My husband and I have taken Montgomery County, PA, where we live, up on its challenge. Its trail challenge, that is: visit five county trails, walk or run or bike on them, collect the symbol as evidence of your visit, and if you do this by September 4, you will get an achievement award, a medal.
Well, I don’t really need a medal, but I love the idea of visiting more trails. So I looked up the listing. We think we’re going to try to do all of them, if we can. So far we have collected two, pretty easily, since we visit them in our everyday lives – the Pennypack and the Green Ribbon.
Today we decided to try another one. The weather was hot and sunny, just beautiful, and a good day for walking. We chose the Cynwyd Heritage Trail, about 25 minutes from home, in Bala Cynwyd, PA. We had our reasons for picking this one, and I’ll tell you in a minute.
We drove to Bala (you say it Balla Kinwid, with the ‘a’ like the one in Al, although there’s a Philadelphia pronunciation sometimes heard – Balla Kinwood – and people often shorten it just to ‘Bala’). Our route took us into Philadelphia via the section called Manayunk – a former industrial area along the banks of the Schuylkill. We crossed back into Montgomery County over the Green Lane bridge, drove a short distance, and parked at the Bala Cynwyd Park. A Sunday morning baseball game was in progress:
Right away we were able to collect our symbol:
And we got on the trail. It’s the roadbed of an abandoned section of commuter rail, reclaimed as a trail through the efforts of a dedicated volunteer group, grants and awards, and a testament to the interest people have in our area in creating and expanding a bicycle/walking trail network. It begins at the Cynwyd commuter rail station and passes behind houses, parks, and even a tennis club. I also noted the mile markers; they are similar to old ones we see scattered around on major roads, made of marble, with mileage to Center City Philadelphia carved into them.
The Cynwyd trail is not long, only 2 miles, but it’s well-used by local people, and it connects with a very popular trail, the Schuylkill Trail, that runs between Valley Forge and the city of Philadelphia.
And how it makes this connection is why we wanted to go on this walk.
Let me back up a bit. In Manayunk, just before crossing the river, we passed under an enormous railroad bridge, the freight line above us long abandoned. The bridge fell into such disrepair that chunks dropped off it and nets had to be set up to protect those going underneath it. As long as I can remember, that is how things have been.
Not any more. This bridge has now been repaired and repurposed as a bike/pedestrian bridge. An access to the Cynwyd trail was built. It opened not long ago. We’ve been wanting to make the trip over this bridge and today – we did.
We were able to see things from a perspective never before possible for us.
Here’s the bridge itself – it’s called the S bridge because of its curving shape.
We saw the Green Lane Bridge where we had crossed a short time ago in the car, and the Manayunk Canal.
And we got such a great view of Manayunk. This section of the city was filled with industry and packed with small rowhomes for the workers, all arrayed up the hill. Now industry is gone, but it still has many long-term residents – Poeple who live here stay here. And the area has become popular, especially for younger people and apartment dwellers – there is new construction, we saw, along the river (raised to avert flood damage).
And maybe my favorite view – the river, the expressway, a freight train on a rail line – all snaking along toward downtown. I’ve never had this view of things before and I was really taken by it.
So, we walked back to the car. I’ll leave you with these photos of the S bridge from ground level, taken from the Green Lane bridge on our way home. You know, I’ve driven this route many times and seen this view of the intersection – but never having done it with the perspective of knowing what things look like from above, to add to it. There is new territory to be explored and new vistas opened – right under our noses! And all we had to do was – look.