Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Hiking the Horseshoe Trail, part III

Continuing on my schedule of completing the 140 mile Horseshoe trail in Pennsylvania before my 60th birthday, 4 miles at a time, I finished another section of the trail last weekend. This section was chock full of streams, hills, forests, tall grass, power lines, sex, violence, mayhem and demonic trees.

Where is part II you ask? Well, I just haven't got around to documenting it yet. Summer time, it's a lazy time. Here is part I for newcomers.

I started this section at Warwick County Park in Knauertown. I was going to do the east-going part of the trail. The park itself consists of a vast grassy meadow on the edge of Warwick woods, which were once the site of a furnace. The woods themselves were the source of all the charcoal that was used to fuel this furnace. And, the French Creek, passing through these woods, was the source of waterpower.


I parked my car on the meadow (The parking lot was closed since it was being paved). There was a ruckus occurring in the pavilion and picnic spot at the end of the meadow. A large group of people were picnicking along with stereo system in full blast mode. I don't understand this. People travel to the far reaches of the world in search of wilderness and natural beauty, and when they find it, they sit at the edge of the wilderness with their loud music boxes and smoky barbeques and defile the very wilderness they came in search of. Stupid humans.

After blowing a few curses in their direction, I started looking for the location of the Horseshoe trail. It was supposed to be in the vicinity. Soon, I saw the two yellow markers that denoted the presence of the trail. As I was walking outside a house along the trail, I heard a barking sound. I couldn't see any dogs though. So, I whipped out the magnifying glass I usually carry for emergencies and looked at the road. Sure enough, there was a dog at my feet making as if to attack me. It was tiny. Probably the size of my fist. Ok, it was a bit larger, but not a lot. As I kept walking it kept threatening as if to run after me, but the moment I stopped and looked in it's direction, it ran away. It probably ran on batteries. A cat, sitting 5 feet away, watched on unperturbed.


The trail skirted the boundary of the meadow and the woods, finally plunging into some long grass with a path cut through it.


Then, it entered the Warwick woods and shared space for some time with the Charcoal Trail. Tall trees, large mushrooms, the works.


Here, I saw some curiously small sunflower-like flowers. I took a picture.


The trail then passed through the woods for about a mile or so, after which this meadow appeared to the side.


Then, from nowhere, the French Creek materialized beside the trail. Creek and trail then went hand in hand for the next mile.


As usual, I saw a number of strange things lying around in the woods, one of which was this bale of hay which seemed to serve no purpose at all.


This ghoulish looking tree trunk scared the bejesus out of me. I sure as heck wouldn't want to be here during the night, when it comes alive and swallows unsuspecting hikers. Just look at that hungry mouth.


The trail then passed through some marshy land, and to the right of the trail was this strange canal-like conduit. I stopped there for a while wondering what it could have been. It looked man-made. Then, I realized it was probably a dam race. In the 1700s and 1800s, most of the forges and furnaces in this area ran on hydropower. They dammed up the creeks, let the water out through a race, just like in modern hydro electric power stations, and the race passed through the forge or furnace, where the water rotated wheels to provide power. As I looked around, I could see signs that all the area to the left of the trail might have been under water once upon a time. Interesting.




The guide book had informed me that along the trail, I would have to cross the French Creek on a rope bridge. It also gave detailed instructions on how to avoid falling off the bridge, as well as a disclaimer of any liability in case someone did. All this hype had increased my anticipation and I was eagerly awaiting the appearance of the aforementioned bridge. However, I was disappointed to see that the rope bridge was no longer there, and I would have to cross the creek on large boulders sitting in the water. Gah, everytime I seek adventure, adventure flees from me.

Just before I started to cross, a huge moth-like insect landed on my back and very unmoth-like, proceeded to devour me. I flailed around in a macho kind of way, not knowing what it was that was poking me through my shirt. It left me alone after I crossed the creek. It probably was a direct descendant of the Nazgul.


The trail then climbed up some distance through the woods and came out into a field. Here, I saw this guy sniffing around in the grass. He ran away into the undergrowth on my intrusion into his property, giving me dirty looks through the brush.


These old, rusted tractor ploughs were lying on the side of the field. They looked sad and forgotten, probably having worked hard, who knows how many years ago, and now, were being allowed to rust away, having earned their retirement.



The trail then descended down the field, through a couple of gates and smacked into a paved road. The trail then followed this road for a while.



Coming out of the gates, a beautiful rural vista greeted me. I stook there for a while, drinking it all in.


There was an elementary school on this road, which I started photographing, before I realized it was probably not a good idea for a brown stranger to be photographing elementary schools in rural Pennsylvania.


After following this road for a while, the trail again entered the woods.


I saw some beautiful lichens growing on this rock.

At this point, I began to realize that my body had assumed the role of a natural transportation system. All kinds of insects were clinging to my clothes. As I passed through cobwebs on the trail, spiders and flies, the predator and the prey, having momentarily buried the hatchet, were enjoying the ride together.


After again climbing up another ridge, the trail bumped into a powerline right of way, which I had to cross. The trail disappeared into a forest of shoulder-high grass. And to my dismay, it looked like that vile weed back in India that for some obscure reason we used to call "Congress grass". I remembered that this grass used to grow in every untended bit of real estate in my neighbourhood and I was extremely allergic to it. Nonetheless, being an intrepid explorer, I decided to take my chances and dived in.


It was actually worth it. As I emerged from the grass, I had a great view of the countryside below.


Some more woods, and then I emerged out into what the guide book calls a horse pasture. Again, some more nice views of a farmhouse and a grain silo.


Some more brush beating.


Finally, I stopped at the edge of this field and decided to take a leak. My bladder was bursting and I'm sure it if hadn't been under contract for the next 40 years, it would have parted ways with me right then, citing inhumane working conditions.


I trudged through the thick mud of this field for a while, observing a number of insects and small animals going about their business, who, in turn, were watching me quizzically as I went by.


Finally, I decided at this point to turn around and go back. My legs had started to itch, no doubt, from the evil congress grass I had passed through.

All in all, a nice section of the trail, bursting with country fresh flavor and goodness.My legs still itch though. Note to self : Next time, do not wear shorts.


eb said...

strange...i didn't see any sex or violence.

damn it

gawker said...

Well my legs did get fucked. If that counts.

Michael Higgins said...

Hi Gawker
Beautiful pictures. Pennsylvania is really pretty.

gawker said...

Thanks Michael. Yeah, it absolutely is. Just can't keep myself indoors on weekends.

Ashu M said...

Nice hike follow-up!

And of course the bale of hay has a purpose ... as you pass by, you're supposed to say "Hay there!"