Friday, July 5, 2013

Chester Valley Trail, July 4, 2013

I marked Independence Day with a ride on the unfinished Chester Valley Trail. This rail trail project is being completed in segments, or "phases" as Chester County calls them. Phase One is the six miles of paved trail I rode yesterday, from the Route 29 shopping complex to north of Exton. 

I started from the grandly named "Battle of the Clouds Park" near Malvern. The park is your typical playground and grass township patch, but the name commemorates a genuine Revolutionary War battle, or a near battle - on September 16, 1777 Washington's and Howe's armies were prevented from conflict by a violent rainstorm. Much of Washington's supply of gunpowder was ruined, but Howe wasn't able to chase the retreating Americans because his army couldn't advance over the swampy dirt roads. 

I didn't have Howe's problem two centuries later, despite recent rains, because the Chester Valley Trail is paved. From the park there's a small connecting trail, and a couple of minutes after arriving I was pedaling north. 

The trail itself is marvelously secluded for a path through a heavily developed part of Chester County. I passed through railroad cuts, under Swedesford Road, on a bridge over another road, by a township building and suburban homes, and aside from three road crossings there was nothing to disturb my mood until I reached the Route 29 crossing. After using the lights to cross the highway the trail snakes alongside a strip center anchored by a Wegman's supermarket and a Target. The trail ends here, for now; Phase Two should be open later this summer, and continue north towards King of Prussia. I didn't stop at the stores, but I noted the shopping center was inconsistent when it came to accessing the trail - Wegman's had a nice paved entrance through the trail fence, but Target's was made of cobblestone. 

Heading south of Battle of the Clouds Park, the trail becomes more open, with less tree cover. The surface remains paved and with next to no elevation change, but the surrounding land switched from suburban homes to office parks. I turned around when the pavement ran out. The trail will continue south to Exton when Phase Three is opened in 2014. 

I put in fifteen miles on Independence Day, riding the trail both ways and redoing some parts so I could get photos. I also rode on parallel roads a few blocks so I could get a feel for them.

One place I rode back to was a development a couple of miles north of my parking area. For a trail based on a railroad there was little evidence aside from cuts that a train ever passed through here, but I found one relic from the railroad past. The Mahlin Station House is a couple of foundation walls from the mid-1800 train station. Tucked behind a fence, its easy to miss. It was worth riding back to see. And the Chester Valley Trail is worth revisiting.... perhaps when its longer.



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A Taste For The Woods: Chester Valley Trail, July 4, 2013

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Chester Valley Trail, July 4, 2013