Philadelphia Walkabout

09Apr11

“Not all those who wander are lost.”

– J.R.R. Tolkien

This phrase was on my T-shirt when I left for a walkabout this afternoon.

It also describes why many folks get frustrated should they join me on one of my hikes.

Today my goal was to find the disc golf course in Philadelphia, Sedgley Woods. I never did find Sedgley Woods, which would irritate most travelers. But I wasn’t bothered by this in the least, because the engaging journey was even more valuable than a round of throwing frisbees at metal baskets.

The weather was sunny (It is always sunny in Philadelphia) and in the 60s. I had the entire Saturday off and Lisa was on campus for most of the day.

One of the first things I researched upon moving to Philly was the location of the nearest disc golf course. By my best guess, Sedgley Woods was about two miles north along the Schuylkill River. A recreation trail led directly to the course.

I knew this would be a long trek, two miles there, another two miles while frolfing, and then the return trip. But I was up for the task. I put on my Under Armour super hero attire (compression underwear, pants that can best be described as sweat pants and a compression long-sleeved shirt that girdles in my girth), and loaded up my backpack with frisbees, a bottle of water and basic essentials.

I put on my Hawkeye cap and clipped my odometer to my tennis shoe. There is a walking challenge at work, and I put this little black token about the size of a walnut on my shoe to count my steps. My average daily step intake is just below average, and today I was bound and determined to blow the average out of the water.

I hit the trail.

The Schuylkill River is a mere four blocks from our apartment. Traffic on the trail was dense, as many Philadelphiaites were taking advantage of the first nice day of spring. This is the route I normally take during my jogs, but I usually stop at the museum of art, hop up the Rocky steps and turn around.

Today I followed the trail beyond the art museum, where lo and behold was a gorgeous garden, with trails, cathedrals and scenic overlooks of the river.

 

The magical garden behind the Philadelphia Museum of Art

I soon came upon the Fairmont Water Works. This once housed the country’s first municipal water pumping station. One of the endearing facets of Philadelphia is that in the 1840s when the station was built, they also built Fairmont Park to surround the water works in order to prevent pollution.

As I continued on my way deeper and deeper into Fairmont Park, I witnessed the vast array of characters out and about on a sunny day. I saw two young women in black lingerie having their pictures taken in front of a rock aqueduct. There was an elderly man in faded flannel and blue jeans, walking along the river with a tattered back pack and wood walking stick. He had a beard that looked as if his cheeks were covered with velcro and the west wind blew a wad of cotton balls into his face.

I took a right (incorrectly) into a picnic area, where families were playing ball in the field, a group of black men were playing basketball and another group were playing baseball. I noticed the contrast in garb. These gentlemen were wearing cut off cotton T-shirts and gym shorts.

On the trail, affluent white folks were huffing and puffing in their Under Armour, ahem, and lululemon coordinated outfits.

It looked like there could be a disc golf course in this area, but I searched to no avail. (As it turned out, I wasn’t too far off) I took a stairway back down to the water front and was back on the correct trail.

The trail continued along with the river on the west and rocky bluffs on the east. I entered a grove of cherry trees in bloom. Families were taking pictures with the blossoms in the background and mothers were watching their toddlers dawdle to and fro.

I gazed backward and saw the city skyline emerge from over the treetops. I wanted to describe the scene like this: it was as if pink cotton candy was laid out on a field of green with shimmering metal spires spiking toward the sky.

I decided to take a picture instead:

 

Metal spires sticking out of cotton candy

After this shot the battery in my camera died, so from here out you are stuck with my literary descriptions.

Continuing on, teams of rowers began skimming down the river, at first there were solo boats, but then the boats arrived in tandems of two, with as many as five or six rowers stroking in unison.

I came upon a bandstand set up facing the river, and there were quite a few people walking about. As I approached a group of three young adults, one of them looked at me and gave an “Iowa” cheer (remember, I was wearing my Hawkeye cap).

As I came abreast of him, he quickly told me he was from Ames. “Oh, I’m from Cedar Falls!” I exclaimed.

He picked up his gait to match mine, and said he was Andy, and he had received his masters at UPenn, and was doing, I quote, “scientific research” at the university. I appreciate that he dumbed it down for me. He and his friends had come to watch rowing practice.

I told him I was just out exploring and there was no real purpose for my being there. Andy seemed to have trouble grasping this concept. He let me go on with my exploration and we departed.

A little further along the trail I came to an expansive metal bridge called the Strawberry Mansion Bridge. There was a sign with a map. There was a friendly “you are here” star, and it showed that I had nearly walked through the entire Fairmont Park. I had walked 2.5 miles through the park, and our apartment was at least another mile further.

This seemed like a good point to turn around.

I would have liked to crossed the river to see the other side, but it looked like quite a hike to get to the top of the bridge expansion.

So I took a short break and drank some water and headed back the way from which I came.

The only difference in my return journey was I passed by Boathouse Row, a famous, quaint line of stone and brick boathouses built in the 19th century. They are still in use today by the city’s universities, Temple, Drexel, UPenn, etc.

I made it home well before dark, and couldn’t help fantasizing about taking someone else along this journey sometime. At least now I know where I am going.

And also, I looked up Sedgley Woods online. I was supposed to take a short right onto Girard Avenue and it was right there. Oh well, if I had stopped for a round of disc golf, there was so much more I would have missed.

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2 Responses to “Philadelphia Walkabout”

  1. 1 Grandpa

    Sounds like you had a good day. It has really warmed up here and some of the flowers are blooming. It is windy though. Thanks for the update on your activities. Hi! to Lisa. Love GP & GM


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