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Susquehanna Life

Episode 1: Susquehanna Life Out Loud Premieres - Spring 2020 The Secret is Out

Susquehanna Life Out Loud Premieres

Peterson Toscano (00:00):

Welcome to Susquehanna Life Out Loud, the companion podcast to Susquehanna Life magazine. I’m Peterson Toscano. In this episode we're talking about the spring 2020 issue of Susquehanna Life magazine. Susquehanna Life publisher Erica Shames will tell us about upcoming events in the region, including a really loud event that sounds potentially dangerous, but somehow beautiful and interesting art gets created. Trust me, it'll all make sense. 

Brian: Do we want to open it up to the world or is it our best kept secret? 

That's writer Brian Auman. He introduced me to an entire community here in the Valley I didn't even know existed. In a moment, we'll let you in on the secret. 

Now if you like hiking, biking, walking your dog or paddling, you're in luck. There's a group that's developing a series of trails and waterways. These will connect towns along a 500 mile stretch of the Susquehanna River. Alana Jajko tells us all about the Susquehanna Greenway Partnership. She also lets us know about trails you can enjoy right now. Later in the show you will hear our restaurant spotlight. Actually it's more of a food explosion. 

Peterson Toscano (01:17):

But for my first guest, Brian Auman. Brian grew up in Centre County and now lives in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. In the years between, though, Brian has seen the world.

Brian Auman (01:27):

Big city Philadelphia to digging wells in the Peace Corps in West Africa. So it's like I've been to Timbuktu and back.

Peterson Toscano (01:36):

Professionally, Brian is a landscape architect.

Brian  (01:39):

Large-scale watershed, environmental focused work. Most people want to ask me what shrubs I should plant in their yard and I'm like, if you've seen my yard, you would know not to ask me that question. So just, just let nature go is my concept.

Peterson (01:54):

I'm definitely curious about what Brian does for work, but I'm here for another reason. In the spring 2020 issue of Susquehanna Life magazine, you will read Brian's article about a well-kept secret. Oh, he's happy to tell you about it, but he's not yet sure we should let the word get out beyond the Susquehanna Valley.

Brian (02:13):

It's worthy of attracting people and we're really at the point of do, do we want to market it? Do we want to promote this area.

Peterson (02:21):

Brian is part of something new happening in our woods. He writes about an activity that is a lot of fun. It also provides young people with a fresh outlet and a place to learn and grow and it has the potential to contribute to the economy of the region. Brian is excited to tell us about the new and growing sport of interscholastic mountain biking.

Brian (02:43):

You know interscholastic mountain biking probably kicked off, you know, 15, 20 years ago in where you typically think of mountain biking, you know, California and Utah. Pennsylvania -- the league has been around for five years and this year there are going to be somewhere between 900 and a thousand riders and that's probably 30 some teams across the state of Pennsylvania. 

Speaker 4 (03:04):

And here in central Pennsylvania we have, you know, four teams. We have the Lycoming County Composite team. We have the Buffalo Valley that I'm part of. Centre County has a team and Danville actually has a school district based team.

Peterson (03:17):

Oh okay. That jingle you hear in the background? That's Brian's dog Bestie. She's eyeing my hand held mic and she thinks it's something for her to fetch. Now, Pennsylvania is part of a growing trend nationally.

Brian (03:33):

There's leagues in places you don't think of when you think of mountain biking. They're in Kansas and Nebraska, Indiana, so the Midwest is really growing.

Peterson (03:42):

While we love our mountains here in central Pennsylvania, I know people out West of the state and the country scoff. When they see our peaks, you call those mountains. And actually it is hard for me to imagine mountain biking in this region.

Brian (03:56):

Yeah. I think central Pennsylvania is really on the verge of being discovered as a, as a mountain bike destination. Yeah. You always hear that they're not real mountains, you know, and they're, they're actually more technical trails here than you would find in Colorado. You know, Colorado, Utah has these nice flowy trails. We have rock, you know, there's people that are excited about coming here and experiencing that because it is technical.

Peterson (04:22):

With access to these excellent trails, interscholastic mountain biking teams are on the rise. Young people in middle school and high school take part in regular practices, fun rides and state competitions.

