On The Trail: Stateline Woods Preserve, Kennett Square

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By Vidya Rajan, Columnist, UnionvilleTimes.com

Round trip distance: Loop trails can be extended to up to 5 miles

Difficulty: Easy to moderate

Caution: Closed for hunting on occasion during the winter deer season. Follow posted signs.

Website:  http://www.tlcforscc.org/pages/Stateline_Woods.html

Trail Map: http://g.co/maps/ne9m3

Membership Information: The Land Conservancy for Southern Chester County

Stateline Woods Preserve is owned by The Land Conservancy for Southern Chester County. Located on the border of Pennsylvania and Delaware, this 82-acre park has several miles of trails that meander through oak, tupelo poplar, and beech woodland, as well as over open fields. A section of the Mason-Dixon trail also cuts through the park. Private properties border on the park. Please do not trespass. The park is also used by equestrians from Gateway Stables nearby, so please look out for horses. Carry your own dog poop bags, and pick up after your dog. Follow the posted signs at the trailhead. Although not required for use, please consider becoming a member of the Land Conservancy using the link above to promote their stewardship of this beautiful park.

The Preserve is located on Merrybell Lane, off Old Kennett Pike (Rte 82). Park in the designated parking area, and take a good look at the old oak tree in front of you – the girth of this tree is impressive. The conservancy has carefully cordoned off the tree to prevent root compaction.

The trail starts at the gate and forks almost instantly. The following trail description is of a loop path that will bring you back to the parking lot. Here, I describe the clockwise path, but you can walk the trail in reverse as well. Note that there are several linking paths and trails that are not described here, but are well marked and fun to explore.

Going clockwise to the left, the path traverses a field and bifurcates. Take the left fork which skirts the front of the shed (at approx. 0.15mi) and winds up the boundary of a second field to the top of a small hill (0.3mi). If time permits, veer off to the right before climbing the hill, and enjoy the view from a commemorative bench placed in open meadow land. Returning to the trail, the top of the hill is a good spot to stop and take in the panorama. Look back towards the parking lot, over the fields, which present a lovely vista of rolling meadow flanked by shadowy woods. If the meadow is in bloom, yellow and white blossom sprinkle the fields. The view from this spot is spectacular in the fall and winter. Descend the hill and rejoin the main trail from the left (0.5mi). If climbing hills is not your forte, take the right fork at the shed, and bypass the hill. The trail off the hill joins this path at the far end of the field.

The trail then makes an optional “U” around a small field to the left. This path can become slightly boggy in places in wet weather, but serves well to extend a hike. In the warmer months, watch where you place your feet – the path seems to be a preferred nesting location for solitary bees. Beyond this “U”, cross the stream and take the left-hand path around another field. As the path turns and rises, a nice view to the trees opens up. You can see where the linking paths cross the field to the woods beyond. You will return on the loop path through those very woods later on. Further along (1mi), the path crosses a wide clearing over an underground pipeline. Crossing over into the wooded area straight ahead, the path curves around a swatch of tall trees with little understory but lots of woodland wildflowers. Look here for trout lily, spring beauty, wild strawberry and violets in the spring. As the path curves around, it forks again (1.25mi) and a left fork goes down and across a stream on a slightly winding path, eventually leading to a wide, sunny field (1.4mi). A climb to the top of the hill (1.55mi) and a short way along the asphalt path yields a wide and panoramic view over to Auburn Heights Preserve and over the surrounding countryside. Return the same way to avoid straying into private property adjacent the preserve.

Back across the stream and on to the trail through the woodland, the path crosses back over the pipeline clearing. Here, the Mason-Dixon Trail, on its 193-mile journey from the Appalachians to its terminus in Chadds Ford, briefly joins the path. The path forks again – to the right, the path returns to the field that you crossed on the far side on the outward journey. To the left, a vastly more interesting path winds through the woods with views over the skunk-cabbage fringed stream. Wildflowers nestle in tree roots, and there is an exceptionally large gall visible on an oak across the stream. Cross the stream taking the fork to the left (2.8mi). Wind your way up the bank and at the trail marker, go right. This path will eventually lead out of the woods. Go straight on at the trail marker, with the hill that you first climbed on your far right, and you will eventually wind your way back to the parking lot. Your total distance covered is around 3 miles. Of course, taking linking paths shown on the trail map can increase or decrease the distance covered.

Finally, a couple of events taking place at Stateline Woods in May: Tuesday, May 8, 2012:  Pre-Run the Stateline Loop Course with Dean Karnazes, 6pm: Stateline Woods Preserve; 814 Merrybell Lane; Kennett Square PA 19348.
Saturday, May 12, 2012: Stateline Loop 9K/5K Trail Race; 7:30 Registration; 9am Race: Stateline Woods Preserve; 814 Merrybell Lane; Kennett Square PA 19348. More information about these events is at http://www.tlcforscc.org/

Nearby places of interest:

The Mason Dixon Trail is a 193-mile trail that runs from Whiskey Springs on Appalachians to the Brandywine River at Chadds Ford. A part of this trail meanders through Stateline Woods Preserve.

Auburn Heights Preserve is Delaware’s newest State Park, and home to the Marshall Steam Museum. “Steamin’ Days” on the first Sundays from June through September highlight steam driven automobiles and locomotives from the collection.

Naturalist Notes:

Galls are tumors of plants. The causative agent of a gall may be an insect, fungus, bacterium or virus. Crown galls on trees, such as the one on the oak tree in Stateline Woods Preserve, are usually caused by bacteria in the genus Agrobacterium. This genus contains tumor-inducing (Ti) plasmids (independently replicating, circular DNA molecules) that can be transmitted from the bacterial cell into the plant cell. The plasmid contains several genes that integrate into the plant genome and direct the synthesis of molecules that facilitate tumor formation, which the bacteria use as living space. Molecular biologists have exploited this ability of the Ti plasmid to cross from the bacterial to the plant cell to transfer specific genes into plants by engineering the genes into the plasmid. By placing the modified plasmid in Agrobacterium, and then infecting the plant, the plant can be genetically modified to express the gene of interest.

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