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Archive for Pennsylvania

McConnells Mill State Park

So often, I tend to over-plan a trip. I’ll download and pour over countless maps, line up every possible stop on the way, and research my destination until I’ve taken every element of surprise out of the adventure. Actually, at that point it’s not even an adventure – it’s more like a script. This trip to McConnells Mill State Park was the opposite of that.

The weekend was filled with wonderful moments with good friends in Sewickley, PA. I was in town to celebrate the first communion of my Godchild Harper, but we also enjoyed some youth T-ball and softball games, wonderful meals, good conversations, and a few drinks on the porch in absolutely perfect weather.

Monday, I was left with a free day – the town of Sewickley went back to school and work, and I called up other friends just a few miles up the road in Baden, PA. Katie and Paul cooked me a hearty breakfast and suggested hiking at the McConnells Mill State Park. It was a fantastic suggestion. The images for this slice were all taken with an iPhone 6 and run through the Instagram Sierra filter, with added vignette and tilt-shift.

The loop that I chose started at a covered bridge near the mill, followed Slippery Rock Creek to the next bridge, and then returned to the mill. The whole while, I was surrounded by rushing water, towering rock walls, fly-fishermen, and tons of boulders. The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources website describes the park, “McConnells Mill State Park, in Lawrence County, encompasses 2,546 acres of the spectacular Slippery Rock Creek Gorge. Created by the draining of glacial lakes thousands of years ago, the gorge has steeps sides and the valley floor is littered with huge boulders and is a national natural landmark. A gristmill built in the 1800s is open for tours. The park is open from sunrise to sunset, year-round.”

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Wissahickon Valley Park

The Wissahickon Creek

The Wissahickon Creek

Philadelphia, PA is an exciting city, brimming with history, great food, and if you look hard enough, very nice people. During my wife’s graduate studies at the University of the Arts, we were lucky enough to make several long-time friends. Most of our time in Philly was spent with these friends, making or looking at art or simply hanging out at each others apartments. One of our friends, Marisha, encouraged us to play outside now and then, pushing us to bike, hike, row, run, and climb. It is in large part due to Marisha that I yearn for the outdoors, as if she awakened the adventurous little boy in me, the one that I sort of forgot about. Likewise, Marisha can also be attributed to introducing us to the Wissahickon Valley Park in Northern Philadelphia.

Forbidden Drive I first visited the Wissahickon Valley Park on February 2, 2003. It was about 40 degrees out, so we bundled up, hopped in Marisha’s Subaru (Maisy Dog in tow), and winded our way north through the city, passed the museum, up Lincoln Drive, and into the frozen woods. We parked near the central hub of the park, the Valley Green Inn, and began our hike. Knowledge of this park was revelatory as it dawned on me that I could bike up here any day I wanted to and hike or climb as much as I like. Never before had something been so simultaneously accessible and awesome. My relationship with the park started on February 2, 2003 and only blossomed with each passing year.

For ten years, I have biked or driven into the Wissahickon, usually with a camera. In this slice, I attempt to exhibit the important landmarks of the park along with my favorite nooks and crannies. From my observations, I find that many park visitors begin their visit at the Valley Green Inn. For clarity, this post is divided into two sections: North of Valley Green Inn, and South of Valley Green Inn. Many times throughout this post, I reference the Friends of the Wissahickon (FOW), a non-profit focused on preserving the natural beauty of the Wissahickon.

Located in Northwest Philadelphia, the 1,800 acres of Wissahickon Valley Park are part of Philadelphia’s 10,500-acre park system, one of the largest urban park systems in the world. A lovely, wooded valley with Wissahickon Creek running through its entire seven-mile length, the Park extends from Chestnut Hill in the north to Manayunk in the southwest. Forbidden Drive, a wide gravel road closed to automobile traffic, parallels the Creek and the Park is criss-crossed by more than 50 miles of often rugged trails. ~ FOW.org

Below is a photo of Marisha on February 2nd, 2003 – my first time in the Wissahickon.

Marisha in the Wissahickon

Marisha in the Wissahickon

 

Valley Green Inn
The Valley Green Inn is a great place to start any day in the Wissahickon. It is easily accessible by car or bicycle, has a concession stand (they sell park maps), a restaurant, public restrooms, and is near to a creek crossing, in case you’re looking to trail hike on the other side of the creek.

Of the several inns which once dotted the Wissahickon Valley, Valley Green is the only one still in operation. Located on Forbidden Drive in Fairmount Park, the Inn was built in 1850 on land owned by the Livezey family. The Livezeys sold the land on which it stood and 66 additional acres to the City of Philadelphia in 1872 as part of the Fairmount Park system. Fairmount Park leased the hotel to various managers until it was declared a ruin and scheduled for demolition in 1899. A group of local citizens rallied to its rescue raising the necessary funds to restore the building. In 1900, a group of prominent Philadelphia women took over its management and they changed the name to the Valley Green Inn, offering only light refreshments to park users.

