Maple tour returns in early March with 18 sites
The fifth annual Maple Weekend, set for 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. March 9 and 10, offers not only the old-fashioned goodness of maple products, but also the modern-age technology that surrounds the industry.
“Technology has a lot to do with the maple industry now,” said Mike Lynch, who owns Baer Bros. Maple Camp along Sugar Cake Road in Somerset, along with his wife, Sherry, and sons, Cody and Reagan. “Visitors can come and test products and also see how modern equipment, like reverse osmosis or monitoring systems, for instance, makes a big difference in the end product.”
The Maple Weekend was Lynch’s brainchild from the beginning four years ago, when the first tour was offered with fewer than 10 camps. There are 18 different sites on this year’s agenda, with the exception of Black Bear Maple Camp, owned by Roger and Cindy Newman. The camp, along White Oak Hollow Road in Larimer Township, was scheduled to be on the tour for the first time this year, but it was destroyed by a fire on Feb. 12. The tour is in association with the Somerset County Maple Producers Association.
Lynch got the idea from other regions in the state where the same type of tour is conducted.
There are five maple producing regions in Pennsylvania, including Somerset County, but not all five have a maple weekend.
Lynch said that a CDL monitoring system employed at some of the camps checks tank levels, does remote starts and controls vacuum pumps, all from a smartphone.
The system allows maple producers to monitor what’s going on in the camp and in the woods, Lynch said. It saves time and money in the long run.
“It’s like a live show,” Lynch said. “Some people say, ‘We want to visit them all,’ but that’s not easy to do. At our camp, we get a lot of repeat customers who come out for the day and it becomes a tradition. Unlike many products we consume, customers get to see how maple products are processed.”
In addition to the 18 different camps on tour, the Listie Volunteer Fire Co. will be serving pancakes, buckwheat cakes, local sausage and pure maple syrup from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday at the Somerset Alliance Church. With a pancake house open, customers can start the day with breakfast and then go touring.
Everett Sechler, president of the Somerset County Maple Producers, opens his camp, Sechler Sugar Shack near Confluence, every year with the help of his wife, Christine, and other family members.
“I always say it comes at a time of year when people have camp fever and want to get out of the house after winter,” he said. “But, like anything else, it is dependent on the weather and some years are better than others.”
Sechler said that people simply like to get out, see old friends and make new ones, and tasting maple syrup and eating spotza is a good combination.
“It is surprising how many people do not realize what goes into a maple camp, and they mostly come to appreciate all the hard work the maple producers do to make a product,” he said.
All 18 locations will have syrup and treats. For more information, visit www.somersetcountymaple.org.
This year’s Maple Weekend Taste & Tour includes 18 locations. People may visit any or all of the participating camps. They are:
Somerset Historical Center
The Somerset Historical Center, 10649 Somerset Pike, is a heritage stop for learning about maple sugaring history and lore. Visitors can see a pre-1850 lean-to operation, an 1860s camp and maple exhibits, and sample the “toothsome” maple taffy treat spotza, freshly stirred sugar and burnt sugar cakes.
Baer Bros. Maple Camp
Owned by Mike and Sherry Lynch and children Cody and Reagan, this camp collects sap from over 5,000 taps. There will be sugar making, spotza, boiling on a wood-fired evaporator and tree tapping. The maple camp can be found along Appy Acres Road and the CDL maple equipment and maple products store are located at 234 Sugar Cake Road, Somerset.
Walnutdale Maple Farms
Billed as the “Land of Milk and Maple,” this camp, 287 Walnutdale Lane, Boswell, has 1,200 taps using state-of-the-art tubing, but visitors can still tap a maple tree the traditional way and gather buckets of sap at the sugar camp. Maple sundaes and a variety of products will be available. Lowell and Carna Friedline and Joel and Mary Friedline operate the camp.
Emerick’s Pure Maple Products
Located at 180 Ridge Road, Hyndman, this camp produces award-winning maple syrup from 5,000 taps near Kennel’s Mill in southeastern Somerset County. The camp offers maple syrup staples and unique items such as maple caramel corn, maple barbecue sauce and maple jelly. Horse-drawn wagon rides to the sugar bush will be back this year on Saturday only, weather permitting. The Emericks ask that visitors follow the signs and not their GPS.
Come see old traditions brought back to life at Holler-Hills Maple, 185 Faidley Road, Markleton. The camp has 1,700 taps and uses a Leader evaporator and an H20 Innovation reverse osmosis system to reduce boiling time, along with some handmade wooden keelers for tradition’s sake.
