Take your outdoor interests to the next level; join a Girl Scout Trailblazer Troop

By Catherine Amoriello

Is your favorite part about Girl Scouting the outdoor adventures? Could you spend all day swimming, hiking, camping or learning about the outdoor world around you? Are you an enthusiastic outdoorswoman looking to level up your skills? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you need to join a Girl Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania (GSHPA) Trailblazer Troop!

Girl Scouts from Troop 81597 in Fulton County earn their Trailblazer pin while working on their hiking badge at Blue Knob State Park. The girls climbed 2,000 feet to earn the badge and learned about wilderness first aid, stewardship and hiking skills.

Trailblazer Troops are special interest troops focused on the great outdoors. The troops zero in on five outdoor core competencies which include adventure sports, stewardship, hiking, camping and survivorship. For each competency, girls will strive to learn more about the activity, apply what they learn through participating in the activity, and share the activity in a way that engages others. Girls can focus on one concentration area or all five of them. The choice is theirs!

Trailblazer Troops are just like any other Girl Scout Troop. They still do badge work, complete Journeys, earn Higher Awards and go on trips – they just complete all of these tasks through an outdoors lens. While Trailblazer Troops are only available to girls in eighth through twelfth grade, there are no other requirements or prerequisites to join a troop. Trailblazer Troops are open to girls of all ability levels who are willing to complete the curriculum to earn their Trailblazer pin. But Sarah Baldwin, GSHPA Outdoor Program Manager, provides a dose of reality of what it means to be a Trailblazer.

Girl Scouts work on their survivorship skills by learning how to build a shelter with materials only found in nature.

“I think when people think of girls going outdoors, they don’t think of the skills. They think of girls going camping for a quick overnight or Girl Scout camp. It’s not getting dirty or roughing it in the woods, but it is. Especially with Trailblazers,” Baldwin said.

Like a traditional Girl Scout troop, Trailblazers have troop leaders to lead them through one adventure to the next. Any current troop leader can complete trainings to become a Trailblazer Troop Leader, and GSHPA welcomes new volunteers to sign on as leaders as well. Under the guidance of their troop leader, girls will have the opportunity to focus on outdoors skills such as diverse hiking and camping styles, orienteering, conservation practices, outdoor preparedness and safety, survival techniques and more.

Joining a Trailblazer Troop will not only improve girls’ outdoor competence, but will prove valuable in a multitude of career paths down the road. From environmental educator, to park ranger, to environmental advocacy lawyer, Trailblazer Troops open the door for girls to turn their passion for the outdoors into a lifestyle.

Girl Scouts prepare for their hiking expedition on the Appalachian Trail.

“There’s plenty of girls and women who hike the Appalachian Trail every year. The goal is to give girls confidence to do something similar,” Baldwin said.

For girls and troop leaders interested in learning more about Trailblazer Troops, be on the lookout for informational events this fall and winter. GSHPA will also be hosting a Trailblazer informational session at this year’s Virtual Volunteer Conference on Nov. 5.

Ready to get started now? Find a Trailblazer Troop to join near you by visiting GSHPA’s Trailblazer webpage and completing the Trailblazer Troop interest form.

Face a new outdoor challenge, get dirty, and embrace the wild – are YOU ready to be a Trailblazer?

Catherine Amoriello is a Marketing and Communications Coordinator specializing in writing and editing for Girl Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania. Reach her by email at camoriello@gshpa.org.

Camp Furnace Hills: A history buff’s perfect outdoor adventure

Go back in time to 1800s Pennsylvania life with a visit to Camp Furnace Hills.

By Catherine Amoriello

It’s the final week of our camp property blog series! This week we’re traveling to Girl Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania’s (GSHPA) Camp Furnace Hills.

CAMP FURNACE HILLS

Camp Furnace Hills is located in Lancaster County near Refreshing Mountain Retreat and Adventure Center and Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area. The property offers a wide range of lodging options including houses, rustic cabins and a modern lodge. Between unique historical programming and the capacity to host groups ranging in size from 17-40 people, this small camp has a lot to offer. Read on to learn more!

Camp Furnace Hills is home to historic Foxfire House.

