My First Visit To The John James Audubon Center. It Won’t Be My Last
During my recent stay in King of Prussia I was planning to hike in the Valley Forge National Park. However, in researching hiking trails near the hotel I learned of the John James Audubon Center. It was located only a few miles from my hotel. Of course, I had heard about this famous illustrator of birds and naturalist. And I knew he visited Rockport near my home in Northeastern Pennsylvania to explore the Lehigh River in 1829. I did not know he lived near Valley Forge or that the house he resided in still exists. He lived here from 1803 until 1806. I also learned that the Audubon Society maintains his home and also operates a birding and nature sanctuary on the site of his old estate. There are over 5 miles of hiking trails near the Center. So, I awoke early Wednesday morning, and, after a cup of coffee, I drove to the small town of Audubon to hike and learn more about the Center.
As usual, when I visit a new area, I was a little disorientated and was not sure where to start my hike. There were a lot of trails so I had a few options. I first walked to the Visitor Center, which , of course was closed, and then followed a grassy trail through a mixed field lined with ancient oak trees.
The trail took me to a housing a residential area, and I followed a cleared path along the road along the homes.
Here I had a few options, as there was an intersection of a couple of trails. I followed one that took me through a older woodlands. It led to a ridge overlooking the Perkiomen Creek. I later learned the Perkiomen Creek is a major tributary of the Schuylkill River and that Audubon would hike along the creek, exploring the woodlands, and enjoying the beauty of nature.
After a short distance the trail took me to the Audubon Loop Trail, a paved hiking and biking trail that looped around the Center. Along the trail I saw the ruins of an old smokestack. I learned it was associated with the Mill Grove estate which operated a mill and copper and lead mines. The estate was purchased by Audubon’s father in 1789.
I continued on the Audubon Loop Trail which led me down a steep incline. There were woodlands on one side of the trail and the backyards of some residences on the other. I saw a few women walking their dogs up the steep hill in the cold morning air.
The trail crossed a small stream and came to an open field. Here I found a red fox staring at me. Unfortunately, I had the wrong settings on my camera, and while I fumbled with my frozen fingers, the fox was sprinting away. It was still nice to see this beautiful creature so close to a large city.
I walked back up the steep hill, and when I reached the top, the morning sun was warming the woodlands. And a small flock of white throated sparrows were now fluttering near the ground along the trail.
I left the paved Audubon Loop Trail and followed another leaf covered trail back into the woodlands and down to the banks of the Perkiomen Creek. It crossed an old bridge that once must have spanned an old creek.
I followed a road down to the home of John James Audubon. It is a beautiful stone home. It was built in 1769, and was occupied by a young Audubon when he arrived here from his home in France in 1803. He married a local women and resided here until 1806.
I walked along the scenic Perkiomen Creek until I came to an access road water to treatment plant along the creek. I followed the access road back up to the Audubon home and Visitor Center. There were many shrubs and and last season’s dried wildflowers growing along the road.
It seemed to be observing me as I took photos and didn’t mind my presence at all, in fact, it seemed like it enjoyed my company. I watched this beautiful raptor for about 15 minutes, hoping it would fly off, and allow me to get some photos. It was content to sit in the sun so said my farewell and continued on my hike. Here is a link to a gallery on my blog website with some more photos of my encounter with the friendly red-tailed hawk. John James Audubon Center hawk November 15 2023.
I had walked almost five miles. had to check out of my hotel so I began my way back to my Jeep. I wish I could have stayed and continue to explore many hiking trails around the Center. I walked back to the Visitor Center seeing one more bird on my way, this tiny golden crowned kinglet. I wondered if it, and the other birds I saw on my hike were the descendants of the birds Audubon watched and sketched while he lived here. Here is a link to a gallery on my blog website with some more photos of the birds and wildlife I saw on my hike . John James Audubon Center wildlife November 15 2023.
I stopped in the Visitor Center to get some information on the Center and the hiking trails before walking to my Jeep. It was a cold November day, the trees were bare but it was still a great and informative hike. It has given me a desire to learn more about Audubon and his legacy. I hope to return soon, and often. I know this place will be magical in the Spring. Here is a link to a gallery on my blog website with some more photos from my hike . John James Audubon Center wildlife November 15 2023.
“A true conservationist is a man who knows that the world is not given by his fathers, but borrowed from his children.”
“As I grew up I was fervently desirous of becoming acquainted with Nature.”