Category Archives: Wissahickon

The Wintry Wissahickon

Watch your step, it's a long, rocky way down | Photo: Bradley Maule
Watch your step, it’s a long, rocky way down | Photo: Bradley Maule

As you may have gathered from my Instagram jawn (widget at right, or follow me on yon jawn @mauleofamerica — I have a @phillyskyline one too, just need to figure out how/when to roll that out), I spend a lot of time in the Wissahickon. It’s the main reason I moved to Mount Airy.

Growing up in Central PA, I spent a lot of time in the woods with my dad, and going with my folks to places like Tyrone’s Reservoir Park and Indian Lookout in Rothrock State Forest; even the “beaches” we had, at Raystown Lake and Prince Gallitzin State Park, were surrounded by forest. The Appalachian Trail passes nine miles from Shippensburg, and I much preferred it to studying. In my three and a half years in Portland, my neighborhood park, Mount Tabor, rose 400′ from the street grid and encompassed 200 acres and had several miles of trails. I may be a city person now, but I needs my trees and hills, man. (No offense, South Philly.)

Lots more from the Wissahickon to come, including a big announcement coming this week. In the meantime, in between time, a few more pics from yesterday.

Fancy a ski? Forbidden Drive | Photo: Bradley Maule
Fancy a ski? Forbidden Drive | Photo: Bradley Maule
Mt Airy Ave Bridge | Photo: Bradley Maule
Mt Airy Ave Bridge | Photo: Bradley Maule
The Monastery, built 1747 | Photo: Bradley Maule
The Monastery, built 1747 | Photo: Bradley Maule

One Man’s Trash: Week 2 Report

"Wigwam" does not rhyme with "fig jam" but both are delightful
“Wigwam” does not rhyme with “fig jam” but both are delightful



If Week 1 followed my Local Loop, Week 2 follows my Secondary Swing. As a resident of West Mt Airy, my two best access points to the Wissahickon on foot (as opposed to by car, in which case there are more) are the Cresheim Trail and Carpenter’s Woods.

The erstwhile Fairmount Park Commission officially adopted the 37 acres of Carpenter’s Woods between Sedgwick Street and North Mt Pleasant Road (Mt Pleasant Avenue splits into a North and South at the beginning of the woods) in 1912 as a matter of preserving an important bird sanctuary. (Not an important sanctuary for birds, but a sanctuary for important birds—avian VIPs.)

The trails through Carpenter’s Woods can get a little awkward. For example, instead of coming out of the woods and crossing Wissahickon Avenue at North Mt Pleasant Road—or better still, following the path of Carpenter’s Run through the culver underneath the Wissahickon Avenue superstructure—it puts you onto Wissahickon Avenue mid-block, forcing you to walk on the shoulder of the pretty-busy avenue, worse still when there’s a ridge of plowed snow. And at its north/eastern edge, the trail diverges you away from the natural flow of Mt Pleasant Avenue into the neighborhood, forcing you to backtrack half a block.

Might be time to give this "No Littering" sign in Carpenter's Woods a fresh coat of paint
Might be time to give this “No Littering” sign in Carpenter’s Woods a fresh coat of paint

But those are minor complaints for an otherwise beloved asset, a natural extension of the green space straddling Wissahickon Creek with its own friends group. Carpenter’s Run—sometimes known as Kitchen’s Lane Run in the parlance of the Philadelphia Water Department—drains over 200 acres via a mile-long tributary of the creek. The woods surrounding it include a number of trails and a rebuilt wetland along the banks of the run that eventually tumbles behind the Monastery mansion and stables (built 1747) and finally empties into the Wissahickon near the Kitchens Lane* bridge.

*Kitchen’s or Kitchens? Bell’s Mill or Bells Mill? Allen’s Lane or Allens Lane (or Allen Lane)? This is some #journalistproblem stuff. I appreciate a well-used apostrophe, but there’s nothing worse than an incorrect apostrophe, and as street names like Grays Ferry Avenue and Allens Lane have shed theirs, my inclination is to go apostrophe-less.

After crossing Wissahickon Avenue, I followed the unnamed connector trail between Carpenter’s Woods and the White Trail, residential backyards on the right, the Carpenter’s Run valley on the left, a thicket of invasive bamboo ahead. At the White Trail, I made a quick right and a quick left down Mt Airy Avenue toward the bridge. Here, I hooked a left on the Orange Trail and had to stop immediately where the unnamed run (I’ll call it Mt Airy Run, following the lead of most of the other Wissahickon tributaries that take their name from the closest city street) was absolutely covered in plastic bags. I stopped counting the gray, fortunately unused dog shit bags after a few dozen. There were tons.

