Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Bridge To Nowhere

I’d just taken the left branch at a fork in the road, when I glanced across a large field to my right and noticed what resembled a stonework aqueduct. Curious, I continued along the field, looking for a route toward the stonework, but none became apparent—until I turned around and went back to the fork. Driving along the right branch of the fork, I could tell I was nearing the unusual structure… but I might never have seen it at all if I’d taken this road in the first place.

I caught a few glimpses of the stonework through trees out the left side of my car… then came to what looked like an old rail bed from which the tracks had been removed—the road I was travelling ran across it. I stopped at this rail bed, and walked along it toward the stonework which I now assumed had been a railroad bridge.

The path was straight, but not well-worn. There was lots of poison ivy. If you’re going to walk along unfamiliar woodland trails, it’s important to know how to recognize poison ivy… I've included a photo here to help.


Only forty yards from the road, I came to what looked like a railroad bridge, but without railroad tracks. The path continued from there, but was severely overgrown. I poked around on the bridge for a while, admiring what I could see of the bridge support: a series of stone and concrete arches that let a small stream flow under it. Today, the stream flowed through only two arches, but I could see that on wetter days, the additional arches would let the adjacent farmer’s field drain quickly. The concrete was well-aged and leeching lime. As out-of-place as the whole thing seemed, it inspired musings about lost civilizations—about a bygone era.

Pennsylvania participates in the “Rails-To-Trails” program; they use public funds to convert retired rail beds into hiking trails. There’s a web site where maps guide you to converted trails—and even identify unconverted but deserted rail beds should you wish to explore them.

The converted rail bed I explored today doesn’t appear on that web site. Still, it looks as though someone intended it for hikers. I hope people making the walk notice the bridge supports and step off the trail to take it all in.

For the complete City Slipper experience, please visit my web site at http://www.cityslipper.com/.

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