The Friends of the Wissahickon has been responsible for the Inn since 1937 when a lease was obtained from the City. At the end of the 1980s, a new manager Bob Levy proposed another restoration and enlargement of the facility. Fundraising for this project began in earnest in 1996, and groundbreaking took place in 2002. Restored and enlarged, Valley Green now operates as a restaurant. ~ FOW.org

Valley Green Inn

Valley Green Inn

North of Valley Green Inn

Heading north from Valley Green Inn, Forbidden Drive follows the path of the Wissahickon Creek for about 2.6 miles. The first major site on this northern leg of the park is the Magargee Dam, built just upstream from where the Magargee Mill once stood. It was the last active mill on the Wissahickon. Most times of the year, you can hop from rock to rock, almost clear across the creek.

Magargee Dam

Magargee Dam

Magargee Dam

Magargee Dam

The PRO BONO PUBLICO fountain was built in 1854 for travelers on Forbidden Drive, formerly the Wissahickon Turnpike. Free-flowing, clean drinking water spouted from this fountain for 103 years, not quite living up to its inscription “PRO BONO PUBLICO, ESTO PERPETUA” which translates, “For the public good. Let it remain forever.”

Pro Bono Publico Fountain

Pro Bono Publico Fountain

Pro Bono Publico Fountain

Pro Bono Publico Fountain

 

In the depression of the 1930s, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) was a Federal program that gave work to the unemployed.  Some of the shelters, guard boxes, comfort stations, walls, dams, and trails seen throughout the Wissahickon were constructed by over 4,000+ WPA workers. Rex avenue shelter is one of these WPA shelters. It served as a guard house.

Rex Avenue Shelter

Rex Avenue Shelter

Fifty yards up Rex Avenue–via a switchback up the hillside–is the path leading to the Indian statue. This kneeling Lenape warrior was sculpted in 1902 by John Massey Rhind. Commissioned by Mr. and Mrs. Charles W. Henry, it is a tribute to the Lenape Indians who hunted and fished in the Wissahickon prior to the arrival of colonists. The dramatic 15-foot high sculpture, which is mistakenly believed to depict Chief Tedyuscung, the most famous member of the Lenape tribe, can also be viewed from Forbidden Drive across the creek if one stands just north of the path to the Rex Avenue Bridge. The white marble statue was designed to commemorate the passing of the native Lenape from the region. For this reason, the Indian depicted in the statue has his hand to his brow looking west in the direction of the departing tribe. Rhind was not concerned with accurate representation since he gave this East Coast forest Indian a Western Plains Indian war bonnet. The statue, which was hauled to the site by workhorses, is situated on Council Rock, the place where the ancient Lenape Indians are believed to have held their pow-wows. ~ FOW.org
Indian Statue

Indian Statue

Just north of the Indian Statue is the Thomas Mill Road Bridge, the only remaining of five covered bridges that once occupied the Wissahickon. A nearby historical marker also states that, “it’s the only covered bridge in a major U.S. city.”

Covered Bridge

Covered Bridge

Covered Bridge

Covered Bridge

 

Whether you call it the Andorra Natural Area, Wissahickon Environmental Center, or The Tree House, these grounds have been maintained as a tree nursery since 1750 and now serves as an environmental educational center for young and old. Some of the activities include apple cider making in October, maple sugaring in February, the Tree House Tots program, and children’s summer programs. The nearby Cedars House Cafe is a lovely full service cafe, and a welcome relief for those who have just biked all the way from downtown Philadelphia!

Environmental Center

Environmental Center

Cedars House Cafe

Cedars House Cafe

Cedars House Cafe

Cedars House Cafe

 

 

South of Valley Green Inn

If you were to head south starting at Valley Green Inn, the first major site to stop at is Devil’s Pool. The Wissahiskon map states that, “According to legend, Devil’s Pool is said to have limitless depth. It is located near the junction of Cresheim and Wissahickon creeks.”

