Saturday, June 28, 2014

Walking on the Railroad All the Live Long Day

We set out to hike the Mason Dixon Trail today. Candy and I met at Chadds Ford Elementary School and set off about 8:05. 

This photo was taken on the
way back but it shows the blue
and white blazes. 
At this juncture the Mason Dixon Trail (blue blazes) and Brandywine Trail (white blazes) run together. About 2 miles in we realized we were only seeing white blazes. And even before we lost the MD-T, its blazes were few and far between. We had a map but the scale was small and the turn by turn print directions required me to wear my glasses. I had them with me but they are only for reading. They interfere with my depth perception otherwise. Not something you want on the trail.

After I got home I read the map and directions closely and I know where we went wrong but I'm certain there was no blue blazes there. Of course the field of stinging nettles we had just crossed through may have clouded our vision. As I type this - 4 hours later - my shins are still buzzing.

The path we were on was following a rail line. We had crossed it twice already. It was shortly after the second crossing that we should have come to a road-or so thinks the map. Anyway we opted to hop up on the rails instead of risking trouble on the Brandywine Trail. I had read that the BT is for members of the maintaining clubs only and permission was required to hike it. That is strange, I think, and briefly considered asking for forgiveness rather than permission. Maybe next time.

We followed the rail line for another 2 or so miles. The best I can glean from Google is that it is part of the Wilmington and Northern Railroad. This line appears to have many segments between Wilmington and Reading. Assuming I'm understanding what I read, one section is now part of the Chester Valley Trail. And another section was purchased by Berks County also with the intention of making it a trail. As we walked - without the knowledge I just shared with you - we thought perhaps they were going to turn this portion into a rail trail. It was a confusing stretch. In several spots there were railroad ties piled up as if at one time they were going to repair the line for trains. The piled up ties were old and starting to decay though. In parts there had been dumped huge piles of stone. In other the leaves had piled up. In one section a recently felled large tree had been dumped over the road railing; it's branches and leaves covering the tracks. At least we knew we would not have to jump away from oncoming trains.

We saw a stone structure that appeared to have been a station at one time and was now apartments.
We passed a farm stand setting up for the day. I asked one of the workers which road was running alongside us. She said it was route 1. That didn't seem right and on our way back she apologized and said she learned it was actually route 100.

We passed a large house with a barn, horses and dogs. There was an underpass here for the horses to get from the barn pasture to an open field on the other side of the tracks. Cool! The dogs were well fed and yappy and one followed us and ran ahead until the owner came down in a golf cart to call her back.

We continued on the rails until we saw a sign for the PA-DE border. We turned around here and headed back. We stayed on the tracks all the way to the first MD-T crossing then followed the trail back to our cars.

Walking the rail was rough. We tried to stay on the ties but they were too close together for decent strides and too far apart to go every other one. It was really hard to get any rhythm. This wreaked havoc on my hip flexors. I had to stop part way to stretch them and my hamstrings for relief. But it was this discomfort that kept me from going out for another half hour. I had thought about getting to four hours today. A good long stretch back at the car helped but no need to push it.

When I uploaded the Garmin info I took a closer look at the map and discovered we had crossed into Delaware and back out again before coming to that sign. The map also shows where I be-bopped back and forth over the rails on the way back trying to find decent footing. I never really did. All told we were out for 3.5 hours and about 8.5 miles. The walk along the tracks was slow going. We had to keep looking down to keep our footing.

On this hike/walk/rail hop we also saw deer, bullfrogs (these sang to us too) and lots of brightly colored dragonflies. It wasn't the adventure we thought we were headed for but it was still fun.

And Candy doesn't know it unless she reads this but she owes me a big thank you for not breaking into song several times. I kept hearing "I've Been Workin' on the Railroad" in my head. To see more photos go here.

1 comment:

  1. LOL, that song never crossed my mind once!