Pine Rd, the Northeast / Poquessing Creek / Knights Rd…

This might be the longest and most ambitious segment of the six-day itinerary, at least for those of us coming from W. Philly / Center City.

I was up by 4:15 in order to leave enough time to get ready and make it to the train to Fox Chase by 6:10am. This allowed us to again catch a little bit of glorious morning light, and be ready to be walking by ~7am.

We start this day squarely in Philadelphia, a few blocks inset from the actual perimeter. Following Pine Road will soon bring us right back to the actual line…

It quickly becomes not-so-pedestrian friendly, as we walk by the hermitages of the Medical Mission Sisters (a place I hope to spend the night when I finally do a contiguous version of the walk…)

Passing by Fox Chase Farm, we know that we could venture in and explore closer to the actual perimeter as I did with others last winter – but we’ll need to stick to Pine Rd to get across the upcoming wide Pennypack Creek…

It’s just the four of us today, and I’m mindful that today we’re a group of four white men engaged in this adventure – even less diverse a gang than the first time I did this.

We’ll be joined again by women & POC folk on days four & six, but I think that it says something that the four of us who are doing the *entire* perimeter this time ’round are four white guys.

Unlike my other projects, this one takes a fair amount of privilege to access, and results in participation that’s far less diverse than my other creative ventures.

This is why I was delighted to be able to facilitate a broader pool of participants last September’s edition of the walk, including some that were supported by stipends to facilitate their experience. I will be continuing to seek both resources & partners to help make this unique experience of the city accessible to anyone who’d want to engage in it.

Even on the fairly straightforward Pine Road, there’s signs of change… “four semi-custom homes” coming soon…

Pine Road is one of those funny bits of the perimeter where you have to look closely at the map & street numbers to realize that you’re on the perimeter – all of a sudden two similar neighboring houses straddle the border…

Out here the houses have decorative lawn sculptures…

… or gazebos…

We trudge on through the snow…

… and find our way to this new development of houses in Lower Moreland Township that I’ve watched spring up from the vacant land as I’ve passed by annually since 2016.

This is an interesting spot, because the big vacant land area had straddled the border and developers opted to make these houses on the land in “Not-Philadelphia”…

(a decision likely related to the “not-Philadelphia” school district…)

… whereas the Philadelphia side is still wide open, with signs of new stormwater infrastructure and construction, and I’m told that it will be developed into a UPS shipping / distribution center.

We stop and survey the landscape… this is another one of those vast spaces that you sometimes encounter along the perimeter.

Last time I was here for the September walk there were strange giant swaths of orange fabric arranged across the ground that were reminiscent of Christo & Jeanne-Claude’s ‘The Gates” installations… but now everything’s buried in snow.

Sidenote: until just now, when I did a quick bit of Googling, I’d only known “The Gates” as a “Christo” project, and had never heard of Jeanne-Claude. Apparently their work was originally branded under just his name, so it’s not entirely my fault, but this sends me on a spiral of thoughts about the insidious tendrils of patriarchy in our world and often invisible / unacknowledged labor of women…

… speaking of invisible women, this might be a good place to give another shoutout to Ann deForest, Sam Wend & Adrienne Mackey, my amazing collaborators in the artist residency that led to Walk Around Philadelphia in 2016. They weren’t able to join for any of this one, but I definitely wouldn’t be here without them…

We set out across the vast expanse, following the tracks of some other animal (deer?) that has apparently also decided to walk the perimeter of the city… at least this bit.

Up ahead lies a choice: There’s a fenced in neighborhood ahead, and the perimeter line runs right through that dense bit of trees just to our left.

Reaching this fence, our options are to go left which takes us back to Pine Rd and a little bit into Huntington Valley (Not-Philadelphia), or to the right to find our way through a little industrial zone in Philly proper.

We end up flipping a coin… it’s heads, which takes us to into Philadelphia…

… but this Philadelphia landscape is like none I’ve ever seen. It’s more like Antarctica as the snow covers up all traces of the construction site.

