November 20, 2020. The hills of eastern Pennsylvania are all dressed up in their finest Fall colors. Across the Gorge, it’s a full spectrum party for your eyes. Here on the trail side, a couple hundred feet higher, the trees are already undressing. So many leaves already on the ground the trail disappears from time to time. Watch your step.
Click to see every step of the Way on the big Google Map I made for you. If you’re counting, it’s about 9,000 steps over 4.5 miles when you take the high trail all the Way to the end and loop back on its lower section. In less than two hours. Get out there and find a park. Now. This week. The heart of Autumn.
Hiking in Tohickon Valley Park
I’d never heard of it either. But it’s another great example of the thousands of local, State and National parks in the U.S. alone. I was 25 miles away from this one, for my first-ever 10K in the morning, then headed for the hills for this wonderful afternoon hike. Because every good 6.25 miles deserves 4.5 more. (22,000 steps for the day if you’re counting.)
The Gorge Trail twists and turns to follow the sharply meandering Tohickon Creek a couple of hundred feet below. Within earshot but out of sight for a mile and a half. While you’re surrounded by a forest of oak, hickory, tulip poplar and hemlock trees. This time of year they put on an impressive light show.
This is hill country, so expect a lot of gentle ups and downs. Go right at the fork and stay on the upper section of the trail on the Way out. You’ll cross a few now-dry, slate-lined stream beds. You’ll walk along still-standing sections of 200-year old rock walls. And you’ll make great sound effects kicking your Way through deep pockets of fallen leaves. That full-on multimedia immersion in nature that quickly delivers peace of mind along with some exercise.
This week, you’re delivered to a jaw-dropping overlook with a stunning view. No loss of relaxation. But a total oh-wow-look-at-that. Straight down to the Creek and back up across a mountainside of billions of leaves in thousands of shades of dozens of colors. You could hang here for quite a while. Just staring. Just when you’re about to get back on the trail, a breeze blows across the Gorge and the colors start swaying. Waves of colors moving up and down and back and forth. An acid flashback couldn’t make this up.
When it’s time for you to move, take the trail to its end. Then return on its lower section. Parallel to your outbound hike, but steadily descending toward the “Creek”. Which looks and sounds more and more like a river to me. It’s wide. It’s got a little white water. And it delivers all the quantifiable and all the mysterious benefits of being near water. This is a trail that’s got it all.
While you’re nearby
Ten miles to the northwest, it’s got a killer ice cream cone in what might seem the unlikeliest of places. Where Route 412 merges with 611, near Otisville, PA, USA. oWowCow Creamery makes dangerously great ice cream in dozens of flavors and colors. Along the Way to what was probably the most important decision of the day, I tasted their Wasabi Sweet Potato. A fantastic savory-not-sweet ice cream. You get the idea. But in the end, and after a 22,000-step day, I went for sugar, salt and caloric restoration. I can now recommend without qualification the Salty Pecan Dark Chocolate.
Every Thing is Everything
“Walking is the best possible exercise. The object of walking is to relax the mind. You should therefore not permit yourself even to think while you walk. But divert your attention by [appreciating] the objects surrounding you. Habituate yourself to walk very far.”
– Thomas Jefferson
“It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop.” – Confucius
It’s Always Something
Confucius spoke metaphorically, not metabolically. If it takes you more than 24 minutes to walk a mile (that’s slower than 2.5 mph), your exercise benefit is relatively small. If you walk a little faster, the benefits are significantly greater, according to this report.