Arguably the camp’s biggest draw, Furnace Hills Tenant House, more commonly known as Foxfire House, is a restored 19th century Swiss-German stone bank house. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this unique site features a ten-plate stove, squirrel tail bake oven, spring house and four-square garden. The property represents the historic early settlement of Swiss immigrants in Lancaster, Lebanon and Berks counties.

Camp Furnace Hills takes visitors “back in time” with historical programming.

With a piece of history right on the property, of course Camp Furnace Hills provides unique historical programming for visitors! Led by the Foxfire Team volunteers, visitors can learn how to cook and bake food without modern day appliances; try their hand at scherenschnitte (paper cutting design), tin punching, quilting, weaving, and paper stars; make simple toys; and discover (and possibly wear!) 1800s Pennsylvania German clothing.

Is Camp Furnace Hills the outdoor experience option for you? Make a reservation now and start planning your next adventure!

If you missed our other property feature stories, go check out Camp Small Valley, Camp Archbald and Camp Happy Valley on the GSHPA Blog now.

Catherine Amoriello is a Marketing and Communications Coordinator specializing in writing and editing for Girl Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania. Reach her by email at camoriello@gshpa.org.

Camp Happy Valley: Prime location lodging for your south central Pennsylvania adventures

Return from your local explorations to welcoming, affordable lodging at Camp Happy Valley.

By Catherine Amoriello

It’s week three of our camp property blog series and this week we’re venturing to Girl Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania’s (GSHPA) Camp Happy Valley!

CAMP HAPPY VALLEY

Camp Happy Valley is located in Adams County near Gettysburg and Liberty Mountain Resort. The camp boasts multiple year-round lodging options including a house, modern lodges, a rustic cabin and tent sites. Ideal for individuals or groups looking for a place to stay while exploring south central Pennsylvania attractions, Camp Happy Valley is home away from home for any visitor. Read on to learn what this camp has to offer!

Camp Happy Valley offers dual lodging and programming spaces.

The camp is home to Aspen and Skyloft lodges, two spacious units that guests can both sleep in and use for activity space. Aspen can sleep up to 23 people in its loft, and a peek over the edge reveals an expansive, open area below perfect for crafts, games or any other group needs. Skyloft offers two separate sleeping quarters in Sunrise and Sunset units that can sleep up to 19 people in each area. With a shared common space in the middle, this unit is perfect for groups looking to collaborate but require separate sleeping spaces, like school/youth groups or traveling co-ed companies.

Camp Happy Valley homes a unique slingshot course.

Test your aim by taking a run through the camp’s recently installed slingshot course! Built by a Girl Scout Troop, the course offers guests an outlet for some outdoor games and fun and also serves as a colorful art display. Challenge your buddies to a competition or test your own skills individually on the course and let your spirits be lifted by this vibrant Girl Scout creation!

Camp Happy Valley is a stone’s throw away from popular Pennsylvania attractions.

Fifteen minutes away from the heart of Gettysburg, the camp lodges visitors just down the road from one of Pennsylvania’s most historic cities. Your stay at Camp Happy Valley makes your adventure to the Jennie Wade House, Gettysburg National Military Park or any of the city’s quaint shops, restaurants and museums that much easier. Are you interested in an outdoor adventure at Liberty Mountain Resort? Staying at Camp Happy Valley puts you less than 10 minutes away from the resort at a fraction of the cost of other available nearby lodging options.

Is Camp Happy Valley the camping option for you? Make a reservation now and start planning your next adventure!

If you missed our other property feature stories, go check out Camp Small ValleyCamp Archbald and Camp Furnace Hills on the GSHPA Blog now.

Catherine Amoriello is a Marketing and Communications Coordinator specializing in writing and editing for Girl Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania. Reach her by email at camoriello@gshpa.org.

Camp Archbald: Your northern Pennsylvanian getaway in the outdoors

Whether you’re looking to relax lakefront or immerse yourself in nature through a rustic camping experience, Camp Archbald welcomes you.

By Catherine Amoriello

We’re back again with the second feature of our camp property blog series! This week we’re taking a dive into Girl Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania’s (GSHPA) Camp Archbald.

