15 WITHIN 15: Trail running the Wissahickon

Running the trails of the Wissahickon Valley brought new discoveries: a hidden creek and historic ruins.

A downed tree creates a welcoming tunnel to the trails of Wissahickon Valley Park in northwest Philadelphia, on a beautiful early May day. [Photo: Kyle Bagenstose]

By Kyle Bagenstose

15 minutes.

That’s the driving distance limit still being championed for outdoor recreation under the novel coronavirus, by entities such as the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

The idea is to stay near home and limit the spread of the disease by decreasing community-to-community infection. But it’s a tough pill to swallow. Those not blessed to be immediately adjacent to their favorite recreational spots might not have much recreational opportunity within a quarter of an hour. I know it’s put my plans on hold: a guys’ trip to the Poconos in early May was cancelled, planned visits to new state parks in northwest and southwest Pennsylvania are delayed, and a goal to visit Acadia National Park by the end of the year is up in the air.

Nevermind my usual trips from Philly to campgrounds like French Creek and trail networks like Hawk Mountain.

But, I’ve decided to give it a go. Over the next few weeks, I’m going to do 15 outdoor activities within 15 minutes (maybe a few extra depending on the red lights!) to see how it feels. I’m trying to approach this with what some call “beginner’s mind.” Looking carefully for nature and taking it slow in places I may have only sped through before. But I also plan to turn it up a notch from time to time: Can I get my vigorous exercise and strenuous accomplishment kicks within 15 minutes of home?

We’ll see.

Activity 4: Trail running at Wissahickon Valley

Just two “outings ago,” I went to Wissahickon Valley Park in northwest Philadelphia to fish. I wrote in that post that the Wissahickon has easily become my favorite spot for outdoor recreation in the city over the past 10 years, and that’s obviously evident by my returning so soon.

Continue reading “15 WITHIN 15: Trail running the Wissahickon”

15 WITHIN 15: Kayaking the Schuylkill Off Kelly drive

On a mission to do 15 recreational outings within 15 minutes of home, I headed to Kelly Drive for an hour-long kayak session on the Schuylkill.

Looking south down the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia, at the approaching Strawberry Mansion Bridge. [Photo: Kyle Bagenstose]

By Kyle Bagenstose

15 minutes.

That’s the driving distance limit being championed for outdoor recreation under the novel coronavirus, by entities such as the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

The idea is to stay near home and limit the spread of the disease by decreasing community-to-community infection. But it’s a tough pill to swallow. Those not blessed to be immediately adjacent to their favorite recreational spots might not have much recreational opportunity within a quarter of an hour. I know it’s put my plans on hold: a guys’ trip to the Poconos in early May was cancelled, planned visits to new state parks in northwest and southwest Pennsylvania are delayed, and a goal to visit Acadia National Park by the end of the year is up in the air.

Nevermind my usual trips from Philly to campgrounds like French Creek and trail networks like Hawk Mountain.

But, I’ve decided to give it a go. Over the next few weeks, I’m going to do 15 outdoor activities within 15 minutes (maybe a few extra depending on the red lights!) to see how it feels. I’m trying to approach this with what some call “beginner’s mind.” Looking carefully for nature and taking it slow in places I may have only sped through before. But I also plan to turn it up a notch from time to time: Can I get my vigorous exercise and strenuous accomplishment kicks within 15 minutes of home?

We’ll see.

Activity 3: Kayaking the Schuylkill River

Since purchasing my first kayak a few years back, the free boat launches along Kelly Drive in Philadelphia have been my go-to spot. I’m still very green when it comes to kayaking, putting in at perhaps only about a dozen or so bodies of water. I’ve been a few prettier places, but the Schuylkill River between Conshohocken and the Art Museum is actually a very beautiful and fun place to kayak, particularly when the weather has been dry and the river is running calm and clear.

Continue reading “15 WITHIN 15: Kayaking the Schuylkill Off Kelly drive”

DELVAL OUTDOORS NEWS ROUNDUP, APRIL 26, 2020

The question grows: should NJ reopen its parks? A former GOP governor chides his party on “abandoning” environmental causes. And, an invasive nemesis returns to SEPA.

Yup, it’s that time of year: baby goslings. These fluffballs were spotted near the Delaware River on the beautiful spring day of April 25, 2020. [Photo: Kyle Bagenstose]

By Kyle Bagenstose

For anyone following this news roundups on a regular basis, I apologize that it’s been a week since the last update. DelVal Outdoors is a side project of mine, and the daytime gig at the USA Today Network kind of turned into a round-the-clock job covering COVID-19 this week, so I wasn’t able to get to as many roundups as I would have liked.

Will try to do better in the future!

But enough about me. Plenty of environmental news to catch up on:

This week’s headlines and highlights

Let’s start with this op-ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer, asking “Is it time to reopen New Jersey Parks?

