an agreement. For a free site, I would come on August 17 through October 18 and run the Eagle Watch program for them. After Labor Day week end, I would then work as an Elk Viewing volunteer during the ‘rut’ (mating season) of the elk. However, once there, I soon took on other tasks around the park including Campground Host for September and October. This magical place has made my adjustment a welcomed time to relax, unwind and slow down.

Besides being in one of the most beautiful places in Pennsylvania, especially during the changing of the seasons to Fall, I was able to see wildlife like I’ve never experienced. Walking though the mile long Red Spruce Trail and spotting a bear eating berries, just standing still and watching him as he went from bush to bush not aware of my presence. He’d eat some and then stand up tall, look around, then go back down to the business at hand. These woods are full of black bear this year and he was only one of many that were observed in the park during this time. Going out at night and finding a large elk in the park, this guy was taller than my truck and he had at least 11 points on each of his antlers. He was one of the biggest elk around, and I had the privilege of watching him. During the Elk Viewing program I was able to see and hear many other elk as they watched over their cows and bugled their cry and mating calls. This mating ritual occurs each year at this time and brings hundreds of visitors to the area to observe and hear the call of the elk. Best part, it’s free! No admission, all of nature at your doorstep and all for free.

Here at this park were full time resident Bald Eagles. Best time to see them is early morning or late evening when they fly out of the trees to fish. But often they can be seen souring above or chasing after an Osprey or other intruders to their domain. These Eagles are truly beautiful to watch and draw many visitors to the park just to have the opportunity to wait and watch for them.

Other critters I observed were turtles, hawks, coyote, blue heron, birds of all kinds, butterflies and plants and flowers that were native to the area.

And friendships, beautiful friendships made and treasured. From the casual acquaintance of fellow campers; to the longer time spent with other volunteers at the park; to the wonderful bonds of friendship made with the park staff. This has been a most rewarding experience.

When I was planning to become a fulltime RV’er, I had thought that taking on a volunteer role at state parks and forest lands could be a fun way to move about the states. Now after this time at Sinnemahoning, I’m convinced this is what I will strive to do. Volunteering gives you the best way to see and experience an area. Meeting some of the most wonderful and dedicated people, seeing our beautiful country in these precious areas set aside from buildings and commerce and cement, checking out the wildlife who call these places home and being allowed to visit and participate in these amazing parks is truly a blessing.

If you are thinking about an extended vacation, consider volunteering at Sinnemahoning State Park. The need is great and what you will derive from it is the most fabulous time out in nature, and what you will give is added support to a dedicated staff who work tirelessly to conserve and protect these beautiful places for us and our future generations. Time well spent!

Kate Griffith
RVW Mid-Atlantic Chapter

Editor’s Note:
Kate was recently accepted to do the nature programs at Table Rock State Park in Missouri for the summer of 2010. She has also applied to Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park in Arizona for winter 2010 as well.