Boomer Unchained: Experiencing the Outdoors, Hiking Style
Standing on a mountain trail and looking out at a vista of mountains, valleys, and waterfalls beyond, has to be one of the most inspirational and invigorating things I have ever done.
Hiking has been a favorite pastime of mine since my parents sent me to camp in Yosemite when I was seven years old. It was an experience that ingrained in me a love of nature. Yosemite is in the Sierras, which in the summer are normally free of rain or humidity. Nights are chilly and days are warm.
Granted, we learned that nature holds dangers, as well as beauties. We learned not to approach wild animals, no matter how cute or tame they seemed, to avoid nettles and poison (ivy) oak at all costs, not to eat anything we found unless we were well trained in its edibility, and to carry a pack with water and high-protein snacks, a compass (in the days before GPS), a map, a first-aid kit, a flashlight, whistle, pocket knife, and other necessities. Oh, and not to hike alone.
Over the years, I’ve taken hikes in the Sierras, in the Grand Canyon, in western Norway, and in recent years, a bit on Pennsylvania and New Jersey’s portion of the Appalachian Trail.
A demanding, full-time job in Lewes kept my outdoor focus on the Delaware Bay, the Atlantic Ocean and surrounding areas, when I wasn’t traveling to California to visit my adult children. Saying that, my sons and I hike in California when I visit.
Enjoying The Outdoors Around You
Here in southern Delaware, I’ve enjoyed ‘gentle’ hiking in Cape Henlopen State Park, around Trap Pond, Prime Hook, and Bombay Hook, where there are some lovely vistas, scenes of salt marshes and coastal forests, and breathtaking bird life. In my new life as a semi-retired, freelance writer, I have decided to once again turn my focus on mountain hiking.
My most recent foray was to visit the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. I have wanted to visit the area since I moved to Delaware in a career move in 1998. Since I was still recuperating from my broken ankle, I had to be careful and not to take on too much.
My friend Peter and I rented a cabin in the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Mohican Outdoor Center located in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. It was under a four-hour drive from Lewes. The cabin represented the Hilton of camping – it had electricity (lights, a heater, a microwave, and coffee maker), and beds with real mattresses. There was no internet or cell connection near the cabin, but there was reception at the lodge about a mile from where we were. The cabin was called ‘primitive’ because it had no running water and the showers and flush toilets were about 100 yards away in the recreation hall. But, considering it already was October, I figured that I didn’t want to end up in a tent dealing with rain or even snow. We packed the car with enough supplies to keep us going for weeks. That included a few gallons of water. We ignored the microwave and used the campfire pit to cook in. The pit we used was a quarter-mile walk from the cabin along a challenging narrow and windy, rocky path. It made me feel as if I really were roughing it, and we had to make sure we had our flashlights with us.
One night, I made veggie-and-sausage wraps. My youngest son, Lars, made these wraps last year when we went camping in the redwoods in Mendocino County. I wasn’t quite sure how to scrunch the aluminum packages into the coals. Lars was the expert. I thought mine were overdone, not like the juiciness of the meat and veggies in Lars’, but Peter thought they were great. Needless to say, sitting outside under the stars, with a glass of wine and a view of Catfish Pond, we were hungry and ate everything.
The crackling fire against the night backdrop made it all worthwhile. It was only the night’s chill that eventually sent us back to the cabin, warmed by the electric heater.
The Mohican Outdoor Center has a lovely, old-fashioned log lodge with a collection of cabins and camping sites, and a recreation building, scattered over several acres. A boat house sits on Catfish Pond. The area, adjacent to a piece of the Appalachian Trail, is covered in forest, and accessible to tens of thousands of acres of protected land.
On the map, I found a short trail near our cabin that took us to an overlook along the Appalachian Trail. Though quite steep, that trail didn’t look as if it were more than two miles long. Up we went. Grueling for a while, the reward was a gorgeous view on a gorgeous day. We sat upon a boulder and looked out across a seemingly endless vista of green valley and mountains beyond. Still nursing my recovering ankle (broken only three months before), I held back on any thought of venturing miles along the trail.
We studied our map and agreed to take the circuitous route back to our cabin along Catfish Pond trail. I thought it would be flatter than the one we arrived on. The trail was supposed to be four miles, which didn’t sound horrible. A few hours later, we realized, thanks to my Fitbit, that we had done nearly 10 miles along rocky trails. I can’t say I wasn’t somewhat lightheaded now and again – thankfully I had brought water though no snacks – or that Peter began to look exhausted, but that hike was inspirational for me. We could hear nothing but birds, wind rustling the tree tops, and the water running down to the pond. Once we descended from the AT, we were in a picture book of trees and small creeks here and there we had to cross. I packed my ankle with ice once we returned and that night’s campfire was the best.
See You On The Trail
I have joined the Appalachian Mountain Club and I am looking for opportunities for day hikes and for hiking trips with it, as well as with other organizations. So many options are available for people 60 years of age and older who enjoy hiking, guided or non-guided, but who may not keep up with the younger crowd. I have listed a few of those organizations below. Wilmington (Delaware) Trail Club is one of those, offering hiking and overnight adventure opportunities for people of different skill levels. Check out the website (below). You can even go on two hikes before you decide whether you want to spend the money to join the club (according to the website).
Maybe, I will see you on a trail.
Appalachian Mountain Club
Delaware State Parks
Wilmington Trail Club