Sunday, June 10, 2018


When I was younger (which leaves lots of room for interpretation) I put my love of looking things up to drive my family crazy with tidbits about our vacation. I only remember doing it once but it must have left an impression (or perhaps irreversible damage) because it has been brought up more than once over the years.

Well, later this summer, my husband, sister and brother in law are going on a cruise. Baltimore to New England and Canada and back. So here I go again. "When I was younger" I didn't have the Internet to use for research or to write a blog. This could be fun. (evil laugh).

Keep in mind that the point of this game is to find truly useless trivia. Trivia that won't even win you a final Jeopardy question but might make you laugh if you let it. Also remember that whether or not a statement rises (or sinks) to the level of trivia depends on who is observing it. My game, my trivia. :)

Our start and end point is Baltimore. Did you know ...

  • That Baltimore has more public public statues and monuments than any other city in the U.S
  • That it is home to some of the earliest places on the National Register of Historic Distircts
  • Baltimore is an Anglicization of an Irish Name "Baile an ti Mohr" which means Town of Big Houses. 
  • Baltimore is home to the first umbrella factory. It was opened by a German immigrant named Francis L. Beehler in 1828. Although Beehler was first, it is the Gans brother who came later that developed the slogan "Born in Baltimore, Raised Everywhere". By 1922, Baltimore was producing 2 million umbrellas per year. 
    • On a related note, according to Maryland Weather, "Average annual precipitation: 40.76 inches. Peaks in July and August when thunderstorms average once every five days. Since 1871, Baltimore's recorded precipitation has averaged 41.94 inches a year, with the highest amount falling in 2003, when 62.66 inches fell."
  • Baltimore was the site of the first successful manned balloon launch. I'm guessing it was not raining that day. 
  • BWI Marhsall Airport is the first and only US Airport to have a dedicated trail for hiking and biking. (and yes I am wondering how or if that can be worked into our vacation) 
  • Baltimore is named after Lord Calvert, the 2nd Lord Baltimore.
And there you have it. 7 things about Baltimore. I probably should have made it 9 since it's a 9 day cruise but I got sidetracked by Cecil Calvert. I couldn't help wondering who the 1st Lord Baltimore was and why he didn't get a city named after him.

Well it turns out that the 1st Lord Baltimore was, George, Cecil's dad. George was apparently a nice guy and both King James I and Charles I liked him. BUT in 1625 George announced he had become Catholic and that disqualified him from holding office or working in Parliament. But being well liked helps obviously because King James I made him the First Baron of Baltimore - a town on the Southern coast of Ireland - anyway. Now that he had money and land, George wanted to explore the New World. He asked for and received a grant to the "Colony of Avalon" in Newfoundland. But it was too cold for the English Settlers so George asked for a grant for land further south near the Chesapeake bay. Unfortunately, George died before the paperwork could be finished so his son Cecil took the plan and ran with it. (Most of this came from "Exploring Maryland's Roots")

Ok. You've been warned. Next stop Boston. You can skip my blog for a few weeks or read at the risk of learning something you'll never need again!

Keep smiling and keep moving

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Horse-Shoe Trail Charlestown Elementary School to French Creek Elementary School

This section covers the second part of Map 1 and the first part of Map 2. We did them in reverse order on Sat June 2 and Sun June 3. Two days that could not have been more different. The total mileage for the weekend was 17 - equal to the total mileage expected on our longest day hike June 23rd. We hope these back to back days are good preparation for that.

Saturday, June 2nd had been forecasted to be rainy. Heavy downpours and thunderstorms were predicted all week for Saturday. On Friday night, Cecily Tynan reported that the storms would likely hold off until after 5 p.m. They did. However, the humidity that would precipitate into the deluges to come was present all day. Add in the sun and it was one very soupy day. We were lucky to be in the woods for a good portion of the day but that only slightly diminished the effect of the conditions.

I chose to schedule the piece from Chantilly Lane to French Creek first - on Saturday - because it was longer (10-ish miles) and the elevation was higher. There is a section here that our trail running friends call Stegosaurus. Click here to remind yourself what this dinosaur looked like. No sooner do you get down the hill then you are going steeply up again. Many of the ups deceive the climber as it looks like you are done but nope around the bend it keeps up a little bit more. We kept each other occupied by remembering that our trail running friends RUN this portion in both directions in the same run. It was a challenge and we both felt pretty proud finishing it on this soupy, hot day.