CAMP ARCHBALD

Camp Archbald is located in Susquehanna County less than 30 miles from the New York state line. The camp’s lodging options include platform tents, rustic cabins and lodges, and modern cabins and lodges. Camp Archbald has many unique features with a few standout characteristics. Read on to learn why this camp is held near and dear to so many visitors!

Camp Archbald is the only GSHPA camp with a lake.

The camp features Ely Lake, providing visitors the opportunity to engage in aquatic activities such as canoeing, kayaking and swimming. The lake provides water-lovers ample space for a range of water activities.

Camp Archbald provides unique lodging through Treetops and Friendship units.

Looking to be one with your natural surroundings? Stay in Treetops, a modern cabin. Perched atop a hill, this cabin provides an immersive nature experience. Another great lodging option is the camp’s Friendship modern lodge. Ideal for larger groups, Friendship can accommodate up to 40 people on mattresses and provides a large space for program activities.

Camp Archbald is a living piece of American history.
Camp Archbald is the second-oldest Girl Scout camp in the U.S.

The camp boasts rich history as the second-oldest Girl Scout camp in the U.S. The camp was founded in 1920 by the Scranton Pocono Girl Scout council and the camp’s Trading Post, a building that was developed in 1921, still stands today. While more modern developments have since been added to the camp, including Laura Muia Dining Hall and outdoor adventure amenities, Camp Archbald still retains many of its original historic roots for visitors to enjoy.

Is Camp Archbald the camping option for you? Make a reservation now and start planning your next adventure!

If you missed our other property feature stories, go check out Camp Small ValleyCamp Furnace Hills and Camp Happy Valley on the GSHPA Blog now.

Catherine Amoriello is a Marketing and Communications Coordinator specializing in writing and editing for Girl Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania. Reach her by email at camoriello@gshpa.org.

Camp Small Valley: Your best bet for a traditional Pennsylvania outdoor experience

With yurts, a swimming pool, programming space and more, Camp Small Valley delivers for those looking for a limitless outdoor adventure.

By Catherine Amoriello

The wait is finally over – spring is here and summer is just around the corner! As we pack away our winter attire and welcome back our flip flops and swimsuits, girls from near and far are getting ready to attend Girl Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania (GSHPA) Summer Camps in Adams, Dauphin, Lancaster and Susquehanna counties. But here’s a little secret many don’t know – girls aren’t the only ones who can have fun at a GSHPA campground!

While GSHPA camp properties are home to many girls for Girl Scout events and camps, any individual, school group or small club/hobby group is welcome to rent GSHPA camp properties for their needs. In an effort to share all the great opportunities GSHPA camps offer to EVERYONE, we’re hosting a camp property blog series throughout the month of May! In the next couple of weeks, we’re going to feature each GSHPA camp property and fill readers in on everything from lodging options to activities offered to features that can be found at all four properties.

From veteran outdoor thrill seekers, to Live Action Role Play (LARP) lovers, to novice campers looking to ease into the outdoors – you have a home at GSHPA camps.

CAMP SMALL VALLEY

We’re kicking off this blog series by featuring GSHPA’s largest campground, Camp Small Valley. Nestled in the mountains of Dauphin County, Camp Small Valley totals 792 acres with lodging options including cabins, tent platforms, yurts and lodges. This campground is home to GSHPA’s resident campers during the summer, providing a dining hall with a full commercial kitchen to meet the needs of longer-term stays.

Camp Small Valley has a lot to offer groups of various interests and needs with a few standout characteristics. Read on to learn why visitors can’t get enough of this limitless outdoor adventure option!

Camp Small Valley is the only GSHPA camp with yurts.
Girl Scout Camp Small Valley yurts.
Camp Small Valley’s yurts are a great lodging option for any group.

The camp’s yurts are its most popular lodging option and serve as a unique draw to the camp property. Yurts are circular-dome structures with walls that are built on platforms, a design that dates back nearly 3,000 years to Central Asia. The yurts comfortably accommodate larger groups and are available to rent any season making them an ideal lodging option year-round. GSHPA will be building two more yurts at the camp within the next year after having received funds allocated by the Dauphin County Commissioners.

Camp Small Valley is the only GSHPA camp with a pool.

