Tyler State Park is a 1700-acre park in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, located near where my mother has lived for the past 15 years. I learned about the park while researching nearby places to walk, and I learned that there is an annual half marathon event that runs through the park. Recently I had the opportunity to visit the park and walk the half marathon route, which takes place on paved paths.
The start and finish lines are near the tree symbol in the lower left of the GPS track image. The half marathon includes 2 loops around the larger loop and one pass on the semi-loop to the right. I decided to modify the route by including the out-and-back detour at the top of the track, in order to see a covered bridge that is an unusual feature of the park. I only went around the loops once, bringing my total distance to 9.8 miles. The park is located in rolling countryside, so the 700 feet of elevation gain and loss is quite moderate.
Compared to my usual hiking territory in California, the most dramatic differences are the trees and the lush green. At home, summer means golden brown hills, and forests are generally mixed deciduous (often oak and madrone) and evergreen. Here the vegetation is almost entirely deciduous, with different types of trees. And I grew up calling this type of environment woods (not forest). Many places along the trail were lined with lush ferns. Here is a view of the paved trail passing through the beautiful woods.
Not surprisingly, the wildflowers are different also. There were quite a few that I didn’t recognize. I assume that most, if not all, of the flora and fauna I encountered are common in the area. For example, I passed numerous bushes festooned with small, pretty white flowers; after asking a passer-by what they were, I was somewhat chagrined to learn that they were wild raspberries or blackberries. My immediate thought was that there would be a bumper crop of wild berries this year! There is also a lot of honeysuckle. Here is another, which I decided to call a white ball flower.
Where the semi-loop branches off to the right, the trail crosses a small causeway across the Neshaminy Creek. On warm summer days, many park visitors enjoy wading in the creek to cool off. The out-and-back part of the semi-loop follows along the serene Neshaminy Creek for about ½ mile.
In the middle of the creek there was a portion of a dead tree, with a branch sticking up out of the water. And sitting on the branch was a fairly large bird. It was so still that, at first, I thought it might be an elaborate decoy. Then I saw it move its head occasionally. I was able to get several good pictures with the super-zoom on my camera and make the identification afterwards. It turns out that it was an immature double-crested cormorant. The overall body coloring and orange skin below the beak are distinctive. I thought it was interesting that none of my bird sources mentioned the blue color of the legs and feet!
A short distance farther along the trail I was startled to notice a sign indicating “next tee” with an arrow. It turns out that Tyler Park has a 27-hole disc golfing course. I decided to check out the 6th hole, since it was right next to the paved path. Here are a few views of the hole: the sign indicating the tee, some information about the hole (and the path through the woods from the tee to the bucket), and finally the bucket itself. Later I heard a group playing one of the other holes.
Continuing to follow the half marathon route, the path emerged from the woods and continued parallel to the nearby road along the edge of an open meadow for about ½ mile. In the meadow there were several bird boxes, with a red-winged blackbird sitting on one of the boxes. I have gotten so used to the coastal California race of this bird, which does not have the yellow border below the red patch, that I was pleasantly delighted at the novelty of what is actually the more typical coloration!
The meadow area was also brightened by some brown-eyed Susans.
After the path passes alongside the meadow it passes and curves around a school and next to another road. In this area I particularly noticed a pretty-looking pink flower – it turns out the same flower was in many other places as well, especially alongside roads and other hiking paths. It is a crown vetch, often planted for soil erosion control but in some instances considered an invasive plant.
The path turns left once again and re-enters the wooded portion of the park. Along this section I was struck by the presence numerous trees with poison ivy growing up their trunks: not poison oak, but I knew better than to suddenly become a tree-hugger! And then I noticed another tree with even more greenery growing up its trunk – in this case the greenery was Virginia creeper, which has “leaves of 5” rather than “leaves of 3”.
A particularly delightful aspect of this walk was hearing so many birds in the woods. There were quite a few common species, such as cardinals, catbirds, robins, house wrens, song sparrows, mourning doves, and mockingbirds. Others, such as wood thrushes, veery, and oven birds (“teacher, teacher” call), reminded me more of deep woods. At one point I heard some tap-tap-tapping on a hollow stick, checked it out, and found a (possibly immature) male downy woodpecker pecking on a relatively small branch; perhaps it was just practicing its technique and didn’t care about its location? I also heard common yellowthroats (“witchery, witchery” call).
Another wildflower I saw along the trail that I thought was pretty is this one. I don’t know what it’s called, but it reminds me of the pattern of some fireworks displays, so for now I’ve dubbed it the fireworks flower. A quick online search tells me that there are several completely different flowers, none like this, also commonly called fireworks flowers. (Update: it is similar in appearance to water parsnip and the highly toxic water hemlock.)
About 5.2 miles from the start I crossed the causeway again and continued around the large loop. About 1.4 miles later I left the half marathon route to check out the covered bridge I had read about, just over ½ mile off the route. The Schofield Ford Covered Bridge crosses Neshaminy Creek. Originally built in 1874, it burned down in an arson event in 1991 but was subsequently rebuilt and reopened in 1997.
In the picture there are 4 small dark diamond shapes, which turn out to be windows. The view of the creek out the windows was especially pretty.
Soon after returning to the half marathon route I noticed these pretty daisy-like wildflowers next to the trail. The flowers are about ¾ inch in diameter and they seem to be in groups. Once again I don’t know what they are called, but they were quite distinctive. (Update: they appear to be daisy fleabane.)
The half marathon route makes a few turns to stay within the boundaries of the park. Along the northern edge of the park I happened to find a small bit from a tulip tree, perfectly posed on the trail. This brought back special childhood memories, as my brother once brought home a tulip tree sapling, and he and my dad planted it in our yard. Years later, it is now the tallest tree in the yard!
I continued around the loop and finished where I started, at the Center for the Arts. This was a most delightful walk, which I hope to have an opportunity to repeat. (Note: I returned 2 weeks later for another pleasant walk through this local park.)