Sights Along the Skippack Trail

On September 4, my husband and I decided to walk along the Skippack Trail in Skippack, PA. We wanted to acquire another trail for this year’s Montco Trail Challenge, in which participants walk or run or bike 10 county trails. We’ve done this in the past – last summer, in fact, we were very ambitious and even completed the 20 mile Perkiomen Trail – twice.

On this day, though, we wanted to take advantage of the nice weather while providing a good walk along a safe surface. I am currently having eyesight issues as I deal with an infection in my left eyelid. Eventually things will be fine, I am told, and my long term eyesight should be fine, but right now the swelling is pressing on my cornea and causing my vision to be quite distorted. My two eyes are not working well together. So this trail seemed like a good place to go as the trail surface is asphalt and the footing is good.

You may know that we here in the Philadelphia area came through the remnants of Hurricane Ida earliler in the week with severe damage to many parts of the area. There were tornadoes that flattened areas near my house, and all of us got enormous amounts of rain. The Schuylkill River flooded Center City and all the waterways around us were frightening in how they flooded and how quickly.

My own house was safe, for which I am thankful.

I give you this information as a prologue for our walk along this trail. It begins at a high elevation and moves gradually down hill toward the Perkiomen Creek. The walk was quite interesting for what it showed about the flooding of this waterway.

All right, let’s go. We parked in a local park and crossed the road over to the trail. There is a horse riding farm/academy that occupies the space under the high tension wires in this section.

I always find the juxtaposition of the horse farm and the surrounding townhouses quite interesting. Some of the residents can sit on their decks just feet from the horses.

We continued along the trail. As you can see, the trail follows along under the electrical wires. Once you pass the horse area, it is left natural by the power company, and it’s beautiful. Right now the area is filled with goldenrod, ragweed, milkweed, and lots of others plants and flowers whose names I do not know.

The trail heads downhill into the floodplain of the Perkiomen Creek. The power station is the white building complex ahead in the distance across the creek.

We walked on, eventually coming into the floodplain of the creek, which was underwater during the storm. We began to see the grasses flattened and some debris carried by the waters, such as these garbage cans.

The trail now turns and runs along the creek, maybe 30 feet back from it. You can see the brown water of the Perkiomen Creek through the muddied vegetation, a sign that flood waters rushed through this area.

At this point we are on a level with the creek. It’s clear now how high the waters were. See the grass and debris in the trees here? It’s at a level of 12-15 feet. That means the water here was that deep, or more. It’s hard for me to imagine the scene, much less take in how dangerous the water was at this point. It’s not a survivable situation if you happened to be in this area.

The Skippack Trail ends at this former railroad bridge, which is part of the Perkiomen Trail and crosses the creek.

You can see the branch caught in the underside of the bridge. That means the water was at least up to this height, about 15-20 feet. As I looked toward the section that goes over the creek, I saw that the underside was packed with branches and other debris left by the waters.

We walked up to the battered info sign at the intersection with the Perkiomen Trail and started back, sobered by what we had seen.

But something nice happened on the way back.

You say, what is this picture of a puddle you’re showing me? And I’ll tell you a little story. On the way down the trail, we noticed a tiny fish on his side in this puddle. It’s common to see fish stranded like this after a flood as the waters go down. Figuring he was dead, we passed on our way.

Returning, I stopped to look at him, and he chose that moment to twitch. I realized his eye was clear, not clouded – he was alive. Quick, I shrieked to my husband, grab him, and we can put him in the little runoff creek we just passed about a minute back.

My husband scooped him up and we ran back to one of the many small runoffs that go through the floodplain, now full of water. We got the little fish into the water and watched. He lay on his side, still. I thought maybe we were too late. The he twitched a couple more times and lay still again. Maybe he needed to be in deeper water. My husband scrambled down the bank to help him.

The, like a flash, the little guy flipped himself over and took off down the tiny creeklet as if nothing had ever happened. Only then did we notice the body of a giant carp, very dead, on the other side of the creek. He had been too big to make his way back to the creek when the water receded, but our little fish had no such problem. I am hoping he got back to the Perkiomen and is right now swimming happily away.

