Short but scenic: Buttermilk Falls, Pa.

A short and sweet hike in Indiana County that promises a nice view at the end.


I’ve been doing a lot of in-area hiking lately, and recently made the short trip to New Florence, Pa., where you’ll find Buttermilk Falls.

IMG_20160424_173503.jpg Friend Amanda at Buttermilk Falls.

The falls are 45 feet tall, surrounded by a 48-acre natural area managed by Indiana County Parks & Trails.

The park includes a (very) short loop trail that’s incredibly easy, perfect for kids and families. The hike to the falls, however, is not quite as easy – at least not if you want a great view.

A short path down to the falls leads to an overlook, but the real beauty is found when you venture past the closed gate and hike down the side of the falls. Beware: Without proper hiking shoes, this is dangerous – especially after a recent rain.

Buttermilk Falls was featured once on Recreation News’ website for a weekly Waterfall Wednesday feature I write.


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Hiking (or not) in Ithaca, N.Y.

I visited Ithaca, N.Y. this week.


Originally, I’m from a little town on the Pennsylvania/New York-state border called Susquehanna. When people ask me where I’m from, I usually tell them Binghamton, N.Y., because that’s pretty darn close.

I took a few days off recently to visit with family and relax, and ended up making the short trek to Ithaca for, I thought, hiking and gorgeous views of waterfalls. While I didn’t do much hiking, Ithaca is “gorges,” as they say.

According to Visit Ithaca, the city is home to 150 waterfalls. That’s a lot. I was happy to see just three of them on Monday, Endfield Falls, Buttermilk Falls and Ithaca Falls.

Many of the trails were closed — I’m not sure if that was a seasonal thing or a result of the insane amount of rain the area saw in the past few weeks. I’ll definitely be returning to do the trails in the future…

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Local gem: IUP’s Co-op Recreation Park

“It’s a Wonderful Hike” is back, and today I’m featuring a local gem – the IUP Co-op Park.


As a resident of Indiana, Pa., I’m surrounded by some pretty great trails basically in the backyard. That’s great for those weeks when a road trip just isn’t doable.

Many people don’t take advantage of a park that’s right in town: Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s Co-op Park.

IMG_20160411_163339.jpg Murphy on an adventure at the IUP Co-op Park.

The park boasts 270 acres of woodlands, with more than 10 miles of hiking trails. The trails are as easy or as difficult as you make them. An easy loop around the mountain top (where the parking area is) makes for a great afternoon stroll, whereas the 5K route through the Co-op Farm is a little more challenging, with some pretty grueling hills on the way back up.

For those that don’t hike, there’s a disc golf course challenging enough that a friend of mine from out of state came to visit once JUST…

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How saving money saved my stress levels

Money sucks.

There’s really no better way to say it. Money is necessary to live, yet can be hard to manage. Money can make you happy one day, and make you sob the next.

People say money can’t buy happiness — and I believe it — but a little bit of money can really help ease your troubles.

And THAT is why it’s important to save. Not a lot. Just a little back up to help you get by.

I went though a phase where I was terrified of getting a flat tire. After getting one and having to fork out $400 I didn’t have, right out of college, I felt like that flat tire was actually the end of the world.

I realized later that I wasn’t afraid of getting a flat tire. I was afraid of getting a flat tire – or having any kind of car trouble – and not having anything left to my name after I fixed it.

So I realized I needed to save some money. I started an online savings account with Ally bank, and saved in small increments. I didn’t let myself have a choice – I had them automatically deducted from my paycheck.

The first couple of months went by and I thought that I couldn’t live without that cash. I transferred it back into my checking account almost every pay period. After a little mental training, I stopped transferring it, and started saving without even realizing it.

What happened then, was that just by having this small backup, I felt a little more secure and a little less stressed. When the day came to pay bills, I wasn’t weeping. When car trouble came up, I didn’t fret to pay for it.

Now, I know this is pretty simple financial stuff. But believe it or not, I know people that do not save a cent. Most of the time I get the “I make too little to save anything” excuse, but I’m telling you – if I can do it as a journalist, you can do it too. Put $20 into your account every paycheck. In a year you’ll have $520. That’s a pretty good buffer if you get a flat.

