Hiking Delaware’s New National Monument

Matt and I have gotten into the habit of taking Piper hiking nearly every weekend.  We have a few favorite spots like Ridley Creek State Park and Okehocking Preserve, but sometimes it’s fun to let our pup explore a new place.  Earlier this month when the weather was especially nice (aka not below freezing!) we decided to bring Piper to the Woodlawn Trustees Preserve.  The preserve stretches for thousands of acres on either side of the Pennsylvania-Delaware border and features miles of hiking trails, scenic sections of the Brandywine Creek and breathtaking vistas of rolling hills and woodlands.

Woodlawn Trustees Sign (2012)

Matt and I have hiked at Woodlawn several times but last weekend was our first visit since the area was officially declared a National Monument in March 2013.  With the exception of a few new signs in the parking lot the National Monument designation didn’t seem to change the area much which is good because it’s already perfect just the way it is!

Piper had a blast on our hike.  She sniffed everything, tried to convince us to let her swim in the Brandywine (it was 40° out – not happening, pup!), and confidently stared down the mountain bikers that were out on the trails in force.  She is definitely getting accustomed to me taking photos of her on hikes… sometimes I think she poses on purpose!

Piper in the winter woods

In the shot above Pipe stopped to listen to the eerie sound of a train whistle floating through the cold winter forest.  I learned afterwards that the train we heard is the East Penn Railroad (you can actually see the locomotive in the Granogue Estate photo, above) and it runs about three times a week to take steel to and from a recycling plant in Pennsylvania.  Cool!

Below Piper was pointing at some unseen (or imagined) prey.  She looks so grown up!

Piper pointing

Matt, Piper and I hiked a nice 4 mile loop that began at the parking lot on Brandywine Creek Road just south of the intersection with Smithbridge Road on the Delaware side of the border.  We finished with an easy flat mile along the Brandywine Creek.  During warmer months this is a very popular area for kayaking and canoeing but last weekend we only saw one lone canoer (canoeist?), frantically paddling upstream against the current.  I bet her arms were tired once she made it to her destination!

Piper takes a little dip in the Brandywine

If you find yourself in the southern PA/northern Delaware area on a nice day I would strongly recommend that you pay a visit to the Woodlawn Preserve.  Detailed information on the area is somewhat scattered between Woodlawn’s web site, the new National Park Service page, and an preservationist group called Save The Valley so I suggest checking out all three organizations for information before planning a day trip.  Here’s a map from Save the Valley with our 4 mile hike overlaid in red:

Woodlawn Trail Map 4 miles

Click here to view the original Save the Valley map.

When the weather gets nicer I will hopefully return to Woodlawn with a running buddy for some quality trail running.  Maybe by the end of the summer I will be running here with little Piper!  I’m pretty sure she will think that’s the best thing ever.  😃

Piper at the Brandywine

The Metal Fun Run and Chili Cook-Off

Yesterday I ran the Metal Walk and Fun Run 5K in Wilmington, Delaware with Matt’s brother, Dylan.  The race was pretty casual — no numbers, official scoring or results — but I knew that going in and decided to just enjoy myself and have fun spending time with Matt, Dylan, and Dylan’s wife, Jena.  Oh, and Piper, too!  This was Piper’s first time spectating a race and I think she really liked getting petted by dozens of race participants and spectators.  🙂

Annie and Piper Metal Run

The Metal Walk/Run benefited the ATI Foundation, a branch of Dylan’s employer, ATI Physical Therapy.  The 5K course looped us around the Wilmington Riverfront which is surprisingly beautiful.  (I guess I just think of Wilmington as a city that I pass through on I-95 on my way to somewhere else… but there’s actually a very nice city around the highway!!)  In addition to offering gorgeous views of the Christiana River, the Riverfront course also was extremely FLAT, a feature that I don’t see much of where I live in PA.

Going into the race I really only had one goal — run negative splits!!!  I wanted to run the first mile in 7:50 and then have enough energy left to pick up the pace in the second and third miles.  This seemed very doable on paper but, as usual, didn’t turn out quite how I had planned!

I don’t own a GPS watch but I set my Runkeeper app to notify me at every half mile split so I could (theoretically) use that data stay on pace.  I wanted to hit my first split at right around 3:55, so I started the race out at what felt like a nice, controlled speed.  Then Runkeeper cheerily told me that I hit the first half mile in 3:29!!  Shoot!!!  My plan for a nice negative split race was already out the window and, despite adjusting my pace down for the rest of the first mile I still wound up with a 7:22 split.  Darn!  {Side note — Runners, how the heck do you manage to maintain a steady, normal pace for the first half mile of a race???  This skill seems to elude me.}

Metal Run Runkeeper Stats

During miles 2 and 3 I settled into a 7:50 pace (if only I could have started here!) and took in the beautiful riverfront views.  The course wound around a bit more before finishing back in the parking lot where we started.  There was no official scoring, but the finish line clock and my stopwatch agreed that I completed the 5K in 24:18.  Significantly slower than my hilly 23:32 finish last week, but I think that knowing this was an un-scored fun run definitely made me feel a little less competitive during the race.

The fun didn’t end with the 5K finish… we had CHILI to taste!!  The Metal Walk/Run event also included a competitive chili cook-off and race participants were given tickets for 5 chili tastings.  Matt, Dylan, Jena and I enjoyed generous samples of several types of chili and all agreed that one of the classic chili recipes with cornbread was our favorite.  The judges apparently agreed too because that chili won second place overall!  (We didn’t make it to the winner’s tasting but it must have been yummy if it beat our favorite!!)  Piper was great during all of this commotion, allowing Matt and I to pass her back and forth between us as we ate.  She even dozed off in my arms at one point… race spectating is hard work for a little pup!

After yesterday’s fun run, I have now raced 8 out of the last 9 weekends.  That’s a lot of racing!  I’ll be taking a break from my 5K addiction until Thanksgiving day when I’ll run the Seven Summits Turkey Trot.  I’m definitely looking forward to being able to sleep in on the weekends until then.  (That is, of course, if Piper will let me sleep in!)   😄

Miles since last post:  17.8
Days since last post:  4
Avg. Daily Miles since 7/18/13: 4.87
2014 TOTAL MILES: 1524.7

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