Montco Trail Challenge #9 – Skippack Trail 9-12-20

Good news! The Montgomery County PA Trail Challenge is on for 2020. We will be walking trails in our county to meet the goal of visiting 10 local trails. For my post with a full explanation of the challenge, look here. And here is the challenge website.

On September 12 my husband and I completed #9 on the challenge list – the Skippack trail.

I did a post on this trail pretty recently, so I won’t go into so much detail about it since you can get info there if you’d like. I’ll just show you today’s journey and what we did there.

We parked at Palmer Park and walked the short distance on to the trail section that heads toward the Perkiomen Creek. It starts off at this little “horse farm” that occupies the space under the power lines, running through the middle of a townhouse development.

The trail follows the power lines all the way to the Perkiomen Creek, about 2 miles away – so our walk would be about 4 miles. It was a beautiful day to be outside, cool and sunny. Off we went.

Once we passed the horses and the townhouse development, the land under the wires has been left alone. At this season it is just a gorgeous display of goldenrod, ragweed, thistles, and grasses. Take a look.

It would be easy to think you are in an expansive landscape and walking in silent isolation. In reality, in this section, there are houses all along the non-power line side, including a densely-built section of pricy retirement homes crammed together behind a strip of manicured mown grass. A couple of miles away is a prison:

and in another direction we could see the plume from the Limerick nuclear station. If you are not paying attention you could think it was just another cloud.

Within my memory this area was considered countryside. It’s a popular place now for developers to offer arrays of new homes of various types, and some shopping out on the main road. Now, to me, it’s an example of a landscape I don’t much like – uncoordinated, sprawling, and disconnected.

I focused my vision on the smaller scale. As we walked closer to the creek, more land is open, being a flood plain. There were hawks above our heads and birds chattering. And all these wonderful golden flowers. And the great expansive blue sky.

They soften the edges of the gaunt and ungainly towers.

We ended our outward bound leg near the Perkiomen Creek. If we had kept going, not too long from now we would have met up with the Perkiomen Trail.

Here the concrete bases of the power line towers look almost like a monument of some kind, stark and bold among the vegetation.

We did an art drop off at a little bridge near this location:

And before I forget, here are our ID photos to show we were at the trail.

We turned and retraced our steps. It was great to be outside in the sun and the breeze today and watching the yellow flowers wave in the wind. It is important to remember that in thinking about all the ills of the larger world, things I cannot change, I then lose sight of the things right in front of me, the things that I can influence, that I can enjoy, that I can be thankful for. Today’s walk reminds me of that.

Art Drop Off for 5/25/20, I Promise, This Time

Let me pick up from the post for 5/24/20. As you remember, my husband and I were at Palmer Park in Skippack, PA, for a walk. We had checked out the entrances for two more trails that radiate from this park and decided we’d try them out.

Today we chose the Skippack Trail, which runs about 2.5 miles out to the Perkiomen Trail (which we’ve been on before). We headed back to the trail entrance, which is beside the horse pasture I showed previously.

We set off on the trail on a cool cloudy morning. At its outset it runs along the horse “fields”. We came to understand that this “farm” extended for maybe half a mile in the narrow strip under the towers. There were lots of horses. Oh yes. All shapes and sizes, from tiny ponies to huge draft horses.

I don’t know what this enterprise is all about – I tried to look it up on the internet but it doesn’t show up on the map. I do know people ride from this location and we saw a woman getting ready to teach a couple of small children.

Interesting to me was the fact that a lot of houses and townhouses back up to this site – you see some in the distance in the photos, and the ones running beside us on the trail were hardly 40 feet from the fence. I don’t know about you but I think this farm is not a neighbor I would like to have so close to me, especially in summer. Just saying.

OK. We moved on. Once the horses were left behind, the area under the power lines was wild and open. The paved trail wound slowly down into the watershed of the Perkiomen Creek under the power lines, moving toward the electrical station across the creek.

We left a tile on a bridge over a streamlet heading for the main creek. In the last photo you can see the electrical station across the creek.

Here is a nice view from the other side of the bridge, showing you the watershed area.

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We continued to walk and the trail wound around through the woods, until we could see the Perkiomen Creek.

