“If your dog is fat,” the old saying goes, “you aren’t getting enough exercise.” But walking the dog need not be just about a little exercise. Here are 10 cool things you can see in greater Philadelphia while you hike with your dog.
In 1855, a hotel entrepreneur built a new inn on Rex Avenue. To draw attention to his hostelry he constructed an Indian from old barn boards and propped it up on top of a rock overlooking the Gorge. In 1902, when the Indian Rock Hotel was long gone but with the silhouette still there, artist Massey Rhind was commissioned to make a representation of a “Delaware Indian, looking west to where his people have gone.” The kneeling warrior has gazed up the Wissahickon Gorge ever since. A switchback trail leads to the Indian Statue where you can get close enough to pat his knee. And take in a breathtaking view.
The Multi-Use Trail rolls past reconstructed huts and parade grounds that transport you back to the Revolution. The National Memorial Arch, a massive stone tribute dedicated in 1917, stands out along the route. The inscription reads: “Naked and starving as they are, we cannot enough admire the incomparable patience and fidelity of the soldiery. Washington at Valley Forge, February 16, 1778.” In the southern part of White Clay, reached by the Twin Valley Trail, is the Arc Corner Monument marking one end of the 12-mile arc which forms the Pennsylvania-Delaware state line, unique in American political boundary-making. The circular divide dates to William Penn’s directive of August 28, 1701, when Delaware was still a part of Pennsylvania, known as the Lower Three Counties. A little more than 1/2 mile to the west is another monument marking the tri-state junction of Delaware,Pennsylvania and Maryland.
Breaking out of the woods at several points on the hilltops you are greeted with an unparalleled view of Granogue, one of the more spectacular of the American castles dotting the Brandywine Valley’s chateau lands.
Flying concentric circles outward from Philadelphia, Hollywood location scouts for Oprah Winfrey’s movie project, Beloved, spotted the Fair Hill terrain and selected it as the backdrop for the film’s rural scenes. A ramshackle 19th-century tenant farm was constructed and much of the movie shot here. The producers decided to leave the movie set intact, to deteriorate naturally. You can wander among the fake buildings and even knock on the styrofoam stones.
Where else can a dog climb into an actual battery and scan the Delaware River where gunnery officers once aimed guns capable of accurately firing 1,000-pound projectiles eight miles like he can at Fort Mott State Park? Fort DuPont, named for Civil War fleet commander Admiral Samuel Francis duPont, saw active duty in three wars before becoming a state park. The 1-mile River View Trail, a grassy loop path, begins in the marshland along the Delaware River and finishes in shaded woodlands. The trail takes you past several ruins of the military installation, camoflauged to river traffic, and features sustained views of the Delaware River and Fort Delaware on Pea Patch Island.
In the farthest northern section of Tyler State Park is the longest covered bridge in Bucks County. The 117-year old Schofield Ford Covered Bridge burned in 1991 but after five years of fundraising the 166-foot, two-span crossing was entirely rebuilt by volunteers on its original stone abutments using authentic period materials and methods. An elaborate, reinforced wooden railroad trestle bridges a ravine on the Glen Trail. The trail runs by a stream under the trestle and there are sweeping views of Wenonah Woods from the top.
A walk through Brandywine Park provides a quick lesson is the history of bridge architecture. The classical arch form is represented in grand style with the magificent stone viaduct across the river and numerous reinforced concrete spans. There is even a small iron arch bridge over the mill race. A prototypical 19th century pier and girder iron bridge transports trains over the Brandywine. And the pedestrian footbridge across the water, the Swinging Bridge, is a little suspension bridge employing the same engineering principles as the mythical Brooklyn Bridge.
A floodplain is a safety valve for the release of a raging creek’s overflow. Along the Paper Mill Trail, just off the Creek Road Trail, is an exhibit on managing these protective wetlands that create a unique wildlife habitat. The stone double-arch bridge next to the floodplain exhibit was built in 1847. The fall line on the Pennypack Creek was the natural choice for fording the creek back to Indian days. William Penn was not so patient in waiting for the tide to take the water away each day and in 1683 he asked that “an order be given for building a bridge over the Pennypack.” Each male resident was taxed in either money or labor to build the bridge, which, when completed in 1697, became the first Three Arch Stone bridge in America. Designated a National Civil Engineering Landmark, the bridge over Frankford Avenue in Pennypack Park is the oldest stone bridge still carrying heavy traffic in America. Germantown Pike was the first road to be started in Montgomery County, dating to 1687 when funds were allocated for a “cart road” from Philadelphia to the Plymouth Meeting settlement. Later extended to present-day Collegeville, an eight arch stone bridge was built to span Skippack Creek in 1792. An equestrian trail crosses the bridge, which is the oldest bridge in continuous, heavy use in America. Ashland Covered Bridge, built in the days before the Civil War; the adjoining Succession and Flood Plain Trails visit meadow, marsh, pond and forest landscapes.
