Category Archives: EP NEPA Blogs

Day 7 – Rickett’s Glen State Park Hike

Today we hiked at Rickett’s Glen State Park. Accompanying us on the hike were PA Dept of Conservation and Natural Resources Regional Advisor Christine Dettore and Eastern Regional Manager Lorne Possinger.

DCNR Regional Advisors Christine Dettore and Lorne Possinger
DCNR Regional Advisor Christine Dettore and Eastern Regional Manager Lorne Possinger

This park is known for its beautiful waterfalls and its long and difficult Falls Trail. IMG_0977There are also many other amenities at the park such as recreational boating, picnic areas, campsites, and in the winter the park allows climbers to try their hand at ice climbing on their frozen waterfalls.

Ricketts Glen Park Mgr. Ben Stone

We hiked around four miles and then met up with park manager Ben Stone for a talk about the park and all of the exciting things it has to offer.
He explained to us a little bit how he became the park manager and what he has done in his four years of service as manager at Ricketts Glen State Park.

He also spoke about the process of controlled burns to study forest regrowth. This process involves taking around a 15-foot area and burning everything out to create a barrier from the forest to study its progression.

IMG_2021Ben also talked about why making stone statues along riverbeds is not a good idea. It removes many different species from their homes and causes disturbances in their ecosystems.
IMG_2020After lunch we hopped back on the trail to hike down the other side of the waterfalls. This was about another five miles down steep inclines.
IMG_0962IMG_0986Eventually we arrived back where we started and decided that what we really needed was some ice cream. So, off we went to Hillside Farms Dairy for some fresh and delicious ice cream to end our excursion.

Ryan, for the EP NEPA crew…

Day 6 – Blakely to Forest City – Bike Ride #2

IMG_2016Today was the first full-day bike ride. We met at Blakely Park and biked on the Lackawanna River Heritage Trail to Jermyn.
It is a nicely paved trail that is primarily wooded and shaded and it offers nice views of the calmly flowing river.  Thanks to trail signage in Jermyn, we learned that Jermyn was founded in 1874 and is known as “The Birthplace of First Aid in America” because the city offered the nation’s first class on first aid to coal miners.

IMG_2008After getting off the trail in Jermyn, we used a variety of roads in Mayfield and Carbondale to get to Forest City,IMG_2015

IMG_2012 with the last leg of our journey taking us up the relentless incline of Route 171 and past views of the Waymart wind turbines.

IMG_1901 We finally stopped for a “second breakfast” at the Bakery, Café, and Eatery attached to the Citgo station where we had omelets, muffins, pancakes, eggs, homefries, toast, and a lot of chocolate milk! IMG_1905The service was great and our waitress was nice enough to take a group photo and send us off with a wave.  We retraced our tire tracks back to Blakely, completing the 33 mile ride,  but not before thoroughly enjoying IMG_2011
the Rt 171 descent into Carbondale, a lot of roadside Queen Anne’s lace IMG_2010and other wildflowers alongside the road … and of course some photo ops.

The crew biking through downtown Carbondale

Tara, for the EP NEPA crew…

Day 5 – Lackawanna State Park Hike

The class started off the day with lectures by Dr. Sweeney and Professor Fay. Dr. Sweeney’s lecture was about oxygen consumption and how oxygen is distributed throughout the body and to muscles during exercise. Professor Fay’s lecture was on nutrition and how different nutrients are used by the body, such as proteins, lipids, carbohydrates, and vitamins and minerals.

After the lectures, the class drove to Lackawanna State Park for a hike with Dr. Vince Marshall, a Biology department ecologist. As soon as they got out of the car, it started pouring, so they had to go to Plan B, which was to have the lecture of Lackawanna State Park Environmental Educator Angela Lambert before rather than after the hike.

