Okehocking Preserve

Piper and her reflection in Ridley Creek

Merry Christmas Eve!  Matt and I are hosting dinner tonight… bone-in short ribs over polenta with brussel sprouts braised in cream.  YUM!!  The food is prepped, the house is clean, I got in a nice 4 mile run in the rain and now I’m just waiting for family to arrive.  I thought I’d take advantage of this lull in the day to share some photos from one of our hikes last week.

2834 Piper at Okehocking

Matt and I are fortunate to live very close to Okehocking Preserve, a 180-acre conservation area with miles of trails, a scenic section of Ridley Creek and an off-leash, unfenced dog park.  We’ve been taking Piper to Okehocking a lot lately, in part to socialize her but also because the preserve’s close proximity to our house allows us to squeeze in the maximum amount of outdoor time before the sun goes down.  (Hooray for the shortest day of the year being BEHIND us now!!)

So far Piper has really taken to Okehocking.  She sniffs and snorts around in the tall grass, has fun climbing on rocks, walls, and fallen trees, wades into (and tries to drink all of) Ridley Creek and, of course, has a blast playing with other dogs in the off-leash area.  I’m sure we’ll be spending many, many afternoons at Okehocking over the next several months.  If you’re from the area I would definitely recommend visiting Okehocking… maybe we’ll see you there!

2794 Piper drinking

Okehocking Preserve
5316 West Chester Pike
Newtown Square, PA 19073
Preserve Map | Web Site
My Okehocking post from 2012

Piper goes Viral after hiking Crum Woods

Holy Cow.  This photo of Piper has received over 23,000 views on Flickr since yesterday morning:

Piper's Famous Photo

I wonder… does having 23,000 views qualify as “going viral”?  It is certainly the most buzz any content that I’ve ever created has garnered in a short period of time!  To her credit, Piper is pretty freakin’ adorable in this photo so I don’t blame those 23,000 people for clicking on her photo.  😉  The full resolution image can be viewed here if you’re interested in seeing it in all its viral glory on Flickr.

~~

Anyway… I took The Photo while hiking with Pipe and Matt in Crum Woods.  This 220-acre woodland is situated on the western edge of Swarthmore College’s campus in Delaware County, PA.  It features 3.5 miles of hiking trails, fantastic views of Crum Creek, and a giant railroad bridge that carries Septa’s Media/Elwyn line over the creek.

To access the Crum Woods trail we parked on the western (opposite) side of Crum Creek at the Leiper-Smedley trail parking lot off of Avondale Road and walked down Avondale to Yale Ave.  The trails in this southern section of Crum Woods were dotted with tree roots and sloped steeply down to the creek, but the path evened out to a nice walking trail once we made it north of the trailhead by the Swarthmore College fieldhouse.

I love train tracks and bridges, so it’s no surprise that my favorite part of Crum Woods was where the Septa rail line crossed Crum Creek.  Just before reaching the bridge the trail emerged out of the woods into “Crum Meadow,” where Piper licked her first frozen puddle and we had great views of the trestles crossing the creek.  The view from under the bridge was even more impressive and I may have made Matt and Piper wait around for 5-10 minutes just in case a train came along while we were under it.  (Sadly, we did not see a train.)

Leiper-Smedley Trail

After reaching the northern terminus of Crum Woods, we decided to make the hike more interesting by looping back to our car via the paved Leiper-Smedley trail on the other side of the creek.  Unfortunately Crum Woods and Leiper-Smedley are not officially connected on the northern end, so in order to access L-S we had to jog a short stretch of Plush Mill Road and skirt along the shoulder until we reached the trailhead.  We were lucky that Piper was still small enough for Matt to easily carry her during this stretch… this impromptu trail connection would not have been ideal if we had had a larger dog or small children in tow.

Our return trip along the Leiper-Smedley Trail was uneventful and mostly downhill, woohoo!  I’ve run on this trail several times, most recently going UP the trail in the other direction at the Fueled Up and Fired Up 5K in September.  The trail is well marked and has a much less exciting train bridge on it than Crum Woods… but it’s a train bridge nonetheless, so of course I took a picture!!

I definitely enjoyed our Crum Woods hike because I had never been to Crum Woods before, but overall it was a bit of a choppy walk and there are probably better hiking loops in the area.  The southern portion of the trail was a little treacherous and the northern end didn’t technically connect to Leiper-Smedley, but with good hiking shoes and a quick jog up Plush Mill Road we made it work.  Plus, Piper thoroughly enjoyed herself and was very tired afterwards… Mission Accomplished!!!

