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The Devil’s Pool: A Jasal Bawi on the Wissahickon

You don’t always need a good reason to grab a backpack and head out for an afternoon hike. Sometimes you climb the mountain because it’s there, and sometimes you climb the mountain because of its name.

Case in point: Before traveling to Busan, South Korea, we read that there is a rock that used to be known as “Jasal Bawi” within that city’s Taejongdae Park. Loosely translated, “Jasal Bawi” means “suicide rock” – so named for its location at the base of a sheer cliff. We were curious to see if we could find this one, specific rock and the newer temple built nearby. We think we found the rock, but couldn’t be sure. The whole day was one of those “it’s not the destination, it’s the journey” affairs.

Flash forward a few years, and learning that there was a “Devil’s Pool” located just north of Philadelphia triggered the same “hmmm…. can I find this one specific spot?” reaction. In need of a break from the city, I hopped on the Route 9 bus, and 20-odd minutes later, was at the edge of Wissahickon Valley Park.

The park was beautiful that early October day – full of deep greens with just a few leaves starting to fade into Fall colors. Stone aqueducts ran through the park, and there were plenty of indications that proto-American settlers had inhabited the area for nearly as long as Philadelphia itself. After about two and a half hours of hiking, including a quick stop to eat the “Broad Street Bully” sandwich from Cafe Vienna (near Rittenhouse Square) that I had carried with me, I reached the nominal goal of the hike.

The Devil’s Pool was shallow, but it was clear just how far it could spread if the waters rose. The rocky bed connecting the pool to the Wissahickon Creek was mostly dry, but after seeing the flow of the headwaters, I could tell that when the water was fast and high enough that it could be dangerous… and that doesn’t even take into account the allure of jumping into the pool from the surrounding cliffs.

If you visit the Devil’s Pool, be smart and respect the area. 17 people had to be rescued from the Wissahickon during a single three-year span for various reasons.

To help guide you through the park, reference this map from Philly Day Hiker – it highlights where you can find many of Wissahickon Valley’s sights and landmarks. It doesn’t provide exact routes through the park, but it gives much more information than we had while hiking in Busan.

–Essay and photos by Dan Meade
Publication date: 5/05/2019
Date of visit: 10/06/2018

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