Chestnut Hill zigzag, Cheltenham Ave, Tacony Creek to Fox Chase…

Rising early to meet Day Two lets us catch some beautiful early morning light.

(I’m not always out and about this early, but it’s always a treat to catch the sunrise, and the walk is a good motivator…)

We’re intercepted by Kathy & Chloe who’re joining for the Day 2.

From here by the river’s edge, the perimeter makes a 90 degree turn away from the river…

… and heads straight up the slopes…

… where we encounter an abandoned ruin behind Manatawna Farms.

(This is but one of many things that I’ve never seen in my previous six passes around the perimeter of Philadelphia. One can repeat this experience over and over and never get bored of it, as there’s always new things, changed things, and shifting paths as ways through are opened up or closed off…)

Coming up onto this field in the snow in the early morning light was really spectacular…

… it’s one of those moments on the perimeter that gives you a sense of the vast scale of this city.

From here, I knew that we were about to encounter …

… the vast set of community gardens that one of my neighbors has a plot in…

Just past those are a couple houses that haven’t changed in years…

… but all of a sudden this year they’re doing some major renovation work.

This is one of several spots on the perimeter where the homes are too remote to be on the gas company’s lines, so you’ll see propane tanks and/or stacks of firewood for heat.

Somehow though there are still fire hydrants out here, in what feels somewhat like the middle of nowhere.

High up on a hill, someone is building a pretty giant mansion / house / compound w/ three or more garages…

As we navigate some more suburban feeling roads where pedestrians definitely aren’t the norm, I look back to see Rocky & Cathy striking up a conversation…

This too is a gift of the walk: it opens up space for connection between folks who otherwise might not have crossed paths.

One participant put it this way:

When you walk with other people, there is no need for words to feel connected.

Another said that they were surprised by:

how easily the numbers ebbed and flowed with people joining for parts of the walk and how accepting and welcoming everyone was when you “landed” in the group.

As we make our way along the aptly named “Northwestern Ave” which is itself part of the border, we play the “Philadelphia” <> “not-Philadelphia” game…

Since we’re going clockwise, it’s always Philly on our right, and “not-Philly” on our left. Can you tell the difference here?

A little bit further on up this same stretch, we see some differences…

… this old farm-house / barn is in Philadelphia, while just across the way in “not-Philadelphia” …

… there’s brand new huge houses being built in what is also known as Lafayette Hill, PA.

Note also the remnant of an old utility pole left hanging alongside the new one still attached to the wires. We saw these at a couple points around the perimeter and I find them quite funny…

Continuing down (or up) Northwestern Ave, we’ve passed Andorra Meadow which signals the beginning of the top end of the Wissahickon Valley Park.

With this weather, the only car in the parking lot is one snowed-in city vehicle…

and we find ourselves back on some trails.

Looking back, Kathy’s now deep in conversation with Greg …

It’s not just that the walk opens up space for conversation & connection… it does so in a way that flows naturally as we traverse the terrain.

It feels, to me, far more authentic than a random networking event where a bell would tell you that it’s time to switch partners and go talk to the next person. Here pairings form, dissolve and re-form organically along the journey as conversations are interspersed with periods of comfortable silence.

And all of a sudden, where we are at the tip top edge of Forbidden Drive –

Since it’s Monday The Cedars House is closed. It’s one of those places that many have walked to by more traditional (and direct) paths, and it feels strange and special to approach a familiar location by this more roundabout way.

All of a sudden a car pulls over and out pops Ken, who’s joining a little bit later in the day after having opted to take a little bit of extra morning rest after the intensity of Day One.

This is an important point about the walk: there’s any number of ways to do it, and listening to your body is a key principle.

Here I’m trying to do it in my usual six days which is fairly intense. But the high school students who completed the entire ~100 mile adventure this past fall did it in fifteen half-day segments. Much like the Appalachian Trail, you can do this thing in different sized segments, sequentially or not, as you see fit.

From here Northwestern Ave continues to the northernmost corner of the Morris Arboretum, where the perimeter makes one of the first of many zigzag turns, this time onto Stenton Ave…

This can be a tricky bit, because parts of Stenton Ave lack sidewalks and usually feature speeding traffic, but here some construction comes to our aid…

… and as we wander on through, our high visibility gear matches that of the workers.

Note: much like anywhere else on the perimeter, if this part doesn’t feel safe or accessible to you, you can just go around it.

We call this the “Roomba Rule”, where you can navigate your way around any obstacle just like a little robot vacuum cleaner bumping its way around a new space.

For example, the high school students in September opted to avoid this stretch of Stenton, instead detouring a few blocks into “not-Philadelphia” (here it’s Erdenheim, PA)

We continue our trek up Stenton Ave until …

… we come to the old rail power lines that accompany the next 90 degree turn onto Ivy Hill Road.