Brian (04:36):

It's exciting to talk about competitions, but I think that's one of the best things about the sport is that really downplays the competition side of it. There's so many different ways to contribute. Some kids just ride for fun and they don't want to have anything to do with the competition side of it. You actually can be the state champion in your age group and it also counts how many volunteer hours you contribute to trail building and maintenance. Last year they were up fixing trails in Bald Eagle State Forest, so this is a direct contribution to the state of Pennsylvania and how they maintain and operate their trails. The league is being a good community player in all of this. Young people are trying to find their place, their niche in the community, in a team and a group. This just gives different kids different ways to show their skills and shine in different ways. So again, there's some really commendable things about the sport and what it does and how it builds team and how it builds community.

Peterson (05:33):

Okay. Having given up on my microphone, Bestie has lodged her complaint by chewing loudly on a bone.

Peterson (05:41):

The teams encourage lots of people to get involved, including those who are often left out.

Brian (05:52):

You know there's also this grit girls riding together trying to address this issue of the gender gap that you know, only 20% of participants in this sport are, are, are, are young women. I look at what's going on at Danville and Centre County is great examples that have this, you know, high percentage of young women participating in the sport and that's something I really hope to create that kind of environment here to foster that. Something else I like about the league is you have these kids getting into it and the parents are going out and buying bikes too. Just to be part of it.

Peterson (06:28):

In the spring 2020 issue of Susquehanna Life magazine, you will find Brian's article in the business life section of the magazine. It's part of a feature about economic development for the region.

Brian (06:40):

Yeah. I think our, our small town and rural landscapes are this, this region's greatest assets. And when I think of where I've gone mountain biking, that was just my favorites. They tended to be this small town that were, they were real places, they were authentic. We have that here. It's just distributed. It's not one town, but it's, it's Natalie, it's Danville, it's Lewisburg, it’s State College. You know, we have this regional approach that's not just one town. It's not like building something and hoping they'll come. I think it's more if we can build these things for our local community that, you know, they, they first and foremost see it as something for them that they benefit from. Then uh, you know, the tourism will come if it's done right. Just getting more people out in the environment, out in nature. I mean that's, that's kind of the goal of my profession and landscape architecture is to connect people to nature in a meaningful way.

Peterson (07:54):

Brian makes mountain biking sound so attractive. He also boast about how much young people like the sport, but I needed to find out for sure. In a moment I chat with two high school students. I want to find out the word on the trail directly from the riders. But first, with the warmer spring weather, residents of the Susquehanna Valley are crawling out of hibernation and looking for opportunities to get into nature and the spring 2020 issue of Susquehanna Life magazine. Alana Jajko writes about the Susquehanna  Greenway Partnership. She also highlights some of the best trails in the region. Her article may be very curious, so I called her up to find out more. But, wait, what exactly is agreeing way and what makes our so special?

Alana (08:45):

It's basically a combination of a green space and a Parkway, meaning that it's a green space in the sense that it's a corridor of land often in an urban area or a town, and it's usually utilized to connect people in places similar to a Parkway but minus the car. So it's really for hiking, walking, biking. They include ribbons of greenspace that envelops parks, trails, gardens, historic sites, natural features. Sometimes they follow a railroad bed, and in our case with the Susquehanna Greenway, it follows a natural feature that being the Susquehanna River. We wanted to bring this idea of the Greenway to central Pennsylvania and we wanted to have more trails than any other state in the United States, which is a big, big undertaking. Once complete, the Susquehanna Greenway will be a 500 mile corridor within Pennsylvania, including the West branch, the North branch, the middle, and the lower. The idea is to have people be able to walk, bike, or paddle from town to town along this greater network.

Peterson (09:51):

This project excites me a lot. I live in Sunbury. I daily enjoy walks around town and along the river.

Alana (09:58):

Yeah, and there's so many great opportunities in the Sunbury area already. You have the Shikellamy State Park is really a hotspot there, the overlook and the Marina and so many great resources to get outside and enjoy the outdoors.

Peterson (10:13):

But I'm ready to explore farther from home. Luckily Susquehanna Greenway Partnership produces three newsletters annually. In them, they explore three different types of outdoor activities.

Alana (10:25):

We have paddling, getting out kayaking on the water trail, parks and preserves. And then we have trails.

Peterson (10:32):

Alana's article in Susquehanna Life magazine highlights some of the best trails in the region. I asked her to tell us about two of these trails.