As we start to explore this wild landscape…

… we’re of course not that far from ‘civilization.’ In fact, in September, a neighbor in their backyard here had let me through their property and I’d cut right through into this next neighborhood…

(Sidenote: the above images were taken just a few yards away from each other. Photography is of course both about what one chooses to include in the frame, and what one leaves out.)

… with no one out there in the wintertime, we’re left to contemplate the vast field of snow…

… and make our way through it as best we can.

As the new houses recede into the distance…

… we spot a gap that might let us through…

… but I’ve been caught in this trap before on a previous perimeter pass…

This little patch of land has an electric fence on the other side, and ends up being one of those places where you can explore a bit and then have to double back…

And so, we continue on…

… and finally a way opens…

… into a new patch of industrial yards…

… and after a few more hops…

… we’re suddenly back into a residential neighborhood.

Here the route takes us back into neighborhoods that I’d first walked in 2016 – although seeing them in the snow is a first.

The Forrest Hills Cemetery, too, is transformed.

It’s actually a little bit tricky here, because there are so many low/flat graves here that we’re inevitably accidentally walking on on some buried folks double-buried in the snow.

We opt to stick close to the big monuments and follow the cleared road…

… and soon enough find our way to County Line Road, where one of my fellow walkers points out this sweet little creek running behind someone’s house. It’s got stone-wall banks and two cute little bridges over it. I’ve walked by it six times without ever noticing it. This house is not in Philadelphia.

(We have however just passed the one house that is the northernmost point in the city)

County Line Road ends at the back of a parking lot behind a law firm’s office, where we find a picnic table adorned with a pair of american flags, a tree adorned with a pair of pink flamingos, and to the right of these are a pair of tire tracks that continue to follow the perimeter line (also here marked as a petroleum pipeline) into the wilder lands…

Since the path is fairly clear, we follow…

Making our way through this wilder bit of land and across one more road…

… but soon we encounter a creek that not all of us are comfortable trying to hop across (it’s a steep scramble on the other side) …

To the left is a little tributary, also a bit wide to hop across, and we might get wet. Or we could get past it by doubling back to the road (which is what we did in year one of the walk…)

… but Greg has another idea about building a bridge, and grabs a big fallen branch…

As he maneuvers it into place, a cynical voice inside my head says that this can’t possibly work: either the branch will break, or we’ll lose our balance trying to walk across this narrow thing…

… but before I can even voice this little bit of defeatist thinking, he’s found some other branches to balance with, and makes his way across.

Meanwhile, Ken’s opted to just jump across, and that leaves me the last one to cross. I opt to take Greg’s new ‘bridge’ πŸ™‚

A note about the stickers:

I included several of these in each of the ‘perimeter kits’ that were distributed to participants of the fall Fringe Festival iteration of the walk. The young folk who set out to explore the entire perimeter particularly enjoyed finding (and slapping) these trail markers

They actually serve three distinct functions:

  • Allowing perimeter walkers to leave their mark along the way, creating a small trace of their accomplishment
  • Acting as “trail blazes”, signifying to other walkers that they are on or near the perimeter
  • Serving as invitations, encouraging other passers-by to contemplate their relationship to the city’s edge.

I’d encouraged participants to label them with “you are here” markings on the perimeter outline, but unfortunately most pens / markers used faded in the sunlight. Next time I will test some fade-resistant markers…

Up ahead there’s one more creek – this one filled with ducks.

Rocky skips ahead and moves a couple big stones, creating an easier way across for the rest of us…

… and after one more pass through a couple blocks of residential area…

We’ve made it to the Poquessing!

Rather than try to cross this creek, we’ll follow it, as it forms the squiggly northeastern border of the city all the way down to where it meets the Delaware River.

We’re trying to get there by dark, and still have a long way to go!

Navigating some slippery slopes is tricky…

but we do our best to make our way though…

… coming to a rail bridge underpass…

I don’t photograph this too much, as it’s not much different than what I’ve seen in past years.

I’m finding that in these most recent iterations of the walk I’m more focused on the experience of those whom I’m introducing to the perimeter rather than the sights themselves, mostly focusing on what’s new / changed….

