Sunday, September 26, 2010

Oberg and Leveaux Mountains

Like yesterday, today was another nearly perfect fall day. Noelle was out backpacking with some girlfriends for the weekend and I volunteered to help them out by picking them up at the end point of their hike and shuttling them back to their car. This gave me an excuse to head up the North Shore for a fall color adventure.

I arrived at the predetermined meeting spot, the Superior Hiking Trail trail-head on the Caribou Trail at 9 am like we had arranged, but the girls were not there yet. I decided to take the opportunity to hike up to White Sky Rocks while I waited. It was a good decision. The view from the overlook was spectacular and the colors looked to be at peak. 
From White Sky overlook headed up the trail to Noelle's campsite from the night before thinking that I would run into my shuttlees, and sure enough I did. It was good to see Noelle and hear about their trip. We walked back to the car together and then I drove the girls to their car at Lutsen. There I said goodbye to Noelle and headed over to the trail-head for Oberg and Leveaux Mountains.

The trail-head parking lot there was packed. It looked like everyone and their mother decided to go for a hike today to see the fall colors. After a short time on the Oberg Mountain trail it became obvious why. The colors were indeed spectacular! There are several different overlooks off the sides of the mountain and each one offered great views of maples in their full splendor. The overlooks also offered views of Lake Superior, rock outcroppings and small lakes.
Autumn from Oberg Mountain

From Oberg, I passed through the parking lot again and followed the Superior Hiking Trail to the Onion River. Shortly after crossing the Onion River on a footbridge, I took the side trail up Leveaux Mountain. The trail here was much less crowded than the one on Oberg Mountain. I probably saw 1/10 of the people I saw while on Oberg. Still, the views were great!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Chequamegon National Forest: Rainbow Lake Wilderness

I woke up to a beautiful fall morning and decided to take advantage of the wonderful weather by going for a hike. I loaded up my pack and hit the road bound for Drummond, Wisconsin and the Rainbow Lake Wilderness. The drive was pleasant and as I drove I saw some turkeys and a coyote right along the side of the road.

When I arrived at the trail-head I immediately noticed the effects of the previous days rain. Parts of the trail were more like small streams. I didn't care though. In fact, I had expected to walk in some water given the amount of rain we received. Within about 3 minutes of hiking I came to the first of the four lakes I would visit: Clay Lake.
It was a pleasant spot, but close to the road and the noise associated with vehicle traffic, and so I moved on after a short stop.

The hiking was, besides wet, easy due to the fact that the trail followed an old logging railroad grade called the Anderson Grade. My next stop was the pretty Bufo Lake. A spur trail led down to this lake which looked as if it may have been deeper at one time.

Still, it was an enjoyable place to stop and eat lunch. From Bufo Lake I headed deeper into the wilderness to a junction with the North Country National Scenic Trail. I made a right turn onto the North Country Trail and waded through some deep puddles, eventually making my way to the wilderness' namesake: Rainbow Lake.

Rainbow was another pretty lake with a nice campsite located near its shore. I spent some time looking around the area a bit before retracing my steps back to the intersection of the North Country Trail and Anderson Grade.

At the intersection I got back on the Anderson Grade on a portion that I had not hiked on previously. This section of the grade gets considerably less maintenance and I almost considered turning around and heading back to the car. I'm glad I didn't though. While the hiking was difficult and more like bushwacking at times, I was rewarded with a visit to the prettiest of the lakes on my hike: Anderson Lake.

I relaxed at Anderson Lake for a bit and took some photographs before heading back to the Anderson Grade and returning to the car. A great day of hiking despite the soggy trails.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Happy Fall!

Happy first full day of fall! Right now is a great time of year to visit Hawk Ridge, which happens to be Noelle's place of employment. I went yesterday and saw the interpreters with a sharp-shinned hawk and this northern goshawk.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Philadelphia Rock N' Roll Half Marathon

What an awesome day for a road race! Thanks to my brother Nick and his girlfriend Katie I was able to stay close to the race start last night. This meant no driving and looking for a parking spot and no getting up really early to take SEPTA into the city. I awoke at around 6:15 and ate a breakfast of two bananas and a package of GU chomps. Then it was a short walk with Katie to the starting line at 22nd and the Parkway. 

There was a large field for the race and it was amazing to see the sea of humanity converging on the Ben Franklin Parkway. I quickly found corral #4, stretched a bit, and waited for the start. I was excited as this would be my first race in Philadelphia since my high school cross-country days at Belmont Plateau. It would also be my first road race in Philly!

Surprisingly, I was not very nervous for the start of the race. Having never run a half-marathon before I had no idea what to expect as far as a finishing time. I had entered my expected finish time as 1:40:00 but thought that I had an outside chance at breaking 1:30:00. When it was time for my corral to start I felt really good. I went out at an easy pace and quickly started to pass other runners. Why do people always get too far up at the starting line of a race? The first 5k went really well and I was surprised to see that despite how good I felt, my 5k time was similar to the time I ran in the Fitger's 5k this past spring! Believe it or not my second 5k went even faster. Wow, I really felt strong.

