Saturday, January 7, 2017

I Ran Around Blue Marsh

In all seriousness, Blue Marsh has the best single track in Berks. (Map at bottom.) Unlike the PA AT, it's not so rocky as to be super-annoying, and it's beautiful, constantly affording unexpected views. (There's the Blue Ridge right through that gap in the hills...and hey, there's the Pagoda...and when you get tired of the woods, we're right next to Spring Ridge and a great Vietnamese restaurant and a Wawa! One could ask for nothing more in life!) Downsides, in fall these trails are heavily subscribed by hunters (so wear your orange) and in winter those trails have a habit of retaining ice when it's melted elsewhere. Christmas Eve this year was misty and cold but Christmas Day was beautiful. The full trail is 30 miles around the lake, which the maniacs who do the Blues Cruise do all at once. This of course has been another of my ridiculous running projects (see my Schuylkill River Trail project here), I'm still waiting for someone to give me a cookie for doing them.

What a difference 2 months makes.

For my money, by far the most scenic section of the trail around Blue Marsh is the one that runs from the cliff at the end of Lake Road in Heidelberg Township, then down the western side of the lake; definitely the most isolated and hilly. (It was also a 55-degree blue sky Christmas Day so maybe I was influenced by that.) Out toward the end of the peninsula that Skinner's Loop is on, on the south side, it looks like there's another cliff (but if you jump off of it you will definitely 100% die. So don't. Now you can't sue me.) There were also a bunch of seagulls sitting out on the ice and the most interesting critter I saw during the winter was a woodpecker, although during the warm October day when I was there before there were an enormous amount of spittlebugs doing their thing in the fields. Mostly it's very well-marked but there are lots of unofficial trails and a few of them still don't have clear signage. I also went for an unanticipated half-mile run on the beach on Christmas Eve near the Visitor Center. All in all, I really think Blue Marsh is an underappreciated resource.

Above: the wife standing at the top of the cliff on an 80-degree October day. Below: the same spot ten weeks later. I can't believe I used to just jump off this damn thing.

From the Blue Marsh Visitors Center it's a very pleasant 8 or 9 miles along the old canal to the confluence of the Tulpehocken and Scuylkill, downhill to Rebers Bridge Road, then under 222 to the covered bridge and the Distelfink, past Grings Mill and the lockhouse and ultimately through Stonecliff Park. The confluence area isn't particularly pleasant, but it was the beginning of my Schuylkill River run (see more here.)

Above: Der Distelfink along the Tulpehocken (credit Berks County), and below, a bird sculpture along a trail on Lantau Island, Hong Kong. (This suspicious resemblance was noted by your blogger, who, having discovered this perfidy, is mounting a lawsuit to defend our Dutchy intellectual property, sparse as it is.)

Above: the entrance to the underworld, which not surprisingly is in Bern Township

Full-size map that you can actually use to plan available at

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