Speaker 5 (10:41):

We have the J Manley Robbins trail. Thought to be the first rail trail in the country. It's just about 3.8 miles. Good for running, hiking, biking, getting out with your dog, taking it for a walk. It's in the Hess recreation area in Montour County, and that's just a really beautiful trail. There's even a covered bridge there, which is kinda nice. And in the middle Susquehanna, we have the Fort Hunter park trail, another a riverfront trail. One of the most popular features of this area is the Rockville Bridge, which is I think the longest single arch railroad bridge in the world. You'll see trains. It's still active.

Peterson (11:21):

In her article. “Five of the Best Susquehanna Greenway Hikes,” Alana Jajko includes beautiful photographs of these trails and their magnificent views.

Alana (11:31):

So the Susquehanna Greenway is just a really great resource that's right in our backyard. It's so easy to get outside and hike or bike or paddle or hop in your kayak, get in the river, go for a walk and you know join up with a trail.

Peterson (11:45):

In addition to the article and the magazine, Alana tells us about online resources that can help you.

Alana (11:52):

So looking to learn more about these trails and also just any trails that are within the greater Susquehanna  Greenway network can visit the website at or or you can also find the Greenway on social media, both Instagram and Facebook. Every few weeks we do a trail feature Tuesday and always feature a new trail to help people get outdoors and really just enjoy the region and all these outdoor resources that we have right in our backyard.

Peterson (12:24):

Coming up in the show, you will hear about events in the region you do not want to miss. Plus an opportunity to sample a region's best restaurants. 

But there is still more for me to learn about mountain biking. Brian Auman, in his article, “The Secret is Out,” believes mountain biking can be a driver for regional economic growth. More importantly, he tells me interscholastic mountain biking provides an exciting new activity for middle and high school students. But what do these young people have to say about themselves? I chatted with Luly, a 10th grader, who spent most of her life in the State College area. When she was 12, though, she and her family lived in Spain for a year.

Luly (13:24):

I've been writing for four years at this point and I actually started when we lived in Spain because there's a lot of really great gravel biking. So my family kind of forced me to do that. And then I got pretty strong and when I came back to State College got thrown onto a mountain bike and I just really loved it.

Peterson (13:45):

Luly definitely enjoys being on a mountain biking team.

Luly (13:49):

It's really, really fun. You get to hang out with all your friends and it's like great release after a school day cause you can go and let some energy out. On Sundays, you will just go on a group ride somewhere that maybe is a little farther out of town or a little more difficult because we have more time and daylight.

Peterson (14:07):

Luly used to be part of competitive soccer teams. Ah, she didn't like that so much though.

Luly (14:12):

You had to be really good for the, and the coaches would favor the people who are better and mountain biking just isn't, isn't like that. It's, it's really about just getting anybody and everybody onto the mountain bike and just having fun about it. It's not about the competition.

Peterson (14:31):

I also spoke with Paul, a 15 year old on the Danville team. He also mentioned a different type of spirit on these biking teams.

Paul (14:40):

Uh, it's different from a sports such as soccer because you're, you're still on a team, but it's different. Your teammates are cheering for you. You don't really feel pressure from teammates that if you mess up, they're gonna get mad at you or something. Like if I mess up, it's okay. These guys know I'm doing my best. I like being outside riding my bike and I like the physical pain of going uphill and pushing yourself to go faster. And I love hanging out with my friends on the mountain bike team. Just the fellowship that I get with them.

Peterson (15:16):

Luly like Paul likes the physical exhilaration of the ride.

Luly (15:20):

It's kinda like riding a roller coaster except do you have control over their problem coaster? The faster you go you build up reflexes so they don't hit trees and stuff. If you're going really fast downhill, it's sort of just hanging on and hoping that those reflexes stay intact while you're flying down the hill. Mountain biking really gave me a lot of confidence. After coming back from Spain, I didn't have so many friends and mountain biking just really gave me a lot of confidence and has helped me get into a lot more things in high school that I probably wouldn't have had the guts to do if I didn't mountain bike.

Peterson (16:00):

I thought about something Brian almond told me about gender equity in the sport. How is it being a girl on a mountain biking team?

