September 13, 2007

Another weekend in Pennsylvania

A software training class for work sent me back up to Pennsylvania this past weekend, this time to King of Prussia, home to the East Coast's Premier Shopping Destination. From what I could see, there's almost no town to speak of in K of P, just a bunch of industrial/office parks and that frighteningly humongous mall. But... The location of the training class was less than half a mile from the entrance to Valley Forge National Historical Park. Wow. I didn't know what to expect, and ended up just blown away by this park.

I drove up Sunday morning, arriving about noon, checked into the hotel, then immediately drove over to the park. As with July's Philly weekend, I had considered bringing my bike. The park map showed a handful of miles of paved multi-use trail, and the Schuyllkill River Trail was smack-dab across the river from the park (back in July, the waylaid plan was to ride from Philly to Valley Forge on the Schuyllkill). Again, though, the weather forecast was iffy and I didn't feel like worrying about wet bike components so far from home (and from proper cleaning/lubing supplies). So, the bike stayed home and I ended up regretting that decision. The park and its trails were fantastic.

Like the US Civil War battlefield parks closer to home, the landscape is absolutely beautiful.

Rolling hills rise up south of the river, and in the center of them lies the valley of Washington's encampment interspersed by woods and open meadows. At the last minute, I did decide to bring my camera in place of the bike. Unfortunately, though, I didn't think to bring the battery charger. Went through both batteries Sunday afternoon, and kept finding spots that I was dying to photograph but couldn't. Knowing that the training sessions on Monday and Tuesday let out at 4:30pm, I was severely tempted to pop into the freaking humongous mall and buy a new camera just so I could shoot those two afternoons, but managed to restrain myself (found out that Sony's discontinued both my camera and the batteries it uses, dammit). So, I didn't get all the photos I wanted, but did spend a lot of time driving and wandering around the park. Of note:

- There were deer everywhere. Now, I'm used to seeing a lot of whitetails. I've had deer right outside my suburban front door on several occasions. So when I say there were a lot of deer in this park, I mean there were a lot of deer. They wandered in pairs and groups across the road and stood grazing just along the edge as cars and pedestrians cruised right by them. The most blasé, nonchalant deer I've ever seen:

- Drove through the park at 6:30am Monday morning, heading to a breakfast spot recommended by an old-timer working in the visitor's center. The valley was filled by a thick, cottony-white blanket of fog that had totally dispersed by the time I drove back an hour later. The breakfast spot was very cool: A place called the 'G' Lodge, that's temporarily going by the name of "Filbert's". Apparently, M. Night Shyamalan recently filmed scenes at the restaurant for the upcoming film The Happening, and the owner hasn't yet taken down the signs used for the movie. The food is unfortunately only mediocre, but the atmosphere was very M. Night. Very rustic and lodge-like inside, the place has obviously been there for a long time. It looks cozy from the exterior, but inside is vaguely creepy. Adding to that sensation were the four regulars at the counter, gentlemen who appeared as old and rustic as the 'G' Lodge itself, and who sat and ate their breakfasts in stone-cold silence. I've never eaten in a quieter place. Wanted to get a photo to show that I ate in the restaurant that's going to be in The Happening, but because the camera batteries died you'll just have to take my word for it.

- Another spot that had me fuming over the camera batteries was the Washington Memorial Chapel. Wandering over from Varnum's Quarters on Sunday afternoon, I found a very pretty cemetery tucked into the woods behind Route 23:

Turns out, it's part of the chapel. And, of course, there were deer:

Wandering back toward the car, I stopped for some photos of the old rectory:

Continuing down the road, I almost gave myself whiplash when the chapel itself came into view. It was already closed by that time, but the architecture and grounds are the real draw:

It was at this point that I really began cussing. I managed one single freaking photo of this beautifully haunting statue before the camera died on me:

Reason number 1 that I need to go back for another long weekend: to do a full photo study of that statue. Reason number 2 is the gorgeous Kennedy Supplee mansion across from the visitor's center. Apparently once a restaurant, the building now sits shamefully empty and abandoned. I'd really love to know why. And, reason number 3 is to ride my bike!!!

Also of note on this trip was having dinner with a new on-line pal (one of the folks I met at the Philly Chris Cornell show in July). I've been on quite the friend-making spree this year, between my cycling/kayaking buddies and the people at the Cornell forum. So far it's been fun getting to know these people and spending time with them, but I still can't get used to the scheduling issues. My calendar for the next couple of months is getting pretty crowded and I need to make sure I leave some days to be on my own. All this socializing leaves little time for introspection, which means less self-absorbed blogs. And that'd be a pity

More and larger photos here.