As I look at Joe del Tufo’s photo of a group of people standing on a granite cliff, I wonder if you, reader, will view it with no small degree of skepticism. That surely cannot be Delaware, I imagine many of you saying. The White Mountains of New Hampshire maybe, or the New Jersey Palisades. Perhaps the Delaware Water Gap, but certainly not Delaware itself.
Nonetheless, Delaware it is, and it remains remarkable to me, every time I walk there, that such an amazing thing rises smack dab in a city. If you were to appear there magically, nothing about that place—not the banks of the Brandywine, not the adjacent meadow, not the song of bullfrogs in the pond or the sight of blue herons overhead, not the late-afternoon sun on the vast rock face or the stand of oaks and poplars above—would lead you to believe that you stood within the corporate limits of Wilmington. Yet there it is, Alapocas Cliffs, one of many small miracles that await those with eyes to see and the legs to take themselves there.
And so we present you this month with “Your Guide to the State’s Great Biking and Hiking Trails,” Pam George’s survey of some of the most beautiful and surprising trails in the state. Delaware’s diverse geography offers an environment for every taste and enough beauty to keep you exploring for years. Terrain that ranges from sand dunes to classic Appalachian Piedmont reveals stunning vistas, from sunrises over the beach across Gordons Pond to an expanse of rolling meadows and woods in Chateau Country. And, lucky us, no matter where we live, there is an outdoor escape just minutes away.
Descriptions such as Appalachian Piedmont and Eastern Coastal Plain may seem too exotic, too distant, too improbable for little ol’ Delaware. Yet just as surely as those cliffs loom in the city, piedmont and coastal plain define our home. They encompass everything from wooded freshwater wetlands to creek bottoms to salt marshes to a cypress swamp. Exploring the state is to see most of the environments of the East Coast in one place. The scale may be a bit smaller than elsewhere, but that’s the great benefit of our size. It is all at our fingertips.
We hope you use the guide not only as a map of sorts, but also as a bit of inspiration. As a growing number of scientists and physicians tell us, spending time in nature is essential to our good health. After all, our ever more sedentary, predominantly indoor life is a fairly recent development. Most of our 200,000-year evolution occurred outside. Getting out there puts us in touch with something primal, makes us feel more like our best selves.
In the month of Earth Day, I’d also encourage you to check out the many places and programs managed by local nature groups and conservation organizations. The state parks are well represented in the trail guide, as is a preserve owned by The Nature Conservancy. Delaware Nature Society also owns several gorgeous properties and keeps a busy schedule of programs for everyone. Delaware Wild Lands is the largest non-government landowner in the state, and it is encouraging use of its properties. Learn more about that effort in Larry Nagengast’s story, then lace up your trail shoes or pump up your tires and get out there.
—Mark Nardone, Executive Editor
I just received the reprints in the mail today. They look great, and the article about Good Neighbors Home Repairs (January 2017) is so generous. We are truly grateful for the coverage and we hope to have a great impact in northern New Castle County. By God’s grace, we just received funding for a new repair van and supply trailer so that we can cover even more ground. Also, we have increased our number of project managers to eight with the addition of two more outstanding contractors. You have blessed us mightily! Happy New Year!
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—Harold Naylor Jr., Wilmington