Daytrip Discoveries: Wawa Preserve

September 12, 2014

By Dulcie Flaharty, Vice President of Community Partnerships

Dulcie’s “Daytrip Discoveries” represent her quest to visit all 18 of Natural Lands’ publicly accessible nature preserves within one year–an adventure she hopes will inspire others to do the same! Dulcie was executive director of Montgomery County Lands Trust, which merged with Natural Lands in 2012.

It’s a very warm day in late summer with tight schedules… where might we go to get a quick pick me up? The answer to the morning’s challenge has no coffee, fast gas, or foot-longs, but does go by the name “Wawa.”

Only 10 minutes from Natural Lands’ Hildacy Preserve headquarters, tucked behind the Wawa corporate campus along busy Route 1 (Baltimore Pike) on Valley Road, you will find the 98-acre Wawa Preserve. The property is owned by Natural Lands and managed in partnership with Middletown Township.

wildgoosecrossingPassing under a dramatic bridge marked “Wild Goose Crossing” (a reminder that Wawa means “Wild Goose” in Ojibway), look for the preserve parking area and welcome kiosk immediately to your left. This was the starting point for our walk.

Debbie Beer, Natural Lands’ engagement manager, asked to join me for a quick sojourn if I promised to have her back in the office within 90 minutes.

From the parking area, we were greeted by the chatter of American Robins, Goldfinches, and Carolina Wrens, as if to say… “we like it here!”

With the heat of the day upon us, the wooded path was the obvious choice. (An alternative trail, which traverses a former pasture, we decided to save for a future visit.)

1st trail picture

Within a few yards, the trail opened to a wide and inviting corridor weaving along the clear-running Rocky Run stream, well named with its boulder-strewn banks.

Rocky Run Creek #1

This path, although carpeted with tree roots and stones, provides a wonderful place to hike with a friend. How nice it was to take a walk, two-by-two, rather than the usual single-file!

Day moths could be seen flying in between the shafts of summer sun and perfusion of shady spaces.  Floating in speckled light, a delicate spider web provided a reminder of Mother Nature’s elegance.

Spider Web in sun


A plethora of native beech, poplar, red oak, and sycamore trees provided a sheltering canopy to our hike.

Tall Trees

With abundant trees and a stream along the trail, the pathway was surprisingly cool and breezy on such a warm morning. We almost forgot our timetable as the trail opened even wider.

Last Trail w.Debbie

All too quickly we needed to make a u-turn and head back to our car. But Wawa Preserve had fulfilled our desire for a quick and convenient respite, right around the corner from our busy world.

On the walk back, a patch of woodland sunflowers visited by a bee reminded us that humans are not the only busy creatures in Mother Nature’s world. Pollinators are working constantly to complete their mission of collecting food and sharing pollen.


Wawa Preserve allowed for a brief visit to an inviting and quiet place, not far from the hustle bustle… a perfect preserve for a busy world.

Want to plan your own visit? Preserve details and highlights can be found here.