From there, I followed the Orange Trail to just past the Kitchen’s Lane Bridge, turning left up the stairs installed by Friends of the Wissahickon last year, and finally came out of the woods and back into the neighborhood at Kitchen’s Lane.

Near the mouth of Carpenter's Run and the Kitchen's Lane Bridge, the Baptisteron marks the site of the first Church of the Brethren baptism, on Christmas Day, 1723.
Near the mouth of Carpenter’s Run and the Kitchen’s Lane Bridge, the Baptisteron marks the site of the first Church of the Brethren baptism, on Christmas Day, 1723.

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Big week on the trash scene!
Big week on the trash scene!

On 15 January 2014, I did fill two standard grocery store plastic bags and one slightly larger shopping bag with collected litter, and gathered three sporting balls, a bottle of antifreeze, and a clothes hanger. Broken down, the Week 2 Haul looks a little something like …

Week 2, sorted and stored
Week 2, sorted and stored

40 (estimated) plastic dog shit bags
1 half-gallon jug Wawa lemon iced tea
1 bag My Essentials white bread
1 bag Shop Rite white bread
1 bag Herr’s whole grain pretzels
1 plastic fork
4 16oz bottles water (1 Nestlē Pure Life, 1 Acadia, 1 Dasani, 1 no label)
1 8oz bottle water (Poland Spring)
5 miscellaneous plastic bags
1 24oz bottle Mountain Dew
1 lid from a Wawa food container
1 wristband
1 doll sticker
1 20oz bottle Asanti(?) kiwi strawberry juice
1 random wedge(?)
1 netting bag, Florida Oranges
1 bottle Mountain Drool (dog toy?)
1 ½oz bottle CVS Dry Eye Relief (HAHA)
1 16oz tub (food container?)
2 packages Capri Sun tropical punch
1 single-serve container, Cesar Gourmet dog food
2 coffee cup lids
2 straws
1 gallon bottle Let’s Roll Antifreeze
1 bag Herr’s salt & vinegar chips
1 4oz Nitro2Go Double Shot (“14 hours of energy”)
1 package Habersett beef scrapple
1 random hunk of plastic
1 wrapper Cap’n Crunch Crunchberries bar
1 wrapper Klondike Mrs Fields cookie sandwich
1 wrapper Clif Kid Z Bar
1 wrapper Ricola lozenges
1 wrapper Tastykake cupcakes
1 packet Popeye’s honey

1 4/5qt bottle malt liquor (no label)
1 12oz bottle Coors Light
1 12oz bottle Corona
1 16oz bottle Coca-Cola
1 16oz bottle Synergy organic kombucha
1 20oz bottle (no label)

2 12oz cups
1 12oz Dixie cup
1 food container

1 16oz Popeye’s cup
1 16oz coffee cup (no label)
1 8oz coffee cup (no label)
1 UPS shipping label
1 Trident wrapper

1 rusty can old food
1 12oz can Coca-Cola
1 12oz can Dr Pop(!)
1 12oz can Diet Coke
1 16oz can Colt 45
1 unopened can Argo green beans
2 12oz cans Natural Light
1 12oz can Michelob Ultra
1 12oz can Rolling Rock (pull tab!)
1 12oz can Pabst Blue Ribbon
1 12oz can Sprite
2 12oz cans Miller High Life (pull tab!)
1 20oz can Budweiser
1 12oz can Yuengling
1 12oz can Mountain Dew
1 12oz can Coors Light
1 20″ bracket
1 piece foil

1 Rawlings NCAA Final Four basketball
1 Adidas Europass soccer ball
1 Wilson Major League baseball
1 tennis ball
1 hard pink plastic ball

1 scarf
2 socks (unrelated)
1 glove

2 rubber gloves
1 fabric cord
1 metal clothes hanger
3 pieces broken ceramic
1 small Bic lighter
1 flag from paving package(?)
4 packs cigarettes: Salem, Camel, Pall Mall, Mavericks

Dog shit bags: 3
Dog shit piles: 4
Dogs on leash: 2
Dogs off leash: 10


PANORAMA OF THE WEEK: bend of Wissahickon Creek at Kitchens Lane Bridge
Bend of Wissahickon Creek at Kitchens Lane Bridge

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⇦ WEEK 1WEEK 3 ⇨

One Man’s Trash: Week 1 Report

Yo, we're late for the start of the trash project!
Yo, we’re late for the start of the trash project!

All righty rooney, now that we find ourselves in 2014’s Week 7, I reckon it’s about time to start filing some trashart reports. And since this is the first one, I imagine this’ll be a thing that starts one way and finishes another. It’s evolution, baby.