Angela began her lecture with a video on state parks and followed up with a wealth of information about Pennsylvania’s state park system. There are currently 121 state parks covering 300,000 acres with 335 million visitors each year. There is a Get Outdoors PA (GOPA) Program, which was set up to help families get outside and appreciate and respect nature. Almost all aspects of the program are free, and it is led by state park personnel. There also is a rating system for state parks. The PA goal was to have all parks have at least a silver leaf rating, and all of PA’s parks do. There is a Leave No Trace program, which teaches people how to take care of parks and leave little impact on the land during recreational activities such as camping.

Angela then talked about how park management offices often manage more than just one park, as is the case for the Lackawanna State Park management office. Angela also passed out maps and showed the class conservancy properties. A conservancy property is owned by a private landowner but the rights have been given to the park to use.

State parks also serve as sites for research, such as on bird migration, and as a habitats for many different species. State parks with bodies of water such as lakes will often have “rain gardens” which capture rain water and essentially filter it through plants to remove chemicals, silt, and other pollutants from the water that then drains into the lake.

After the lecture the rain had finally stopped, and the class drove to the trail and began the hike. While on the hike, Dr. Marshall pointed out one of the many stone walls found in the park’s forest lands and explained that the forest had once been a field, and the wall was a property marker. There is no old growth in the forest, with the area having been a farm in the 1800s. Vince also explained that no earthworms are native to the area, as they had all been wiped out by glaciers. All the earthworms in the area now had been relocated from other continents such as Europe.

Extreme Physiology students with Pennsylvania Environmental Council (PEC) Vice President Janet Sweeney and her intern Alec Cottone (left). Janet is External Lead to the Pocono Forest and Waters Conservation Landscape, which coordinated selection of course activity sites.
Extreme Physiology students with Pennsylvania Environmental Council (PEC) Vice President Janet Sweeney (left) and her intern Alec Cottone (center). Janet is External Lead to the Pocono Forests and Waters Conservation Landscape, which coordinated selection of all course activity sites.

The class stopped for a brief photo op on a bridge before heading back.

The class with Dr. Vince Marshall (right), who described the local ecology and history along the hike, and with PEC Intern Alec Cottone (third from left).

Impressions – Week 1

Ryan Clarkson
Virginia Farrell

•  Going into this course I knew it would be a challenge. I’m not in great shape and science was never my strong subject. I wanted both of those aspects to change. I knew it wouldn’t take overnight but this looked like a good way to start. I really appreciate seeing all of places I could go to walk, bike or hike. I really look forward to kayaking. As challenging as some of these activities are, I wouldn’t want anything to change. It has to be a challenge for it to work. I can’t stop recommending this course to my friends and I really do hope it becomes popular.

•  I enjoyed the fitness testing earlier in the week. It was interesting to have my own capabilities quantified, instead of guessing at them subjectively. The hike at the Bear Creek Preserve and the ride on the Lackawanna Heritage Valley Trail were nice, as they were both new territory for me. The only minor issue I had with the activities so far was the street bike ride in Scranton. I’m not quite as confident riding in traffic, and consider trails a more comfortable location. I suspect, however, that this sentiment will not be as prevalent with more experience in that style of biking.

Gared Zaboski
Version 2
Eva Rine
Terrence Sweeney
Version 2
Tara Fay

•  My impressions of the course… Well I really didn’t know what to expect. I had a basic understanding of exercise and how to stay healthy but from the first meeting we had before class started, I could tell I was about to get into a whole lot more. After finishing the first week I realized that there is a lot more to exercise than just running and keeping active. Many of the tests we did showed me that the course was really going to be “extreme.” I thought the first week went very well. I learned a lot of new material about what physiology really was and some things I could apply to my daily routine. I can’t really think of anything that I would like to see more or less of. I’m just excited to see what other activities we will get to do during the next few weeks!
•  I didn’t really know what to expect last week, but it turned out to be awesome. The first couple days were painful, but even though I was really sore, I was sorry to miss the first bike ride. The lectures are all really interesting, and the activities are enjoyable. The professors, classmates, and guests are all really friendly.