Theodore Burr built a bridge spanning the Hudson River at Waterford, New York in 1804. He added an arch segment to the multiple truss bridge popular at the time, attaining a longer span. Patented in 1817, the Burr Arch Truss became one of the most common in the construction of covered bridges. The Larkin’s Bridge, a 65-foot long, 45-ton “Burr Arch” covered bridge erected in 1854 and rebuilt in 1881, was relocated to the northeast section of the park in 1972. Larkin’s Covered Bridge is the only remaining legacy of Milford Mills.
In 1850 Albert Fink, a German railroad engineer,
designed and patented a bridge that used a latticework of rods instead of cables to reinforce stiffness. This construction was cheap and sturdy, making the Fink Truss one of the most commonly used railroad bridges in the 1860s, especially favored by the powerful Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, Only one Fink Truss bridge remains in the United States – an abandoned 108-foot span in Zoarsville, Ohio. A wooden reproduction of a Fink Truss is in a field at Warwick County Park for you and your dog to climb.
Pennsylvania’s first canal system was cobbled together in 1815 using 120 locks to stretch 108 miles from the coal fields of Schuylkill County to Philadelphia. Railroads began chewing away at canal business in the 1860s and the last coal barges floated down the Schuylkill River in the 1920s. Today, the only sections of the canal in existence are at Manayunk and Lock 60, built by area name donor Thomas Oakes, at the Schuylkill Canal Park. In 1985 the Schuylkill Canal Association formed to keep the canal flowing and maintain the lock and towpath. In 1988, the area was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
The Taylor Memorial Arboretum provides a 12-Tree Self-Guided Tour. The collection is especially strong in Far Eastern specimens and spotlights three Pennsylvania State Champion trees: the Needle Juniper, the Lacebark Elm and the Giant Dogwood. Also on the tour is a Dawn Redwood, an ancient tree known only through fossils until 1941 when a botany student tracked down living specimens in rural China. Some of the first seed to come to America resulted in this tree. Liberated from their sun-stealing neighbors of the crowded woods, the “King” and “Queen” White Oaks have spread out into a massive canopy of leaves. The “Queen” measures seventeen feet around at the thickest part of the trunk and the “King” is closer to twenty. The two trees are part of the “Penn’s Woods” collection of 139 trees standing when William Penn arrived to survey his Pennsylvania colony.
The arboreal oldsters reside at the last stop of the nature trail. bacterial infection. Awbury Arboretum in East Germantown was the summer estate of 19th century Quaker shipping merchant Henry Cope. Across the 55 acres are plantings of groves and clusters of trees set amidst large swaths of grss fields in the English landscape garden tradition. You can investigate more than 200 species, mostly native, in your informal explorations of the grounds. Old macadam paths lead to most areas of the odd-shaped property. Also on the grounds are wetlands surrounding an artificial pond.
While many of the Hospital Farm’s buildings have disappeared, the unique dairy barn remains. Built in 1914, it is shaped like a wheel with four spokes. The fame of the hospital’s dairy operation was widespread. In 1961 alone, nine cows produced 1.1 million pounds of milk – more than 300 pounds of milk per cow per day.The Visitor Center is a restoration of a 1923 Sears & Roebuck mail order barn. A century ago Sears sold anything and everything by mail – including kits for building houses and barns. The kit, which could cost as little as a few hundred dollars depending on style, would include rough lumber, framing timbers, plank flooring, shingles, hardware, sash and paint. Usually shipped by train from the west, the barn kit would be loaded onto a freight wagon and hauled to the building site for assembly by local carpenters.
Forty million years ago an igneous explosion occurred underground here and cooled very quickly leaving behind a particularly fine granite rock. Tourists and students of geology alike made the pilgrimage to the Falls of French Creek to study the rock formations. Granite quarries mined the rock and granite from Saint Peters once received an award at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago as “a fine-grained polished cube, a good building and ornamental stone.” The quarries closed in the 1960s and many pits can still be seen. Today the giant boulders in French Creek are ideal for your dog to sramble on – or just lie in the sun. Mountain in State Game Land #157. The mountain is essentially a ridge of diabase boulders and the trail to the top calls for almost continuous rock-hopping, a technique called bouldering. The basaltic rock provides incredible traction.
And our vote for the coolest thing of all on Philadelphia trails – the “Ringing Rocks” in Ringing Rocks Park where the rocks ping when struck by a hammer – or thud on “dead ” spots.