Philadelphians have seen worse winters, but it’s about time this one comes to an end. You would never think it when you look out the window at the concrete jungle that surrounds us, but we are only miles away from a great assortment of outdoor sanctuaries and hiking areas – and no, not “Beury Beach” surrounding the Bell Tower. With spring break nearing, plan a hiking trip to one of these nearby destinations and help rid yourself of those winter blues.
Wissahickon Valley Park
It’s the simplest get-away from the easily consuming bustle of city life as well as a great jumping off point for new hikers. SEPTA’s 27 bus takes you right to the heart of the park that runs along the banks of the Wissahickon Creek equipped with mountain and road bike paths and moderate hiking trails scattered throughout. The creek is stocked full of trout each spring and is an ideal place to cast-off and enjoy the lack of blaring horns and crying sirens. Take a Sunday morning to explore the gorge and wrap up the hike with a coffee or brunch break in the surrounding neighborhoods of Manayunk and Roxborough.
Named after the Lenni-Lenape Indian term for “slow-moving water,” Pennypack Park allows you to enjoy history while wandering the paved and unpaved trails for bikers, runners and hikers. The rolling hills lead to sites such as the Pennypack Bridge, established in 1697, making it one of the country’s oldest stone bridges still in use, and the Verree House, which was raided by the British during the Revolutionary War. This park is a great destination for a quick break from those long weeks and a solid cure for writer’s block.
French Creek State Park, Douglassville, Pa
French Creek State Park is a perfect adventure for those who are looking for more challenging hikes that are still close to home. The park is equipped with 35 miles of trails that vary in difficulty from the fairly simple Buzzards Trail, a three-mile hike that parallels Baptism Creek, to the “most difficult,” six-mile, Mill Creek Trail that sees no paved roads from start to finish. They also have several cabins equipped with electricity and plumbing available for rent if you plan to stay the weekend.
Delaware Water Gap, East Stroudsburg, Pa
Grab a ZipCar or ask your roommate to borrow his coupe and hit the road as early as possible for this gem that sits about 95 miles outside of Philadelphia but is well worth the trip. There are more than 100 miles of trails for hikers of all skill levels, three life-guarded swimming beaches and areas to rock climb. Hike by waterfalls to reach the top, revealing a landscape of green that will help you forget about finals – even if only for a day.
The Pinnacle, Berks County, Pa
Located at Blue Mountain, the Pinnacle is a section of the Appalachian Trail that is a draw for local hikers and outdoor enthusiasts. The trail is at least a six-mile loop with numerous routes in a variety of difficulties. All your hard work pays off when you reach the summit where you are rewarded with an unforgettable view of Pennsylvania. Be sure to be aware of your surroundings, though, for the Pinnacle is home to rattlesnakes and copperheads.
While hiking is a great way to get outside and enjoy nature, it is very important to be aware of your skill level and to keep within your limits. Show up prepared to all hikes with proper clothing and footwear, as much water as possible, an assortment of snacks to carry with you and bug repellent, as always, is a good touch. Research your trails before departing on your hike and grab a map, just in case. Most importantly, it’s best not to travel alone, for the sake of your safety and state of mind, find a partner to hit the trails with.
For more information on local hikes and other outdoor adventures, contact Temple’s Outdoor club, which meets Thursday evenings at 8:30 p.m. in 305 Beury Hall.
Know Your Gear
As great as it is to get away, hiking can easily turn into a sour experience without the proper equipment. Here are a few necessities to make sure you’re prepared.
In your backpack
Water: Try not to use disposable water bottles – reusable bottles save money and waste. Try investing in the Nalgene Tritan Wide Mouth water bottles, which are supposed to be durable against most impact. They can be found online or in the bookstore with prices between $10 to $20.
Snacks: Hikes can take longer than expected sometimes, so pack a few sandwiches, granola bars or Cliff bars to keep you going.
Knife: It’s important to be smart with your knife purchase. Buy one that’s not too expensive – it’s unnecessary to spend more than $100 for a knife used for local hiking. Recommended are Kershaw brand knives, some priced as low as $10.
On your body
Boots: It isn’t necessary to break the bank in this department. Just look for a pair of boots that are water resistant, protect your ankles, have traction for all terrains and most importantly, break them in. You can order a pair of Merrell Moab Ventilator boots on Amazon.com for $80 to $100.
Weatherproof jacket: No need for an expensive North Face, nylon jackets can be found anywhere for a fraction of the price. A simple trip to the thrift shop should get you exactly what you need.
Jenine Pilla can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.