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.