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Not small, this creek, is it? We were close to the end of the Skippack Trail, we knew, and then we saw the former railroad bridge marking the end of this trail and its intersection with the Perkiomen Trail.

When I saw the bridge, I realized that I’d been on it – we had come here for a run a couple of years ago, but had started from an entrance further up on the Perkiomen Trail. Aha! I understand how it all ties together, now…well, sort of, anyway. Here is the bridge.

The Perkiomen trail follows the creek for about 20 miles and is set in the former railbed of the Perkiomen branch line of the Reading railroad. Hence this bridge!

This is where we turned around. We can pick up the other trail from a different trailhead another day. But before we go, let me show you two sights. First, how about this giant wasps’ nest hanging from the bridge?

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And, I was taken by these lovely flowers. I saw many of them on the route, most with their buds still green or dark pink, not open yet. Here is a plant with blooms already. The plant is clover-like, but the leaves and blooms grow from a central stem. I am going to try and look them up in my wildflower book.

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All right. We turned around and headed back to our starting point, a really nice 5 mile walk this morning.

 

Art Drop-Off 5/24 and 5/25, 2020

My husband and I did two walks in the same area on these days, leaving a tile in each place. The sessions both started at Palmer Park in Skippack, PA, about 15 minutes away (given the current light traffic! It would take maybe 25 minutes in normal times). Here’s the info.

On May 24, we arrived at Palmer Park. It’s a typical township park with ballfields, tot lot, pavilions, etc.

Art Drop off 5-24-20 (1)

We walked to Skippack town center and back, then around the park, then veered off to check out the entrances to two more trails – Evansburg Park and Skippack. We headed toward Evansburg, just to see, and found ourselves walking by this sliver of pasture under the power lines, full of horses.

To me, the spotted horse looked like he was part-giraffe, with that lovely coat.

And some nice flowers… I love how they look as if they can’t wait to bloom.

But what about the tile? We set it at the sundial area back in the park.

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Sundial area? Well, this structure functions as a clock, if you participate and follow directions.

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I tried it and I think it worked, but I am not sure because I am mixed up about how it is affected by Daylight Savings Time. Well, it doesn’t matter, really. I had fun.

On second thought, I think I’ll give you the information for 5/25 on another day, so as not to wear out your patience! Wait until tomorrow…

 

 

 

Art Drop Off September 3

On September 3, we collected the final symbol we need for the magnetic car sticker prize in the Montgomery County (PA) Trail Challenge with a walk on the Skippack Trail. And today’s symbol – the turkey.

We had not been on this trail before, though we’ve been to Evansburg State Park (in fact, we’ve done their permanent orienteering course) and the Perkiomen Trail – both of the trails listed on the sign as connecting with the Skippack.

This trail is located in a formerly very rural area now lurching through population growth and development. It’s not too far from our house, though it’s not close at all, but on weekdays it could take an hour or more to get here, with traffic. My husband lived further out up Skippack Pike when I first met him 30+ years ago and at that time I could zip up the road to visit him in good time. Now – lots of traffic lights and new houses and people.

This trail reflected the changing landscape. Some portions were very countryside-looking.

However, at no time were we out of shouting distance of a suburban neighborhood (and not a loud shout, either). The trail passes through a major township park complex with ball fields and picnic shelters. We parked the car in the middle of this park and set off for the center of the town of Skippack, about 2 miles away or so. Skippack has made a name for itself as a trendy touristy gift and artsy place to shop or to eat a meal, and it’s been doing that for as long as I’ve known the place.

I left one tile on a bridge right in town.

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At first I was going to leave it here, but then I got a look at the wasps’ nest and all the wasps! and moved it along the rail.

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Right outside town is the fire training center. This structure is used to train firefighters in a variety of situations. It’s interesting to see the various doors and windows that can be opened or shuttered to create different fire conditions. I’d like to see a training session in action. I guess I could; we have a similar structure in our township.

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We left another tile at the pond located maybe midway between the park and the town.

And the final tile was set on a bench in the park, next to one of the many ball fields. By this time the weather had cleared and the sky was a beautiful blue.

I am interested to come back and take the trail toward Evansburg State Park next time.

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