Tyler Trail 10K Race Recap

Stream Crossing!  (Image © 2015 Eric Mundy and John Greenstine. Source) https://plus.google.com/photos/115911381219551998085/albums/6136825500143490737)

Stream Crossing!
(Image © 2015 Eric Mundy and John Greenstine. Source)

Three weeks ago I ran my first 10K on snow-covered, narrow, insanely hilly trails. It was HARD!  I survived that race but met none of my goals (except finishing) and came away from it hoping that I could learn from my trail 10K experience and be stronger at the next race.

The next race (aka my opportunity for trail redemption) arrived in the form of the Tyler Arboretum Trail 10K last Saturday morning.  How did it go?  Well, let’s look at it in terms of my goals from the previous 10K…

  1. Don’t walk.  SUCCESS!
  2. Average better than 10:00/mile pace.  SUCCESS!!
  3. Finish in under an hour (9:39 pace).  SUCCESS!!!

I am so proud to share that I met ALL of my goals, finishing this fun, challenging trail race with a new PR time of 58:34… 12 1/2 minutes faster than my previous trail 10K!  Here I am immediately after the race when I saw my time. Woohoo!

Yay! I did it!

The 6.2 mile course wound around Tyler Arboretum, a private, 650-acre arboretum that borders Ridley Creek State Park.  The course included many rolling hills, four stream crossings, and beautifully maintained, wide trails.  I ran without music (unusual for me!) which gave me lots of time to think during the race.  With that in mind, I’m going to split my recap into a series of observations that I made while running:

Trail Runners are really nice!

During my previous trail 10K I realized that no one around me was listening to music.  Instead they were politely saying “on your left” when they passed me or “nice job!” when I passed them.  Crazy!  I felt like a total newbie with my iPhone and ear buds and quickly turned my music way down to better hear my fellow trail runners.

During the Tyler 10K I left my phone in the car and definitely enjoyed being able to hear all of the banter around me.  Runners were chatting about hills, encouraging one another, and, when two runners fell right in front of me on a downhill stretch, checking to make sure that everyone was OK and able to proceed.  Trail runners are NICE!!

Tyler 10K 1

I happily joined in on the occasional chit chat and had a nice exchange with an older guy who panted out “let’s go Pink, see you at the top!” as he passed me on a steep uphill climb.

I like stream crossings.  A lot!

The Tyler 10K course included four stream crossings.  Runners had three options: (1) be a superhuman and leap across the creek in a single bound, (2) slow down and tip-toe across some slippery rocks, or (3) run straight through the water.  After a winter of running in snow, ice, and mud, I’m pretty accustomed to running with wet feet so I went into the race thinking that I would go with option 3… unless the rocks looked easy, in which case I’d try to stay dry as long as I could.

The first stream crossing felt like it came up really quickly and before I knew it I had already swerved around a few people who were slowing down to do the rock thing.  I plowed through the water and emerged on the far bank, happy and wet.

I continued to splash through the remaining three stream crossings, simply choosing the path of least resistance.  It was great fun!  (For proof just look at my insanely happy expression in the photo above… who in their right mind looks that excited to get their feet wet??) 😉

Heart Rates and Hills, oh my!

I think of myself as a runner who likes, even embraces, hills.  I do a lot of hill running in my neighborhood and on the trails at Okehocking Preserve and I know that even if I get really fatigued going up a hill I can usually recover quickly once the terrain levels out.  Unfortunately my confidence took a big hit during the previous trail 10K when I had to slow to a walk SEVERAL times on hills, and I left that race thinking that a goal of “don’t walk” for a trail race might not be attainable for me.

With that backstory in mind, I went into Tyler hoping that I could make it up the hills without walking, but completely unsure about my ability to do so.  When the first major hill loomed into view after the stream crossing I looked up and saw many people walking, but I also realized that I could actually see the crest of the hill and it didn’t look so bad!  I jogged up the hill, passing a few walkers in the process, and recovered at the top.  Hurrah!

I realize that there is a point at which it becomes more energy efficient to walk up a hill during a trail race.  I’m not sure exactly where that point is for me, so I resorted to looking at my heart rate to help me determine how much effort was too much.  I know that my max. heart rate during a 5K seems to be somewhere around 198-202 bpm and in a speed workout it’s not uncommon to finish each interval at around 190.  I fixated on that 190 rate and checked my Garmin on uphill climbs to make sure that my heart rate stayed below that number.  None of the hills were too crazy so it all worked out and I never had to walk!

