Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: WHITE

White Crabapple Tree

I don’t usually participate in Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge, but I follow a few bloggers who do and I was inspired by how Pami from Pa-BLAM! handled this week’s topic, the color white.  Here in Southeastern PA snow has been covering the ground for 6+ weeks so you might think that ‘snow’ would be the first thing that comes to mind for a white photo challenge, but Pami defied old man winter and focused on spring instead.  It’s so much nicer to think about crocuses, daffodils and cherry blossoms, don’t you think?

So, without further ado, here are my cheerful, non-wintery entries for this week’s Foto Challenge:
White Crocuses... they'll be blooming in just a few weeks!!!!

White Shasta Daisy

And remember, despite this cold winter weather, Spring really isn’t that far away.  Here are the dates that the above photos were taken.  I wonder if this year will be an early Spring like 2012 (trees in full bloom by mid-April) or a later Spring like we had in 2013 (same trees blooming in early May).  I vote early Spring!!  🙂

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February’s Icy Start

Snowy Winter Road

Let It Snow!On December 1st Matt and I bought a charming little decorative sign that cheerfully proclaimed “LET IT SNOW!” We hung the sign in our kitchen and since then our town has received over 3 1/2 feet of snow, resulting in 5 snow days and 2 late openings and early closings at work.  Coincidence?  I think not.

Last Wednesday’s ice storm was the season’s most disruptive storm by far (as of today, at least!).  After a snow storm on Monday weighed down our trees with 7-8″ of heavy, wet snow, a wintry mix arrived late Tuesday night and coated everything in a thick layer of ice.  We lost power in the middle of the night (along with 620,000 other PECO customers!) and the only sounds we could hear when we woke up were the violent cracks of tree branches snapping under the weight of snow and ice.  Look at our sad, sad pine trees…

In addition to the extensive pine tree damage we also lost half a tree in our front yard as well as several large branches.  My mom’s yard fared even worse… Matt and I had to remove a tree from her driveway (before / after) in order to get to her house and upon our arrival we discovered her once-beautiful weeping willow tree had uprooted under the weight of the ice and was keeled over on its side in the snow.

It wasn’t all bad, though.  My mom and stepfather have a generator so our whole family ended up at their house for the day.  We spent our ice storm day chatting, drinking coffee, and completing a huge 1000 piece puzzle before enjoying a yummy dinner together.  On Wednesday night Matt and I received word from our neighbors that our power was back on (woohoo!!!) so after our day of fun we were able to go home and gratefully enjoy heat, running water, and internet.  🙂

Here are some photos that I took on Wednesday during the ice storm.  Brr…

Icy Pine Needles

526 Frozen

Icy Needles

Ice Fence Rails

Matt and I contemplated taking down our Let It Snow sign today but decided to leave it up a little longer.  We’ll see if it’s still hanging in the kitchen after the storm that’s forecasted to hit us on Thursday…  8-12″ of snow!!!  What a winter!

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!!  🙂

Happy Spring!

Happy Spring!  Our yard has made a beautiful transformation from Winter to Spring in just two short weeks.  Our trees are blooming, the tulips are coming up, and the garlic that I planted last Fall is looking great.  Here are some photos from April 19th:

That beautiful spinach patch is actually leftover from spinach that I planted in October.  It never really took off at the time (probably because I planted it too late) but as soon as the weather warmed up in April it started growing like crazy.  I harvested it today and I can’t wait to enjoy with some cucumber, feta, and toasted almonds tonight!

If you’re interested to see how this year’s growth compares to the same time last year, check out my Garden Update from April 17, 2012.  Thanks for stopping by!

Ridley Creek State Park

In honor of my 100th post (yes, it’s my 100th post!) I’m going to feature one of my very favorite hiking spots ever:  Ridley Creek State Park.  “Ridley Creek,” as we call it, is a 2,600 acre park located in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, approximately 15 miles west of Philadelphia.  It also happens to be about 2 miles from our house which makes it a very convenient place to enjoy nature while getting some exercise!

Ridley Creek State Park Map (TheLittleGSP.com)

Matt and I both grew up in this area so we’ve been coming to Ridley Creek State Park with our families since long before we met one another in college.  Come to think of it, we both spent SO much time here as kids that it’s actually pretty likely that we unknowingly passed each other on the bike trail or splashed around in the creek together at some point in our childhoods.

Ridley Creek features miles of secluded hiking trails, multiple family-friendly picnic areas, and a 4.5 mile paved trail.  The paved trail is popular with walkers, runners, and bikers.  The trail has mile-markers every tenth of a mile and the scenery along the way includes thick woods, cornfields, deserted 19th century stone houses, and, of course, Ridley Creek itself.  Matt, Bailey, and I walk this trail fairly often.  Most recently we went on Day 14 of my mile-a-day “Streak” and the next day I was definitely feeling the combined effects of the hilly 4.5 mile walk and my morning mile!

In addition to the paved trail, Matt and I also enjoy hiking in the much more secluded northern section of the park.  This area is usually utilized by horseback riders but we started to frequent it after discovering an off-road hunter’s parking lot (1) near our house last February.  The 4.25 mile trail can be a bit difficult to follow if you don’t know where you’re going but I love how sections of it makes you feel like you’re 100 miles away from civilization or, better yet, like you’ve gone back in time.  In fact, if you follow the gas pipeline right-of-way up the (very steep) hill you’ll actually come across a forgotten cemetery that hails back to the 1800s.  Cool!

If you’re ever in Delaware County looking for a good place to take a hike I’d definitely recommend stopping by Ridley Creek State Park.  If you have been to Ridley Creek before please let me know what your favorite trail is in the comments section below!  🙂

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