Devil's Pool

Devil’s Pool

In 1987 the Fairmount Park Art Association commissioned “Fingerspan”, a sculpture by internationally renowned artist Jody Pinto which functions as a pedestrian bridge. When a span over the gorge south of Livezey Dam deteriorated, Fairmount Park retrofitted and installed a staircase from an old ship. To replace the stairs, the artist designed “Fingerspan”, an outgrowth of the Fairmount Park Art Association’s Form and Function project. The span was fabricated in sections and installed by helicopter. A grant from the Art in Public Places Program of the National Endowment for the Arts supplemented funds from the Fairmount Park Art Association, and the work was donated to the City of Philadelphia. ~FOW.org

Fingerspan Bridge

Fingerspan Bridge

Joseph Gorgas built this house of Wissahickon schist at the end of Kitchen’s Lane around 1750. Though it never served as a monastery, its name may be a result of the religious activity attributed to this area.  When the Kitchen family occupied the house in the latter half of the 19th century, there were five cellars: one each for wine, milk, vinegar, potatoes and the “outside cellar.” These cellars may have been a stop on the Underground Railroad. ~ FOW.org

Monastary

Monastary

Monastary

Monastary

 

On what was most likely a very cold Christmas day in 1723, Baptists participated in a service at this very location. This act was designated by the Church of the Brethren as the birth of their sect. Today, the spot is marked by an easily missed plaque. I suggest visitors walk down to the edge of the water and try to imagine what it would have looked like on that cold Christmas day.

Baptismal Pool

Baptismal Pool

Toleration Statue. Erected in 1883, this marble statue of a man in Quaker clothing is situated on a ridge on the eastern side of the Park just north of the Walnut Lane Bridge. Standing atop Mom Rinker’s Rock, the nine-foot-eight-inch statue has the word “Toleration” carved into its four-foot-three-inch base. The statue, which was created by late 19th century sculptor Herman Kirn, was brought to the site by landowner John Welsh who is reported to have purchased the statue at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. Welsh, a former Fairmount Park Commissioner and U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain, donated his land to the Park prior to his death in 1886. ~ FOW.org
On April 20, 2003, I climbed up Mom Rinker’s Rock, and let me tell you, Mr. Toleration has a nice view. While I was up there, a couple came up the “easy side” and we struck up a conversation. The husband was from Pittsburgh, and said that he came here as a kid. As he posed for a picture (taken by his wife) in front of the statue, he told me that he remembered the statue being much bigger. He also mentioned that the Fairmount Park was the largest municipal park in the country.

Toleration

Toleration

Toleration

Toleration

 

Another of the Works Progress Administration’s structures, Ten Box Shelter was used as a guard station. Its name comes from the fact that it held the tenth box of an old phone line. Today, it is the threshold to the path leading to Rittenhouse Town.

Ten Box Shelter

Ten Box Shelter

RittenhouseTown is the site of the first paper mill in North America, built in 1690 by William Rittenhouse. For over 150 years, the Rittenhouse family operated the mills while living on the site. By the late 18th century, RittenhouseTown had developed into a small self-sufficient industrial community with more than 40 buildings: homesteads, workers’ cottages, the paper mill complex, a church, a school, and a firehouse. In the late 1870s, the Rittenhouse family sold the industrial site to the City of Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park. Today, only seven buildings still stand on the remaining 30 acres that were declared a National Historic Landmark District in 1992. ~ FOW.org

 

 

Lover’s Leap. According to the Wissahickon map, “Legend claims that the daughter of an indian chief and her lover plunged to their deaths from this dramatic cliff after she was promised to another man.” As far as I can tell, there is no marker for this spot. I simply used the trail map and my GPS device to come up with this, the only dramatic cliff I could find in this area.

Lover's Leap

Lover’s Leap

Kelpius’ cave. German Pietist Johannes Kelpius believed, along with his followers, that the world would end in 1694. The group crossed the Atlantic and settled in the Wissahickon where they meditated on the banks of the Wissahickon and in Kelpius’ cave. Unfortunately for them, the rapture never came. I looked for this spot for nearly two years in the Wissahickon, and finally, with the help of a detailed map of the park, I found the ancient sanctuary in November of 2008 while visiting Philadelphia for a friend’s wedding.

Kelpius' Cave

Kelpius’ Cave

Kelpius' Cave

Kelpius’ Cave

 

Over the last ten years, I have taken many photos in the park. Here are a few that don’t fit into the categories above:

Turtle

Turtle

Snake!

Snake!

Bassett Hounds

Bassett Hounds

 

In one of my 2003 visits, I climbed down near the water to get shots of the fly-fishers. The Wissahickon Creek holds 30 species of fish including: American eel, carp, goldfish, shiner, dace, darter, bass, and sunfish. Also, the creek is stocked with trout in April of every year, but not enough of that population survives to breed.

Fisherman

Fisherman

Livezy Rock is probably the spot that I’ve visited the most in the Wissahickon. Rain or shine, this hunk of Wissahickon Schist is a primo spot for boldering-a form of rock climbing where the climber is typically free of gear and only a few feet off the ground as he/she parallels the ground. I would bike up here and spend hours crisscrossing the same spots over and over again until my fingers screamed. There are anchors for actual climbing, but I only bouldered on Livezy.