Piper having fun on the hike

Useful Links:
Crum Woods Web Site
Official Crum Woods Trail Map & Brochure (PDF)
High-res version of Crum Woods Map with our 4 mile hike overlayed (JPG)

Piper visits Newlin Grist Mill

Regal Piper Pup

As you might expect, Piper’s arrival has had a big impact on our daily routine.  Matt and I are waking up earlier on work days, stopping home 2-3 times to let her out during the day, and (still!) taking turns setting an alarm for a middle-of-the-night potty break.  We are also making sure to do at least one mentally and/or physically stimulating activity with Piper every day to tire her out.  On weekdays it’s practically dark when we get home from work which limits us to activities around the house like wobble-disc practice in the kitchen or epic games of fetch in the back yard. (Fetch is, of course, frequently interrupted when Piper gets distracted and tries to eat deer poop, but I digress!)  Weekends, however, are a whole different story… daylight means that we can go hiking!

Hike hike hike

Since Piper is still very young, meandering hikes in the woods are a great way to tire her out without causing too much stress on her joints.  To keep things interesting, we’ve been visiting a different local park or trail each weekend.  This has been a fun way to re-explore some of our old favorite hiking spots that I’ve been meaning to blog about for a while.  One such local gem is Newlin Grist Mill.

Newlin Grist Mill is a 160 acre park and historical site in Glen Mills, PA.  You can read more about the park’s history, working grist mill and educational programs on their web site.  I’m sure that all of that historical stuff is cool (convincing plug, right?) but WE visit the park for its miles of secluded nature trails that wind along an abandoned rail line and a beautiful stream.  Here are some photos from our hike a few weekends ago…

Newlin Grist Mill’s trails are well maintained and clearly marked, but I have not been able to find an actual detailed trail map of the park.  There’s a basic map at the parking lot showing park boundaries and general right-of-ways, but it’s missing most of the side trails that we actually hiked on.  Luckily, the park is relatively small and most of the major trails tend to be oriented east-west along the old rail line and stream.  This makes it hard to get lost and fun to explore… perfect for hiking with a 10-week-old puppy!

Oh Hi!

If you’re in the western Philadelphia suburbs and are looking for a low-key, relaxed hike with lots of stream views and history, I’d definitely recommend spending an afternoon at Newlin Grist Mill!

Newlin Grist Mill
219 South Cheyney Road
Glen Mills, PA 19342  (map)
www.newlingristmill.org

The Darlington Trail (Piper-style!)

Darlington Trail Hike 10-31-14On Halloween Matt and I took Piper hiking on the Darlington Trail.  The Darlington Trail is a public hiking trail in Middletown Township, Delaware County, PA that winds along Chester Creek and an abandoned section of railroad that once connected Media to West Chester.  Naturally, I brought my camera along to document this adventure and wanted to share a few of my favorite shots here.

Warning… lots of cute puppy photos ahead!!! 😊

Piper loved climbing around on the train tracks and even walked on one track balance beam-style for a few steps.

Piper on the train tracks 3Piper on the train tracks 1Piper on the train tracks 2

In order to get a good photo angle of little Piper I ended up lying down on the tracks, which put me at the perfect level for a surprise puppy attack!

Surprise puppy attack on the tracks!

Piper was a total ham on the hike and kept pausing to look at the camera.

Piper 3PiperPiper the GSP PuppyPiper 2

Even when Piper got a break from walking she still made a point of looking at the camera!

Piper keeping an eye on me Piper takes a break from hiking

At the end of the hike little Piper happily snoozed in my arms on the drive home.  She is such a sweetie.

Piper sitting in the grass-

That’s it for this hike, but don’t worry, I have photos from a more recent hiking adventure that I will share soon!  🙂

Valley Forge Hike with our newest 4-legged house guest, Ganon

Happy Labor Day!  Matt and I have been enjoying a relaxing holiday weekend at home.  We raced The Pickle Run on Thursday, hiked on Friday, went to TWO barbecues on Saturday and did lots of yard work on Sunday.  At the moment we have nothing planned for today… that’s my favorite kind of day off!  🙂

We also hosted a new 4-legged house guest at our home this weekend, my step-brother’s pup, Ganon.  Friday was our first full day with Ganon so we took him hiking at Valley Forge National Park.  Matt and I have done the 5 mile paved Plumb Martin loop at Valley Forge several times but since we had Ganon along we wanted to try some hiking trails instead.  Every time we’ve done the paved loop we’ve seen a sign marking the turnoff for a pedestrian crossing over the (very wide) Schuylkill River.  I’ve always been intrigued by the river crossing so on Friday we decided to give it a try.

We parked at the Visitor’s Center and followed the paved loop north for a short while before turning off the trail towards the Schuylkill River.  From there we followed a road that dead-ended at what had been the old Betzwood Bridge (now just a precarious drop-off to the river!) before turning up a steep path to Highway 422.  The “pedestrian crossing” was a rickety 3 foot wide cantilevered walkway that was tacked onto the side of a major highway bridge several stories about the river.  Eek!  Not quite the peaceful hike I was expecting, but still very exhilarating (or terrifying, depending on your perspective).