Tyler 10K Stats

I definitely have some room for improvement on downhills.  I would love to be able to zoom down slopes like a mountain goat (or like many of my fellow competitors on Saturday), but I’m scared to really let myself go all out.  I have enough trouble seeing rocks and roots under leaves on flat ground, much less as I’m flying down a hill.  I figure that for now I’ll be satisfied with letting the speedy downhillers pass me on the descents and then I’ll pass them back on the climbs.  😉

I am really excited about Broad Street.

Many times during a hard 5K I’ve found myself thinking “Why do I race? Is this even fun? This is so HARD!” Of course, I always feel happy the moment a race ends, but my point is that racing is not always my favorite activity while the race is actually going on.  So, imagine my surprise on Saturday when, at around the 4 mile mark, I found myself daydreaming about the Broad Street Run!  Granted, I was thinking that I would hopefully feel better at the Broad Street 4 mile marker then I was feeling at that point during the trail 10K, but overall the idea of running another 5-6 miles on pavement really didn’t seem too bad.  The 10 mile Broad Street Run is 20 days away and I am pumped!!!!

~~

In the final half mile of the 10K there were two runners right in front of me: a man and a woman.  I set my sights on the woman and slowly gained on her.  As the finish line came into view I decided that I was definitely going to pass her (even though trail runners are really nice it’s still a race, after all!) and with a hundred yards to go I somehow started sprinting.  I passed both runners and blasted across the finish line (Garmin says my pace was 4:13 at the end????!) before collapsing in a happy, tired heap.

Sprinting into the finish

According to the official results, I finished 7th in my age group, 24th female, and 104th overall out of 388 runners!

All in all, the Tyler Trail 10K was a fantastic experience.  I learned that I am stronger than I thought I was, I “unplugged” and enjoyed the runners, scenery, and the thoughts rambling around in my head, and I know for sure that I’m having a blast racing!

My next race will be with Matt!  We’re running the Empower the Children 5K in Havertown, PA next Saturday.  Then it’s on to Broad Street!!

Miles since last post: 78.4
Days since last post: 15
Avg. Daily Miles since 7/18/13: 4.84
2015 MILES: 486.3

 

Past Races:
•  March ’15:
Athlete’s Closet March 5K (3/7), St. Pat’s 5K (3/14), Granogue Trail 10K (3/21), Pickle Run #3 (3/28)
•  February ’15: Athlete’s Closet February 5K (2/7), Pickle Trail Run #2 (2/21)
•  January ’15: SRA New Year’s Day 5K (1/1), Athlete’s Closet January 5K (1/3), Pickle Run #1 (1/17)
•  December ’14: Jingle Elf 2 Mile (12/5), Brian’s Run 5 Miler (12/7), Athlete’s Closet Holiday 5K (12/14)
•  November ’14: Trinity Berwyn 5K (11/1)  [PR], Metal Run 5K (11/8), Seven Summits Turkey Trot (11/27)
•  October ’14: Martin’s Run 5K (10/5), Fueled Up & Fired Up 5K (10/18), Bark in the Park 5K (10/25)
•  September ’14: Talk 5K Trail Run (9/13), Run A Muck Trail Race (9/20), Haverford Township 5K (9/27)
•  August ’14: Riddlewood 5K (8/3), Radnor Red Steeplechase (8/17), Pickle in the Streets 5K (8/28) [PR]
•  July ’14: Cam’s ‘Moonlight’ 5K (7/10), Swarthmore Independence Eve 8K (7/18)
•  June ’14: Radnor Conservancy 5K Trail Run (6/1), Media 5 Miler (6/20)
•  May ’14: Elwyn 5K (5/3), Run for Victory 5K (5/18) [PR], Rocky Run 5K Trail Run (5/30)
•  April ’14: Las Vegas Security 5K (4/3/, Rick’s Run 5K (4/19), St. Tim’s 5K (4/26)
•  March ’14: Athlete’s Closet March 5 Miler (3/1), Color Out Cancer 5K (3/30)
•  February ’14: Athlete’s Closet February 5K (2/1)
•  January ’14: Athlete’s Closet January 5K (1/4)
•  December ’13: Athlete’s Closet December 5K (12/14), New Year’s Eve YMCA 5K (12/31) [PR]
•  November ’13: Trinity Presbyterian 5K (11/2), Turkey Trot 5K (11/28)
•  October ’13: Fueled Up & Fired Up 5K (10/19), Oy Vey 5K (10/27) [PR]
•  September ’13: Run-a-Muck 5K (9/21)
•  The Challenge Begins: 100 Mile iPad Mini Challenge (7/23/13)

Ridley Creek State Park Orange Trail

As I type this it is 67 degrees outside… easily the warmest day of the year!  I’m about to go on a nice, long run and I’m definitely looking forward to running in a t-shirt!!!

