Sunday, December 2, 2012

Horshoe Trail Part I; Valley Forge to Great Valley Nature Center

This morning Maryann R., Mike K. and I hiked the first 7 miles on The Horseshoe Trail.

When I was training for the 2007 MS Walk I did a lot of walking out at Valley Forge and saw the signs for the Horseshoe Trail. I purchased a guide book in the visitor center bookstore promising myself to hike some of it some day. That was 6 years ago. Better now than never I suppose. :)

The trail is marked with yellow blazes
Some were more difficult to read than others
The trail begins at the intersection of Route 252 and Route 23 and continues for 141.3 miles where it joins with the Applachain trail in Dauphin County. At 7 miles per trip it will take 20 hikes to do it all. Today's hike only took 2 hours and 45 minutes. So, assuming accomodating access points, I think it will be possible to tackle slightly larger pieces at one time in the future. Or maybe take on a two day venture?

We parked a car at the Great Valley Nature Center in Malvern. I've been told this is a neat place to visit and it appeared so. I think I'll have to go back someday when it is open. We met up at the Washington's Headquarters at Valley Forge park to begin our hike. It is only a few minutes walk from there to the start of the trail.

About a half mile in are the remains of the Colonial Springs Bottling plant originally operated by Benjamin Franklin Fisher in the 1800's. In the early 1900's - the guidebook says - the property was purchased by Chares Hires of Hires Root Beer fame. Click here for a history of Valley Forge Mountain where much of our hike took place. The link includes mention of the bottling plant, the trail, how Mount Misery and Mount Joy got their names and other neat stuff.

Colonial Bottling Plant ruins

Another view of the Bottling Plant
Near the 3 mile mark of the hike we passed the Wharton Esherick Museum. It is housed in a very interesting looking building which according to the website is a National Historic Landmark. Mr. Esherick was a wood sculptor whose motto (according to the website) was "If it isn't fun, it isn't worth doing". This looks like another place worth visiting.

The trail follows paved road in a few places but is still mostly on trails through wooded areas. At some points it goes between the boundaries of private property. We saw houses and barns of varying sizes. We passed an Alpaca farm. I wish I had read the guidebook more closely before going out. Apparantly we passed very near some interesting sites that would have required only a small detour.

Just before the end of today's hike
we crossed this abandoned rail road.
I wonder what it was for? We surmised
it was to transport supplies for
the various forges in the area but
I haven't found any confirmation of that.
Here is a link to our hike as recorded by my Garmin I forgot to switch the mode so the watch thinks we were on the slowest bike ride ever but the distance and elevation profiles are accurate. :)

This was a fun hike and I look forward to Part II. If you are interested in hiking with us next time let me know and I'll keep you informed.

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