Saturday, December 9, 2017

Hiking Wissahickon Valley Park

This week's Ramblers hikes was in a state I've never hiked in, so I couldn't resist. Mind you, it was in a state I've been in - not to mention in a city I've been to many times. It never occurred to me that the city of Philadelphia would have good hiking - but Wissahickon Valley Park is truly both right in the city and very much a real hike.

OK, it's not wilderness - there is ample evidence of bridges and other similar improvements - but you rarely see houses or roads. The park surrounds the Schuylkill River, making for a scenic walk.

Getting there took three trains to Chestnut Hill and a road walk. Once in the park, we walked southeast until we exited the park and followed a greenway to the 30th St. train station. The greenway was sandwiched between the river and a busy road, so while the river was still nice, it wasn't as magical. The highlight here was walking past the boathouses along the river. I don't know if this is a Philadelphia thing - I've never seen anything like it anywhere else.


Monday, December 4, 2017

Exploring Birch Creek Owl Pond Park

Birch Creek Owl Pond

Hiking on Long Island can be a weird experience. There are a fair number of trails, but information on them is scarce, and they aren't typically well marked.

J and I tried to go to a hike in the pine barrens mentioned in my LI hiking guide, which isn't a very helpful guidebook. Now I mean no disrespect to the author's knowledge - he clearly knows a lot about the area. But it isn't arranged well as a guide. Often, it's not clear which trailhead to park at, for example, or the map isn't sufficient guidance. Which might be fine if there was enough info online or at the trailhead.

Birch Creek Owl Pond

So when we got to this park, every parking spot was marked "for archery permit holders only," and, one, we didn't have an archery permit, and two, that didn't make us feel very safe, what with it probably being some kind of hunting season. Fortunately, while looking for the park we had seen a kiosk at the start of another hiking trail. We decided to try it with really no idea of what we were in for.

Birch Creek Owl Pond Park (a name with at least two too many nouns) is, per usual, not easy to find info on. When I Googled it, tide tables and sunset times were among the top results. Nor was a map posted at the trailhead.

Birch Creek Owl Pond

Without guidance, we had to make random decisions about turns (with the occasional assist from Google Maps). Handwritten signs pointed to various landmarks, with no suggestion of how far they were. (Answer: In some cases, in other parks entirely.)

The good news was that it was a very pretty park, so well worth exploring. We only did about 2.5 miles.

Friday, November 17, 2017



I was in Texas for a conference last weekend, and they made sure we couldn't forget it.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Trail crew work report

Cleared areaFor this month's Van Cortlandt Park work day, we headed up to the north side of the park where it borders Yonkers. Every time I think I've seen every part of the park it turns out there is a corner I haven't been yet, and these entrances were new to me. It's just east of where the Old Croton Aqueduct enters the park.

These two entrances, about 50 feet apart, didn't look great. Between the dumping of old Christmas trees and trees that had been cut back but not carried away, there were mounds next to the trail that needed to be cleared. We trimmed branches, pulled out invasive plants, removed a log on the trail, and raked brush and vines back. I didn't get a before picture, but you can see the after above. Our crew leader wants to come back in the spring and do some planting in the area to improve it further.