… or as I like to call it, my local loop. It seemed imprudent to start a yearlong project anywhere else but right out my front door, so for my first trash hike, I laced up my brand new Tims and hit the trail in the Neighborwood.

The intersection of Allens Lane and Lincoln Drive—where the latter dead ends if you take it all the way from I-76/Ridge Ave—is one of the trailheads for the Cresheim Trail. Opened two years ago, the Cresheim Trail connects residential Mt Airy with the existing Cresheim Valley trails leading down to Wissahickon Creek proper. Eventually, through the efforts of Friends of Cresheim Trail, Friends of the Wissahickon, and Philadelphia Parks & Recreation, the Cresheim Trail will continue on to Montgomery County’s Fort Washington State Park, through which Wissahickon Creek flows, along the former right-of-way of the Fort Washington Branch of the Chestnut Hill West rail line. (A second spur of the same trail will lead to Arcadia University.)

Crossing Emlen Street/Cresheim Valley Drive, the trail descends the Cresheim Valley past the ruins of Buttercup Cottage and through a tunnel of brambles to a clearing at the Telner-St Martins Bridge. After a major storm destroyed the existing stone bridge across Cresheim Creek here in 2004, the Philadelphia Water Department built a new steel crossing in 2011. On the north/west side of the bridge, I encountered the first Problem Area in the project. A 12-pack’s worth of Natty Light cans suggest this area with a nice view down the Cresheim Valley makes for a good party spot. But as I like to say, PARTY YES, LITTER NO. (Or as one South Philly entrepreneur puts it, LOSE YOUR FACE, LEAVE NO TRACE.)

Seepin' & freezin': groundwater in the Wissahickon valley
Seepin’ & freezin’: groundwater in the Wissahickon valley

Moving on down the valley, the trail heads under the beautiful circa-1985 McCallum Street Bridge and finally on to Devil’s Pool, where Cresheim Creek empties into Wissahickon Creek beneath the circa-1892 sewer aqueduct. Turning left and heading down the Wissahickon, I saw what appeared to be a shirt sticking up from the dirt just off-trail. Upon closer inspection, it was a 49ers-era Michael Vick jersey, size 4XL(!).

Passing the Livezey House and dam, the Orange Trail takes you downstream and uphill—up a steep stone stairway and across Fingerspan, Jody Pinto’s functional steel sculpture installed by helicopter in 1987. At the Mt Airy Bridge, one of at least eight stone arch bridges across Wissahickon Creek in Philadelphia, I hooked a left under the other sewer aqueduct and a quick right on the White Trail to the Carpenter’s Woods spur trail, taking that home through said woods before the requisite wind-down at Goat Hollow.

The money view from Fingerspan; ruins of an old footbridge at lower left
The money view from Fingerspan; ruins of an old footbridge at lower left

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On 7 January 2014, I did fill one standard grocery store plastic bag and one slightly larger shoe store bag with collected litter, and gathered half a discarded Streets Department sign as well. Broken down, the Week 1 Haul looks a little something like …

Week 1, sorted and stored
Week 1, sorted and stored

1 32oz Gatorade bottle (fruit punch)
1 20oz Gatorade bottle (label missing)
1 14oz Lehigh Valley whole milk (whole milk while hiking? Gross.)
2 16oz water bottles (1 Crystal Springs, 1 Save-a-Lot brand)
2 8oz water bottles (both Nestlē-owned Deer Park; the most wasteful water bottles in the world)
1 plastic wine cup
1 unused dog bag
1 straw
1 random clamp
2 bottle caps
½ Streets Department sign
5 pieces miscellaneous plastic

1 14oz Dunkin Donuts coffee cup

2 12oz beer bottles (labels missing)
1 20oz Diet Pepsi bottle (old school)

11 12oz Natural Light beer cans
2 12oz Miller High Life beer cans (note: both pull tab!)
1 12oz Michelob beer can (pull tab!)
1 24oz Bud Ice beer can
1 16oz Rolling Rock beer can
1 12oz Budweiser beer can
1 12oz Bud Light beer can
1 10oz Coors Light beer can

3 tennis balls
1 chewed-up Nerf ball
1 Nerf bullet

1 flip-flop
1 work glove
1 winter glove
1 Atlanta Falcons jersey (Michael Vick)

3 red and white deflated balloons with red and white ribbon
2 pieces green ribbon
1 piece broken ceramic

Dog shit bags: 1
Dog shit piles: 0
Dogs on leash: 0
Dogs off leash: 2

I need to remember to bring my Leatherman in case things are frozen into the ground or need cutting. I also need to remember to NOT forget work gloves. Nobody wants to pick up litter with their bare hands.

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