I just glided along the course, slowly reeling in other runners and felt  really awesome until mile 12. Finally I started to feel like I had run most of my 13.1 miles. Despite being tired at the end I still a bit of kick left in me and ran hard the last quarter mile. It didn't hurt that I saw on my watch I was on pace to break 1:30:00! When I crossed the finish line my watch read 1: 29:27 and when the official results were posted I had run 1:29:26. I was really proud of myself. I feel that this was the best race I've ever run and I don't think I will ever run another race as well as this one!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Bartram's Gardens

Bartram House
Today mom, dad and myself headed into West Philadelphia to check out the birthplace of American horticulture, Bartram's Gardens. While we had a slightly difficult time finding the gardens, our search was worth the effort. In case you aren't familiar with the Bartrams, John is considered the father of American horticulture as he traveled throughout the United States to find undocumented specimens of plants and record them for science. He was also in the plant trading business and so he would collect specimens and seeds for trade in Europe and around the world.

Among the species that were discovered by John Bartram is the Franklinia, a leafy shrub in the tea family that was discovered growing near the Altamaha River in Georgia in 1765. It is named in honor of Benjamin Franklin. Bartram collected some seeds upon discovery and shipped them to Philadelphia. Today there are no known Franklinias growing in the wild. The last record of a wild Franklinia was in the 1830s. Therefore all known Franklinas growing today are descendants of the plants that were grown at Bartram's Gardens. It was a thrill to see the Franklinias growing there, though I was a bit disappointed that they were not in bloom.
Eric and Franklinia

John's son William is also well known as one of America's first naturalists. The house that John built beginning in 1728 is a highlight of the site. It's architecture is impressive and we were able to see the inside on a guided tour. its great to see it so well preserved. Its preservation is in a great respect due to the efforts of Andrew M. Eastwick who purchased the site in the 1850s.  

Friday, September 17, 2010

Back into Philly

Being car-less I decided to head back into Philly to check out some points of interest that I ran out of time to visit on my previous visit. And so I found myself riding SEPTA regional rail into Center City again. By the way SEPTA, what ever happened to off-peak fares? Anyhow, when I arrived at Market East I headed out onto the streets and up the Benjamin Franklin Parkway to the Rodin Museum. I had passed by this little gem of a museum many times when I lived in the Philly area, but today was my first visit. The museum contained a nice collection of Rodin sculptures put together by Philadelphia movie-house mogul Jules Mastbaum.

My next stop was the interesting Fairmount Waterworks Interpretive Center. I'd been to the waterworks before, but it was really interesting to learn about the history of America's first municipal water system and how it was developed. Also interesting was an exhibit about the fish ladder that allows shad and other fish upstream access from the dam built across the Schuylkill River. There is a camera there that records the animals that swim through and among the more interesting ones that have been caught on video are a river otter and northern water snake.

From the waterworks, I decided to head up along the Schuylkill on Kelly Drive and check Fairmount Park and some of the many interesting sculptures that line the river. I also wanted to get a feel for the Philly Rock N Roll Half-Marathon course, since the race followed Kelly Drive across the Falls Bridge and then up West River Drive. The sculptures were very impressive. It's really amazing how when you live someplace, you really take what you have for granted. This is certainly the case with me and Philadelphia. Among the sculptures I perused were Fredrick Remington's Cowboy and Stone Age in America by John J. Boyle.
Stone Age in America
Thorfinn Karlsefni
Finally, I returned to Market East and Center City via Philadelphia's newest trail, the wonderful Schuylkill Banks Trail.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

A Walking Tour of Historic Elkins Park, Pennsylvania

When you grow up in a certain area, you often take for granted some of the interesting local history. Such was the case with me and the area where I grew up: Wyncote, Cheltenham Township, Pennsylvania. While Wyncote has some interesting history in its own right, nearby Elkins Park has some really interesting relics of times past. It took me moving to Duluth, Minnesota to really appreciate what I missed when I lived in Wyncote.

Duluth is a city that financier Jay Cooke really seemed to take a liking to. Cooke influenced the Northern Pacific Railway, which he heavily financed, to run through Duluth so that he could help build it into the "new Chicago". He planned on Duluth becoming a major shipping point for rail and boat traffic. While Duluth's success never mirrored that of Chicago, Cooke's influence on the city can be felt even to this day. There is a nice statue of Jay Cooke located near the Lake Superior lakefront and a nearby state park (which happens to be a really great one) is named in his honor as it encompasses land that was owned by Cooke and donated by his descendents.

Upon reading about Jay Cooke during one of my visits to Jay Cooke State Park, I learned that he had spent a good deal of his life living not too far from where I grew up, on his Ogontz estate. While the estate no longer exists today, I learned that Jay Cooke is buried in Saint Paul's Episcopal Church in Elkins Park, a church that he helped to fund the construction of.  I decided to spend one of my days staying at my parents' house to visit Jay Cooke's grave and some other interesting local historical sites.
Jay Cooke's Grave

Beth Shalom synagogue
The first stop on my walking tour was Beth Shalom synagogue. While the synagogue is not really all that old, it is significant in that it was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. It is the only synagogue designed by Wright and was completed in 1959. In 2007 the National Park Service named Beth Shalom a National Historic Landmark.

