50 Hikes 50 States Project–Delaware
Interesting pockets of nature and people exist all over the U.S that we often don’t hear about in depth. Delaware, an odd-shaped state on the east coast of the US, is one of those places. We ventured there on our 50 Hikes 50 States Project during our weekend in Washington, DC. Hurricane Isaias threatened to blow us away if we veered off track by more than five hours.
After hiking in Maryland and starting our day off with Dutch babies and apple pancakes at the original Original Pancake House in Bethesda, we were on a mission to get in and get out of Delaware so we wouldn’t get blown away or trapped.
Corn fields and Soybeans Give Way to Marshes
Our drive from Maryland to Delaware surprised us the most. We had no idea how rural and agricultural that area was, and we indulged in several roadside produce stands along the way. Corn fields and soybeans decorated the landscape as we made our way to the town of Lewes, Delaware to hike in Cape Henlopen State Park.
Apparently, the area doesn’t see many hikers. The ranger at the front gate, where we paid $10 to park, looked at us kinda funny when we mentioned we wanted to hike around the Gordon Pond Wildlife Area, declaring, “That’s three miles, ya know?”
Most of the people parking at the pond dragged their beach gear to the Atlantic to enjoy the good weather that would soon turn stormy. My daughter saw the opportunity to tan and relax (or NOT hike), and followed them to the beach. We sprayed bug repellent, donned our hats, and found the trail head.
Whiskey on the Beach
Whiskey Beach! Some interpretation told the story. Whether bootleggers had smuggled whiskey or Army soldiers discovered a safe haven for drinking and fun-ning, the area’s reputation named its beach. Also standing stationary were a set of tall towers used during World War II to spy submarines and other foreign naval craft along the US shores.
The pond behind provided a watery defense; for us, it supplied a gorgeous marsh to stretch our legs and find a piece of a nature. On the trail we traveled in 90 degree heat and 95 percent humidity. Gratefully, an ocean breeze kept us cooler, although not cool by any means. Bicyclists cruised past, some with radios blaring 70s southern rock or Grateful Dead odes to Jerry Garcia.
Pines and oaks supplied occasional shade and osprey, egrets, and herons kept our minds off the dripping heat. We made it to the top off the pond at which a decision point presented itself. Should we walk back the way whence we came, or walk two miles along the beach in the sand?
Two Worlds Collide
The first 1/2 mile of the beach welcomed families and beachcombers, surfers and swimmers. The surf ripped high, a foreshadower of the pending hurricane. No one seemed worried at all. They wore masks as they passed others on the beach and kept their distance among groups.
As we continued down the beach, we started to see 4-wheel drive vehicles parked on the sand. People of all ages tumbled out of the trucks, beach chairs and fishing rods in hand. They cast their lines into the surf, placing their poles in either make-shift PVC pipes stuck in the sand or fancy made-to-order specially-constructed fishing pole holders. From fancy to makeshift, it didn’t seem to matter how much money the fisher people had spent on gear. No one was catching anything.
Except maybe Covid. Not one mask. Not a bit of social distancing. Trucks slammed up next to each other trying to grab the littlest bit of fishing heaven. And lots of political flags flying next to American flags and POW-MIA flags.
We walked along the beach, dancing under fishing lines above us, donning our masks as we came within six feet of folks tending their fishing lines.
Yup, we felt like fish out of water.
After another mile, we left the fishing/trucking zone, to once again come across the swim/surf/lay in the sand section. People donned masks when walking back and forth to the water and they kept their distance from each other’s groups.
Two worlds definitely collided next to each other on the beach. It’s still one country, though.
Blue Crab and Caprese Salad
Being in the land of the blue crab, we couldn’t resist a late lunch at a crab place in nearby Rehobeth Beach. Service was slow, but friendly, and employees occasionally wore masks. We kept ours on, except when eating, and enjoyed the outdoor patio where the closest table was ten feet away. My daughter ate a scallop risotto, I had a caprese salad, and my husband loved his blue crab burger.
We stopped at another produce stand on our way out of town to our hotel to get homemade, Amish ice cream. It topped off a strange day filled with great birdlife, a good hike, interesting social behavior and average food. I’d like to go back to Rebohoth Beach, though, and enjoy it in the wintertime. I bet the beach combing along the shore would be amazing.
Next stop, Virginia, where we learned about outdoor recreation camps used as exhibitions.