Run-A-Muck 5K

We made it!!  Matt and I successfully completed the Willistown Conservation Trust “Run-A-Muck” 5K race yesterday afternoon.  The race ended up being longer than a 5k and it was SUPER hilly, but we finished!

My original goal was to beat 32 minutes (i.e. run 10 minute miles) so when I came over the last hill and saw the finish line clock at 35 minutes I was a little disappointed.  That is, until Matt told me that his and other runners’ GPS running apps were saying that the race was more like 3.65 miles long.  That means I DID meet my pace goal, woohoo!

In addition to meeting my goal I was also the 8th female and 34th overall to cross the finish line which was pretty cool and unexpected.  Granted, there were only about 105 runners AND one of the females ahead of me was an 11-year-old girl, but eh… oh well!  🙂  (By the way, I learned that little kids can be ridiculous runners!  I guess they just never get tired?  Crazy!)

Run-A-Muck Map

The course was tough… it took us through beautiful horse fields, around several ponds, up what seemed like a near-vertical climb in the woods (I walked it), and along a dirt road.  I started out WAY too fast (7:30-8:00 mile, eek!) and then I paid for it on every single steep uphill climb after that, but it was a good learning experience and I think this will just make future races that much easier.

Overall, the race was hard but the feeling of accomplishment after crossing the finish line made it totally worth it.  I’m already looking for another local 5K to enter in October… looking forward to it!  🙂

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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.

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!!  🙂

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!  🙂

Related Links:

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!