The camp’s main pool is 30×70 feet and includes a shallow end about three feet deep and a deep end about seven feet deep. Featuring a zero-depth entry into a splash pad area two feet deep, the camp provides a perfect place for visitors to cool off, no matter their swimming abilities. A major plus? The pool overlooks beautiful Pennsylvania mountains serving up photo-worthy landscapes.

Camp Small Valley’s Star Center serves as a perfect space for programming.

The camp’s Star Center building includes a spacious downstairs crafts center. The activity space can provide up to 30 people with chairs and table area, providing a great space for program-led groups. Crafters, artists, gamers and experimenters – the Star Center is your creative haven!

Camp Small Valley provides endless opportunity for adventure.

The camp’s size makes it home to a variety of outdoor activities including swimming, archery, hiking trails, a climbing wall, tree/high ropes courses and so much more. Camp Small Valley’s land is also part of a conservancy with Manada Conservancy, and the camp is near Weiser State Forest and the Ned Smith Center for Nature and Art making it a great option for individuals seeking additional outdoor excursions.

Is Camp Small Valley the camping option for you? Make a reservation now and start planning your next adventure!

If you missed our other property feature stories, go check out Camp Furnace HillsCamp Archbald and Camp Happy Valley on the GSHPA Blog now.

Catherine Amoriello is a Marketing and Communications Coordinator specializing in writing and editing for Girl Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania. Reach her by email at camoriello@gshpa.org.

Girls and volunteers gather at Pennsylvania College of Technology for Girl Scout Tree Promise event

Girl Scouts will plant, protect or honor 5 million trees by 2025

By Kristian Beverly

The weather on May 1 didn’t seem like the ideal weather to plant 400 trees. It was overcast, chilly, muddy and rainy. Those four adjectives could conquer the confidence of a girl – if they weren’t Girl Scouts.

Girl Scouts Tree Planting sign at Penn College.

Over 80 girls traveled to Pennsylvania College of Technology’s Earth Science Campus in Allenwood, Pa., for the Girl Scout Tree Promise event. Some came in troops and others attended with their families. The Girl Scout Tree Promise is a nationwide movement to plant, protect or honor five million trees by 2025.

Before the event started, girls registered and received a pair of Penn College/GSHPA branded gloves and a Penn College drawstring bag from GSHPA staff.

GSHPA employees pose with some of the items for girls.

After registering, girls created necklaces and bracelets while others opted to explore around the pavilion.


Around 1 p.m., the rain stopped. Attendees were welcomed and given instructions for the day by organizers.

Each attendee received native trees or shrubs to plant. There were many types of trees or shrubs to be had, along with friends to see.

The girls learned how to plant bare root trees or shrubs. The ones with long roots had them shortened so they could adjust easier to their new home. Once they understood the planting steps, the girls used teamwork and hard work to plant and anchor their plants.

Trees were covered and stabilized to protect them from wildlife such as deer.

After planting, attendees could complete environmental activities created by Pennsylvania College of Technology.

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture visited with their The WoodMobile. Through interactive activities, children and adults learned about the impact of trees.

Thank you to everyone that attended to plant trees! It was definitely a success!

GSHPA receives $65,000 in gaming grant funds to build new yurts at Camp Small Valley

By Catherine Amoriello

Girl Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania (GSHPA) is excited to announce it has been awarded $65,000 in gaming grant funds to build two new yurts at Camp Small Valley in Dauphin County.

The funds come from revenue generated at Hollywood Casino and are allocated to local organizations by Dauphin County Commissioners. The grant is part of a total $8 million that will be shared with the casino’s host county and municipalities.

Yurt at girl-only camp property Camp Small Valley in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania.
The yurts at Camp Small Valley are the camp’s most popular lodging option and are available to rent any time of the year.

GSHPA applied for funds to build more yurts at Camp Small Valley because the current structures are its most popular lodging option and serve as a unique draw to the camp property. Yurts are circular-dome structures with walls that are built on platforms. This design dates back nearly 3,000 years to Central Asia. GSHPA’s yurts comfortably accommodate larger groups and are available to rent any season of the year making them an ideal lodging option year-round.