Day 4 – LHVA Scranton Trail – Bike ride #1

Today began with morning lectures by Michael Landram, Asst. Professor of Exercise Science, who described Principles of Exercise Training, and by Dani Arigo, Asst. Professor of Psychology, who described the Psychology of Exercise.

Exercise Science Asst. Prof. Michael Landram

LHVA_CNJ_RailroadAfter a quick lunch, we met Owen Worozbyt, Trail and Environmental Projects Manager, at the Lackawanna River Heritage Trail office on Railroad Ave and he led us on a bike ride on the Central New Jersey Railroad portion of the trail, stopping at a few points of interest.
Between Elm Street and the end of the paved portion of the trail in Taylor, there are several wood sculptures, including an American Indian, that Tom Austin from PennDot sculpted (more info here:

LHVA’s Owen Worozbyt (right) describes wood sculptures along the trail

There is also a trailside multi-use athletic field, an amphitheater, and a medicinal herb garden on the trailside.  Owen also took us to the section of the trail that is a spur to Providence Rd. near Scranton High School and showed us the recent trail work that widened that section of trail to make it more inviting to pedestrians.

Mural created along the newly improved CNJRR portion of the trail
Mural created along the newly improved CNJRR portion of the trail

Eventually Owen had to return to work, but the Extreme Phizzers continued on a ride through Scranton’s city streets.  Our ambition got the best of us as we were forced to take cover in the vestibule of a local elementary school while a thunderstorm boomed overhead.  Luckily, the storm passed quickly and we were able to resume our ride.  We traveled out to Green Ridge, did a lap around the Plot, huffed and puffed up Electric Street, and cruised back to the University of Scranton through the Hill Section.  Overall, it was an educational and exciting ~ 12-mile ride!

(The whole EP crew is indebted to the LHVA, who loaned the students beautiful hybrid bikes to use for the duration of the class. Thank you, LHVA!!!)

Tara Fay, for the EP NEPA crew…

Day 3 – Bear Creek Preserve Hike

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The intrepid Riley

Today, the class took a trip south to visit and hike portions of the vast 3,412 acre Bear Creek Preserve, just off Route 115. We were guided by Joe Vinton, the preserve manager, and his intrepid dog Riley.

The preserve is privately owned by the Natural Lands Trust. This organization  receives its funding from private donors and grants, and directs money toward projects centered on the restoration and preservation of forest lands. The preserve is considered a successional forest, meaning that the canopy has been removed in some segments, allowing lower vegetation to flourish and eventually supplant the taller trees. The forest is only 80 to 90 years of age, relatively young compared to similar ecosystems in the area.

The preserve is home to numerous species of flora and fauna, including bears, coyotes, songbirds, and the rare fly poison plant. The Natural Lands Trust also created vernal pools, or seasonal pools of water too shallow for fish, to help to encourage growth in the amphibian population and provide water sources for native animals.

Extreme Physiology crew with Bear Creek Preserve Manager Joe Vinton (right)

Our group hiked about 7 miles along several trails, including some distance along  separate propane and natural gas pipelines. Over the course of the trip, we covered a few hundred feet of elevation, ascending hills and descending again to a creek at the base of a valley. The hike lasted roughly 2 and half hours, with occasional stops for snacks or a helpful interjection of information about the area from our guide. The terrain was steep and exposed in sections, but flat and shaded in others.

A brief respite along the vigorous hike

Tomorrow, the class will spend the morning listening to two guest lectures, and then travel to the Lackawanna Heritage Trail for a bike ride in the afternoon.

Virginia Farrell & Gared, for the EP NEPA crew…

Human Performance Testing – Day 2

Today the class started out by performing the Wingate test, the purpose of which is to show peak anaerobic power. It is performed using a cycle ergometer, which is essentially a stationary bike with a feature to add weights (based on the person’s weight) to apply resistance to the main wheel. The students had to keep up as much speed as possible after the resistance was applied for 30 seconds. The number of revolutions was recorded every 5 seconds.