Livezy Rock

Livezy Rock

The Wissahickon

The Wissahickon

 

One thing you realize quickly while hiking along the Wissahickon is the unique glimmer reflected by the rocks in the path. This stone is called Wissahickon schist and is very abundant in the valley – many homes in the area are made of this stone. The dirt even glimmers with embedded pieces of schist.

Wissahickon Schist

Wissahickon Schist

Stonework

Stonework

Stonework

Stonework

Taylor, Angela, and Marcel

Taylor, Angela, and Marcel

Now Angela and I have introduced Marcel to the Wissahickon Park. I look forward to long hikes with him, going from site to site and looking for new treasures in one of my favorite spots on Earth. I’ll leave you with this: Edgar Allan Poe, who had at least seven addresses in Philadelphia, would probably have considered the Wissahickon his country home address. He frequented the park and said this about it, “The Wissahiccon is of so remarkable a loveliness that, were it flowing in England, it would be the theme of every bard, and the common topic of every tongue.” I implore you to read Poe’s The Elk or Morning on the Wissahickon below.

The Elk (or) Morning On The Wissahiccon by Edgar Allen Poe

The natural scenery of America has often been contrasted, in its general features as well as in detail, with the landscape of the Old World- more especially of Europe- and not deeper has been the enthusiasm, than wide the dissension, of the supporters of each region. The discussion is one not likely to be soon closed, for, although much has been said on both sides, a word more yet remains to be said.

The most conspicuous of the British tourists who have attempted a comparison, seem to regard our northern and eastern seaboard, comparatively speaking, as all of America, at least, as all of the United States, worthy consideration. They say little, because they have seen less, of the gorgeous interior scenery of some of our western and southern districts- of the vast valley of Louisiana, for example,- a realization of the wildest dreams of paradise. For the most part, these travelers content themselves with a hasty inspection of the natural lions of the land- the Hudson, Niagara, the Catskills, Harper’s Ferry, the lakes of New York, the Ohio, the prairies, and the Mississippi. These, indeed, are objects well worthy the contemplation even of him who has just clambered by the castellated Rhine, or roamed

By the blue rushing of the arrowy Rhone;

but these are not all of which we can boast; and, indeed, I will be so hardy as to assert that there are innumerable quiet, obscure, and scarcely explored nooks, within the limits of the United States, that, by the true artist, or cultivated lover of the grand and beautiful amid the works of God, will be preferred to each and to all of the chronicled and better accredited scenes to which I have referred.

In fact, the real Edens of the land lie far away from the track of our own most deliberate tourists- how very far, then, beyond the reach of the foreigner, who, having made with his publisher at home arrangements for a certain amount of comment upon America, to be furnished in a stipulated period, can hope to fulfill his agreement in no other manner than by steaming it, memorandum- book in hand, through only the most beaten thoroughfares of the country!

I mentioned, just above, the valley of Louisiana. Of all extensive areas of natural loveliness, this is perhaps the most lovely. No fiction has approached it. The most gorgeous imagination might derive suggestions from its exuberant beauty. And beauty is, indeed, its sole character. It has little, or rather nothing, of the sublime. Gentle undulations of soil, interwreathed with fantastic crystallic streams, banked by flowery slopes, and backed by a forest vegetation, gigantic, glossy, multicoloured, sparkling with gay birds and burthened with perfume- these features make up, in the vale of Louisiana, the most voluptuous natural scenery upon earth.

But, even of this delicious region, the sweeter portions are reached only by the bypaths. Indeed, in America generally, the traveler who would behold the finest landscapes, must seek them not by the railroad, nor by the steamboat, not by the stage-coach, nor in his private carriage, not yet even on horseback- but on foot. He must walk, he must leap ravines, he must risk his neck among precipices, or he must leave unseen the truest, the richest, and most unspeakable glories of the land.

Now in the greater portion of Europe no such necessity exists. In England it exists not at all. The merest dandy of a tourist may there visit every nook worth visiting without detriment to his silk stockings; so thoroughly known are all points of interest, and so well-arranged are the means of attaining them. This consideration has never been allowed its due weight, in comparisons of the natural scenery of the Old and New Worlds. The entire loveliness of the former is collated with only the most noted, and with by no means the most eminent items in the general loveliness of the latter.

River scenery has, unquestionably, within itself, all the main elements of beauty, and, time out of mind, has been the favourite theme of the poet. But much of this fame is attributable to the predominance of travel in fluvial over that in mountainous districts. In the same way, large rivers, because usually highways, have, in all countries, absorbed an undue share of admiration. They are more observed, and, consequently, made more the subject of discourse, than less important, but often more interesting streams.

