Forbidden Drive

Wissahickon in Winter

Pancake flat is the kind of terrain I love. Florida is flatter than rattlesnake roadkill. Norfolk is flatter than the rising tidewater. So, when someone says the Forbidden Drive Trail in Philadelphia is relatively flat, I take it with a grain of dirt.

Forbidden Drive begins on Northwestern Avenue and follows the Wissahickon Creek for five miles and connects to the Schuylkill River Trail via Lincoln Drive. I ran 10 miles on the trails this morning with Irene who pushes it uphill with a fierceness rarely found in a runner. With a minimum elevation of 44 feet and a maximum of 190 feet, the elevation gain was 599 feet and elevation loss was 613 feet on our morning run. I stopped to snap some photographs for this post and to catch my breath.

During the late 1700s and throughout the 1800s, the Wissahickon Creek was the most industrialized waterway in the United States with mills and factories along its banks. Evidence of the dams along the river are readily visible from the trail which provides scenic overlooks in a forest setting. We passed the only covered bridge in the Philadelphia area, originally built in 1737, we ran by the Valley Green Inn, and traversed a former toll bridge with the toll house still intact. This valley is mentioned by writers from Edgar Allen Poe to Walt Whitman and artists from James Peale to Thomas Moran. I felt at home here.

Wissahickon in Summer

Before industrialization and colonial times, the Lenape called it Wiessahitkonk, which means “catfish creek” or “stream of yellowish color”. During the summer, the creek beautifully reflected the Henry Avenue bridge, but in winter I can certainly see the yellowish color. Fish are stocked in the river, but it’s not advisable to wade or swim in the water due to run-off pollution.

If you would like to support the Friends of the Wissahickon and help maintain over 50 miles of trails and keep the waterways clean, then check out the Wissahickon Trail Classic on June 3, 2017. There is a 10K run and a 5K nature hike for the non runners. To sign up, check out their website: Wissahickon Trail Classic

I’ll return to these rolling hills in this gem of a park in the heart of America’s fifth largest city.

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