Monday, May 28, 2018

Marin Headlands, Memorial Day 2018

First things first - I saw this on Tennessee Beach, just north of San Francisco (shoe for scale.) Any guesses what it is?

It's baleen, from the whale that washed up ten days before, a 35' gray. The fine tips felt like cat's whiskers, and as each column thickened toward the base it became like very hard thick polypropylene. There's hardly anything left except this and a few ribs and vertebrae with the barest covering of skin; a combination of the biologists who carted off some of it for necropsy, and birds and coyotes and whatever else gnawed on it for dinner. If the decomposition process is that fast, then it's amazing that Lewis and Clark saw a dead whale (ekola in Chinook) on the beach when they reached the Pacific - in a matter of days they would have missed it.

Probably the coolest texture I've yet photographed. Bits of the rest of Ms. Whale was laying around the beach too.

But there was more to the run than just a whale. It was warm, maybe 80 F, unusual for the coast, due to a big high pressure bubble over Norcal. In the skyline shot, you can see that Salesforce Tower is clearly the tallest building in San Francisco now. I'm really not okay with that. The City should be kept under glass in the exact condition it was during my roaring twenties. But never mind that! Enjoy the flowers and blue sky.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Running the Schuylkill River Part II: Berks County Completed

(For the last piece of the river trail I did in southern Berks, go here. For the next piece on the way to Philadelphia, go here. I also went to the Berks County High Point and saw some other interesting stuff this time around. For other stupid running projects go here.)

The Schuylkill River Trail. For more detailed maps you can click on the individual sections at the SRT website.

I have now run along the course of the Schuylkill River through Berks County. Where the Schuylkill River Trail is complete, I ran it; where it's not, I ran on the pedestrian-safe roads nearest to the river. The division of the river into a Berks County section is not entirely arbitrary; the SRT Commission refers to Berks County and above as "the upper Schuylkill". In particular the northern point where the river enters Berks from Schuylkill County is not arbitrary, as it passes through the final gap in the Appalachians and leaves the Coal Regions.

For the full account of the southern half of the county which I did a year and a half ago, go here. Here I only provide pics and narrative for the northern half of Berks above Reading, starting in Reading and heading north to Port Clinton.

As always, running and in particular running on roads is dangerous and you run the risk of getting killed. My blog posts are not intended as a guide for running these routes and if you use them as anything but entertainment, you're doing so at your own risk.

I ran upriver from near the start of the SRT in Reading, also in turn near the Tulpehocken/Schuylkill confluence. The trail below only goes to Hamburg to the start of the John Bartram section of the SRT, because Google Maps doesn't recognize Bartram there as connecting to the adjacent road. It's an additional and very pleasant ~2.5 miles to Port Clinton from the end on this map. (Someone posted a great video of the Bartram Trail here.) Note: if you try something similar, you may wait a very, very long time for Uber or Lyft since these are not peak ride-sharing areas for the drivers.

Highlights of the run:

- I never cease to be amazed by the proximity of the Glenside housing projects, and the Berkshire Country Club. As a kid (and a pizza delivery driver) I'd always been warned against getting out of my car near Glenside, but it was very quiet, and actually pretty well-maintained.

- On the long road behind the airport, there is a lot of wildlife - cardinals, groundhogs and possum.

- Crossing under 222, turning right on Stinson then Leesport Road, and past Epler's Church. My ancestry in this specific area goes back more than 200 years. I saw a dead gopher snake (more of a gopher ribbon at that point as you can see below) and a turkey along this stretch. This part of Pennsylvania has a level of density that is unlike many other places - not really suburban, but certainly not deserted like we think of a rural area in the West. Just a lot of nice houses in a couple of acres.

- The Wall Street Bridge in Leesport is closed which means that there's a really pleasant traffic-free 2 mile stretch as I headed north out of Leesie along the west bank of the river to Dauberville. The bridge repairs are no doubt due to damage sustained by a dinghy ramming into the bridge pilings in May of 1991 (see this article, "Capsized Boat Found; Search Yields Nothing." No further comment.)

- It was at this point I began recognizing bridges and landmarks I had passed on three very ill-advised, poorly-planned and worse-executed raft trips with friends from age 16 through 21.

- Finally I made it to the modest hamlet of Mohrsville (first photo below) where I crossed the river and proceeded north to Shoemakersville.

In Shoey, I turned left at Ollie's Tavern and continued along Water Street and then Zweizig. At this point the Blue Ridge really began to rise up in front of me. In this area I saw a bald eagle and a bluebird.

Above: the Blue Ridge looms and destiny awaits! Below: now THAT is a Dutchy name for a road.

Next few: there was a very pleasant riverside park near Fisher Dam Bridge with some very nifty painted wood carvings. These really made my day actually! (Maybe just because it's a combination of outsider art and and Pacific Northwest style.) Also, if you're paying attention to the route - Google Maps will tell you that Fisher Dam Bridge is not open to vehicular traffic, but it very much is (and I reported.)

Above: there was a lot of honeysuckle out and the trail smelled great. Below: the Blue Ridge looms still closer!

Above: I arrive at the foot of the ridge. Below: I knew these were "silt basins" but never stopped to think about what that meant. Turns out during the glory days of the PA Coal Regions, from the waste material dumped in the Schuylkill, there was so much fine-grained material that it would flow down the river to Hamburg where it would choke the river. Starting in the second half of the 20th century when the river started being cleaned up (using this de-silting basin), the removed material was actually compressed into charcoal briquets for public sale. From there it was up the John Bartram section of the SRT.

Above: classic PA mountain understory with rhododendron. Below: excellent interpretive signs along this portion of the SRT, including this one about the exposed rock layers.

Above: the junction with the Appalachian Trail, where it comes down to the Schuylkill River Gap from the west side of the Blue Ridge. Below: the rock trail down to the Reading and Northern tracks at Port Clinton.

Above: the river at Port Clinton - the border of Berks and Schuylkill County. Below: looking back at the bridge from Schuylkill County. You can see the AT blaze on the bridge. I entered Schuylkill County to the strains of Holst's Mars Movement.

There is more of the SRT already open to the public in Schuylkill County, so I will be running up to the source. Most of the SRT is open going south from Berks except for a few bits in upper Montgomery County.

As always thanks to the people and agencies that put resources online and maintain the trail, and most of all to my very patient wife who puts up with (and even supports) this nonsense.