Running Wild With Jen Mathiesen: Trexler Nature Preserve and The Lehigh Valley Zoo

A group of penguins show off their moves for the crowd at the afternoon feeding session.

A group of penguins show off their moves for the crowd at the afternoon feeding session.

Jen Mathiesen, Web Editor

   This time of year, the weather seems to be the most unpredictable. The temperatures and elements are irregular: One day it’s freezing cold, and the next, you can walk around in a t-shirt. It’s hard to determine whether to run wild inside or outdoors. This past weekend the weather was beautiful and gave us hope for the coming spring, so we decided to get out and enjoy some time outside (comfortably).

   If you have a love for adventure, animals and nature, I have the perfect destination to share with you: the Lehigh Valley zoo, which is located within the Trexler Nature Preserve – two great places in one spot. The nature preserve and zoo are on Game Preserve Road in Schnecksville, Pa. These two locations are open from dawn to dusk, year round. The nature preserve has no admission charge, but there is an additional fee for access to the zoo. Consult www.lvzoo. org for more information. This destination is a little over an hour away from campus. Most of the travel time is on the Pennsylvania Turnpike – truly an effortless ride. However, remember the adventure begins as soon as you depart on your journey –  not when you reach the destination.

   To enter the central range of the preserve, one must cross the one-lane beautiful Schlicher’s Covered Bridge. The road then leads along a very scenic passage on the way to either the Lehigh Valley Zoo or the nature preserve trails. Our first stop was the zoo and our first encounter was the Jaindl Penguin Pavilion, which houses several penguins. At this point, how could you not be excited? The penguins were just the tip of the iceberg of all the animals waiting to be visited.

   The zoo hosts a large variety of critters, including river otters, kangaroos, wallabies, camels, ostriches, zebras and many others. There are also several educational and recreational activities to take part in along the pathways. The zoo has a lot to offer and is a great place to spend a few hours.

   The zoo was definitely a fun experience, but our favorite part of the trip was unquestionably hiking the Trexler Nature Preserve. This area is full of Mother Nature’s creations and will allow you to relax. The nature preserve consists of over 1,100 acres. The central range consists of more than 500 acres and is open to the public daily for hiking, biking, picnicking, nature watching, sledding, seeing the animals  and more. The 471 acre north range is open on a limited basis for an array of activities. The 99 acre south range is closed to the public at this time. This is a lot of land, and one is able to explore the trails and be one with nature.

   The vast acreage allows you to be a true explorer and gives you the ability to choose your own paths. Once we crossed the Ford of Jordan Creek, we took the first trail to the left, the Elk Ridge Trail. This 1.5 mile long trail puts you alongside the elk preserve, which is a fenced in area where wild elk reside. Once you reach the top of the trail, there is a remarkable view overlooking the zoo and the other areas of the preserve. After we caught our breath and took in the view, we continued on the path, which led us to a herd of bison. Yes, you read that right, bison. These two animal species are free roaming and wild in every sense of the word. However, they are monitored and cared for by the zoo.

   The nature preserve was originally founded by General Harry C. Trexler in the 1900s to help preserve wildlife, predominately to maintain the species of bison, elk and white tailed deer. Today the preserve still maintains Trexler’s objectives and welcomes visitors to catch a glimpse of incredible species of animals in their natural habitat. The Trexler Nature Preserve has so much to offer. I was not able to see all of it on my journey, and I hope to return there in the summer to explore more of the trails and to go to the Trexler Environmental Center.

   Between the zoo and the hiking we did, I would undeniably rank this adventure high in my book (which is getting full with all my running wild explorations). By the time you are done exploring, you will certainly be ready for some food. We found the Lehigh Valley area to hold an abundance of restaurants with delicious eats.