Sunday, October 22, 2017

The Springfield Trail

I first heard about this trail through a share by the Smedley Park Facebook page to the Springfield Trail page. The trail goes through Smedley Park. Information about it was sketchy at best. I finally posted to the page asking if the trail was blazed and where the best access points might be. I was told there are no official trail-heads (yet) and that the trail blazes should be yellow although someone had gone through and painted blue on top of them. A little more Internet searching found some references to the trail in various online forums. These posts were a few years old but this gave me hope that it was in fact a trail I could follow.

Whatever happened it was going to be impossible to get lost. Well (spoiler alert) it actually was easy to lose the trail but being in the middle of an urban area I was very familiar with I would not be stranded. All I had to do was walk out to the road and walk back that way.

Some Google Mapping revealed that the trail crossed Paper Mill road in Smedley Park at the Trolley parking lot (not a stop just a parking area for the park). I decided to start there. Sure enough I found the first marker right away. For reference the trolley tracks are behind me here.

I decided to go clockwise. This decision was not very scientific. It amounted to doing a 360 circle to see where I could see another marker. 

Straight ahead on the tree about equidistant between the slides and the swings. So off I went. I spent the next 45 minutes or so tracking and backtracking through the trails in Smedley Park. I had to yield to two different groups of mountain bikers who were very polite and appropriately noisy so that they wouldn't sneak up on me. I followed blue/yellow blazes as best could. They weren't very consistent. Hence the backtracking. I ended up doing more or less a very wide 180 degree circle back to my car. Not a waste of time by any means. The park's trails are fun and enjoyable.  

Not ready to give up, I pulled out a photo of a map that I downloaded from the Springfield Trail's FB page to see if I could figure out where the trail went in a counter clockwise direction. The map showed the trail hugging the trolley tracks and with that I was able to locate the trail. 

The tracks are to the right of this photo; the previous marker is to the left and behind me; and the path goes up the hill. First a blue blaze and then a yellow on. Off I went. The trail had a few more blazes here although more blue than yellow and extremely overgrown most of the way making me wonder if I had wandered off course. I knew from my photo map that I would end up crossing the tracks and 320 at some point so I forged ahead with the tracks and the sound of the 320 traffic as my secondary guides. 

Finally I came the this ..... 

At the top is route 320. The close up photo makes the climb look crazier than it was. Before ascending though I backtracked several times to see if I had missed a marker but all markers -- blue and yellow appeared to go here. To the right I could have gone under 320 --- and perhaps that's where I was supposed to go --- but the blazes stopped and the drop off to the trolley tracks deterred me from trying it. 

At the top though there was no sign of any more blazes. I walked south on 320 crossing over the trolley tracks and took the station stairs to the bottom. I knew the trail crossed the tracks so at least now I was on the proper side. But no indication where the trail would go from here. 

Up ahead along the tracks - in the direction the trail should go - I saw a road crossing. I decided to head for it and if I couldn't find the trail I'd follow the road out to Baltimore Pike and head back to my car that way. Walking along the trolley track bed is likely illegal and I was forcefully honked at by the Trolley that passed but the shoulder was wide so I was in no danger of being hurt (although I wasn't sure about being arrested). As I got closer to the road crossing I noticed a park to my right and recognized it from photos others had taken of this trail. It was Thompson Park and several accounts I read about the trail mentioned a new bridge for the trail there to  cross the creek. 

Crossing the bridge on the trail here would take me back to the Springfield Mall Trolley station. I decided to go that way so I could see where I missed and to plan on another day to start the trail from this park and try to find the trail continuing counterclockwise. The trail was brightly marked here.... 

If you are able to magnify this photo you'll see half a dozen brilliant yellow blazes showing the way between the trees. Great, except that after that they died off again. I found a few faded ones and those along with the knowledge that the trail should follow the tracks back to the station I made my way back. However, once at the tracks and the station I turned back and saw no indication that where I had come from was in fact the way to go. 

From here I walked through the Springfield Mall backside parking lot and down into Smedley Park to my car. 

All and all I spent about 2 hours wandering around. It was a nice day to be out. And except for coming out with sticker bush buds all over me -- I mean ALL OVER --- it was a fun excursion. 

Keep smiling and keep moving 

Saturday, August 12, 2017

W is For .....

Today Dave and I biked the Heritage Rail Trail  from Hanover Junction Station to the Mason Dixon Line and back. All told about 20.5 miles give or take a 1/4 mile.

The weather forecast all week called for scattered T-storms today. Last night the storms looked like they would hold off until at least 5:00 p.m. so we decided to go for it. (it's now 6 and although looking stormy it hasn't started yet) It's a two hour drive from our house to Hanover Junction Station and if you know us you know we avoided the highway as much as possible. It was a pleasant drive out.

We set off for New Freedom Station (originally this was to be our turn around spot). Hanover and New Freedom are about 8+ miles apart. Here we were able to stop for a water refill break and to tour the museum inside the station. There was even just enough sun for a shadow photo.