Richard Wall House
The next stop on the tour was just a bit further down Old York Road at Wall Park. Inside Wall Park is the Richard Wall House or "The Ivy". The first section of the house was built in 1682 making it the oldest house in Pennsylvania that has had continuous family residency. Tours are offered on Sundays, but unfortuntely I will be unable to attend one due to my half marathon. A view of the exterior was quite interesting though.

From the Wall House I moved further down Old York Road to the aforementioned Jay Cooke grave. St. Paul's church is a pretty old church and also located on the grounds is the Jay Cooke memorial which appears to be a small chapel dedicated in honor of Cooke.

From the Cooke grave site I headed east on Ashbourne Road with my intended destination being Lynnewood Hall. On the way to Lynnewood Hall however, I made two unexpected discoveries. The first discovery was a small family cemetery containing the graves of members of the Shoemaker family. The Shoemakers were instrumental in the early development of Cheltenham Township and built a mill on Tookany Creek near the Wall House.

Old headstone from Shoemaker Burial Ground dating to 1741
The second discovery was of a vast estate called the Elkins Estate near the Elkins Park Post Office. The Elkins Estate was built as a summer retreat for railroad magnate William L. Elkins. It was designed by architect Horace Trumbauer who also designed the Philadelphia Museum of Art. For years the estate was owned by the Order of the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine de Ricci who operated a retreat there until financial constrints forced them to sell. The estate was purchased by the Land Conservancy of Elkins Park in 2009.
The Elkins Estate

Finally, I made it to Lynnewood Hall.
Lynnewood Hall
Interestingly, a few weeks ago I was on Yahoo's homepage when they ran an AP story about the old mansion and its sadly deteriorating condition. I decided to come have a look for myself. This mansion, like the Elkins Estate was built by Horace Trumbauer. It was built for businessman Peter A.B. Widener. Right now the mansion has an uncertain future.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

I took the train down into Center City Philadelphia this morning to walk around town and check out the sites. My first stop was the Independence visitor center where I picked up a ticket for the Todd/Bishop White House Tours. Then I walked towards the Delaware River to cross the Benjamin Franklin Bridge.
Philadelphia's Skyline from the Ben Franklin Bridge
The walk across the bridge was quite pleasant and offered many great views of the Philadelphia skyline.
Ben Franklin Bridge and Boats
When I got to the other side of the bridge I walked around Camden, New Jersey a bit and then walked back across the bridge and returned to Philly.

Once back in the City of Brotherly Love I walked down Elfreth's Alley.

I then headed down Second Street to Christ Church with some interesting burials right inside the church.

Then it was on past City Tavern and the Merchant's Exchange before checking out another old church St. Joseph's.

By this time I was pretty hungry and so I ate lunch at Cosi, and then walked up to Christ Church Burial Ground in which Ben Franklin is buried amongst other notables.

After visiting the burial ground it was time for my tour of the Todd and White homes. They were interesting and showed how people of different socio-economic classes lived around the time of the American Revolution. After the tour it was time for some beer. I walked over to Penn's Landing and up Columbus Boulevard to Yard's Brewery. I tried a sampler of some really good beers before walking to Suburban Station for the train ride home.  

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site

Today ny mother and I made the drive west to Hopewell Furncae National Historic Site outside of Elverson, Pennsylvania. The drive was a bit longer than I remembered and it didn't help that there was a major detour due to some road construction. When we arrived we discovered that the visitor center and buildings were closed, but we were still able to walk around the site.

We also visited the Bethesda Church site which I had never been to before. There was an interesting cemetery there. Many of the interred were members of the Lloyd family and some of the graves were quite old.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Pulpit Rock and the Pinnacle

This morning my brother Kris and I drove the Pennsylvania Turnpike west to I-176 and into the hamlet of Hamburg, Pennsylvania for a loop hike at the Pinnacle on a section of the Appalachian Trail. It was my fourth visit at the Pinnacle and I have to admit that this is my favorite section of the A.T. in Pennsylvania.

The hike started out pretty easy with a nice smooth, level trail.

We spotted several red efts on the shady, moist trail and stopped at the Windsor Furnace Shelter for an early break.
Red Eft
After our shelter stop the trail got a little bit rougher and soon we encountered some of the infamous Pennsylvania rocks. We stopped again a bit later when we arrived at the overlook at Pulpit Rock. The view from Pulpit Rock was very nice and I paused there to eat my lunch.

When we resumed hiking we encountered some more rocky sections of trail, interspersed with a few smooth sections and the walking went pretty fast to the Pinnacle. The views at the Pinnacle were, though hazy, very nice. We spent some time exploring and checked out the small talus cave near the summit.
Eric's Throne

I also found some black vultures perched on a high cliff there.
Black vultures
After relaxing we moved on for the easy final stretch back to the car. A thoroughly enjoyable hike!