A singular exemplification of my remarks upon this head may be found in the Wissahiccon, a brook, (for more it can scarcely be called,) which empties itself into the Schuylkill, about six miles westward of Philadelphia. Now the Wissahiccon is of so remarkable a loveliness that, were it flowing in England, it would be the theme of every bard, and the common topic of every tongue, if, indeed, its banks were not parcelled off in lots, at an exorbitant price, as building-sites for the villas of the opulent. Yet it is only within a very few years that any one has more than heard of the Wissahiccon, while the broader and more navigable water into which it flows, has been long celebrated as one of the finest specimens of American river scenery. The Schuylkill, whose beauties have been much exaggerated, and whose banks, at least in the neighborhood of Philadelphia, are marshy like those of the Delaware, is not at all comparable, as an object of picturesque interest, with the more humble and less notorious rivulet of which we speak.

It was not until Fanny Kemble, in her droll book about the United States, pointed out to the Philadelphians the rare loveliness of a stream which lay at their own doors, that this loveliness was more than suspected by a few adventurous pedestrians of the vicinity. But, the “Journal” having opened all eyes, the Wissahiccon, to a certain extent, rolled at once into notoriety. I say “to a certain extent,” for, in fact, the true beauty of the stream lies far above the route of the Philadelphian picturesque-hunters, who rarely proceed farther than a mile or two above the mouth of the rivulet- for the very excellent reason that here the carriage-road stops. I would advise the adventurer who would behold its finest points to take the Ridge Road, running westwardly from the city, and, having reached the second lane beyond the sixth mile-stone, to follow this lane to its termination. He will thus strike the Wissahiccon, at one of its best reaches, and, in a skiff, or by clambering along its banks, he can go up or down the stream, as best suits his fancy, and in either direction will meet his reward.

I have already said, or should have said, that the brook is narrow. Its banks are generally, indeed almost universally, precipitous, and consist of high hills, clothed with noble shrubbery near the water, and crowned at a greater elevation, with some of the most magnificent forest trees of America, among which stands conspicuous the liriodendron tulipiferum. The immediate shores, however, are of granite, sharply defined or moss-covered, against which the pellucid water lolls in its gentle flow, as the blue waves of the Mediterranean upon the steps of her palaces of marble. Occasionally in front of the cliffs, extends a small definite plateau of richly herbaged land, affording the most picturesque position for a cottage and garden which the richest imagination could conceive. The windings of the stream are many and abrupt, as is usually the case where banks are precipitous, and thus the impression conveyed to the voyager’s eye, as he proceeds, is that of an endless succession of infinitely varied small lakes, or, more properly speaking, tarns. The Wissahiccon, however, should be visited, not like “fair Melrose,” by moonlight, or even in cloudy weather, but amid the brightest glare of a noonday sun; for the narrowness of the gorge through which it flows, the height of the hills on either hand, and the density of the foliage, conspire to produce a gloominess, if not an absolute dreariness of effect, which, unless relieved by a bright general light, detracts from the mere beauty of the scene.

Not long ago I visited the stream by the route described, and spent the better part of a sultry day in floating in a skiff upon its bosom. The heat gradually overcame me, and, resigning myself to the influence of the scenes and of the weather, and of the gentle moving current, I sank into a half slumber, during which my imagination reveled in visions of the Wissahiccon of ancient days- of the “good old days” when the Demon of the Engine was not, when picnics were undreamed of, when “water privileges” were neither bought nor sold, and when the red man trod alone, with the elk, upon the ridges that now towered above. And, while gradually these conceits took possession of my mind, the lazy brook had borne me, inch by inch, around one promontory and within full view of another that bounded the prospect at the distance of forty or fifty yards. It was a steep rocky cliff, abutting far into the stream, and presenting much more of the Salvator character than any portion of the shore hitherto passed. What I saw upon this cliff, although surely an object of very extraordinary nature, the place and season considered, at first neither startled nor amazed me- so thoroughly and appropriately did it chime in with the half-slumberous fancies that enwrapped me. I saw, or dreamed that I saw, standing upon the extreme verge of the precipice, with neck outstretched, with ears erect, and the whole attitude indicative of profound and melancholy inquisitiveness, one of the oldest and boldest of those identical elks which had been coupled with the red men of my vision.

