PA WILDS WINTER: Sunday Funday at Parker Dam
Over the past weekend, we went to Parker Dam State Park in Penfield, Jefferson County.
My 4-year-old was gifted her first pair of ice skates from her grandparents — light pink, two blades — the kind us overly exuberant and proud Mamas like to imagine every Olympian starts out on.
When we arrived at the beach of Parker Dam, there was a barrel fire burning, handmade wooden benches to sit down on and an expansive frozen beach to use as a playground.
A calm fog hung over the lake as I watched my baby girl realize one of her dreams — her first push off on ice skates. It looked like this: shuffle, shuffle, small bold leap; shuffle, shuffle, shuffle, slow half twist.
It continued this way for about an hour with the ice to ourselves. An afternoon of squealing smiles, boisterous laughter when the adults fell on their butts, and the well-deserved “wow” as we each took a moment, standing on the ice, in awe of how beautiful the lake and park are.
After a quick picnic by the fire, we went to the bathroom (that had a heated flush toilet — the holy grail of luxury when you’re an outdoor adventurer), and then we packed up.
But not to leave.
We went about 1/4 of a mile down the road to the power line, which had a sled riding hill.
Watching my fiancé barrel down this hill uncontrollably, screaming at the top of his lungs as our dogs chased him was a scene reminiscent of the sledding scene on National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. My daughter and I (climbing only halfway up the hill) went equally fast — so much so that she ended up losing both of her boots as she dragged her feet to try to slow down, all while squealed through fits of laughter.
“Again, again, again” was the mantra of the day for the little kid, as well as the adult “kids.”
At the end of the day, we loaded up in the car, knowing there is more we could have done there — snowmobiling (if that was our thing), hiking, snowshoeing, cross country skiing — but happy knowing it was an amazing day out that only cost a little planning, a few sandwiches, and a few gallons of gas.
Parker Dam is our nearby gem, but winter opportunities like these can be found all around the Wilds. To find out how to get outside where you are, visit the Department of Conservation & Natural Resources interactive winter recreation map at http://maps.dcnr.pa.gov/storymaps/winteractivities/#overview.