… like this random street salad / celery situation:

Where did this come from?

And why?

Continuing through the woods…

… we encounter another one of those stormwater drain accesses – but this one’s hatch is open. A ladder leads down into the darkness, and the sound of rushing water comes up from below.

This clearly dumps right into the creek below us – not worth exploring today!

A fallen tree catches our eye…. the massive root system dwarfs Rocky…

As we approach Roosevelt Blvd, the trail leads up out of the woods behind another housing development that I’ve seen developed over the last few years of the walk.

My fellow walkers were apprehensive about trying to cross the busy Roosevelt Blvd – but this past September I’d discovered a secret abandoned mystery bridge, so I steered us towards that.

We set out across one last giant open field of snow…

(I’m pretty confident that on some future pass around the city’s edge I’ll find a new housing development being built here too…)

… and make our way up towards the western edge of the bridge.

(In September, I’d taken a different circuitous route and spotted the bridge from the east side, but not actually crossed it. So this is another first for me!)

This lets us bypass the busy traffic below…

… and as we pass the old concrete barriers we suddenly find ourselves…

… in Benjamin Rush State Park, where we soon catch a glimpse of …

… a sweet pair of young deer hunkered hiding out in the brambles.

As the path winds its way through the park, we hear a buzzing off in the distance…

… too small to see in this frame are two model airplanes flying acrobatics ’round each other. I knew that this park has a runway and flying area for model planes, but hadn’t encountered this kind of thing before…

Following the trail out of the park…

… we pass by the giant Amazon warehouse whose walls I’d seen go up during the 2019 Walk Around Philadelphia.

Just beyond this new construction…

lie some very old industrial ruins covered in graffiti…

I already knew this building fairly well from prior perimeter pilgrimages, and this part’s classic:

As we’d approached this part of the trail, I’d been at the back of the group, thinking that my fellow walkers might miss this sight buried in the woods to their right.

I’d resolved that if they missed it, I’d call them back to show it to them.

But not only did they spot it and set out to explore…

… but Rocky ventured through and beyond, past this pile of rubble…

(can you see it? that little splash of bluegreen in the far distance?)

… and lo and behold: a whole other amazing abandoned structure in the woods!

As Ken and I take in this new site that Rocky’s found, I am (again) humbled.

Here I was slipping into that “I’m an expert on this” mentality, and it turned out there was so much more to this site.

And then Greg catches up to us with is news: “Did you see that there’s a whole other set of buildings off to the other side?”

I am astounded. And delighted. And surprised. And also totally not surprised, because that’s just how it is when you set out to explore the city’s edge.

A favorite detail of these “new” structures is this tree that has grown through an opening, and in the process…

… completely engulfed / wrapped itself around an old window frame that now passes right through the solid wood.

This is a property of trees that mystifies and inspires me:

How seemingly solid / rigid wood can, given enough time, act like a fluid. How life can, like our ‘roomba rule’, encounter an obstacle and simply wrap its way around it.

We could spend a lot longer exploring these ruins… but it’s getting late.

Back on the trail, another pause for foot-care…

… before getting back into residential neighborhoods…

… and onto Knight’s Road.

Here we opt to follow Knight’s Road all the way down to Frankford Ave.

We’re cutting a bit of a corner, as it is possible to hug the creek behind Philadelphia Mills Mall if you really want to stay as close to the perimeter as possible. But that’s ambitious for the short days of mid-February, and this is the price that we have pay for some of our earlier explorations if we want to make it to Torresdale by dark & catch that next train.

Where Knight’s Road ends, it turns into a short stretch of Hegerman Street. But if you check out the map, you’ll see that from there…

… there’s one last path through the woods that brings you behind Holy Family University and right out to the train station.

Day 3: DONE!

Now nearly 60 miles in, we’re ready to tackle the Delaware River segments of the walk.

But first, we’ve got a long transit ride home, and one more rest day.

We’ll appreciate the recovery day before tackling the upcoming three days in a row:

Next segment:

Day 4 – The Delaware from Glen Foerd to Pier 68