Exploring the Fall Beauty of Fairmount Park and the Wissahickon Valley on the Inaugural Philadelphia Marathon Walk
FreeWalkers introduces an autumn walking journey across the entire breadth of the city through the largest landscaped city park in the world, Fairmount Park, with the autumn colors at their peak on the Schuylkill River Trail and Forbidden Drive along the Wissahickon Creek
Both the half-marathon and marathon routes will include a walk along the full length of the Wissahickon Creek and Forbidden Drive within the city's limits, as well as visits to the Fairmount Waterworks, Boathouse Row, Kelly Drive, Falls Bridge, the site of the Battle of Germantown, Valley Green Inn, Magarge Dam, the Thomas Mill Covered Bridge, and the shops and eateries in tony Chestnut Hill.
The full course offers the sweeping autumn vistas from Belmont Plateau, the Strawberry Mansion Bridge and Laurel Hill Cemetery, with travels to the Centennial Exposition's Memorial Hall, Shofuso Japanese House and Garden, the University of Pennsylvania campus, the Schuylkill Banks Boardwalk, Rittenhouse Square, Washington Square, Independence Hall, Carpenters Hall, Spruce Street Harbor Park, Penns Landing, Christ Church, Philadelphia City Hall, Logan Circle, Ben Franklin Parkway, and the Art Museum steps.
Participants will spend the latter portion of their ramble in the scenic and peaceful surroundings of the Wissahickon Valley.
In the early 19th century, the Wissahickon was a rural hub for small industry, due to its steady water flow for powering mills. As industry moved downtown, the area was preserved to protect the water supply for the region, producing an environment that became world renowned for its beauty, one that influenced the creative works of many including Walt Whitman, Edgar Allan Poe, John Greenleaf Whittier, Christopher Morley, and Currier and Ives. Poe wrote that "the Wissahickon is of so remarkable a loveliness that, were it flowing in England, it would be the theme of every bard."
The event's organizer, Charles Updike, developed the course for the walk from one he has travelled each fall for more than two decades. "The Wissahickon Valley has a stillness untouched by time, strange for one of the world's larger cities," said Updike. "It is surely Philadelphia's best kept secret, and offers as appealing a walking route as is available for a hundred miles around."
Apart from its natural beauty, the course is replete with dozens of public works of art to be discovered in the city and its parks. Laurel Hill Cemetery, one of the nation's most pioneering and pedestrian-friendly cemeteries, boasts its own art gallery of sorts, with an unusual array of figurative tombstones and crypts, and graves of countless war heroes, inventors, tycoons, and even local icons like Phillies broadcaster Harry Kalas and Rocky's Adrian Balboa.
FreeWalkers is a non-profit group that organizes free long-distance walking events in the Mid-Atlantic region and promotes the benefits of walking. FreeWalker hikes are recreational, non-competitive, and are typically ten to fifty miles in length. Participants are free to choose the distance and pace that match their ability and comfort. Nearly all events provide mass transit access at both start and finish, with many walks along the Northeast Corridor in Greater New York City, Central New Jersey and Greater Philadelphia. Details of upcoming events can be found at freewalkers.org.