Before I embark on my run I want to share some photos from a hike that Matt, Piper and I took last weekend.  We explored out a different part of Ridley Creek State Park on Sunday and it was beautiful!

Ridley Creek

We typically stay on the west side of Ridley Creek but on Sunday we ventured eastward to the park’s Orange Trail.  This single track path follows the eastern bank of the creek before looping back through a hilly forest.  The trail is well marked with orange blazes and the entire lasso-shaped loop was about 2.35 miles long.

Oddly, the official DCNR map shows a shorter orange loop than what was marked in the woods, so I overlaid the outline of our actual hike on the above map.

Oddly, the official DCNR map shows a shorter orange loop than what was marked in the woods, so I overlaid the outline of our actual hike on the above map.

Piper had a blast, as usual.  She is getting very comfortable climbing on boulders, logs, dirt piles and anything else we find in the woods.  She also really wants to go in the water but it’s still pretty cold out so we still haven’t really let her get more than her paws wet.  I can’t wait for warmer weather!!

All in all this was a pleasant little hike with great views of the creek.  I’ll definitely return to the Orange Trail, maybe for a run or a summer picnic by the water.  Piper still doesn’t even know that summer exists, but soon enough she’ll see what I keep raving about! 😀

What are you looking at?

“‘Summer?’ I’ll believe it when I see it!”

Ridley Creek State Park
351 Gradyville Road
Newtown Square, PA 19073

Granogue 10K Trail Run

Today I learned that 10K trail races in the snow are not for the faint of heart.  Or the faint of ankles, knees, or breath, for that matter.  Luckily I must have just enough of each of these because this morning I finished my first ever 10K!

Feeling good 2.5 miles in

Let’s jump right to the chase… the Granogue 10K Trail Run was 6.2 miles of snowy, slushy, slippery trails with wildly steep hills and gorgeous, sweeping views of the Brandywine valley and creek.  In other words, this was a hell of a race to pick as my first 10K!  I had fun but MAN was it hard!!

Trail conditions

Going into the race I had a few lofty goals including (a) finish under an hour, or (b) at the very least maintain a pace under 10:00 min./mile, OR, if all else fails, (c), don’t walk.  Well, let’s just say that I promptly reassessed those goals when my watch reported that it had taken me nearly 10 minutes to slog through the very first mile (usually my fastest).  At that point I quickly realized that I had left out the most important goal of all: (d) finish the dang race!

Granogue 10K Stats

Finish I did, but not without a healthy dose of uphill walking.  For a while I was hoping that I wouldn’t need to walk, but then the course took a sharp turn up and away from the Brandywine Creek at around the 3.2 mile point.  According to Garmin this hill gained 169 feet over just 0.15 miles.  A 21% grade, eek!  After a short bit of slow uphill running I realized that all of the other runners ahead of me were walking and I mercifully slowed down to a power-hike-type walk where I pushed on my quads with my hands with each step.  (I think I read about this technique somewhere online?).  This seemed to work as I didn’t lose any ground on the hills and was able to return to a jog at the top.

The course switch-backed through the woods, up and down gullies and ravines and, at one point, under what’s called “Glue Sniffer’s Bridge” (wonder what that story is?) before scaling the hill back up to the Granogue Estate.  At this point my brain was fried and I was just putting one foot in front of the other… but then I saw Matt!  He came to the race to cheer me on and take pictures and it definitely gave me a boost to see him standing by the side of the trail.

Thumbs Up during the 10K

After an eternity my watch finally beeped off the 6th mile split and I knew I was in the homestretch.  With another short uphill (of course!) the finish line was in sight and I ran as hard as I could, worried that a woman I had just passed might be right on my heels trying to beat me across the line.  I wasn’t 100% sure where the actual finish “line” was (there was just a big chute) so I kept running hard until I nearly collided with the guy who needed to tear the number off of my bib.  Whoops! Matt met me immediately after I exited the finish chute and took this photo… I was definitely in the middle of saying “WOW, that was SO HARD!!!”