I say that, for a few moments, this apparition neither startled nor amazed me. During this interval my whole soul was bound up in intense sympathy alone. I fancied the elk repining, not less than wondering, at the manifest alterations for the worse, wrought upon the brook and its vicinage, even within the last few years, by the stern hand of the utilitarian. But a slight movement of the animal’s head at once dispelled the dreaminess which invested me, and aroused me to a full sense of novelty of the adventure. I arose upon one knee within the skiff, and, while I hesitated whether to stop my career, or let myself float nearer to the object of my wonder, I heard the words “hist!” “hist!” ejaculated quickly but cautiously, from the shrubbery overhead. In an instant afterwards, a negro emerged from the thicket, putting aside the bushes with care, and treading stealthily. He bore in one hand a quantity of salt, and, holding it towards the elk, gently yet steadily approached. The noble animal, although a little fluttered, made no attempt at escape. The negro advanced; offered the salt; and spoke a few words of encouragement or conciliation. Presently, the elk bowed and stamped, and then lay quietly down and was secured with a halter.

Thus ended my romance of the elk. It was a pet of great age and very domestic habits, and belonged to an English family occupying a villa in the vicinity.

First published in 1844, in The Opal, p. 249.

 

 

Lancaster County – The Amish

July 29th 2003 marked the third anniversary of Slices of America. In celebration, I decided to head out to Lancaster County Pennsylvania to see what Amish life was all about. Angela and I packed sandwiches, drinks, and snacks and headed west out of Philadelphia. The drive from Philly to Lancaster County should take about 1.5 hours, but I decided-since it was such a beautiful day-to get there by state roads only. The trip took about 2 hours.

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One of our first destinations in Lancaster County was the town of Intercourse. I just had to see this place. Here’s what the on-line welcome center has to say about this unique name: Formerly known as “Cross Keys” from a noted old tavern, this village was founded in 1754. Much speculation exists concerning the origin of the name of this little country village. There are several explanations, but none really can be substantiated. The first centers around an old race track which existed just east of town. As one leaves town, traveling eastward on the Old Philadelphia Pike, there is a long stretch of road where the track was located. This was the entrance to the race course, and was known as Entercourse. It is believed that Entercourse gradually evolved into Intercourse which became the name of the town in 1814. Another theory concerns two famous roads that crossed here. The Old King’s Highway from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh (now the old Philadelphia Pike) ran east and west through the center of the town. The road from Wilmington to Erie intersected in the middle. The joining of these two roads is claimed by some to be the basis for the town Cross Keys or eventually Intercourse. A final idea comes from the old english language used more commonly when the name Intercourse was adopted in 1814. It speaks to the fellowship or social interaction and friendship which was so much a part of an agricultural village and culture at this time. These roots mark the community of faith to this day, and the many evidences of it are experienced by those who care to dig a bit more deeply in their Amish farmland venture.

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Basically, if you’re heading west, as soon as you leave Intercourse you enter the village Bird-In-Hand – our next destination. As the marker states below, the town was named for an image that once appeared on an old hotel’s swinging sign.

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One of the first things we did when we got to Bird-In-Hand was stopped at Coleman’s Ice Cream. We stopped for two reasons: it was time to eat lunch and they had picknick tables. Plus, it was hard to ignore their slogan, “Creative Ice Creams”. Turns out the picknick tables were very convenient and the butter cashew ice cream was fantastic, only I didn’t see many other “creative ice creames”.

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Angela and the convenient pick-nick tables.

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The image you see here (of the bird in the hand) must be like the image on that old hotel sign. It has been adopted by all the local businesses and appears on everything in Bird-In-Hand.

Below are images from the Lancaster County countryside. They are images from Bird-In-Hand, Intercourse, and some surrounding areas:

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And finally, here are images of the Amish farmers at work. You will want to notice the horses pulling the machinery, not a tractor. You will also want to note that the Amish farmers do not use rubber tires, they are all metal.

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The Amish buggies are abundant in Lancaster County. You see them on the road (or off to the side when that’s more practical), tying up to posts near general stores, and parked in barns. Most of the buggies are two-seater cabins pulled by a single horse. I did see three children crammed into one, but that looked a little tight.

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This is the funniest thing I saw all day. This Amish farmer is pulling a wagon, and on the wagon’s rear, in the ceter, you can barely spot a black rectangular design- it’s one of those “Got Milk?” bumper stickers!

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According to the Lancaster on-line wecome center, Stoltzfus is one of the most commom Amish family names. The others are King, Fisher, Beiler, and Lapp. The most commom male names are John, Amos, Samuel, Daniel, and David. The most common female names are Mary, Rebecca, Sarah, Katie, and Annie.

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Note the motto on the Weavertown One Room School, “Animated Life Like Scholars”.

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Birdhouses for sale

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St. John Neumann Pilgrimage

While living in Philadelphia back in 2003, I caught wind of two amazing things at once. For starters, there existed a Mario Lanza Museum less that a mile from our apartment. Secondly, Philadelphia was home to the remains of an actual Catholic Saint – St. John Neumann! These sites had to be visited. It was time for a St. John Neumann pilgrimage.