I have finally managed (I hope) to get the straps on my back pack appropriately set. I had no shoulder or back issues after this hike. YAY! :) I was also pleased that I hydrated enough as well. We hiked for 5ish miles before stopping to refuel on a stone wall at a farm called Seventeen Acre Wood Farm. I had stopped at Wawa on the way to meet Sara and picked up a Sausage, Egg and Cheese Sizzli. I took it out of it's cardboard container and placed it in a sandwich Tupperware container in my back pack. At 'lunchtime' it was only warm but it still tasted as good and the combo of food in  it the spot and held me over nicely to the end of our hike. With that in mind I'll have to create my own hiking sandwiches in the future.

On day 1 of this hike, the only humans we encountered were on bikes. We had to make way for a gaggle of geese crossing the road as we shuttled from end spot to start spot in the early AM. And we hiked right next to a bevy of bovines.

One of them looked like she was going to follow us along the fence-line. The path here was overgrown and extremely swampy. We both were literally sucked into the mud several times. 

Day 2- Sunday - Charlestown Elementary School to Chantilly Lane.

Today we met at yesterday's starting point and drove back to Charlestown Elementary school. Part of the section is one we did with two others - Mike and Naomi - about 5 years ago. We were pleased to see that the HST conservancy folks have moved a lot of this portion off road now. About 3 of the 7 miles were on road but spread out enough that it wasn't annoying. I enjoy an urban hike but not in my hiking shoes. 

This section is - relative to yesterday - flat. The rains came last night and with them brought a front that lowered the temps abut 25 degrees. There was a noticeable breeze the entire time and significantly less humidity. What a difference all that makes on the experience. 

The deer that were likely hiding yesterday were everywhere today. No photos because they are too quick for me but we crossed paths with them many times throughout the day. We also saw a LOT of horses at Rainbows End Farm. I couldn't resist informing Sara that we were following the yellow blazed trail at the end of the rainbow. 

Next up - 15 miles along the Appalachian Trail. The elevation will be more than yesterday but not as much as our longest day hike coming up. 

Keep smiling and keep moving. 

Saturday, May 5, 2018

In Search of Toleration

Today's hike was done for the specific purpose to find the Toleration Statue on the Wissahickon Creek. According to this article
"The statue was erected in 1883 and was carved by sculptor Herman Kim. It was bought by landowner John Welsh, a former Commissioner of the Fairmount Park. It was said that the Walsh purchased the statue at the 1876 Centennial Exposition. Welsh donated his land to the park prior to his death in 1886."
I had tried twice before (and failed) to find the statue. Today I was determined.

Sara and I set off a little after 8 a.m. along the Orange Trail on the east side of the Wissahickon Creek. It was a good day for a hike. Not too cold or too hot. After the last two days of 90 degrees and very high pollen counts we were grateful for the change.

According to the Friends of the Wissahickon the Orange Trail is "5.64 Miles | Average width 3 feet; Max obstacle height 24 inches | Average Grade: 11% Single track, natural surface (dirt and rock) trail that runs along the east side of the park. Terrain is varied, and sections of the trail are rugged"

Trail Obstacle 5-8-18; A little more than 24 inches high
The Orange Trail doesn't climb as much as the Yellow Trail on the other side of the creek but the trees, roots, rocks and stream crossings make it a great adventure.

The Fingerspan bridge comes just before the Toleration Statue. So I was excited when we found it. The Fingerspan bridge is a site-specific sculpture. And according to this article about it "The interior is half-tunnel, half- terrifying catwalk" In my opinion that is not an exaggeration. Sara can vouch that I did in fact cross it. She event took this photo to prove it.

We continued on toward Toleration. My trail running friends have told me that I likely have hiked right past Toleration and didn't realize it. Turns out they were right. Had we not looked up at just the right time we would have done it again. And there he was hidden high on a rock in the trees.

Toleration is built on a ledge known as Mom Rinker's Rock. According to this article (same one as linked above) Mom Rinker was either a spy or a witch. The spy legend says that she sat on the rock knitting and dropped balls of yarn containing the location of British Troops during the Revolutionary War. Also, according to the article there is a plaque near the rock that tells some of the story. We never saw the plaque which explains why we wondered where Mom RinKer's rock was while we were sitting on it!! 😁 We took a snack break here and then continued on.