WOW that was HARD!!

All in all this was an extremely challenging course made even more difficult by the slippery snow conditions.  Some of the downhills were almost as taxing as the (non-22% grade) uphills because it was tricky to stay upright on the slushy, muddy ground.  I think that I will like the 10K distance in the future – especially on a road! – but I have to admit that today was a little overwhelming.  I’m not sure if I would run Granogue again next year (definitely not with snow on the ground) but we’ll see… maybe by then I’ll be more experienced with both trails and 10Ks which will make this course seem easier! 😀

Plus, you can’t argue with these views… Granogue Estate sits (very) high on a hill facing the First State National Monument (aka Woodlawn Trustees nature preserve) with the Brandywine Creek and a seldom-used freight train line in between.  It’s beautiful here!!

I’ll be racing again next weekend, but I don’t know yet if I’ll be opting for the Pickle Road or Trail course.  After today pavement sounds nice, but depending on the conditions I might want a chance to redeem myself on the trails before the Tyler 10K trail race on April 11th.  I’m hoping that Tyler is easier than Granogue!!!

Miles since last post: 30.7
Days since last post:  6
Avg. Daily Miles since 7/18/13: 4.84
2015 MILES: 376.4

Granogue 10K

Past Races:
•  March ’15:
Athlete’s Closet March 5K (3/7), St. Pat’s 5K (3/14)
•  February ’15: Athlete’s Closet February 5K (2/7), Pickle Trail Run #2 (2/21)
•  January ’15: SRA New Year’s Day 5K (1/1), Athlete’s Closet January 5K (1/3), Pickle Run #1 (1/17)
•  December ’14: Jingle Elf 2 Mile (12/5), Brian’s Run 5 Miler (12/7), Athlete’s Closet Holiday 5K (12/14)
•  November ’14: Trinity Berwyn 5K (11/1)  [PR], Metal Run 5K (11/8), Seven Summits Turkey Trot (11/27)
•  October ’14: Martin’s Run 5K (10/5), Fueled Up & Fired Up 5K (10/18), Bark in the Park 5K (10/25)
•  September ’14: Talk 5K Trail Run (9/13), Run A Muck Trail Race (9/20), Haverford Township 5K (9/27)
•  August ’14: Riddlewood 5K (8/3), Radnor Red Steeplechase (8/17), Pickle in the Streets 5K (8/28) [PR]
•  July ’14: Cam’s ‘Moonlight’ 5K (7/10), Swarthmore Independence Eve 8K (7/18)
•  June ’14: Radnor Conservancy 5K Trail Run (6/1), Media 5 Miler (6/20)
•  May ’14: Elwyn 5K (5/3), Run for Victory 5K (5/18) [PR], Rocky Run 5K Trail Run (5/30)
•  April ’14: Las Vegas Security 5K (4/3/, Rick’s Run 5K (4/19), St. Tim’s 5K (4/26)
•  March ’14: Athlete’s Closet March 5 Miler (3/1), Color Out Cancer 5K (3/30)
•  February ’14: Athlete’s Closet February 5K (2/1)
•  January ’14: Athlete’s Closet January 5K (1/4)
•  December ’13: Athlete’s Closet December 5K (12/14), New Year’s Eve YMCA 5K (12/31) [PR]
•  November ’13: Trinity Presbyterian 5K (11/2), Turkey Trot 5K (11/28)
•  October ’13: Fueled Up & Fired Up 5K (10/19), Oy Vey 5K (10/27) [PR]
•  September ’13: Run-a-Muck 5K (9/21)
•  The Challenge Begins: 100 Mile iPad Mini Challenge (7/23/13)

St. Pat’s 5K

It rained all day Saturday, meaning that Piper stayed inside and kept herself busy doing this:

I, on the other hand, was pleased to discover that even if the weather was gloomy and rainy it was still a full 21° WARMER than the previous Saturday.  After the winter we’ve had I now consider 46° and drizzly to be EXCELLENT running conditions so I decided to take advantage of the (relatively) nice weather by signing up for an afternoon 5K in downtown West Chester, PA.

