WASHINGTON CROSSING, Pa. — From the very first, I was entranced by the canal as I ran the ruddy path alongside it. The water mirrored the cloud-flecked sky above as the afternoon light waned, and I didn't wanted to stop on that first run on the Delaware Canal towpath. But dusk was coming and I had to make my way back to the low bridge I'd first stooped under, careful not to hit my head on the beams in the dimming light.
The canal path, the central feature of the Delaware Canal State Park, runs 60 miles parallel to the Delaware River in southeastern Pennsylvania. My 6-mile route runs south from Washington Crossing, where a state park marks George Washington's famous crossing of the river from Pennsylvania to New Jersey with his troops on Dec. 25, 1776. An annual re-enactment attracts thousands of spectators.
The waterside pathway winds past old stone homes and farms, some of them located right next to the trail. I want to live in any and all of them, to have this place as my backyard. The old houses and locks dividing segments of the canal remind me of my childhood in England and trigger memories of my playing outdoors there, and yet this serene spot is rooted in the heart of American history.
Even when I'm only walking, the path seems to speed by under my feet and my mind comes to rest as I wander and dream. There's no grand vista or dominating feature here, no Grand Canyon or Yosemite sequoias — just the simple beauty of softly cooing water, the trim trail and autumn leaves turning color and loosing from their limbs in the golden light.
If You Go...
WASHINGTON CROSSING, PENNSYLVANIA: 70 miles from New York City, 35 miles from Philadelphia. Delaware Canal State Park: http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/stateparks/findapark/delawarecanal/ . Best way to access the canal path is from the parking lot off Route 532, a tenth of a mile north of Taylorsville Road. Dining, antique stores and art galleries located in nearby New Hope, Pennsylvania, and Lambertville, New Jersey.