I don’t know what it is, but a lot of guys lose their balls in rivers. During One Man’s Trash, I found over 50 different balls in the Wissahickon—basketballs, footballs, tennis balls… and that doesn’t even count the golf balls from slices and hooks coming down from Walnut Lane Golf Club. On the Schuylkill River Sojourn this week, there’ve been balls aplenty—several basketballs, some beach balls, at least one football, and on the Schuylkill Canal below Phoenixville today, a volleyball joined the game.
The great character, lockmaster Dan Daley, said I should expect to see dozens and dozens of tires on today’s stretch of river, but incidentally the tire count was low, only eight total. Again, ssubmerged tires. What can you do about them?
Generally speaking, as the river is relatively lake-like above the Norristown Dam, it was pretty calm and clean on a picture perfect day. A blimp advertising a housing development in King of Prussia had predictably (and hilariously) gone awry, wrapping itself around the branches of a tree and flapping in the wind like a housing development’s advertising blimp gone awry. DERP.
The mouth of Norristown’s Mill Creek (Montgomery County has so many Mill Creeks) runs open-air for all its course except for the last six blocks or so, which run through a culvert, presumably collecting all the trash the storm drains send it, because the small gravelly beach at its mouth was pretty littered, including what looked like one of those colorful toy xylophones. I couldn’t get close enough to tell, but I did get really close to a nearby giant snapping turtle. Hey buddy!
Speaking of turtles, the paddle from Lock 60 down the Schuylkill Canal to the short river portage two miles downstream was chock full of em, at least a dozen box turtles sunning themselves on logs.
Plenty more great birds today too, cormorants and ospreys soaring across a crisp blue but windy sky to join the tally. Yesterday I saw a swan, and all week I’ve seen the common goose, but today I saw a swan goose. I don’t think he cared for me.
After a few miles on the River after the Canal, we lunched at Valley Forge National Historical Park, fresh with the info from yesterday’s ranger talk and eager to hang with the next character, raffle master Chaz from the Stony Creek Anglers Club. The Anglers made with the serious goods—Suzy Jo’s donuts and Corropolese tomato pie—and held a free raffle to give away hats and coffee mugs and Chaz’s flea market scores, but by god don’t you think you’re getting his Appalachian Trail belt buckle.
Shoving off from Valley Forge, we passed under the almost-finished Betzwood pedestrian bridge, a very welcome addition for folks on foot and two wheels trying to get from the Schuylkill River Trail to the main part of Valley Forge NHP. Until it opens in August, cyclists and pedestrians can still enjoy the daunting US-422 roadside crossing. For this leg, we were joined by a women’s dragon boat with super soakers, and a DIY pirate ship replete with a bell and the jolly roger flying high.
In portaging around the Norristown Dam, we got to watch several SEPTA Route 100 cars cross the bridge. A number of people looked at it puzzingly; it’s not a train, it’s not a trolley, what is it? I tried explaining that it’s also known as the Norristown High Speed Line, a single-car interurban thing, sometimes two, and that it goes from Norristown to Upper Darby, and that SEPTA wants to take it into King of Prussia but that KOP doesn’t want it. I’ve been riding SEPTA almost 20 years and I still can’t explain that damn thing. And I’ve ridden it!
Passing under the Pennsylvania Turnpike and Blue Route bridges, things really started to feel familiar, and tomorrow will serve as the literal home stretch for me. I’ve done the Conshohocken–Flat Rock segment on my man Hollis’ pontoon boat, I’ve written about Venice Island and the Manayunk Bridge, there’s a stop at the Canoe Club on a creek called Wissahickon, and the rest of the way is Fairmount Park with a Philly Skyline view. The forecast looks superb. Let’s take it on home.