I’ve been seeing an increasing amount of chatter online about the impacts of Gov. Phil Murphy’s decision earlier this month to completely close state and county parks. While townships were left to make their own decisions, many also shuttered their parks and trailheads, leaving basically no access for residents to recreate nearby, taking off even the simple joy of taking a dog for a walk at the nature trail down the street. All in the name of public health, which makes a certain amount of sense.

But with additional anecdotes of New Jersey license plates showing up at parks just across the PA border– such as the Delaware Water Gap– and reporting elsewhere suggesting the virus transmits poorly outside, I personally am really starting to question the cost-benefit ratio of such a complete shutdown. The Inquirer op-ed further makes the case with scientific arguments.

Continue reading “DELVAL OUTDOORS NEWS ROUNDUP, APRIL 26, 2020”

Where can I kayak in the Delaware Valley under COVID-19?

It’s a patchwork of which state and county waterways are open. Find out the status of your favorite local spot.

Kayaking the Delaware Water Gap in late summer 2019. Several launch points remain open under COVID-19, but the recreation area has closed overnight campsites. [Photo: Kyle Bagenstose]

By Kyle Bagenstose

(Note: This article last updated 4/19/20. Readers should verify a waterway’s status before visiting.)

As spring temperatures rise, so too does the desire to canoe and kayak. But under the novel coronavirus, big paddles are off. The Schuylkill River Sojourn has been postponed, while the Delaware River Sojourn is in wait-and-see mode, pushing back its opening registration date to May 1.

Elsewhere, many parks, waterways, and launch points are closing, including in all state and county parks in New Jersey.

But for some in the Delaware Valley, there’s good news: state parks and their waterways remain open, and a few select counties also have accessible waterways. Paddling on the Schuykill and Delaware Rivers, as long as accessed through an open boat ramp, is also still allowed.

Please note that almost all Parks & Recreation agencies are calling for extreme caution, encouraging recreation be kept within 15 minutes of home and social distancing guidelines be observed. Also, several officials noted that there may be decreased vigilance as park offices are closed and staffing curtailed. In many places, paddling will be riskier than normal.

Check out our list below to see what remains open.

Continue reading “Where can I kayak in the Delaware Valley under COVID-19?”

Kicking off DelVal Outdoors

Site creator Kyle Bagenstose writes about his on, off, and then on again relationship with nature, and why he’s launching the site.

The Delaware River on a September morning, at the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area in NEPA. [Photo: Kyle Bagenstose]

By Kyle Bagenstose

Many of my earliest memories involve the outdoors. I grew up in Sinking Spring, Pa., just outside Reading, in a neighborhood on the very edge of suburbia. My sense of place is always centered on that land: rolling green hills perfect for biking and exploring, trips to ponds and creeks for fishing, and walks to cool, shallow streams in search of crawfish.

In elementary school and junior high it was the Boy Scouts, sleep away camps, and visits to Hawk Mountain and the Poconos where I learned to shoot, sail, hike, and otherwise enjoy nature.

My later teenage years took a turn away from all that. Academic, athletic, and social interests predominated. I largely forgot about the great outdoors. The big city of Philadelphia came calling, and the journalism program at Temple University became my central focus.

But after graduating in 2010 and starting a career in the field, an old instinct started to pull me toward the greens and browns and blues of the outside world. Suddenly I was compelled to try landing whatever I could out of the Manayunk Canal with an old fishing pole. I dug through my parents’ basement, dusting off a musty tent not used in perhaps a decade. New hiking boots and moisture-wicking gear were purchased, along with a membership card from the Conshohocken REI. It felt like a passport.

The love snowballed. Hiking became backpacking, first overnights and then long weekends. Quick kayak trips on quiet lakes evolved into long slogs down the Schuylkill and Delaware. The outdoors once again became my center.

Along the way, I was fortunate to mesh my hobbies with my career. In 2015, the Bucks County Courier Times was hiring for an environmental reporter on its investigative team. The editor took a chance on me, and for the next four years I reported as much as I could on environmental issues in Bucks County, Burlington County, and the greater Delaware Valley. This too snowballed, leading to an opportunity to cover the Northeast for The USA TODAY Network, which I took in November 2019.

But I remained in Philly and my passion for covering the environment in the region did too. Enter my launching of this independent journalism project, DelVal Outdoors. I hope to grow this website into a useful publication, and perhaps even community, focused on the natural world in and around Philly. My initial goal is to cover both conservation (a squishy gray term that I define as protecting the environment and its resources from drastic human damage) and recreation.

But I imagine the seed of this project that I’m now planting may grow in unpredictable and unexpected ways. For now, my focus will simply be to water it, using my instinct and editorial judgment, until it hopefully forms into something useful and maybe even beautiful.

It’s a privilege to be able to do this, and I thank you for reading.