There was a nip in the air, giving away a subtle sign that Fall had begun. Brown dried leaves and yellow-green walnut fruit lay scattered on paved roads, along the trail that ran through Rockwood, Bringhurst Woods, and Bellevue Park. Occasionally, we hopscotched to avoid horse manure, and paused in front of William duPont’s elegant Bellevue Hall to click a picture or two. The five-mile walk, peppered with laughter and conversations, lasted for over two hours.
The Brandywine creek lay still, tired after bearing the brunt of previous night’s downpour. The rain had turned the mud soft, on which our walking sticks sank, like candles on a cake. Every time we pushed a shrub out of the way, it sprayed drops of cool water on us. We didn’t mind; we continued walking on the steep slopes of the Rocky Run Trail in Brandywine Creek State Park, with no end in sight. Rows and rows of tall trees held hands to form a sort of tunnel, through which only slivers of sunlight managed to reach the ground. Loose rocks and coiled roots lay everywhere, and from between them emerged excited toads and calm centipedes. Small flying bugs hovered around our faces, fighting for our attention, even as we tried to balance ourselves on shapeless stones, to cross to the other side of a flowing stream. Three miles and two hours later, we walked out of the woods, on to the neat paved roads. It was easier to walk now… but we missed our little toads and centipedes already.
At White Clay Creek State Park, we walked in a single file for five miles. Shrubs rose on either side of the slim trail, some reaching our height, some towering over us. Daisies, shamrocks, and anonymous wildflowers popped their heads out from between the curtain of greenery. We slowed down, paused to see butterflies land softly on the petals. When they took flight, we fastened our steps. Our muddy trail was punctuated with puddles of water and fallen logs. We walked over small bridges, with thin creeks running jauntily below them; stopped to pick up a hawk’s lone feather from the ground; and sat on giant trunks to sip water. Around us the air smelled of wet soil, and somewhere far, the sound of stream synced with the call of birds.
A flock of chocolate brown geese trundle along the rolling hills of Carousel Park. A row of goslings follow the adults in obeisance. The sun shimmers on their fur, giving them a golden glow. Tempted, we go closer, but are chased away by the strong, vigilant adult geese. We let them be, and instead, immerse ourselves in the beauty of the steel blue lake, luscious green trees, and clear skies. The trail is a soft carpet of fresh grass, peppered with yellow buttercups. Above us, trees merge their heads forming a thick canopy. We stop to notice the names of trails (Robinhood, Lady Marian), listen to the neighing of horses, and observe the wide green leaves of a certain plant that, we are warned, stinks! Just when we are about to end our hike, we make a plan for another — New Castle County Police Mounted Patrol is organizing a 5K run to raise funds to support the active duty and retired horses, on May 19, 2019. For details, log on to ClydesdaleCops.org.
The bluish green Brandywine creek followed us for a while, before hiding behind a cluster of brown branches and trunks. Then there was just us, the hard paved road, and the quiet of the woods. In that almost meditative silence, we heard the wind howl, and birds sing. As if lured by these sounds, we walked towards them, not minding the steep slope, the wet ground, or the slim paths that grew slimmer. The woods now seemed thicker and chaotic, like a brown crayon scribbling by a child. Our shoes brushed fresh yellow buttercups, while our eyes grazed the flawless blue sky. When we returned after an hour-and-a-half walk, the bluish green creek still stood calmly waiting for us.
When we started our walk at Valley Garden Park, Delaware, we hoped to catch sight of some stunning daffodils. What we came across along the way, was so much more. At every crossroad, we took a cue from Robert Frost, and chose the one less traveled. And weren’t we glad we did. For, through a mesh of white pine, oak and beech trees, we saw a herd of deer galloping by at a distance. Our trail rose and fell, with the ground alternating between a bed of dried leaves and a blanket of fresh green grass. When the sun shone brighter, we peeled off our jackets and beanies, and let our skin soak in the warmth. A pair of glossy frogs leapt into a thin stream of water, as we slowed down to see a splash of color — new born lavender crocuses, white snowdrops, and a thin line of graceful yellow daffodils at a far distance. For all the beauty that surrounded us, we said thank you in the best way we could — by giving a tight hug to a faintly greening tree.
We walked close to four miles, for two hours, at Carousel Park, Wilmington. Tall trees, still leafless, rose above us, guarding a trail that changed from paved roads, to graveled paths, and wet and muddy stretches, with every turn. On our way, we saw a tree with a mysterious dark cavernous opening; a little distance away was a giant trunk etched with names of those who had been there before us. As we inched closer to the Enchanted Lake, a brace of ducks shooed us away. So we made our way to Huckleberry Hill, where a pair of donkeys looked at us with a sense of disinterest. We also made a quick trip to the stable to meet our horse friends Lil Red, Diesel and Cutie. And just as we were about to leave, we stumbled upon an interesting arrangement of pebbles on the grass; it read ‘Joy’ — quite aptly summarizing what we felt at the end of the walk.
It was a pleasant day. The sun shone bright. The sky hung cloudless above us. But as we walked along the Brandywine Creek State Park, Delaware, the black tarred roads disappeared under a layer of cracked ice. With walking sticks, we found our balance, moved thorny shrubs, and poked on frozen mire that lay like lumps of dark chocolate. The creek followed us, often changing its appearance from a crease-less sheet of glass to a colony of ice blocks. Shoes muddy, foreheads sweaty and jackets unzipped, we wrapped up our little three-mile adventure and called it a (pleasant) day!