SOUTH PHILLY

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St. Mary Magdalen De Pazzi Parish. Founded in 1852 as the first Italian national parish in the US by St. John N. Neumann, Bishop of Philadelphia. New churches were dedicated here, 1854 & 1891. The Delaware Valley’s largest Italian community became centered in this neighborhood. – Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 1994.

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MARIO LANZA MUSEUM



Carmelo Adamo – Mosaic Artist



Making my way North to the St. john Neumann Shrine.

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Final resting place of Benjamin Franklin!

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St. John Neumann

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Rally for America: Valley Forge, PA

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On March 16, 2003, Glenn Beck (of 1210 AM WPHT Philadelphia) led a crowd of 10,000+ in what he dubbed a “Rally for America”. It wasn’t a pro-war rally. It wasn’t an anti-war rally. It was a rally for our troops. It was a rally for our young men and women in uniform, who need to know that when they come home they will be applauded – not demoralized.

My day began at about 9 AM. I called in sick to work (Tower Records), never for a better reason, and then gathered the necessary tools for such an occasion: 1 large bag of Tostitos, 1 32 oz. bottle of Lemon-Lime Gatorade, 1 map of Downtown Philly (lot of good that would do me in Valley Forge), 1 digital camera, 1 35mm camera, 2 rolls of black & white film (48 exp.), 1 Panasonic multi-speed micro cassette recorder, and 8 micro cassettes capable of recording 8 hours of sound.

I started up the Ford Focus at 11:17 AM on the first really “warm” Philadelphia day of the year, 60°+ and climbing! For months, the highs have been below 50°, but today was like summer compared to all that. People were out walking their dogs and jogging, the bums were pandering in full force like I’d remembered from the summer. I noticed a group of kids all dressed in green – St. Patrick’s Day revelers celebrating a day early. Driving down Broad St., I passed the University of the Arts. Angela is in there right now working on a mid-term project. I passed Tower Records, and I couldn’t help but think about all the beautiful days that I’d missed, cooped up behind a cash register – not today.

Béla Fleck’s Acoustic Planet is spinning in my car CD player. There may not be a better album for traveling. A fire truck crosses the intersection just in front of city hall and everything comes to a standstill, then all three lanes merge around city hall and North to I-76. As I pull onto the interstate, I remember that Glenn Beck’s rally in Atlanta pulled in 25,000 people. Could this rally pull in those numbers? If so, did I leave early enough? A hot-air balloon, the first official hot-air balloon I’d ever seen, floated down from the sky and landed in the trees lining the interstate. Just then, a dark blue Lincoln passed me. Attached to it were at least a dozen of those little American flags, you know the kind – little wooden stick for a post. I must be headed in the right direction.

On I-76 I pass exits for St. John’s, Germantown, Wissahickon Park, Manayunk, Roxborough, and Conshohocken. This unusually-scenic strip of the Eisenhower interstate system cuts through the hills surrounding Philadelphia. It follows the Schuykill River north to Conshohocken, and then suddenly darts west at what is know as the “Conshohocken Curve”. From here, one can look down upon the businesses of Conshohocken or look up at the two week old ice that refuses to melt on the hill’s cliffs. Just then a large tour bus passes me, the entire rear is covered in a red, white, and blue sign that reads, “REBORN IN THE USA!”. I’m certainly headed in the right direction.

I pass exits for Plymouth Meeting, West Chester, and my exit, King of Prussia. I exit at Mall Blvd. (the King of Prussia mall is a pretty big deal around here). Now, I could tell you all about how I got lost in King of Prussia. I could go into detail about the ski/bike shop and the three gas stations that I stopped at, but that would be a waste of time. Let’s just say I crossed the town twice, and finally after about 20 minutes of searching found what I was looking for – traffic at a complete standstill. Gridlock in both lanes of Gulph Rd. – a King of Prussia “snow route” (We people from Louisiana don’t ever put those two words together.) I was starting to feel stupid for not jazzing up the Focus with star-spangled patriotism. It seemed that every car for a mile was draped in red, white , and blue!

Here’s the situation. At the last minute, it was decided to congregate at a convention center in West King of Prussia. From there, shuttles would take us to the rally in Valley Forge National Historic Park. The problem: there were at least 5,000 people in line to take the shuttle and only ten shuttles. I walked from my car toward the gathering crowds. I saw an unending snake of people. I walked through this mayhem for at least 10 minutes, looking for the end. I couldn’t find the end or the beginning. I thought to myself, “This line isn’t moving. I’ll never get there.”

