A Visit To The Hopewell Big Woods And The Quaint And Historic St. Peters Village

A Visit To The Hopewell Big Woods And The Quaint And Historic St. Peters Village

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Last Thursday afternoon I had a doctors visit scheduled at the Rothman Clinic in Limerick, Montgomery County  for some shoulder issues I am having.  While showering in the morning, I decided to cancel my Friday appointments at my office and stay in southeastern Pennsylvania after my doctor’s visit.  I am glad I did.  So, after my doctor’s s appointment that afternoon  I did  some exploring in the area  and discovered the quaint and historic St. Peters Village in nearby Chester County. 

And,  because of a cancellation, I  was able to stay the night at the historic Inn at St. Peters Village. I arrived around 3;30 and  quickly checked in at  the Inn,  which was was established in 1881.  I immediately loved the place. This is  the cool stone room  on the second floor I stayed for two nights. . Of course there was no elevator. I loved it, but I didn’t stay  in my room long . I was soon walking through the streets of the  small and historic town. 

St. Peters Village  was built in the 1840’s to house iron miners who mined ore for the nearby Hopewell Iron Furnace.   Later, Pennsylvania  “black granite’ was discovered and quarried here in the 1880’s . The town grew and, because of French Creek and the large Hopewell Big Woods, it also became a tourist attraction .The  Inn I was staying housed tourists here since 1881.  St. Peters Village was entered onto the National Register of Historic Places in 2003. 

The commercial area of the village is only about a block long. I walked past a bakery, an arcade and some other small shops.  It was like walking back in time.

But I wasn’t only staying here because of the historic village. I also wanted to do some hiking.  The village is located in the the middle of the Hopewell Big Woods, the largest remaining contiguous forest in southeastern Pennsylvania. The forest was timbered to produce charcoal for the Hopewell Iron Furnace. It has since regrown and now is used as a state park, a state forest and state game lands.  State Game Lands 43 bordered the village.   There were many trail in the game lands which were located  on the rocky ridge above the village. 

The trails in the  game lands began at a parking lot on the edge of town.

However  the trails were not  well marked. I had to  find and  follow the trails on my AllTrails phone App. I wanted to hike a trail around the perimeter of the game lands but got a little confused and went off course a few times at the start of my hike.  

Finally I figured out the trail  I needed to take, and, after  leaving the parking lot  I  crossed a bridge over the French Creek.    French Creek powered the waterwheels at the Hopewell Iron Furnace further upstream from St. Peters Village. 

Near St. Peters Village  the creek is strewn with large boulders. However  there were deep  holes  between some of the boulders  in the creek and  many local folks wade and swim in  these “swimming holes” .   There  were  a few families enjoying the cool waters of the creek on this warm August afternoon, 

I followed the trail I believed would take me around the perimeter of the game lands. 

The trail was wide  and well maintained at it’s onset. . There were large boulders of  Pennsylvania  black granite along side the trail.  Some remained for the quarrying that occurred over the years. 

Unfortunately most of the boulders were covered with graffiti at the beginning of the trail .

You could see  leftover remains of the quarried granite, most covered in graffiti.

The  trails continued uphill under second growth woodlands. They  were a mixed forests of  towering   white ash  beach and  some oak trees , with some tulip sassafras and maples trees. . . 

The sound of cicadas echoed in the forest. I heard a few red-eyed vireos and black capped chickadees but there was little bird or other wildlife activity on my five mile hike, probably because of the afternoon heat. 

The trail continued up the ridge.  There many  Christmas  ferns  along the trail ,

and a few of what my PictureThis plant identification App  has identified as marginal wood ferns.  I have never seen  these ferns before. 

There were also some wildflowers blooming along the trail including woodland sunflowers, 

joe-pye weed flowers  and

these delicate flowers I have never seen before, also identified  by my PictureThis app as  panicledleaf ticktrefoil flowers. 

There were some very  old and large trees along the trails. I saw  some ancient white ash and beach trees. And there were many fallen trees and trees stumps too. This stump reminded me of the Spirit Tree at Tuscarora State Park. 

The woodlands were moist along  the trail, probably from the mists arising form the French Creek. And moisture in the summertime means mushrooms, I was excited to see a few species of mushrooms growing along the trail including some I were familiar with like this puffball and 

these two colored bolete. I have gathered and eaten both. 

Other like this bolete was unfamiliar, 

as was this one.  The are  over 200, 000  species of mushrooms growing in our woodlands in Pennsylvania. It is impossible, unless you are an expert, to know them all.  However I love seeing their many sizes, shapes and colors. I believe there are 200 edible species in out state.  I am able to identify about 75 of them,  It is a wonderful but dangerous hobby since there are many mushrooms which will make you sick and a few that could kill you. They are  worth learning to identify as long as you are careful. 

There were also many mandrake or may apple fruit along the trail they will turn a bright red when ripe and the are delicious, 

The trail took me to the top of the ridge, where it became narrower and rocky, 

after a short distance along the ridge it  descended back down the hillside toward the Village.

The  trail took me to  the French Creek  as it flowed  down the ridge,

crossing over the creek on an old railroad right of way bridge. 

As I walked along the trail I was excited to find these beautiful mushrooms growing on a tree stump, they were golden oyster mushrooms, 

the first I had ever seen.  I did not bring a knife or bag on my hike, and had no place to store them, so I left them for another lucky hiker who knew  wild mushrooms. . 

And there were few hikers on the trail.   I saw only one young couple and a pair of bikers on my five mile hike.  Even though I didn’t see any wildlife it was a nice peaceful walk.

Once again I lost the poorly  marked  trail in the boulders of French Creek . I had to cross  over these boulders  to make my way to a path along the creek that took me to  parking lot. Here is a link to a gallery  on my blog website with some more photos from my hike in the State Game Lands.  St. Peters Village game land hike August 11 2022. 

It was now late afternoon as I walked through the village back to the Inn. It was a long day and so, after a shower, I  had a nice dinner in the 140 year old dinning room. 

It was a wholesome meal. I started with an ahi tuna appetizer,  followed by a Caesar  salad, 

and,  for a main course sea bass and shrimp. served with roasted vegetables.

Of course after hiking over 7  miles I was going to have dessert and enjoyed this rich chocolate “dark side of the moon” dessert. 

I retired to my room  ,edited some photos and fell  asleep looking forward to exploring this beautiful and historic part of our Commonwealth. I was glad I decided too explore it.  Here is a link to a gallery on my blog website with some more photos of St. Peters Village and the historic Inn. St. Peters Village and Inn August 11 2022. 

“Not all who wander are lost.” – J. R. R. Tolkien

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