PSA: Stealing photos is not OK

More often than you would think, I stumble across people using photos that they don’t have rights to on social media and in print products. This just happened this week, when a few coworkers and I attended an event only to find the program filled with images taken by one of our company’s employees.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Personally I would be willing to give most organizations permission to use photos for a good cause, and I think in a lot of cases my company and other companies feel the same way. But ask for permission.

Taking photos from a publication’s website is not only in poor taste, it’s against the law. 

Copyright by definition and under federal law protects original works of authorship. A work of authorship includes literary, written, dramatic, artistic, musical and certain other types of works.

I don’t believe that people create things with the intention of breaking the law, though. I think there is a lack of education surrounding Copyright and fair use. So, here are some pointers when looking for images on the web:

  1. Understand usage terms like “Copyright,” “Fair Use” and “Creative Commons.”

Here’s an article that can help with that. You’ll find that you, in most cases, will only want to be using images that fall under Creative Commons.

2. Properly use search tools.

Don’t, PLEASE DON’T, go to Google and right click and save the first image you see that you like. Because of the way SEO works, you’re going to see images from the most trusted outlets first – which means these images are most likely copyrighted.

Instead, under Google’s “Search Tools” option, choose “labeled for reuse.”

3. Use free stock photo sites.

I wrote about some of my favorites in this blog post. Sometimes, these sites aren’t going to have what you’re looking for. But it’s worth a shot.

4. Ask permission.

As mentioned before, if you’re holding a fundraiser or benefit event, an organization is probably willing to help you out. Look up an organization’s contact information on their website. If they’re not willing to give you an image for free, chances are that it only costs a few dollars for a digital copy.

But make SURE to give that company or artist credit for their work. Photographers, videographers, artists, etc. work very hard. They deserve it.

More: Follow This Chart to Know If You Can Use an Image from the Internet

Social media pet peeves: A list

Patience: That’s one of the traits I told students at Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s PRSSA meeting on Tuesday that social media managers need to have. As a social media manager, you’re going to see an abundance of complaints and sometimes an abundance of stupidity – and you can’t let it get to you.

But, there are a few things that erk me. Here they are:

Over-quoting tweets

Brands, news outlets and other accounts spend a lot of time crafting messages. While some tweets open themselves to commentary, it’s more helpful to a brand for you to just retweet it in the form it was meant to be in.

Automated thank-you tweets

Bot-generated tweets like “My best retweets this week came from … ” are incredibly aggravating. If you’re actually glad somebody shared your content, thank them as a human being.

When brands post links to retail items that DON’T actually go to the item

Now, I’m not actually in the market for an engagement ring (#foreveralone), but A GIRL CAN DREAM. Case and point, this engagement ring is my actual dream … but if you click on the link it’s nowhere to be found on the Brilliant Earth website.


Post Hijackers

As part of my reporter duties, I spend a lot of time asking different groups around the community to weigh in on particular topics that I’m writing about. Sometimes, you’re just trying to write a nice, happy story, and people end up hijacking your post and turning it in to a complaint-fest.


I asked Twitter what their own peeves were:

Sunday Inspiration: Hiking to raise awareness about suicide

As part of my job for Recreation News, I spend quite a while each day looking (yes, I’m trolling) for great photos for readers to share using #LivePlayDo on Instagram.

hikingmiles4smiles - Home is not a place, it's a state of mind ⛺️

hikingmiles4smiles – Home is not a place, it’s a state of mind ⛺️

Today, I stumbled across a really inspirational account – @HikingMiles4Smiles.

These two ladies are hiking the Appalachian Trail during a campaign for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. From the website:

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) is the leading national not-for-profit organization exclusively dedicated to understanding and preventing suicide through research, education and advocacy, and to reaching out to people with mental disorders and those impacted by suicide.

Hannah and Danielle just recently started their hike in Georgia. They’re already 80 percent of the way to their $6,540 fundraising goal.

Donate to their cause here.

Danielle and Hannah online: