Saturday, October 13, 2012

I wrote this for the Dead Runners Society but wanted to share it with a wider audience. Since increasing my running times/distance I have become more interested in trail running. Fortunately there is a solution in my own backyard. Today is bright, beautiful, filled with the special October sunlight. Back in the 1950's the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania took by eminent domain about 200+ acres of Haverford Township to build a state mental hospital. The facility lasted until the late 90's. When it closed the township had the opportunity to buy it from the state (why it just wasn't returned to township control I never quite understood). There was plenty of local drama surrounding how this bonanza was to be used. There was talk that Villanova University would buy it and build its law school there. Eventually it was sold to a developer (not without a scandal that saw a Township Commissioner convicted of corruption). The developer was to build on the old hospital grounds and 120 acres would be given to the township for recreational purposes. The result is that a large portion remains undeveloped (part was given over to athletic fields, dog park, a very special playground, and a Community Recreation and Environmental Center (the CREC). Although the choices made didn't please everyone the overall result is really quite satisfactory. I haven't used the CREC much but have used the dog park and the trails through the undeveloped portion. This is not wilderness by any stretch of the imagination. I476 (the Blue Route) cuts through a corner of the property. But what a treasure. The woods remaining haven't been touched for almost a hundred years. There is a problem with invasive species but that is being addressed. There are too many deer but a culling program has been initiated. (Like the culling taking place in Valley Forge I have mix feelings. I intellectually know that the deer population must be reduced for the health of the woods but when I run with the deer which I have on many occasions it breaks my heart that they will be taken by a bow hunter.) I have run to the reserve but today for distance and time sakes I drove. My run took me on some of the newly mark trails and on some that I suspect are merely deer trails barely passable. There are unusual sights: a stone and timber cabin that must be hundreds of years old slowly returning to nature perhaps not historic enough to be preserved (or just neglected); an ancient piece of machinery abandoned but how did it get there; a slab of concrete without any apparent purpose. There is a trail that takes you under the Blue Route and the contrast between the thumping traffic and the quiet wetland just beyond is striking. Today I managed a four mile loop, some of my own making, but lightly always lightly. Today is a brilliant argument for a four season climate. I wish I could bottled it for a cold, dreary February day. The light is just magical and last night a light frost so while many trees remain green others have turned golden yellows and reds. I got back to my car in 50 minutes and was very tempted to set out again but prudence prevailed. All this just a couple miles from my front door. I am very lucky indeed. Good running to all.