Sunday, July 24, 2016

Horseshoe Trail: Warwick County Park to Hopewell Furnace and back.

When a heat wave strikes and the temps are predicted to be at or near 100 for the day it's a good time to plan your hike nearer to "civilization" than not. I had contemplated an urban hike for this weekend but sidewalks and streets were not the best place to be in this weather. I'll save that idea for another weekend. At the same time another AT hike seemed foolish. My gut was telling me to stay closer to places where I could get more water and head indoors if that became necessary.

After way more thinking than is necessary to be sure, I settled on a round trip hike on  Horseshoe Trail between Warwick County Park and Hopewell Furnace National Historic site. The two end points provide rest rooms and water fountains and St Peter's Village in between.

My plan was to start at 8 a.m. but I was awake at 5:30 and ready to by 6:30. Warwick officially opens at 8:00 a.m. I was likely to arrive there too early. I left anyway figuring I could simply start at St. Peter's Village instead. I was in luck, though, as the park ranger was just opening the gate when I arrived at 7:30. I gathered and check my gear slowly to give just enough time for the ranger to get the rest rooms open. :) I fastened the strap of my Garmin through a loop on my backpack. I brought it along this trip because it beeps at me every mile. After last weekend's hydration and fueling fail I wanted the reminder.

From the restrooms at Warwick you have to head down the park trail heading East to pick up the Horseshoe trail heading West. From there the trail climbs to the top of the ridge and follows it along the park boundary and then back down to the same level as the parking lot. It's a great way to start a hike. You get your blood moving and the views are awesome.



The HST leaves the park across County Park Road and a field before climbing again to about the same level as you were on the ridge. At the top of the hill is a trail register. I signed in using a pen that I had left there 2 years ago when I found no pen in the box. I was very surprised to see it still there and working!! I signed in and continued on my way.

As I mentioned a the beginning of this post it was predicted to be a very very hot day. About 15 minutes in I could slurp the sweat off my upper lip without touching it. It tasted like salt with a side of sunscreen.

Shortly after this the HST dumps onto Ridge Road for a trek downhill to route 23. It's the most boring part of this stretch. And despite having done it before and knowing that the big dog at the bottom of the hill is behind an invisible fence, I still jump when he starts charging. Once you cross Route 23 (carefully) you descend the trail and follow along French Creek

On my way  back through this section a group of boys
was jumping off the ledge you can barely see in the
back of this photo.I'm not sure the water is deep enough
but boys will be boys and judging by the laughter they
were having a blast and - so far - no injuries

The HST bears left just before the edge of St Peter's Village and follows the top of the hill past the village eventually turning away from it and the creek onto Trythall Road. There is a lot of graffiti along this part of the trail. :( I am more nervous on the graffiti filled trails than anywhere else. I always try to be aware of my surroundings and alert for trouble but I feel more concern when the trails are trashed like that. I think if someone has that little respect for the woods then they likely have none for me. Fortunately, I've never had any trouble.

Just before the trail turns left to head toward the road I met a couple and their dogs. Two gigantic dogs. But they were on leashes and the man was saying "It's OK. They won't hurt you". While he is saying that he left his female companion holding the dogs and kept walking toward me. Ummm.. ok the dogs won't hurt but what the H*** are you doing? (I said to myself). Then I saw the third dog, not on a leash. She had been camouflaged among the plant growth along the trail. She was directly between me and the approaching man. He was going to grab her leash. Both humans were seriously apologetic for the scare. They had let the dog go into the growth to do her business. I thanked them, starting breathing again and walked on.

Across Trythall road the HST goes into Crow's Nest Preserve and State Game Lands. I was wearing my orange hat today. It's not hunting season but the memory of trying to come through this section once before still lingers. I felt safer with the orange. It's a pretty but rocky section of trail from here across and onto the other side of Northside road. Weaving in and out of woods and open space.

Once on Green Lane (a gravel lane) I was in the boundary of Hopewell Furnace. Along Green Lane and through the Hopewell Big Woods  was the worst part of the trip. The bugs were awful. I wasn't getting bitten, thankfully, but it was as if they were playing a big game of tag and I was the home-free pole. They just kept bouncing off my head and arms.

Finally, I popped out of the woods and had arrived at Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site. I cleaned up as best I could in the rest room then headed to the visitor center to get my passport stamps; the regular park stamp and their 100th anniversary stamp. Back outside I found a shady spot to enjoy some lunch.

My lunchtime view.
Lunch consisted of peanut butter, honey and cinnamon on whole wheat bread
with a side of grapes and water from the fountain just to
the left in this photo. 

Refreshed and fed I began to explore the park. I had arrived just in time to see a molding demonstration. This was happening in the furnace hut next to the big water wheel. It was quite comfortable with natural air conditioning from the creek and water wheel. There were several families there watching as well.

Before heading on my return trip, I checked my water levels. Being later in the day, it was hotter and a bit more stifling so I knew I'd need more for the return trip. I had taken in half my 3 liter supply on the way out. I guesstimated that I should at least have enough to make it back as far as St Peter's Village.

I dreaded the beginning of the return because it meant going through the bug infested Big Woods and Green Lane. I don't know whether it was the fact that I had cleaned up (taken a lot of sweat off my face) or that it was a different time of day (I had spent about an hour at the park) or that I was just resigned and used to it but the bugs did not seem to be as much a bother and as a result this section seemed to go by much quicker.

I could feel the heat starting to take it's toll, though. I drank more as expected and worried just a bit about not having enough. I arrived at St. Peter's about 2 hours later with about 1/2 a liter of water left. I sent straight to the Ice Cream shop and ordered a bottle of water and ice cream! :) The water went straight into my pack and I judged it to be enough to make it back. I was less than 2 miles from Warwick at this point.

My view during my ice cream break.
Two scoops; salted caramel and coconut almond joy
Consumed slowly to allow sufficient rest and to avoid
ice cream headache :) 
I followed the blue trail from St. Peter's up to the HST and out to route 23. Here I made a decision to skip Ridge Road. My hiking shoes are great on the trail but are a (literal) pain on streets. I was not in the mood for walking up the hill on a paved surface. So I turned left on Route 23 and then right just a short distance away on County Park Road to the entrance to the park. I was still on a hard surface but for less than half the time of Ridge Road and flat. I felt I had earned the shortcut.

The side trip into St. Peter's and cutting out the trail going up Ridge Road made for a total of 13.9 miles. In this weather I think that was my limit. I was definitely ready to be done but not down at the end.

Keep smiling and keep moving
-Paula





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