Rt 422 Bridge Panorama over the Schuylkill

Despite some wobbly boards and lots of traffic whizzing by, we survived the bridge crossing and thankfully returned to ground level in the quieter, less tourist-y “north side” of Valley Forge.  (Where, for the record, there’s a perfectly good parking lot… We’ll probably drive over the 422 bridge and park there next time!)  I later read that ground has been broken for a brand new pedestrian/bike bridge that will be located at the site of the old Betzwood Bridge.  We’ll try the crossing again in May 2016 when the new bridge is supposed to be completed!

Matt and Ganon crossing the river

Once we arrived on the northern bank of the Schuylkill, we walked along the paved Schuylkill River Trail for a few minutes before transitioning down to the less-traveled gravel River Trail.  The River Trail hugged the river and offered gorgeous views of the water and woods.  We hiked for about 3 miles before turning around to make the trek back, but the trails kept going and we could have extended the hike quite a bit if we had wanted to.  There were a few spots where the path led right to the river which Ganon really liked.  🙂

The north side of Valley Forge was really beautiful and I’d recommend it to anyone looking to get away from the big crowds, tours, and reenactments that you’ll find on the more popular south side of the park.  I think Ganon would recommend it too… he had fun and was completely exhausted afterwards!

Sleepy Ganon

Here’s a map of our 6.2 mile hike shown in red on the VFNP North Side trails map.  You can view the official Park map on the NPS web site here: http://www.nps.gov/vafo/planyourvisit/upload/northside-2012.pdf

VFNP River Trail Map

Have a great Labor Day!

Birthday Walk at Ridley Creek

Last Friday was my birthday, woohoo!  Because we were entered to run in the Trinity 5K at 9AM Saturday morning we kept Friday’s celebrating pretty low key.  We got breakfast at Manhattan Bagel (my favorite) and worked a full day while hydrating like crazy for the race.  After work we took a nice walk with Bailey at Ridley Creek State Park before eating a pasta dinner and getting a good night’s sleep.  Here’s a photo of my Ridley Creek walking buddies… the perfect birthday companions!  🙂

380 Matt and Bailey

The weather was gorgeous during our walk.  Since we weren’t planning on doing any running in the park I brought my camera along to capture the beautiful autumn colors and my favorite photo subject, Bailey.  Here are a few of the photos I took:

Bailey hasn’t been to Ridley Creek State Park since I hurt my foot in late September.  She was so happy to be out and about again!  She was sporting her new ‘walkeez’ fleece harness and she paused for lots of photo ops.  She’s such a good dog!

Bailey

Hiking in the park with Matt and Bailey was the perfect way to spend my birthday.  What’s your idea of the perfect birthday afternoon?

Kirkwood Preserve

Guess what?  In 2 hours I will be running in my first distance race since 1999!!!  The 5K is hosted by Willistown Conservation Trust, a local non-profit land preservation organization in Willistown Township, Pennsylvania.  To prepare for the race I’ve been running like crazy on my treadmill AND, because the real world isn’t as flat and smooth as a treadmill, Matt and I have also been hiking (and sometimes jogging) in lots of local parks and preserves.

This week in honor of the upcoming race we visited Willistown Conservation Trust’s Kirkwood Preserve.

Kirkwood PreserveKirkwood features 83 acres of grasslands along a stretch of the picturesque Crum Creek.  The preserve has been classified as an “Important Bird Area,” meaning that you’re likely to see some endangered grassland birds on your hike.  More importantly (for me, at least) this also means that dogs are strictly prohibited from all areas of the preserve.

Kirkwood Tree

I actually have a very personal connection to the rolling hills of Kirkwood Preserve because I grew up about 2 miles away from here.  When my brother and I were kids we would walk here from our house with my mom all the time.  This was back before the land was preserved (it was just a cow farm then) and we spent hours and hours of our childhoods here hiking, playing, cross-country skiing, fishing, picnicing… you name it!  With all of those memories in mind it was really neat to come here with Matt and see that the land is still here and open to all.  (Of course the barbed-wired cow fences are all gone and the fields are full of natural grasses now, but that’s fine with me!)  Here are some photos from our walk:

Kirkwood Preserve is open daily from sunrise to sunset and has well-mowed walking trails.  We did the outer loop on our visit and our total walk was just shy of 2 miles.  The only access to the preserve is via the gravel parking lot on Grubbs Mill Road.