Seeing as how this was the St. Pat’s 5K, it was only appropriate that race registration occurred in Kildare’s, an Irish-themed pub.  I paid my entry fee, picked up my tech t-shirt, found a hiding spot for said shirt by the bar since I wasn’t planning on wearing it in the race, and headed out for a brief warm up.  Before I knew it I was lining up with 175 other runners and walkers and we were off!  I wasn’t familiar with the course but another runner at the start had explained that it was just two loops of a big square.  Simple enough!

After a winter of hilly 5K courses I would really have liked to PR, but unfortunately I finished just 7 seconds shy of my goal on Saturday.  Nevertheless, I ran what felt like a great race and I am so proud of that third mile split!!! 7:33!

St Pat's 5K Stats

The race finished up a long, gradual hill.  Although I was able to pick up speed going into the finish I wasn’t able to kick quite hard enough to beat my 23:32 PR.  It’s all good though, because my official chip time of 23:40 was good enough for 6th place female and 2nd in my age group!  The age group award was a gift card to Kildare’s so I guess I’ll be returning for an Irish dinner (or drink(s)) in the near future!

Obviously I would have loved to PR, but I’m really not too upset about it, especially because less than 48 hours before the race I was doing this:

Crazy, insane trail hill repeats!  There’s a hill at Okehocking Preserve that is roughly a 13% grade… that’s 87 feet gained in elevation over 200 meters of pure, twisting uphill!  I voluntarily chose to run up this hill four times in a row on Thursday and finished up the day with another 2 miles of hilly trails, so overall I’m pretty psyched that I was able to complete Saturday’s race within 7 seconds of my 5K PR!

Trail Running at Okehocking

Plus, this view from the top of another, even higher hill at Okehocking made Thursday’s trail run totally worth it. 😃 #runhappy

The next race that I’m registered for is the final Pickle Run on March 28th but depending on the weather I may sign up for another impromptu race next weekend.  What do you think I should do? A hilly trail 10K on Saturday or a flat 5K Sunday?  Lately I seem to be a glutton for off-road punishment so that trail race is looking sort of appealing…

Miles since last post: 16.5
Days since last post:  4
Avg. Daily Miles since 7/18/13: 4.84
2015 MILES: 345.7

Past Races:
•  March ’15:
Athlete’s Closet March 5K (3/7)
•  February ’15:
Athlete’s Closet February 5K (2/7), Pickle Trail Run #2 (2/21)
•  January ’15: SRA New Year’s Day 5K (1/1), Athlete’s Closet January 5K (1/3), Pickle Run #1 (1/17)
•  December ’14: Jingle Elf 2 Mile (12/5), Brian’s Run 5 Miler (12/7), Athlete’s Closet Holiday 5K (12/14)
•  November ’14: Trinity Berwyn 5K (11/1)  [PR], Metal Run 5K (11/8), Seven Summits Turkey Trot (11/27)
•  October ’14: Martin’s Run 5K (10/5), Fueled Up & Fired Up 5K (10/18), Bark in the Park 5K (10/25)
•  September ’14: Talk 5K Trail Run (9/13), Run A Muck Trail Race (9/20), Haverford Township 5K (9/27)
•  August ’14: Riddlewood 5K (8/3), Radnor Red Steeplechase (8/17), Pickle in the Streets 5K (8/28) [PR]
•  July ’14: Cam’s ‘Moonlight’ 5K (7/10), Swarthmore Independence Eve 8K (7/18)
•  June ’14: Radnor Conservancy 5K Trail Run (6/1), Media 5 Miler (6/20)
•  May ’14: Elwyn 5K (5/3), Run for Victory 5K (5/18) [PR], Rocky Run 5K Trail Run (5/30)
•  April ’14: Las Vegas Security 5K (4/3/, Rick’s Run 5K (4/19), St. Tim’s 5K (4/26)
•  March ’14: Athlete’s Closet March 5 Miler (3/1), Color Out Cancer 5K (3/30)
•  February ’14: Athlete’s Closet February 5K (2/1)
•  January ’14: Athlete’s Closet January 5K (1/4)
•  December ’13: Athlete’s Closet December 5K (12/14), New Year’s Eve YMCA 5K (12/31) [PR]
•  November ’13: Trinity Presbyterian 5K (11/2), Turkey Trot 5K (11/28)
•  October ’13: Fueled Up & Fired Up 5K (10/19), Oy Vey 5K (10/27) [PR]
•  September ’13: Run-a-Muck 5K (9/21)
•  The Challenge Begins: 100 Mile iPad Mini Challenge (7/23/13)

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

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!