Luly (16:09):

Mountain biking is a predominantly male sport and it's really important to make sure that there's gender equity and making sure that girls feel comfortable joining teams and really encouraging girls to join. Like some teams in the league that I race with that are 50 boys and two girls, which I think is a little ridiculous. And I feel really strongly about getting more girls on bikes.

Peterson (16:39):

I asked Paul and Luly if they have any advice for young people curious about mountain biking.

Luly (16:45):

Always wear a helmet, all the time.

Paul (16:48):

You don't need to be nervous if your kid will practice the skills, and won't do anything stupid without practicing and all.

Peterson (16:56):

Paul also added some advice for parents,

Speaker 7 (16:59):

So if you're a parent, you should try not liking too because there's so many other parents who started mountain biking from their kids getting on the team,

Peterson (17:08):

Which got me thinking I should talk to a parent too. Lucky for me, Luly’s mom is a coach of a team.

Luly’s Mom(17:15):

So we're the Centre County Crows. CaCaw. You got to do a CaCaw afterwards.

Peterson (17:21):

Margo, Luly’s mom, loves the wilds of the Susquehanna  Valley woods, but she started out life in America's largest city.

Margo (17:32):

I grew up in New York city, smack dab in the middle of Manhattan. I bike commuted to school, which was pretty hairy but pretty fun and I wore a helmet. I'll do any type of biking. I love mountain biking, but if I can get on a bike everyday just to get to work, that's great too.

Peterson (17:49):

Margot enjoys coaching an interscholastic mountain biking team in part because of the careful training she received as a coach. She also sees how great it is for Luly and the other young riders.

Margot (18:01):

They've really put an effort to train their coaches. We go through quite a bit of training and they really help us learn how to teach those skills to kids. So I feel like it's a pretty, it's pretty safe in the sense that we really had these basically curriculum to make sure our kids are learning what they need to know in order to be on the trails and have fun. And then there's a strong effort made to have all kids feel like they belong there. Like they're included. That they can start from basically scratch and get the skills they need to be out in the, on the trails, and biking. Another benefit is the kids are learning a lifelong sport, something they'll be able to do for the rest of their life. I personally think one of the things I love most about it is having all these kids out in the woods. You know, they're out there, they're having fun seeing different natural settings. I think that's a really positive thing.

Peterson (18:52):

Yeah, it all sounds wonderful. In fact, it got me thinking I should try mountain biking out for myself until I remember how Luly and Paul described those wild rides they take in the woods. I don't know, maybe I'm just too old to build up new reflexes so I can avoid hitting trees. I followed up with Brian.

Brian (19:11):

This is one of the sports that can keep people active, you know, well into their sixties, seventies. And some of the riders that I ride with are still are better than I am, are in their seventies and uh, they're, they're an inspiration.

Peterson (19:26):

Okay. I'll think about it. And I hope you do too, especially if you are in middle school or high school.

Brian (19:33):

Informational sessions coming up here in Lewisburg at the Union County library on March 17th, April 16th and May 18th, 6:30 PM, at the Union County library. So anybody interested in coming out, learning more about it, what it entails. Uh, we'll have information that night. Buffalo Valley Composite MTB team, so that would get you to the Facebook page, Buffalo Valley Composite MTB team

Peterson (20:03):

To find out about other teams in Pennsylvania. Visit the website,, We have all these links for you in our show notes. If you're ever at a loss for what to do in the region, just open the pages of Susquehanna Life magazine. For instance, in the spring 2020 issue, you will find nearly 10 pages of events. They're organized by sections like history, holidays, festivals, food, art and music. So Susquehanna Life publisher Erica Shames tells us about a particularly loud and artful event coming up in the spring. 

Erica Shames: 

In April, there is an event called the Chainsaw Carver's Rendezvous, which started out as a tiny event in the backyard of someone's home in Ridgway, Pennsylvania, is now one of the largest of these chainsaw carving events in the country. Hundreds of carvers, hundreds of attendees, and it's really an amazing feat to see what can be created from basically a chainsaw. You know there are, each contestant is given an eight foot log and they're charged with the goal of creating an award winning piece of art and what emerges is really quite amazing.

Erica (21:33):

We chronicle this event and then talk about you know, where to go and how to access it. 


The Chainsaw Carver's rendezvous takes place April 23rd 24th and 25th in Ridgway, Pennsylvania. Dave Zukowsky wrote the story and includes photographs of carvers and their creations from last year's event.

