Winter Family Gathering



The Winter Family Gathering is a family-friendly cabin trip in January or February of each year. Activities can include hiking, sledding, baking, campfires, songs and storytelling. We welcome teens and families with young children. Most people stay overnight on Saturday night, but you can also just visit for the day. We meet at cabins or a lodge within 40 minutes of State College.


A typical weekend includes soup and bread on Friday, with a smaller group of families gathering for stories and hikes. More people arrive on Saturday morning, with programs starting at 9 or 10. We spend the day on Saturday exploring. At night, we have a series of cabin games, followed by a Talent Sharing. Sunday morning we wake up to a delicious breakfast, clean up the cabins, and hold a kid-friendly Meeting for Worship.  This can include worship sharing and reflection time. We head home by Sunday at 11.

Meals are potluck style. We ask every family to bring a dish, and a contribution toward dinner. For 2019, we will have three kitchens open to us for cooking. Each family brings food for one meal, as well as a contribution for dinner. We use Sign-Up Genius to plan ahead. Since we are at Black Moshannon, you will need to bring utensils and all dishwareBlack Moshannon does not have pots, pans, etc.

We have a nice lodge space this year – the former ski lodge at Black Moshannon. We have also reserved two smaller cabins which are two miles away. The cbins include beds for 20 people. In addition, many of us will be sleeping on the floor. Bring a sleeping bag and sleeping pad. Bring an air mattress if you have it. Of course, no alcohol, tobacco, or any drugs are allowed on the camp premises.

Note: We have three bathrooms to share among our group, so plan on showering at home! Scroll down on this web page for more info on lodging.

Packing List (updated 2019)

sleeping bag
sleeping pad or air mattress if you have it
sheets if you want them
hiking boots
indoor shoes / slippers
warm layers for hiking: fleece, vest, long johns
musical instruments and percussion
toothbrushes, toothpaste, toiletries
outdoor winter gear
bedtime books to read for young kids
potluck dish with serving utensils
extra pots, pans, salt, oil for cooking
bathroom soap (3 bathrooms)
any games or toys you’d enjoy
tools or instruments for the talent sharing night
skis or snow shoes
paper towels
any materials for the group

Note: Black Moshannon has a collection of cross country skis, ice skates, and GPS units that can be signed out at no cost. Please check whether the Black Mo office is open on weekends.

Hiking Map
We drew up a handy map that shows how to walk/ drive to the different cabins for 2019. The version posted here came up blurry, but you can receive one by emailing Johanna at

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What do we do on the trip?
    Eat food, laugh a lot, go hiking, explore new friendships, spend time outside.
  • Can I attend as a single adult?
    Yes! We welcome adults who act as Friendly Adult Presences. A list of roles for FAPs is on the Planning Google Doc. Friends who have arrived to accompany youth have found a rich and rewarding time with many ages, conversations, and ways to connect.
  • Will we sleep indoors?
    Yes, we have heated cabins with electricity. Some of us will sleep on the floor, some in beds. Bring a sleeping pad or air mattress if you have one.
  • Can I take a shower?
    No. This year we have only three bathrooms to share among the group (of roughly 20-40 people). These are for toilet needs, not showers. Thanks!
  • What are the cabins like?
    We have beds for 20, with more Friends sleeping on the floor.  


The modern cabins have a living room with couch and chairs, end tables, and lamps; two bedrooms-one with a full sized bed, the other with two sets of twin-size bunks; and a kitchen area with an electric stove, refrigerator, a sink with hot/cold running water, and microwave oven. There are no cooking utensils, pots, or pans in the cabins. The bathroom has a flush toilet and a sink. The cabins have electricity.

This year we have rented Cabin 17 (same size as in former years), Cabin 13 (slightly larger with a fire ring), and Cabin 20 (the former ski lodge). More info: DCNR link

Friendly Adult Presences
We welcome folks without children who can help as Friendly Adult Presences (FAPs). Here are some roles you may enjoy:


  • We usually have a smaller group Friday night. You can join the Friday night discussion about building strong community.
  • Take photos of meals, young people and the cabins
  • Lead a night hike or campfire (if people are interested)- Isabelle can do if needed


  • Reach out to older teens as they arrive and find what interests them
  • Assist or lead an intergenerational game (Saturday morning)
  • Encourage hikers who are getting tired (Saturday, 10-3)
  • Play with children ages 3-8 while the older ones go hiking (Sat afternoon)
  • Co-facilitate a discussion with high school students (Saturday afternoon)
  • Bring a musical instrument and sing songs (might be especially nice after we come back from hiking)
  • Help prepare supper (Saturday 5-6)
  • Attend “News of Me,” a sharing time for high school students, and help by setting the tone and holding space (Saturday night)
  • Assist with a baking project (see schedule)
  • Take pictures and upload them!



  • At this point we are not scheduling FAP roles for Sunday, because we may not have enough floor space for FAPs to stay overnight on Saturday night. We are working with 3 cabins this year instead of six. Feel free to email Johanna later to see if there are beds.

History of the Winter Family Gathering
This retreat weekend began in 2010 as the “Black Mo trip.” Sam Findley coordinated, and convinced the park manager to open up rustic cabins for us. (These are usually closed, but Sam has a way with words.) In years since, we have moved to more modern lodging, though high school students still remember learning how to light a fire to stay warm.

In 2018, we gathered at Camp Golden Pond and enjoyed the big, open lodge. Middlings from First Day School reported one year later, “That place was really great for hide ‘n’ seek!” In 2016 we met at Black Moshannon, and got lucky with both weather and schedules. DCNR rangers hosted a sledding program that weekend, and we had slopes covered with snow.

One winter, we gave a call to Black Moshannon to ask about the rustic cabins again. “Well, the manager said, “the former park mgr was nice, but she sometimes took her own liberties outside the policy.”

For information specific to this year, scroll down.



Group Games: Storytelling by Sentence, Tarp Drop, Spoons. Possible stargazing. Bedtime Stories for younger ones

10:00 Lights Out

8:30  Breakfast in Cabin 20
10:00 Hike: Lake Loop Trail to Shingle Mill Trail.
Sledding/ Indoor activities

12:00 Lunch
12:30 Boardwalk Hike + Exploring/ Baking

2:00 or 3:00 Hot Chocolate, Cabin time, Storytelling
4:00 Afternoon Activities. (Baking, Sledding, Wild People, Art)

6:00 Supper in Cabin 20
6:30 Youth Clean-Up Supper

7:00 Middlings/ High School: Check-In
7:30 Talent Sharing Bring a musical instrument or talent.

8:30 Middlings/ High School: News of Me
10:00 Bedtime/ Whisper in sleeping bags. Lights Out


7:00 Clean and Pack
8:15 Meeting for Worship

9:00 Breakfast in Cabin 20
9:30 Youth Clean Up Breakfast

10:00 Clean and pack.