Along the trail were white pillars with "W" on them. At the museum I learned that W did not stand for West. I had already figured that since we were headed South. It didn't make sense that it stood for water since there were so many of them. The museum display confirmed that too. No, the W stands for Whistle. As in "It's time to blow a warning whistle for the upcoming intersection". Of course I could have just asked Dave - who knows and loves all things trains - but it was hard to talk while riding. We need some helmet walkie talkies!

After the museum break, we decided it was worth it to go the final less than two miles to the Mason Dixon Line /Maryland Border. It seemed silly not to. Our rear ends would beg to differ later but mind over matter .... ummm in this case butt.

We rode back to Hanover Junction Station and toured that museum as well before heading back (via Car) into Glen Rock to have Lunner. Dave noticed the Great American Melting Pot restaurant from the trail. We learned that they have only been open for three weeks. Here is a photo of the sign on the table. For this, I was really glad we ate there.

It says We have hired Glen Rock
residents exclusively. Many of them
are new to serving and are not  yet
fully trained!  
20+ miles was a little ambitious (his words) for Dave on his first bike trip in over a year but we survived. (PIAs not withstanding) I was excited to hear him say "When we come back to do the other half of this trail....".

The trail is also part of PA Bike Route J. We've now completed the first 10+ miles from Maryland heading north. Maybe we should set a goal to section bike the whole thing! (Evil Grin)

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Three States. Two monuments. One mystery.

Today Sara and Julius and I hiked the Mason Dixon Trail from White Clay Creek Preserve to the Tri-State Marker and back. The first and last 3-ish miles meandered along White Clay Creek. The in between 4 miles weaved over and back across the PA-DE  and a little bit Maryland border.We had a good time.

During this hike we pondered such things as "Who do you call if you trip over your feet on the border between two states?" and "Why do those cornstalks have feet?"

We encountered the cornfield about a mile or so into the hike and noticed the feet on many of the stalks. Not all were intact though. A little Internet sleuthing when I got home reveals that the 'feet' are a tertiary root system called 'brace roots'. Turns out corn has two root systems normally. If the brace roots appear it likely means the main root system is dying. It's the corn's way of saving itself. At least that's what I took away from this article.

I still don't know the answer to the first question about falling but I didn't try all that had to find an answer either.

More to the point of this hike we visited the Arc Corner Monument. The monument marks the spot where the ARC boundary between PA and DE meets the straight East-West boundary. According to information found here at one time the ARC was marked by 46 stones at 1/2 mile intervals. As of 2006 (the date on this information piece) 41 of them still existed!! Finding them could make for an interesting adventure. Many are likely on private property though.

We continued on the trail in search of the Tri-State Marker. We found two markers. After I got home I did some more sleuthing to figure out why there were two markers.

Approaching more or less from the southern most entrance to the Tri-State Trail as we did, first you come to this stone. We realized though that it only had a "P" and an "M" inscribed in it and the date "1849". If this was a Tri-State Marker where was the D? We assumed at the time it was a fake out marker or a mistake of some kind. Turns out it is not. The original marker was wooden and placed by the original Mason - Dixon party in 1765. That marker was replaced with a stone marker in 1849 (the date inscribed) and only identifies PA and MD because in 1765 DE was part of PA.

The original wooden marker was a Mason - Dixon line marker noting the line between PA and MD. It is not referred to as the Tri-State marker because it does in fact mark the meeting of the three states. However, that was not it's original raison d'ĂȘtre.

I found references to the smaller marker we found just past the Dixon Marker. IN the photo you see Julius dancing around three states. But it's unclear what it is/was for. This smaller marker contains a plate on top that indicates it was placed by the US Coast and Geodetic Survey in 1935. Most references I could find to it do not make any statements as to why it's there. Yet the letters MDP on the plate led us to believe it was the 'real' marker. I'll have to do more research another time.

All in all we had a lovely stroll through White Clay Creek Preserve (in PA) and White Clay Creek State Park (in DE). With the very brief foray into Maryland the was a three state hike!

Keep smiling and Keep Moving!

Saturday, July 22, 2017

The Elephant on the River.

Today I took a bike ride mostly on road. I had planned to do this ride last week and then talked myself out of a road ride and headed for the Schuylkill River Trail and Perkiomen trails in the Audobon/Phoenixvill area. Although I didn't blog about last week's adventure I did have a great ride. Here's a photo.

As late as last night I was still debating a road ride today. In the end it came down to three ideas that convinced me to go for it. #1 - You won't know if you are ready until you try. Well duh, right? But sometimes one needs to smack oneself upside the head as a reminder of things. #2 - My planned route was along the East Coast Greenway. The ECG is a route designed for pedestrians and cyclists so it should be a safe assumption that the route is safe. #3 - if I got started and didn't enjoy it i could just turn around, right? Right.

I notice now that this sign doesn't say "Heinz".
You'll have to trust me. 
The ride started at Heinz Wildlife Refuge visitor center parking lot. By the time I arrived around 8ish am the lot was half full. Lots of folks where getting an early start on a day that promised heat and humidity. My plan was to follow the ECG to the Art Museum and then see how I felt before deciding to do more or turn around.

