Back to the "Heart in PA" title. A few years ago I was running on the PA/New Hope side of the canal a day or two a week after work. I was telling my friend Felipe how it was a pretty, flat straight-away but trying to avoid the geese and their shit (literally) was like an obstacle course...more challenging than the Tough Mudder we did! The geese are so mean and if you get that crap in the tread of your trail shoes, it just has to work itself out over your next few runs. Also, unfortunately, there has been no water in the canal on the PA side for a few years which takes away from the ambiance for sure.
Anyway, Felipe recommended the NJ/Lambertville side. He said it offered less of anything goose related. The next few years of my running on the canal was spent on the NJ side. I have run that 6.67 miles from Lambertville to Stockton and back more times than I can remember. I've run it alone, with 20 other people in my running workshop, with a handful of friends on a Sunday, and more recently, many times with Ellie during my 100 Days of Running.
So many people (mostly women) have said that they would never do that run alone or have asked me if I thought that was such a good idea. I have a theory on this concern. As long as I am not careless, stay aware of my surroundings and don't go at dawn or dusk, I feel that you should not be "afraid" in your own community or surrounding communities. If you live there, work there, or socialize there, you should own your space and not avoid a place that you want to be in. Having said that, to each her own and feeling safe and comfortable is a very personal thing.
The NJ side of the canal is absolutely beautiful. I love the little, artsy back yards as you set out towards Stockton. I even have become fond of the familiarity (sort of) of the pack of fearless black cats in that same area. The gardens are beautiful and the canal is high, still and reflective...sparking reflection :)
The comfort in knowing every turn under the old railroad over-pass and over the wooden, winding foot bridge with the rushing water beneath is something I look forward to every time. I always know when to start looking for the nesting goose on the rock wall near that bridge in the spring. Now, that's the kinda goose I like...she stays put and minds to her business of keeping her babies warm.
Then comes the beautiful farm and parking lot where we do our Outdoor Classes and soon after comes the straight, serene two-plus miles that lead to Stockton. I know all of the natural mile markers and trees and fences and I just think that old gas pump is so cool. What is it doing out there? And what was it used for way back?
Soon after this point, I usually turn around and double back and relive all of those same landmarks on the way back.
Last week, I decided I wanted to run a couple of extra miles a few days a week. Although, many people have told me that if I do the Lambertville/Stockton/New Hope "loop", I will cover almost 8 miles...it is only 7. Pretty much exactly.
Last Tuesday, Ellie and I set off to check it out for ourselves. So, so glad we did!
Running across the Stockton bridge toward Dilly's marks exactly the half way (3.5 mile) mark. It's all a flat "down-hill" from there. That bridge, with it's wooden planks and incredible view up and down the river, is kind of like a gateway to the second part of that particular run.
At the end of the bridge, there are a set of steps that take you down to the path on the PA side. There is now some water in the canal (which I'm told by Vicky, is being pumped in from somewhere a little at a time) and running on that side of the river in the morning puts the winter sun right on your face!
You get a whole other experience with the types of homes and gardens you see on this side. Large, old, refurbished homes with larger properties and eccentric sculptures and statues. Most of all, I've been enjoying the amount of distance you can see ahead of you heading back toward New Hope. In some ways I feel like I want to run faster to get to what I see ahead. In other ways, I feel no need at all to hurry...I want to literally soak in the sun and the sights.
The end of these 7 miles is topped off by running across the river again over the New Hope/Lambertville Bridge. Two river crossings, two canals, two states, two totally different experiences all in ONE run!!!
I would love to share it with anyone...any time!
In conclusion, if I had to choose....(drum roll) I choose PA by a very close margin. I think it is 50/50 until I factor in that PA is my home state. And partly because I feel guilty that I have been running Jersey these past few years and not giving PA a second chance...until now. That doesn't mean that I don't have an open mind and may exercise my prerogative to change it back again in the future!
A BIG "HOWEVER"...BALD PATE (NJ) IS STILL MY FAV TRAIL RUN OVER HIGH ROCKS (PA)...SO THERE!
I'm also including a link to an old video I took on the Jersey side...I think you will hear my passion and enthusiasm within it! http://www.leahdillon.org/1/post/2011/08/leah-says-outdoor-on-the-canal-73111.html
And my link to my up to date MapMyRun log..http://www.mapmyrun.com/workouts/
KEEP ON, KEEPIN' ON!!!