“Our girls love the yurts because their round shapes, bunk beds, screen doors and high ceilings make them fun to hang out in,” said Ginger Aurand, a troop leader for Service Unit (SU) 646. “I would recommend the yurts for all other Scouts, but especially to young Scouts who are experiencing camp for the first time. The yurts have a comfortable feel and almost feel home-like.”

The addition of these new yurts will create opportunity for more girls and camp visitors to use the property and enjoy their outdoor experience. GSHPA anticipates the new yurts being completed and ready for use by fall 2023.

Camp Small Valley hosts GSHPA’s summer resident camp and year-round, council-sponsored outdoor events. The yurts are a component of overnight camping with Girl Scouts, which is a longstanding and well-established element of the Girl Scout Leadership Experience (GSLE). We know that participation in outdoor programs promotes a higher level of engagement in environmental stewardship, and Girl Scouts who have monthly outdoor experiences are stronger problem-solvers and better challenge-seekers.

Camp Small Valley, its yurts and its other amenities are not only available to Girl Scouts but to any and all looking for a unique camping experience. Families, schools, organizations and individuals are welcome to rent lodging and amenities through GSHPA and are encouraged to learn more about GSHPA Summer Camp properties.

Catherine Amoriello is a Marketing and Communications Coordinator specializing in writing and editing for Girl Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania. Reach her by email at camoriello@gshpa.org.

Experience the magic of camp

By Catherine Amoriello

Girl Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania (GSHPA) is gearing up for another action-packed season of summer camp adventure. With themes like Fairy Garden Discovery, She’s Crafty, Survival Games, and Vintage Girl Scout, there’s an activity for every girl of any age and interest.

The magic of camp does not manifest overnight, but is carefully crafted by the GSHPA Outdoor Program team all year long. Led by Outdoor Program Manager Sarah Baldwin, the camp staff works tirelessly to put all the pieces together to create a camp experience girls will never forget.

“The outdoor movement is all across Girl Scouts right now, [and] camp is a huge part of that,” Baldwin said. “Camp is the tradition that people hang on to. It’s what they think of when they think of going outdoors.”

This rings especially true for Baldwin, who was once herself a Girl Scout.

“I was lucky that both my troop leaders wanted to do programs outside of the meetings,” Baldwin said of her time as a scout. “I really enjoyed getting to do those camping trips and I’ve always loved the outdoors. Being able to have those experiences was amazing.”

Baldwin in her element during an outdoor escapade.

Shortly after graduating college, the Massachusetts native took her passion for the outdoors across the U.S. From a wolf conservation in Indiana to a 4-H camp in South Carolina, she has traveled the country working at a variety of outdoor education centers and camps. With the skills and experiences she has gained throughout her career, Baldwin breathes life into camp at GSHPA’s four camp properties.

“We’ve seen over and over again that a girl-only environment allows our Girl Scouts to reach higher and discover more about themselves.”

GSHPA Outdoor Program Manager Sarah Baldwin

Baldwin unites with a predominantly female camp staff, on par with GSHPA’s unique girl-only camps and events. She said being able to have a camp where girls can see adult women be successful and get to connect and learn with them is an invaluable experience for campers.

“We’ve seen over and over again that a girl-only environment allows our Girl Scouts to reach higher and discover more about themselves without that peer pressure,” Baldwin said. “They find they’re succeeding in activities they wouldn’t associate with girls as much.”

Baldwin teaches a group of girls outdoor skills during one of GSHPA’s camp programs.

Success is also found at camp by girls who may struggle with learning in a traditional classroom setting. With new themes like Mystery Investigation, where girls will travel to Harrisburg University’s new forensic science lab and solve a mock-crime scene, and Potions & Wands, where campers will learn about aquaponics and make their own “potions” at Commonwealth Charter Academy’s (CCA) AgWorks lab, girls can take an outside-the-box approach to learning something new.

“Those kids who can’t learn in a classroom environment thrive,” said Baldwin. “The person the teacher calls the ‘troubled kid’ is shining at camp. They’re learning outside with a different hands-on approach.”

Although summer camp only lasts a few weeks, the acquired skills, moments of triumph, and newfound friendships last well beyond when the last camper leaves the property for the season.