Wingate 2016-07-12

After the class finished the Wingate test, Assistant Professor Michael Landram talked about anaerobic respiration and showed the graphs of revolutions per 5 seconds and how it decreased significantly throughout the 30 seconds of the test, showing how inefficient anaerobic respiration is.

The class then proceeded to the 8th floor of Leahy Hall for a DEXA test, which is a kind of X-ray test that shows bone density, lean body fat, and muscle related to the skeletal system. It takes about 6 minutes to complete the scan. While waiting for a student to finish, the rest of the class learned about the unearthly Bod Pod and various other body fat measuring devices.

After finishing the DEXA scan, Dr. Sweeney and Professor Fay drove the students over to the Dunmore High track to complete the 1.5 mile run in the blazing sun. Some participants were excited to try to hatch some Pokémon eggs, while others simply dreaded their yearly run. 6 laps around the track proved to be quite difficult especially at the hottest time of the day and after the rigorous tests from earlier in the day and the day before.

Hot and sweaty, the class rode back to campus where Dr. Sweeney snuck us into the 3rd floor of the DeNaples Center to crash orientation lunch. Here the class enjoyed a free lunch and some well deserved ice cream. After lunch, the class went to the physiology lab to discuss an experiment Dr. Sweeney came up with to demonstrate blood delivery to muscles and oxygen consumption using an array of tubes we could open and close to symbolize capillaries and heat to symbolize oxygen. Class ended with a few questions to answer about the experiment and how it correllates to the human body.

The last test of the day was to carry the 5 pound Anatomy and Physiology books home.

Eva Rine and Ryan, for the EP NEPA crew…

Human Performance Testing – Day 1

Today the EP NEPA crew got the first glimpse of what they really signed up for.

To start the day, the class met at Dr. Sweeney’s office and after some brief introductions, proceeded down to the new Leahy Hall to conduct the first bout of fitness tests. Assistant Professor Michael Landram introduced the group to the Bruce protocol treadmill stress test and the various diagnostic tools that would measure heart rate, oxygen consumption (VO2), blood lactate levels, arterial oxygen saturation and perceived exertion during the exam.

The test itself required participants to run on the treadmill through 3 minute stages, each with progressively increasing speeds and inclines.
Most members of the class reached a point of exhaustion at or around the 5th stage, peaking at a speed of 5.0 miles per hour up an 18% incline.

Combo_Image_2This enabled the determination of each subject’s VO2max, or maximum oxygen consumption.

After the Bruce test, the class had lunch on the campus green and returned to the Loyola Science Center. There, Dr. Sweeney and Professor Fay gave a summary of the requirements for the course, and outlined the day’s remaining tests. The Harvard Step test was next on the docket. This required the class to step up and down from a block for 5 minutes. The size of these blocks varied a few inches based on each participant’s respective height. Immediately after the five minutes of exercise, heart rate measurements were taken for alternating 30 second intervals over the course of several minutes to determine the post-exercise decrease in heart rate. The faster the decline in heart rate, the fitter the subject was, and the less “oxygen debt” from exercise there was to make up. These heartbeat numbers were inserted into an equation, along with other variables, to produce a result that could be evaluated relative to a fitness index.

Lastly, the group performed the muscular strength section of the President’s adult fitness challenge. For this, we had to complete as many half sit-ups as possible in one minute, and separately, as many pushups as possible.

Tomorrow, the class will conclude fitness testing with the Wingate Anaerobic Test and a timed 1.5 mile run.

At the end of the course, the human performance tests will be repeated to determine the effect of the training done during the 3 1/2 weeks of the course.

Ryan Clarkson & Gared Zaboski, for the EP NEPA crew…