Here, Rocky shares some stories about the origins of this former rail line. I’d taken these for general electric distribution lines, and had no idea of some of the industrial history here.

Just another case of how the experience of the perimeter also shifts depending on who you’re walking with and what knowledge and life experience they bring to it…

Just walking on another side of the road (the left one, in this case) can position you so as to catch a glimpse of something new too – like this humorous mailbox in the sky.

Further up Ivy Hill Rd, I’m surprised to see workers on this half built structure… it’s been sitting unchanged since I first walked by in 2016.

Are they resuming construction? Or dismantling an abandoned project?

Another strange little change along the way is seeing this awning that I’ve walked by several times in the past… now with a hole collapsed through it.

Chloe is quick to make the joke that the dental clinic “has a cavity”…

After another right angle turn, we find ourselves beginning the long stretch of Cheltenham Ave, where they’re putting in big shiny new traffic poles…

Cheltenham Ave has all sorts of strip malls and different sorts of row houses, but on this pass it’s these little single-story ones that catch my eye..

… along with the trail-blaze stickers left behind by folks who participated in the September walk.

Thankfully some establishments are still open / providing bathroom access, and this one’s a great spot for a little break and …

… a fresh pair of socks!

We keep walking along the North (Not-Philadelphia) side of the street, giving a closer look at these Dr-Seuss-looking cut-back trees…

… and this one that’s been pretty wildly pruned around the power lines…

… and before you know it, we’re heading back into the woods, this time Tacony Creek Park, where trees can grow unmolested.

(“Before you know it” is a figure of speech here… The Cheltenham Ave section of the perimeter is over four miles long, and with breaks and ice and all, it’s taken us nearly three hours to get here from that dental clinic a few frames back…)

The perimeter line cuts straight across the water, but we opt to detour a tiny bit southeast along the trail to take the bridge. The creek’s wide here, and no sense trying to cross it here. The stream-hopping adventures are for tomorrow!

(Although, spoiler alert: there’ll be a surprise stream stream crossing before this day’s done. One that I hadn’t planned on. The perimeter adventure is ever unpredictable…)

The bridge crossing calls for a bridge-selfie. This one’s mostly for my dear perimeter-walking friends Ann, Sam & Adrienne – when we first walked it in 2016 we took group selfies at every bridge that we crossed (or went under.)

Doubling back upstream, we get back to the actual line of the perimeter, or as close as we can guesstimate it from the map, which leads us straight up a hill…

… and to a set of rail tracks – a good spot for a stretch break.

(These are the same tracks that we’re hoping will bring us home at the end of this segment…)

While there’s a possibility to follow along through the nearby neighborhoods, our group opts to stick to the tracks in order to stay as close to the perimeter line as possible

As our shadows stretch out before us in the low winter sun…

… we start to see some colorful graffiti…

(Nothing compared to what Days 3 and 4 will bring…)

… and more…

… including this great creature in a stream bed.

We pause to consider our next moves, feeling that the next bit of rail segment might be less safe.

Note: nowhere near rails is ever to be considered “safe”. Part of the walk is an exercise in navigating risk and communication, and if any member of the group ever feels unsafe with a segment or obstacle, we just backtrack & ‘roomba’ around it.

So here we go tromping back through some trees…

… discovering a funny little segment of road and woods that was new to me.

We find our way back and forth still close to the rail lines…

… before finding our way back down to the road one last time.

Here the perimeter does one more little funny bump out following Cottman Ave by Burholme Park.

This wide-angle snapshot doesn’t do it justice, but that’s actually a decent little hill in the background with a bunch of young folk sledding on it. A good winter spot if you live up in the Northeast!

There’s no sidewalk on the Philly side of Cottman Ave by this bit of woods near the Fox Chase Cancer Center – I figured we’d cross to the not-Philly (aka Cheltenham) side, but our group opted for venturing into the woods one more time…

… where, lo and behold, it turns out there was a stream to cross.

Here’s where my packing list came in handy, as Ken pulled out two plastic grocery bags that I’d recommended for stream fording and tied them around his shoes to keep them dry…

… while Chloe just chanced it and hopped across the rocks (successfully!)

With the sun getting low, we seemed to be on track to catch that next train…

… coming out of the woods and finding our way through one last little residential neighborhood…

Day 2: DONE!

… before making it to the Fox Chase rail stop right on time!

Now nearly 37 miles into this adventure…

… it was a good time to sit down and rest and prepare for the journey home…

… from whence we could admire some beautiful footprints along the tracks in the snow.

The next day was a rest day. We needed it, before taking on the next big adventure around the Northeast…

Next segment:

Day 3 – Pine Rd, the Northeast / Poquessing Creek / Knights Rd…