The Hunting Camp, 2015 Edition

912 Piper on the ATV

Last weekend Matt, Piper and I took a mini vacation in the central Pennsylvania wilderness. We stayed at Globe Run Rod and Gun Club – fondly referred to in my family as simply “The Hunting Camp” – for our seventh year of outdoor fun. 😄

I’ve blogged about our Hunting Camp adventures in previous years so feel free to check those posts out for more background (2013, 2014). For this year’s recap, I’m going to summarize the Hunting Camp in “Five Things Friday” style.

Five Things we enjoyed at the Hunting Camp in 2015

1. SWIMMING

Matt and I were excited to discover that Piper LOVES water!! She paddled around the lake with my brother’s German Shepherd, Lady, and even swam WAY out into the lake with Hershey to flush a flock of geese. (I don’t think Piper knew what was going on until the geese actually took off!)

I’m not a fan of swimming in “dark water” but it sure was fun to watch Piper take the plunge!

2. BOURBON

I don’t know anything about bourbon so for fun we had a bourbon tasting on Friday night. Our family members each brought various bourbons (we ended up with 11 bottles!) and it was fun to try them all. The verdict? Basil Hayden was my favorite (probably because it had the lowest alcohol content), but ultimately I think I’ll take a glass of wine over a bourbon any day!

3. HIKING

There are miles of wooded trails at the Hunting Camp and the adjacent Rothrock State Forest. Every day we took at least one hike with the dogs and on Saturday morning I ventured out on a solo 6 mile run in the state forest. My brother saw a black bear at camp just before Matt and I arrived on Thursday, so naturally I spent the whole run worrying about what I would do if a bear appeared around the next bend. (Run the other way? Make a lot of noise??) Luckily the largest animal I saw on my run was a squirrel so I was OK.

4. FOOD

Matt and I were in charge of dinner on Friday night and we had fun with it. We made BBQ baby-back ribs, panzanella, potato salad, cornbread, and strawberry-rhubarb crisp. YUM! The other days we feasted on sausages, burgers, hot dogs, shepherd’s pie, and lots of chips and guacamole. Good thing we did so much hiking! 😃

5. RELAXING

One of the best activities at the hunting camp involves no activity at all.  The huge rocking chair-lined wraparound porch is the perfect spot to relax with a book (or Kindle or iPad). The porch is also a great place to watch the dogs (all four of them!) who spent hours in the yard wrestling, playing chase, and chewing on sticks. By Saturday afternoon the dogs were exhausted!!

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After three days of fun we drove home late Saturday night with a very tired, very happy Piper.  We all had a great time and can’t wait until next year!

367 Piper in a clearing copy

 

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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.

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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)

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!

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

Dogs, guns, and hiking… a typical weekend at the Hunting Camp!

Dogs, shotguns and the great outdoors… sounds like a good time, right? Well that’s how we spent our Labor Day Weekend at a “hunting camp” in Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania! The “camp” is actually a private fishing and hunting club that my step-father’s grandfather helped to found back in 1913. One hundred years later it is still a rural paradise complete with a large house that sleeps 20+, a beautiful lake and – the best part – hundreds of acres of quiet, uninhabited woods. The camp is surrounded by other similar hunting clubs and a huge state forest, making it one of the only places in the world where we feel comfortable letting Bailey run off leash. Bailey absolutely loves it there, as demonstrated in this photo of her wallowing in a mud puddle after a long run in the woods!

Bailey the mud puppy

Happy as a pig in mud!

Bailey’s not completely off the grid when she’s at the hunting camp, however. We learned a few years ago that it’s nice to know roughly where in the wilderness she has wandered to, so we now strap a GPS collar around her little neck to keep track of where she is and how many miles she’s gone. On our first day there we arrived at lunchtime and Bailey ran 10 miles before dinner. The second day she covered 17 miles and on day three she was a little tired so she only did 14 miles… She’s nuts!

Bailey shows off her GPS collar and its really long antenna.  We tied her up occasionally for mandatory resting time... otherwise she would have never stopped running!

Bailey showing off her GPS collar and its really long antenna. We had to tie her up occasionally for mandatory resting time… otherwise she never would have stopped running!

Bailey had lots of canine friends to play with at the hunting camp this year. My family brought along a whole pack of pooches including Hershey the chocolate lab, Ganon the 9 month old puppy, and Clyde, the adorable newfie-lab mix. All of the dogs had a blast running through the woods, swimming in the lake and cooling off in mud puddles mid-hike.

When we weren’t hiking with the dogs we enjoyed playing in and around the camp’s beautiful lake, riding ATVs through the woods and shooting clay pigeons with shotguns. We also made sure to spend plenty of time relaxing in the rocking chairs on the hunting camp’s big wraparound porch!

After a fun-filled Labor Day weekend at the hunting camp we headed home with a VERY tired Bailey. I can’t wait to go back next summer!

Tired Bailey at the Hunting Camp

Bailey catching some Zzzs after a weekend at the hunting camp.