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Circuit Spotlight: Mark Fallon – The Cross-Country Trail Skier

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As KYW put it, “there’s no such thing as a snow day for Mark Fallon,” a senior naturalist for 13 years at Briar Bush Nature Center in Abington. Following a news piece on Fallon in 2014, we caught up with him this week to interview him about his cross-country ski experiences on the Circuit Trails. Here’s what he had to say:

Most of the Mt. Airy community knows you as the “cross-country skier,” can you share when you first heard about the Circuit?

I have known about individual trails from the moment I moved to Philly in 2000. I lived in Fairmount and my wife (then girlfriend) and I biked the Schuylkill River Trail a lot, mostly Kelly Drive and MLK. I got on the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia mailing list around 2011, and soon became a member. I found out about the amazing advocacy on regional trails from them.

I remember the first time I went out skiing on the Circuit was in 2001 when I lived right by Kelly Drive. I went out on the Kelly Drive section of the SRT and don’t recall seeing anyone. My favorite time to go out skiing is when there are no cars so I can get on a trail without having to worry about taking off my skis too much. I enjoy the solitude, but I would love to see more people out there on snowy days. It’s a wonderful way to spend a “snow day.”

Can you describe your experience of cross-country skiing on the Circuit Trails? What trails do you ski on?

​Skiing on the trails is a rare treat and an adventure. Snow accumulations big enough for me to get out on the trails are rare. I don't believe in driving to a local trail to ski or bike. I have primarily skied along Forbidden Drive and nearby trails to my home in Mt. Airy. The one time I went out on Kelly Drive, when I lived downtown, there was absolutely no one out, virtually no roads had been plowed. I skied right across Kelly Drive in over a foot of snow.

Just last week during snow storm Jonas, I cross-country skied with a friend of mine on Forbidden Drive from my house. The trail was beautiful, calm and quiet with very few walkers and skiers. On a typical weekday or weekend on Forbidden Drive, you see hundreds of people running, cycling and walking with their dogs, which is wonderful, but it’s rare to have that solitude that you get in a snow storm.

Do you have any tips for future cross-country skiers on the trails?

Layers are important: Just like biking, you get hot when you’re exercising and when you stop you can cool down quickly in winter weather.

- Bring a snack.

- Bring a map or be prepared to know where you are going.

- Pay attention to the wind: When it’s very windy I won’t go out in a wooded area due to the danger of falling branches.

- Bring a buddy.

- Carry a fully charged cell phone.

In addition to skiing, do you enjoy cycling on the Circuit Trails?

I suffered a head injury at work a year and a half ago which has kept me off my bike. I typically commuted to work via my bike three to four times a week and am hoping to get back into it slowly this spring.

I love to bike the SRT to the Perkiomen Trail to Green Lane and also SRT out to Valley Forge and back. If all goes well, I would like to be able to bike to Millersville University in June. I attend the Native Plant Conference there every year for work and have biked out once. I would love to go via Chester Valley-Enola Low Grade Trails, so I look forward to continuing improvements there.

Are you excited for any other new trail developments on the Circuit?

I was primarily commuting to work in Abington, so I would love to see the Cresheim Valley and Tookany Creek Trails realized. I am really excited for a connection between the SRT and Chester Valley Trail through King of Prussia. I sometimes bike to visit family in Chesterbrook via the SRT and Valley Forge Park, but would love to be able to cut over to the Chester Valley Trail, so I eagerly await that connection. I follow the development updates through the Circuit Trails newsletter.

The trail system here is like nothing else in the country. It’s amazing when you look at website how extensive trail network is. 

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