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!  🙂

Haverford Township Day 5K

Annie on the Pennsy Trail

Yesterday morning Matt and I ran a mixed surface road/trail 5K in Havertown, PA.  The 8:30am race kicked off Haverford Township Day, a local festival with a parade, craft vendors, a flea market and live music.

The race began at Haverford Middle School and we wound around a few neighborhoods before spending a mile or so on a long, straight trail.  This was no ordinary trail, though… it was the old right of way for the Newtown Square Branch of the Pennsylvania Railroad!  I’m a huge local history buff and I’m not gonna lie… that mile of trail was the primary reason we ran this race.  I love how railroads helped shape the development of communities and how their right of ways still play a role in routing of roads and potential public-use rail trails.  I also grew up in and still live in Newtown Square so this particular rail line is especially interesting to me.

If you love local history as much as I do, you can read more about the Newtown Square Branch and see the original, interactive version of the map above at
The Newtown Square Branch was closed down in the 1960s, and by the time I was born in the mid-eighties the tracks were gone and all that remained of the line were some old trestles and the right-of-way that we ran on yesterday.  If you love local history as much as I do, you can read more about the Newtown Square Branch and see the original, interactive version of the map above at

Although I was excited about the rail trail for historical reasons, it wasn’t exactly a fast running surface for a race.  Parts of the trail were covered with a thick layer of fresh, damp wood chips, which felt a bit like running in sand.  I definitely slowed down during the mile on the trail and was very happy to leave the railroad behind and return to paved roads just before the 2nd mile marker.

Back on the pavement I realized that I could see Matt a short distance ahead of me.  I passed him with a little over a half mile to go in the race and then set my sights on a woman who was maybe 50 feet ahead.  I wanted to go by her but was a little worried about using up my energy to pass her only to have her come up from behind and beat me at the finish.  With this in mind I stuck right behind her for the last half mile and then passed her as the finish line came into view.  She responded immediately by picking up her pace big time but by then I was determined to beat her.  We sprinted to the finish and I felt my legs go into a whole new gear (thank you, track workouts!!!!) as I blasted across the finish line in the lead.  Woohoo!

I often feel like I “sprint” to the finish of a 5K but yesterday I was actually sprinting for real.  Runkeeper shows my last 0.1 mile split at 4:58 pace and my final push at 4:20/mile.  Runkeeper isn’t perfectly accurate by any means, but I was definitely going fast!!!  I finished with a time of 23:50 (only 9 seconds off of my all-road 5K best!), good enough for 34th overall and 12th place woman.  Also, I’m totally psyched about my last mile split:  7:34!!!  🙂

Haverford Township 5K Runkeeper Stats

Matt finished right behind me in 23:56.  He told me afterwards that when I passed him during the race he wanted to tell me to go catch that girl ahead of us.  With that in mind I’m glad that I did catch her and that Matt was able to see it happen!

Matt on the Newtown Square Branch right-of-way

Matt on the Newtown Square Branch right-of-way

We ran a short cool down on the rail-trail so that I could take a better, slower look at it and then stuck around for the awards (Matt won a door prize!) before heading home.  All in all it was a fun morning with a great atmosphere and exciting course.  I’d go back again next year, especially if those wood chips get a little more compacted on the rail trail!

Miles since last post:  38.4
Days since last post:  7
Avg. Daily Miles since 7/18/13: 4.85
2014 TOTAL MILES: 1310.9

Related Posts:
•  Run A Muck 5K-ish Trail Race (9/20/14)
•  Talk 5K Trail Run (9/13/14)
•  Pickle in the Streets 5K (8/28/14)
•  Radnor Red Steeplechase 5K (8/17/14)
•  Riddlewood Swim Club 5K (8/3/14)
•  Swarthmore Lions Independence Eve 8K (7/18/14)
•  Cam’s ‘Moonlight’ 5K (7/10/14)
•  Media 5 Miler (6/20/14)
•  Radnor Conservancy 5K Trail Run (6/1/14)
•  Rocky Run 5K Trail Run (5/30/14)
•  Run for Victory 5K (5/18/14)
•  Elwyn 5K (5/3/14)
•  St. Tim’s 5K (4/26/14)
•  Rick’s Run 5K (4/19/14)
•  Las Vegas Security 5K (4/3/14)
•  Color Out Cancer 5K (3/30/14)
•  Athlete’s Closet March 5 Miler (3/1/14)
•  Athlete’s Closet February 5K (2/1/14)
•  Athlete’s Closet January 5K (1/4/14)
•  New Year’s Eve 5K at the YMCA (12/31/13)
•  Athlete’s Closet December 5K (12/14/13)
•  Turkey Trot 5K (11/28/13)
•  Trinity Presbyterian 5K (11/2/13)
•  Oy Vey 5K (10/27/13)
•  Fueled Up & Fired Up 5K (10/19/13)
•  Run-a-Muck 5K (9/21/13)
•  The Challenge Begins: 100 Mile iPad Mini Challenge (7/23/13)

The Darlington Trail (Middletown Trails)

As the weather gets cooler I find myself getting the urge to go hiking in the woods with Matt and Bailey.  We took a nice 2 mile walk at Okehocking Preserve last week but, since that’s already been featured on my blog, I thought I’d write about another one of our favorite hiking spots: Darlington Trail in Glen Mills, Pennsylvania.

The Darlington Trail is part of the wonderful “Middletown Trails” network that is owned and maintained by Middletown Township.  You can view a map showing the rough location of each of the six trails in my Linvill Trail post from last March.

One of my favorite parts about the Darlington Trail is that it crisscrosses an old rail line.  These tracks used to carry passenger trains from Media to West Chester (an extension of the current-day Septa R3 Media/Elwyn line) but now they are only used by the occasional freight train traveling at night towards Philadelphia from a nearby quarry.  We’ve never seen a train on this stretch of tracks during the daytime so we always feel very safe walking along (or on!) the tracks.

The train tracks cross high over the Chester Creek in two spots.  I wouldn’t recommend trying to walk across the rail bridges on foot because the space between each of the railroad cross ties is completely open to the creek 30 or so feet below.  Seeing the water rush by below your feet is pretty disconcerting when you are standing on a bridge that’s only a couple of feet wide with no handrails or guardrails!

The first time we hiked the Darlington Trail we were exploring the tracks and somehow ended up on the wrong side of one of the bridges.  Bailey definitely would have fallen right through the holes between the ties if we had tried to walk on the bridge so Matt concluded that the only way to get her to the other side was to carry her.  Luckily she was very calm and stayed perfectly still while Matt tiptoed from tie to tie across the bridge!  (Note: you do not have to cross the bridges in order to hike the trail!)

The bridge doesn’t look very intimidating from here, but when you get closer and realize that there’s nothing but air between the rail ties it might make you feel a bit unnerved when walking over it!

The terrain is quite varied on the Darlington Trail.  At some points you snake along the wide bank of Chester Creek (great for dogs who like the water!) and in other spots you hike through rolling farmlands and are rewarded with a great view of the surrounding area and the trail as it continues on in the distance.

According to the trail map, the entire loop is about 2.75 miles long.  The trail is well maintained and is clearly marked with yellow diamond-shaped trail signs.  We usually park in the lot located on Darlington Road just north of the road’s intersection with Route 1 / Baltimore Pike in Glen Mills, PA.  You can also park near the original Wawa dairy (yes, THE Wawa!) on Valley Road just north of Route 1.

If you live in the Delaware County/Chester County area and ever decide to hike the Darlington Trail I would love to hear what you think of it!  Do you have a favorite section of trail (or does your dog have a favorite section of the creek?)  🙂  Please share!