We found a path down to Forbidden Drive just short of the end of the Orange Trail and headed back that way. Sara commented that the return trip was not quite as interesting. She's right but I'm really glad we didn't do it the other way.

On this hike we saw lots of chipmunks, lots of geese, some hawks, a turkey vulture, an oriole, three horses with riders and lots of people with dogs and/or children in tow. Oh and a bride and groom.

Next week we'll be on the Delaware Canal towpath between Washington Crossing and New Hope.

Keep smiling and keep moving

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Fog Horns on the Delaware River

Watching the bald eagle in the tree across the marsh
Today, Sara, Maritza, Kathleen and I walked Heinz Wildlife Refuge. The refuge is promoted as "America's First Urban Refuge established in 1972 for the purpose of preserving, restoring, and developing the natural area known as Tinicum Marsh and promoting environmental education." It's an interesting place smooshed (a very technical word) on land between the Delaware County towns of Folcroft and Norwood and the Philadelphia Airport. It is bordered on one side by I-95 and another side by Route 420. Despite the air and road traffic hum in the background it houses all sorts of nature.

After a cool rainy day yesterday, warmer air came in causing thick fog as the sun rose this morning. Most of it burned off the marsh before our hike began. The fog must have lingered on the Delaware River though as the sound of a fog horn could be heard at regular intervals during the first hour of our tour. I loved the sound. It made me think of new adventures shrouded in mystery. Well until my companions started musing about sailors returning from sea sounding the horn to tell their wives to get dinner ready. Something that none of us would have tolerated. :)

On this hike we saw swans, turtles, egrets, an eagle. deer, more small birds than I could count, dogs and lots and lots of people. Including an older gentleman riding a bike wearing a helmet with a mohawk and singing loudly to the world.

It was a great keep smiling keep moving day.


Saturday, April 21, 2018

It's the Little Things ....

That seemed to be the theme today. We mentioned it several times as we chatted and hiked our way from Valley Forge to Charlestown Elementary School along the Valley Creek Trail and Horse-Shoe Trails.

Sara, Tootsie and I met at the elementary school at 8 am and carpooled in Sara's car back to the Wilson Road parking area off Yellow Springs Road near the covered bridge. We usually start from Knox but the Wilson Road area has restrooms and one of us - :) :) - had a need. Michael messaged Friday evening to say he couldn't make it at 8 but would start from the Elementary School later in the morning and meet us then go back with us.

Unfortunately Sara has been recovering from big time respiratory distress so she was unable to go the whole way this time. I'm glad we had the opportunity to hike together this morning. Sara, I know you'll be out for the distance soon. Feel better, kid. Perki insisted that I take this photo for you.

Tootsie and I wondered how old "Kate" - the creator of this spot - is now. I'm sure she's in college or beyond. When we met up with Michael later he too was glad to hear that the Tin Man was still alive and well. We talked about how we all have so many photos of him that should anything happen we could easily recreate him. And I'm betting we will if it comes to that.

At the top of Mt Miser y (the Tin Man's home) the Horse-Shoe trail meanders through treed areas and developed areas. It seems that every time we go out there more and more houses have popped up. The first time did this section was in December 2012. With Mike K. (not to be confused with today's Michael) and Maryanne. It was for all of us that day in 2012 our first time on a blazed trail. It wasn't until we were finished that we understood how to read the blazes and interpret the direction we should travel. We got lost several times. Not far lost but enough that we had to pull out the map. A map that was already 6 years old by that time so with re-routes it was not entirely accurate.

Note for those that might be hiking with us later this year, I now have the 2018 maps and guidebook. :)

As Tootsie and I came out of the Diamond Rock Preserve and onto street again, I remember that we were getting close to a turn that Mike K, Maryanne and I missed in 2012. Unfortunately, my memory had us making the same turn mistake that we had made in 2012. We didn't get far off track though as we immediately noticed that we weren't able to see any yellow blazes up ahead.

We stopped, turned around and right at the moment Michael popped out of the woods from the direction we should have gone. We were far enough away that I wasn't sure it was him and later he said he wasn't sure it was us either but he waved and we waited and all was good. Tootsie and I would have found our way back on our own but talk about timing, right? Michael turned around then and walked back with us to the elementary school.

It was a gorgeously sunny day. The temperature was a bit chilly at the start but by the time we finished I was quite warm. In fact, had we further to go I would have been uncomfortable in long sleeves.

Keep Smiling Keep Moving