Kirkwood Map

OK… time for Matt and me to start stretching and getting ready for the race!  Here’s my running tally as of yesterday evening:

Miles since last post:  60.2
Days since last post:  11
Average Daily Miles since July 18th: 5.56
TOTAL MILES: 361.2

Wish us luck at 4pm…!  🙂

Kirkwood Jump

Other local hikes, parks, and preserves:

Ridley Creek State Park (Edgmont Township, PA)
Okehocking Preserve (Willistown Township, PA)
Darlington Trail (Middletown Township, PA)
Linvill Trail (Middletown Township, PA)
Stroud Preserve, (West Chester, PA)

Stroud Preserve

Last weekend Matt, Bailey and I took a hike in the beautiful Stroud Preserve located just west of West Chester, Pennsylvania.  This was our first time visiting this nature preserve and we really enjoyed the rolling hills, scenic views, and well-marked trails.

Stroud Preserve is maintained by Natural Lands Trust, a non-profit land conservation organization in southeastern Pennsylvania.  According to the NLT web site:

Stroud Preserve consists of 571 acres of culturally and ecologically important land in Chester County. This rolling mosaic of once-pastured grasslands, working farmlands, and woodlands now serves as wildlife habitat and a unique site for research by the Stroud Water Research Center, one of the premier stream research labs in North America.

Here are some photos from our hike on Saturday:

If you’re looking for a peaceful, natural area to hike in southeastern Pennsylvania l would definitely recommend paying a visit to Stroud Preserve.  The preserve is located at 454 North Creek Road, West Chester, PA 19382 and a copy of NLT’s trail map is below.

STROUD-H1-MapPlease note that only the trails marked with solid lines are dog-friendly and dogs should be kept on leash at all times.  With this in mind we took Bailey on the Yellow Trail loop with a detour onto the Gray Trail to avoid the no-dogs area and we finished up around the northern part of the Purple trail.   Our hike was about 3.2 miles long.  If we go back sometime without Bailey (which is unlikely since she LOVES going hiking!!) we’d probably try the full red loop which is supposed to be 4.2 miles long.

Bailey loves hiking!

Bailey loves hiking!

Here are links to some other hiking spots in Chester and Delaware County, PA that I’ve blogged about.  Enjoy!

•   Ridley Creek State Park (Edgmont Township, PA)
•   Okehocking Preserve (Willistown Township, PA)
•   Darlington Trail (Middletown Township, PA)
•   Linvill Trail (Middletown Township, PA)

Stroud Preserve Cornfield

Weekly Photo Challenge: An Unusual POV

This week’s WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge is “An Unusual Point of View.”  I think that this photo of the beautiful lake at Promised Land State Park in Greentown, Pennsylvania fits the theme fairly well:

A different POV- Promised Land Lake thru the Conservation Island Bridge

I snapped this shot just as Matt and I canoed under a low bridge on a gorgeous October day.  It’s hard to believe that Summer’s lush green trees are going to look like this in another month… I can’t wait!!  🙂

Streaking, Day 100!

This morning I completed day 100 of my mile-a-day “streaking” challenge, woohoo! The challenge started out back on Thanksgiving Day as part of the Runners World Holiday Running Streak (#RWRunStreak) from Thanksgiving to New Year’s, but when 2013 rolled around I just kept on going!

On a typical weekday I wake up at 5:15 and elliptical my mile while watching the morning news. The downside of this is that the news is pretty boring (how many traffic reports can one person watch??) and yes, it’s early, but after I’m done I feel great all day knowing that I’ve finished my mile. I also like having a routine, even if it means that I now have to pack my running clothes on vacations or business trips.

Here are a few of my more memorable miles over the past 100 days:Matt and Bailey in RCSP

Day 13 (12/4/12)
I ‘ellipticalled’ a mile in the morning and then we went on a 5 mile hike in Ridley Creek State Park the afternoon! That was a big day for exercise.

Day 41 (01/01/13)
Matt, Bailey and I ran the first 2.4 miles of the multi-purpose loop at Ridley Creek State Park. Not bad for New Year’s Day!

Day 52 (01/12/13)
Thornbury Park in September
We ran a mile on a chilly morning in Thornbury Township Park. For some reason this felt much harder than the 2.4 miles on 1/1. (The Thornbury Park Photo is actually from September. I wish it had been that beautiful there in January!)

Days 54-59 (01/14-19/13)
Completed a week of miles on a treadmill in the Palazzo gym in Las Vegas. I was nervous at first because I usually elliptical in the privacy of my own home but I felt a huge sense of accomplishment afterwards! (And I think I managed to look tough and strong while running which is really half the battle, right?) 🙂Beach in Cape Charles

Days 94-95 (02/23-24/13)
Ran around Cape Charles on the eastern shore of Virginia while we were in town with friends for the Barrier Island Center Oyster Roast. On day 94 my iPhone app got confused and said that I ran 1.7 miles in 13 minutes (which is impossible) but I let myself believe that was true when I enjoyed all-you-can-eat oysters, clams, BBQ pulled pork and wine later in the day.

I look forward to keeping my streak going until Matt and I get married on June 8th. Wish me luck!