Sunday, August 31, 2014

Bridges to the Past


The Covered Bridges of Chester County

Chester County is bordered by tiers of gently rolling hills and winding roads. And some of those roads lead to covered bridges. I am particularly drawn to covered bridges, whose wooden floors once rattled under the weight of horse-drawn wagons and buggies. They are colorful pieces of Americana that also constitute a romantic chapter in the Brandywine valley’s past. For over 200 years these unique architectural landmark’s have graced the countryside

Under their protective roofs, early pioneers held dances and church socials. Little children dropped small stones through the cracks into rushing streams below. Politicians used their shelter as sites for voter rallies. Lovers ducked into welcome shadows for fleeting trysts, earning the structures the nickname "kissing bridges."

Here are four covered bridges that you should know about:

 Glen Hope is located only ½ mile from the Maryland –Pennsylvania boarder (the Mason-Dixon Line). Glen Hope was built in 1889 and spans the Little Elk Creek. 

 The Bartram Covered Bridge spans the county line between Delaware and Chester Counties over Crum Creek.  Built in 1860 by Ferdinand Wood, who designed the portals to be “Hi and Wide as a Load of Hay,” the bridge is 80 feet long by 13 feet wide.  At one time, the words “LINCOLN, Save Union and Congress” were still visibly painted inside the bridge. The last traces of this old graffiti from 1860 are believed to have been lost during the last restoration of the bridge in 1995.

 Speakman’s Bridge connects the townships of East and West Marlborough, spanning Buck Run roughly 1.5 miles upstream from the Mary Ann Pyle Bridge built at the same time in 1881. Speakman’s is named after Jonathan Speakman, who converted a pre-Civil War-era paper mill into a gristmill.

Knox Covered Bridge - Valley Forge National Park

Originally built in 1851 this bridge was made of white pine, light in weight and resistant to worms and weather. Like other covered bridges, it was covered for protection from the weather, to keep off the rain, snow and sun.

If you have never driven or walked across an old covered bridge, enjoy a tour through the countryside where one stands. Take a long look. With the changing colors of fall approaching, the bridges of Chester County are worth a trip.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

The Waterfalls of Ricketts Glen

YOU hear falling water before you see it, and the sound arouses an ancient curiosity – and we hike as though we are drawn to it by some ancient instinctive attraction. Maybe it’s about the promise of a primeval thrill, or maybe just about what obstacle lies next on the trail. Natural wetlands, and a series of wild, free-flowing waterfalls, cascading through rock-strewn clefts are abundant in this ancient forest.


Old growth timber, including hemlocks that stood on this continent before Columbus, (ring counts on fallen trees reveal some are up to 900 years old) traverses the area. My wife and I hiked this trail with our children throughout their grade school and high school years. Last year my son came with us and brought his fiancé. My middle daughter hiked this trail just last month with a friend. There is something about waterfalls and their continual renewal which reminds me of the passage of time and the circle of life.

Murray Falls

Rickett's Glen State Park is registered as a National Natural Landmark and it’s not surprising that the Falls Trail Loop at Ricketts Glen State Park was named best in Pennsylvania, according to an article in Backpacker Magazine.

Here’s one way to hike it;

Start from the Falls trailhead off PA 118, and follow the path as it crisscrosses gurgling Kitchen Creek for 1.3 easy miles through a forest of 500-year-old hemlock, oak, birch, ash, and maple. At 1.8 miles, you’ll reach the confluence of Kitchen Creek’s two branches.

At Waters Meet, the streams of Ganoga Glen and Glen Leigh come crashing together in a kind of grand hydrologic theater of the woods, and hikers pause on footbridges to watch the show.


Sheldon Falls
                                           
Shawnee Falls
The trail lollipops up one gorge to the Highland Trail, which connects to another for the return. Forty-one-foot Huron Falls (the fifth falls in Glen Leigh) cascades over multiple steps through the narrow gorge to a rocky amphitheater with a natural bench.

Head up Glen Leigh Gorge to approach Adams’s falls from below.




My photograph of Oneida Falls (above) was choose by the National Park Service for inclusion in their 2014 calendar.

If you go;

The full loop trail is over seven miles and the terrain is rocky and slippery. This trail has some very steep and difficult sections. Please be sure that you are properly prepared by being in good physical condition and by wearing sturdy hiking footwear.

As always, I'd like to offer my thanks to everyone that follows me and appreciates my work. It is your kinds words and enthusiasm that continues to inspire me. I hope my work continues to inspire you to appreciate and value the wild and scenic places that we are so blessed to have here in America.