The route was well marked at every turn. I was glad to have brought my PA and DE ECG route guide as well. This told me where the turns were. There is not much signage between the turns and there were a few spots that had me checking the guide to make sure I hadn't missed something. The guide and the route did differ as I approached the Schuylkill River Trail boardwalk. The guide was written before the boardwalk (or the South Street entrance to it) was completed. I followed the signs rather than the book.

I've never been on the SRT boardwalk so turned left first to go to the end. The end is not far at all from the South Street entrance but why come all this was and not do the whole thing, right? I know some of you reading this would have been disappointed had I not turned left first. :)

The SRT was very crowded on the way to the Art Museum. Passing was a challenge. I was content to cruise along behind pedestrians and slower cyclists as I waiting for a good opening. Unfortunately there were other cyclists who were not so patient. I'm fine with them passing me -- I know I'm a conservative rider. What irked me is that they chose to pass without giving an warning that they were going to pass. Had I chosen any of those moments to make my move there would have been bodies, blood and possibly bike parts flying. I'm happy to report that I made it safely. And the irony of being concerned about the road portions of this ride has been noted.

Truth is, the road portion of this ride was easy peasy. There was one section where the bike lane was squished between a very active trolley line and the parking lane. I did find myself repeating over and over "Please don't open your car door" during that stretch.

Next stop was the Art Museum. To turn around or not. I felt pretty good so I decided to keep going. I backtracked to Martin Luther King Blvd and headed for the Falls Bridge. Despite the heat it was a great day to be out. There were lots of cyclists and runners on the road (closed to cars). I watched the Zoo Balloon go up and down a few times. There was a regatta on the river too.

As I approached the Falls Bridge I debated going across or just turning around. The Kelly Drive side is always more crowded. In the end I decided to cross the bridge and complete the loop. I'm so glad I did because if I had not I would have missed this ----

According to the signage nearby it's called "Big Bling" and it was put there in June and will sit on this spot until November. The artist is Martin Puryear. This page will give you more details about it and includes a time lapse video of its installation. The artist states that he prefers to allow folks to decide what it is. I think it looks like an elephant.

Back at the Art Museum, I sat on the step and watched tourists run up and down the "Rocky" steps while I ate very soupy trail bar. I new it would melt but it was the only thing that would fit in the small pouch of my bike hydration pouch. I will have to start wearing the backpack on these longer rides so I can pack better snacks that won't melt.

All told I rode 30 miles today. Here is a link to my route.

Keep smiling and keep moving.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Conestoga Trail; Kelly's Run Preserve to Pinnacle

Today I did the hike you see mapped here, with two exceptions. I went in the reverse direction (counterclockwise) and I went up and back on Conestoga Trail (Orange) rather than using the white Pinnacle Trail. I tried to ascend on the Pinnacle Trail but it was not well marked and there were lots of intersections. When the path was reduced to one foot in front of the other width I turned around and went back down.

Last night about 4 something a thunderstorm rolled through. It was spectacular in its pulsating lightening and odd in that it was moving East to West. When I left the house at just past 7 am the air was still thick with moisture and it smelled deliciously of spring. The smells were intensified by the recent rain - even the familiar odor of mushrooms and horses that is southern Chester County.

I arrived at Holtwood Park about 8:30. I'm thankful that you can now park there. For much of 2015-2016 the park was closed to all after it was purchased by PPL. The park is still closed but at least they allow parking to access the trail.

I had an fantastic time. I was alone in that I didn't have any regular hiking buddies with me. However, I leap-frogged a group of about a dozen "young men" who I'm guessing were 12-15. They were accompanied by two adults a man and a woman. I heard one of the them ask the woman "Did you always want to be a counselor". I'm guessing they were a church or school group. The boys were noisy but not obnoxiously so and very polite.They never treated me like the old woman that I am but as we descended a particularly rocky section of the Conestoga Trail, a few of them waited at the bottom - just barely concealing the fact that they wanted to make sure that I made it ok. At the end "our" hike several came up to me at my car to ask if I had a good day. One of them made me laugh when he argued with the counselors about going to sit in the picnic pavilion while they waited for some stragglers. "But the sign says...." (see above) He was right but there wasn't anyone around to care.

Today I felt validated in my decision to spend the extra money on collapsible trekking poles. The Conestoga Trail here is very rocky I needed both hands in some places to help me up. The poles were useless and in the way.

This does not look all that daunting in the photo but I had trouble finding good toe holds. It didn't help that the rocks were also slippery from the rain. I tried several times and just did not feel stable enough. I almost turned around and went back to my car. But I knew if I did I would be miserable. I ended up going up backwards. I felt much more secure digging my heals in and sliding up on my butt. It wasn't pretty but it got the job done. And fortunately this was one of the spots where I was alone.

The climb up was hard but the view at the top was worth it.

This was my view as I ate my lunch. The church/school group was behind me looking for snakes. I'm pleased to say they did not find any. They did find a turtle. It started to drizzle so we all started back down then.

More photos on my Facebook Page