Listie Volunteer Fire Co. at Somerset Alliance Church
The fire department will provide pancakes, buckwheat pancakes, local sausage and local pure maple syrup from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and 10:30 a.m to 1 p.m. Sunday at the Somerset Alliance Church, 708 Stoystown Road.
Sechler Sugar Shack
This camp is nestled in the hills of the Turkeyfoot Valley at 7758 Kingwood Road near Confluence, where the Sechler family has continued a tradition of making fine maple products since 1850. The old techniques are continually being updated with modern technology to produce distinctive flavors. Visitors can meet fifth-, sixth-, seventh- and even eighth-generation maple producers while sampling the treats.
This camp, 1724 River Road, is located a short distance from Route 219, a half-mile south of Salisbury. The 13,000-tap operation, owned by Jason and Melissa Blocher, produces syrup using new technologies and age-old traditions. The camp features guided tours, educational demonstrations, antique maple equipment, a candy kitchen and maple samples. On Saturday, Tall Pines Distillery will feature its Maple Rye moonshine made with Milroy Farms pure maple syrup.
Robosson’s Pure Maple Products
Robosson’s Pure Maple Products is located just off Exit 50 of Interstate 68, three miles east of Rocky Gap Casino and State Park, at 223 Beans Cove Road, Clearville. It is a new maple camp with 1,500 taps, a reverse osmosis system and a wood-fired evaporator.
Paul Bunyan’s Maple Syrup
Founded by the Enos family, Paul Bunyan’s, located at 793 Gebhart Road near Rockwood, uses state-of-the-art equipment and takes pride in continuing the tradition of making award-winning maple products. The camp has a showroom that is fully stocked with pure maple products such as syrup, candy, sugar, cream and homemade buttermilk pancake mix.
Hillegas Sugar Camp
Hillegas Sugar Camp, 455 Dividing Ridge Road, Fairhope, has produced pure maple syrup since 1993. Owner Kyle Hillegas uses modern maple technology, including reverse osmosis, vacuum technology and an air-tight wood-fired arch. The family processes sap from 9,000 taps. Whitehorse Brewing will sell beer made with the camp’s maple syrup, and there will be face painting for children.
Lemmon Bros. Farms Sugar Camp
Lemmon Brothers Sugar Camp, 242 Lemmon Road, Markleton, was established in 2014. Nestled in the Allegheny Plateau, the camp has 4,500 taps on vacuum and an additional 100 keelers around the camp. Sap is collected through reverse osmosis and an oil-fired evaporator.
Arnold’s Sugar Camp
Arnold’s Sugar Camp, established in 1986, is a family-operated sugar camp nestled in the woods of Rockwood, at 3861 Water Level Road. The award-winning camp produces and sells syrup, sugar, cream, cakes and maple vinaigrette. It uses modern technologies, such as a Leader evaporator, reverse osmosis and filter press.
Sanner Maple Products
Sanner Maple Products, 174 Reservoir Road, Rockwood, is a fourth-generation sugaring operation with about 18,000 taps on vacuum. The camp has taffy, cotton candy and maple balsamic vinaigrette.
Livengood Bros. Maple Products
Livengood Bros. maple camp, 3064 Copper Kettle Highway, Rockwood, has been boiling for five years. It is a group effort involving friends and family with 2,000 taps. This year Coal Country Brewing will feature a maple beer for sampling using the camp’s maple syrup.
G&T Acre Maple Products
G&T Acre Maple Products, 599 Springs Road, Springs, will pass out samples and invite others to learn about the art of preparing maple syrup from tree to table. Tracy and Joel Elder ask people to join them in giving thanks to God for this wonderful natural resource. G&T will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday.
Brantview Farms Maple Camp
Brantview Farms Maple Camp, 347 Vanyo Road, Berlin, has been a way of life for generations, having roots extending as far back as 1832. The camp features an interpretive room where visitors can learn about the history of maple syrup, see antique farming tools and sample products from syrup to candy to cotton candy.
Kinsley Maple Syrup
Kinsley Maple Syrup, 4738 Huckleberry Highway, Berlin, will be open on Saturday only for the tour. The camp has 8,000 taps on pipeline with vacuum in Brothersvalley Township. The camp has two reverse osmosis machines and a large wood-fired evaporator with a separate finishing pan. The Kinsley children help in the woods and sugar camp, following in the footsteps of six generations of syrup makers. Syrup, cream and fudge will be available.