Saturday, February 16, 2008

I head for the blank spots on the map when I’m scouting. You can’t always see abandoned green space when you’re looking at street maps, but you can see where the streets aren’t. In a town with a declining (mostly declined) industrial base like Philly, those blank spots usually indicate the weedy, overgrown wasteland I’m looking for.

On Sunday (February 10th) afternoon I had planned to explore some of the blank areas near the confluence of Cobbs Creek and Darby Creek in far Southwest Philadelphia and neighboring Delaware County.

I’m not sure how well you remember Sunday afternoon, but after a sunny morning, the temperature dove into the 20s, swept along by 20 mph+ icy gusts of wind.

Jen and I canned the idea of hiking around for an hour and a half, and we mostly scouted from by car. We headed west on street after street to where they dead ended or curved around at the blank spot on the map. We were pleased by what we found.

First, there’s a lot of green space back in there. Some of it is scrubby floodplain forest and dense banks of phragmites reeds – what I expect to find along Cobbs Creek – but some of it was mowed park with a bike path running through it. I found a small hill right south of where Cobbs Creek runs into Darby Creek, and it struck me as weird in a couple ways – first I couldn’t figure out what a hill was doing there, and second it looked like it was covered with phragmites reeds, which I usually associate with wetlands. They might have been some other kind of reed-like grass, but even if they were, I still expect to see a hill covered with trees. I’m betting it’s an old landfill site. If anyone reading this knows, please contact me.

Here are a couple photos – one of the path heading into the reeds, and one of some nice boards that have garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis) and brown snakes (Storeria dekayi) (in the spring) written all over them.

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