The march begins

God Bless

I spoke to a few people. Despite the obvious schematic problems, everyone was in high spirits. No one complained about the situation. As a matter of fact, several amazing things happened at this point. People with children, especially multiple children, were allowed to the beginning of the line. Some people, realizing that they would never get to the rally started their own rallies. They sang patriotic songs and cheered, “USA! USA!”. One man, Kenny from Green Lane, PA, decided that he wasn’t going to just sit there and watch his rally slip farther and farther away. The man, at least 6’5″, boomed over the thousands, urging them to walk to Valley Forge, “You’re not gunna make it if ya wait for the shuttle! There’s too many people in front of you.. they only have ten shuttles!” Some one asked how far the journey would be. He responded, “Five miles! Five miles! You’re gunna stand anyway, might as well get some exercise!” In minutes, a line of at least 500 people was formed.

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I left the convention center parking lot with those people. Actually, at first I was right in front with Kenny and his wife. Later I would drop back and talk to as many people as possible. We crossed the highway, followed it up a hill and under a bypass, then left into Valley Forge. None of us knew the way. Yet, the mood in the front of the line was one of confidence. We entered the golden, rolling hills of Valley Forge, with it’s wild wheat and abundance of deer droppings. We passed replica cannons and replica huts like the ones Washington’s Army would have lived in. I suspect that if this rally had occurred a week earlier, the conditions would have been impossible – but never as impossible as Washington’s horrible winter in 1777 and 1778. We were lucky because today was perfect.

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We marched through the valley, and it was just that – a valley. The down hills were cake, but the up hills were definitely not. At the top of every hill, we hoped to see anything that looked like a rally. We came to the bottom of one valley only to realize that the idea “shortest distance between two points is a straight path” would not apply here. Standing in our way was a strip of impassable woods (fenced off by signs that warned of high levels of asbestos) coupled with an impassable creek. We had to go around. That put us atop the largest hill yet.

Half-way into the march

It was here that I started talking to people with loved ones overseas. I spoke to the parents of David Headly, a soldier in the US Army stationed in Kuwait. I learned about Brian Klinger, a Marine in Kuwait. A friend gives us a little insight as to what a soldier might like in his care package. I spoke to the hopeful family of US Army soldier Steve Griner, who is stationed at Ft. Camble, KY. He has two little ones at home and a wife that was expecting. I spoke to Korean War veteran John Brown, who “took mines and booby traps out”. He has a message for his fellow Marines. I met Vietnam veteran Bob Dervin, a scout with the 82nd Airborne – also the proud father of a son in the 82nd. I only wish that I had started asking people to talk to me sooner. No one held back, as if they were dying for someone to inquire.

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We came down from the hills and marched through the Village of Valley Forge. A historical sign reads, “Village settled by the workers at iron forge begun in 1742. The forge and part of the village were burned by the British army in 1777. Washington’s quarters during the winter of 1777-78 were in the Isaac Potts’ house, a part of the original village.” The road was now a valley, and on either side were Colonial style homes lined by large stone walls. We passed a lot filled with bikers who had come in droves to attend the rally. We passed a church. The sign reads, “YOURE HEADING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION WHEN YOU WALK WITH GOD”. Remember now, this march through Valley Forge and the village was not planned. The sign wasn’t intentionally set up for our benefit, but when all those very faithful marchers passed that church sign – I witnessed the largest collective second wind that I’ve ever seen. Right after that church was the biggest uphill climb yet, and I swear – people sped up. This marked the final leg of the trip. Just after that uphill inevitably came a downhill that brought us to the gates of the rally area – a sea of red, white, and blue.

Bikers gather in the Village of Valley Forge

You're Heading in the Right Direction When You Walk With God

The rally itself had just really kicked off. It was just passed 2 PM, which meant that we’d marched almost 2 hours! Set in a clearing in Valley Forge Park, the spot for the rally would have been as inspiring silent as it was with thousands of roaring Americans. Just behind me was a very large statue of George Washington, kneeling in prayer. Children and adults gathered around it. Glenn Beck took the stage. The image only shows one hundred or so in front of me, but that’s because I spent about 15 minutes waking through the crowd. Beck’s message was clear and simple – support our troops. He spoke for about an hour and the rally ended in song – America the Beautiful.

A Marine veteran listens to keynote speaker Glenn Beck

 Glenn Beck on stage

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 The crowd gathers around a statue of Washington kneeling in prayer

Proud

There were two ways to get back to the convention center – shuttle or foot. It was the same situation all over again, but many decided to wait for the shuttle this time. I walked back simply because I knew it would be faster, only I decided to take the longer scenic way, passing the Washington Episcopal Memorial Chapel and many huts and cannons. Those who chose to walk back were sparse, scattered randomly through the valley. There was no one to talk to or follow and no clear direction to walk in. It left a person with time to think. This was one of the greatest days of my life. Listen to this radio caller, Maurice from Washington Crossing, PA – he sums it up very well.

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