Peterson (21:59):

I've been looking through the events listings and I've picked out some of the favorites that I think I'm going to and I thought I'd share them with you. They're only a few of the hundreds of events available.

Peterson (22:13):

I'm really excited about Duelin’ Smokin’ Celtic music at Community Arts Center in Williamsport on March 26th. The next day, March 27th, there's Mysteries of Monarch Migration at Nolde Forest Environmental Education Center in Reading. I'm very interested in seeing the Trinity Irish Dance Company perform at Bloomsburg University on March 29th.  I am super excited about the Pennsylvania Maple Festival in Meyersdale. It's March 28th, 29th, and April 1st through 5th. You can see our online PA Maple Festival Guide at There's an opportunity to get outdoors to Promise Land State Park in Greentown for Eagles, Masters of the Sky. That's on April 11th. , and  May 1st through the 17th we can enjoy the musical, “Singing in the Rain” at the Whitaker Center in Harrisburg and then from May 3rd to June 14th you can see the Needle Art Exhibit at Fort Hunter Mansion and when I go there, I'm also going to enjoy that Fort Hunter Greenway Trail I just learned about. Oh and the Covered Bridge Bus Tour in Columbia County takes off on May 16th . And there are so many more events. These include events for children and for the whole family. There's also a special listing of events to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. 

Peterson (23:46):

We cannot end this episode of Susquehanna Life Out Loud without talking about food. Every issue of the magazine, you will find a recipe that's just right for the season. I just returned from the store with the ingredients for the recipe in this spring 2020 issue. Erica Shames tells us about it.

Erica (24:03):

The recipe is actually one that I created. It's one of my favorite dishes of all time called Cold Sesame Noodles with Raw Vegetables. It's pretty simple. It's a matter of creating a sauce that consists of peanut butter, tahini, ginger, garlic, all kinds of different pungent flavors, soy sauce and combining them and pouring them over either soba noodles if you want, like something whole wheat and healthy, or linguine if you're just looking for something that tastes really good. And then also cutting up a whole bunch of raw vegetables like cucumbers or scallions or peppers, those kinds of things, and then mixing the whole thing together and it really is quite delicious.

Peterson (25:00):

At this point of the show, I would tell you about a specific amazing restaurant featured in the issue, but spring is a special time for eating in the Susquehanna Valley. There's no better way to sample the best of what restaurants offer than by taking part in something called Restaurant Week. For about a week, you can pick from various restaurants where you get a stunning meal, which usually includes multiple courses. You'll choose from a specially created menu just for the Restaurant Week. You see these restaurants take the opportunity to show off what they do best, so get ready to dig in because this spring we have multiple counties announcing they're taking part in restaurant week. In Montour and Columbia counties, Restaurant Week will be March 20th to the 29th. Snyder, Union and Northumberland counties will have their restaurant week April 19th to the 26th. Learn more about restaurants in the region in the spring 2020 issue of Susquehanna Life magazine.

Peterson (26:10):

Thank you for listening to Susquehanna Life Out Loud. Our podcast is available on Spotify, Google Play, Stitcher Radio and Apple podcast. Since we're a very new podcast, giving us a rating and a review will help increase our visibility. And if you like what you heard today, please share the podcast with your friends. Many thanks to my guest, Brian Auman, Luly, Paul, Margo, Alana Jajko, Susquehanna Life Erica Shames. Oh and of course Bestie the dog. Feel free to visit us online at There you will find a comprehensive list of the many businesses that sell our magazine, or if you want us to come directly to you, look at our subscription options. Just visit Send comments, suggestions, and questions about the podcast to You can follow us on Facebook and also see many beautiful photographs through our Instagram account. You can find our show notes with links to our guests and the many resources I mentioned in today's show.

Peterson (27:15):

Just visit Susquehanna Life Out Loud is written and edited by me, Peterson Toscano. This episode of Susquehanna Life Out Loud has been brought to you by, well, it could be brought to you by your business or your organization. We're looking for sponsors for the podcast and the wonderful thing about a podcast is your ad remains out there, unlike radio where it plays and then it doesn't. Your ad will always be at the end of this podcast. So in the weeks, months, years, as listenership grows, people will continue to hear your ad. To find out about sponsoring options, email us at Thank you for listening and enjoy spring 2020

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