“I got a letter from a camper in 2019 that was from a Senior girl scout. Basically it was her journey of camp and how much she appreciated our camp,” Baldwin said. “Camp has always been her home away from home. I read the letter to staff every year to show the impact of camp on the girls.”

Baldwin supervises swimmers at Camp Archbald during a 2021 summer camp.

These success stories from GSHPA’s camp program are what energize staff to plan impactful adventures, give their full time and attention to campers, and brave the elements, year after year.

“We are not a five-star hotel. It’s hot. We’re in the down pouring rain half the time. And they’re handling it like pros,” Baldwin said. “Every day is exhausting, but every day is worth it.”

Camp registration opens to Very Involved Campers (VICs) this week and to the general public Feb. 1. Check out GSHPA’s four camp properties Camp Archbald, Camp Happy Valley, Camp Furnace Hills, and Camp Small Valley.

Catherine Amoriello is a Marketing and Communications Coordinator specializing in writing and editing for Girl Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania. Reach her by email at camoriello@gshpa.org.

Photos: Planting Trees for a Promise

The Elliott Wildlife Values Project, American Forests and Girl Scouts have launched a tree planting and conservation initiative, and GSHPA Girl Scouts are stepping up.

Girl Scouts is setting out to plant five million trees around the country in the next five years. Girl Scouts here in Central Pa have already started! Girls had the opportunity with their family and volunteers to plant trees at Camp Furnace Hills in Lancaster County and Camp Small Valley in Dauphin County this summer.

Join our mission to protect the plant and the effects of climate change and learn more.

Click on the photo to view larger.

5 Million Trees in 5 Years

Five million trees planted in the next five years.

Girl Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania and Keystone 10 Million Tree Partnership share in protecting the environment.

Five million trees planted in the next five years.

It’s a bold nationwide initiative and one that the Girl Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania (GSHPA) is proud to support.

GSHPA is also honored to have a bold partner in this effort: Keystone 10 Million Tree Partnership, a program of Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

The Heart of Pa Council kicked off its local initiative in April by hosting its first tree-planting event at Camp Small Valley in northern Dauphin County. GSHPA Gold Award Girl Scout, Lauren Braught, led the charge.

Gold Award Girl Scout Laren Braught, left, assists a fellow Girl Scout in planting a tree at Camp Small Valley in Dauphin County.

Lauren’s Gold Award Project in the fall of 2020 involved planting 50 trees at Camp Small Valley. Topping that effort, she helped to plant 100 trees at the April event, which kicked off Girl Scouts USA Tree Promise. Lauren, a recent high school graduate from Cumberland County, provided instruction on tree planting to Girl Scout members and volunteers. Adults also joined in on the fun.

Gold Award Girl Scout Lauren Braught, from Cumberland County, helps plant trees at Camp Furnace Hills during an open house in Lancaster County in May.

“We were honored to have Lauren’s experience with Chesapeake Bay Foundation Student Leader program and dovetail that experience into our council’s Tree Promise kickoff,” said Lutricia Eberly, GSHPA Director of Outdoor and Program Experiences. “The power of that moment is that younger Girl Scouts are able to look up to Lauren, learn how to correctly plant trees, and be inspired for their own Gold Award project.”

A month later, Lauren was helping young Girl Scouts again as she assisted in planting dozens more trees at Camp Furnace Hill’s open house celebration on May 16.

Check out GSHPA’s event calendar for future opportunities to plant trees in your neighborhood.

What is the Tree Promise?

GSHPA Girl Scout preps a tree for planting during a open house at Camp Small Valley in Dauphin County.

Girl Scouts joined forces with the Elliott Wildlife Values Project and American Forests. What better person to ask to help plant, protect, and honor trees than the Girls Scouts? Members “use resources wisely” and “make the world a better place” every day by following the Girl Scout Law and Girl Scout Promise.

What is the Gold Award?

The Girl Scout Gold Award is the mark of the truly remarkable — proof that not only can she make a difference, but that she already has. Seniors and Ambassadors who earn the Gold Award tackle issues that are dear to them and drive lasting change in their communities and beyond.