Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Ronald Tipton and Patrick Flynn, 2017.

The good times are memories
In the drinking of elder men...

-- Larry E.
Time II

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Where Civilization Crumbles: Viewing Rockwood

So we are gathered under the spreading chestnut tree or what the heck this spreading tree is. We've been mulling time over our mulled wines and now it is time to pick up where we left off the other day when our batteries died.

This little grouping of chairs is on the front or back yard of the Rockwood Mansion. I have still not figured out what to call this yard, perhaps I'll just refer to it as The Yard. There really isn't a yard on the other side, the front of the building, just a driveway.

Now one of my invisible buddies here, probably after a one, two or few cups, chides me about this constant battery problem I keep having. He wants to know if I'm entering my dotage never being properly prepared for my excursions.

His friend, also invisible, is even more invective.

"You have two battery chargers sitting in a drawer under a virtual log jam of rechargeable batteries. Why aren't you all charged up, man?"

Good question, but to tell the truth I've found the rechargeable batteries sometimes undependable and yes, I tend to forget to plug in the charger enough ahead to assure a full charge. So I just go out and buy a pack of Duracell Coppertops. I picked up a 20 pack yesterday for $7.50. That's not a bad price. I don't get Energizers too often ever since the Bunny Rabbit United Union filed complaints about the Energizing Bunny not taken any breaks and just going and going and going. I think the last straw was when those aliens hooked his ears to jumper cables.

But enough of this chit-chat or we'll never get through this place. Let's get back on the trail where I left off last time I brought you all here. We had just swung around some evergreens behind the expanse of The Yard. That path just looks out on another wide splotch of grass, the yard beyond The Yard.

We're going to follow this path hereabout and see what kinds of things might be happening today.

It is, as usual for me, early in the morning, not long after sunrise. There were no cars in the parking lot when I arrived and still weren't as I started this walk.

Doesn't mean we won't make some acquaintances along the way. This is on the Northern Greenway after all and people stroll in here from Bellevue and Bringhurst (remember we mentioned Mary Bringhurst last visit) and even Alapocas Run.

Personally, I often like it this way, quiet solitude. It is a funny thing how some trails attract a crowd and others leave you with plenty of elbow room. For some reason you hit more traffic out in Brandywine Creek State Park. Lot of walkers and a lot of bicyclist seem attracted there for some reason. The Little Woman and I like to walk there as well, but for the most part it is a straight wide path through the woods along side the Brandywine. It doesn't have the twists, turns, hills and thrills of this place, which may be the reason for the preference and the feeling it is where civilization crumbles and sets me free of its hold.

Oh by the way, we can see the whole back of the mansion from here.

We actually walked Brandywine Creek State Park a lot, especially back when the kids were little. We would take them there to romp. It is there we find the example of bureaucracy good mad, a handicap parking spot next to the start of the hiking trail.

I've walked Brandywine Park probably more than any other actually. Now don't get confused, Brandywine Park is in downtown Wilmington and near the start of the Northern Greenway. It is a city park, not a state park. Being downtown is why I walked it more than any other because I always went for a long walk on my lunch hour when I worked in town.

Oh, one thing you will notice, Joseph Shipley, or perhaps the Bringhursts, were very fond of gazebos and they pop up several times at Rockwood. We saw one down in the lower pasture a couple photos back and we'll come to one on the high ground later.

We just passed one at the edge of The Yard.

I had to stop here and tie my shoelaces. For some reason modern shoelaces won't stay laced. You tie, walk a bit, and have to retie.

Now where were our thoughts as we strolled past the gazebo point? Ah, we were talking about Brandywine Creek State Park and Brandywine Park. It does get a bit confusing in this region. You cross the state line going north and you can add Brandywine Battlefield Park and Brandywine Picnic Park to the list. The Little Woman and I have done our share of hiking in the Brandywine Battlefield, too. It's pretty hilly and both George Washington and Lafayette slept there at one time. That was before Rockwood was built, of course.

Oh, look, another Ha-ha, tee-hee!

I've never been to Brandywine Picnic Park under that name. It isn't really a walking park. It's a picnic park, duh! They launch a lot of tubes down the creek from there. I was there often in my youth under its old name, Lenape Park, when it was a small amusement park with a train, a roller coaster, bumper cars, big swings and a fun house. Use to be many small amusement parks once upon a time, but then Walt Disney changed that world and the little parks quickly disappeared, which I consider a loss.

Here is one of those decision points on our walk through life. Which way shall we ramble? Well, if we go right we will come up pass the Mansion to the Carriage House where we explored last time.

If we go to the left we will go down a long curving trail leading eventually back to the parking lot. I walked up that trail one day thinking it went around the woods and off to some other place, but instead it simply snaked around an s-curve by the woods and came up the hill to where we now stand.

So it is straight ahead into the forest primeval then!

It doesn't look it, but it is a little steep here and with these leaves everywhere one must watch they don't slip.

Also, the forest isn't all that primeval as the autumn leaf fall has unfortunately revealed.

See, see the house on the left. Actually, even in the full frontal foliage of summer this house can be seen, just not so much of it.

So I knew this place was here.

It looks desolate much of the time, but occasionally a light is on or a car is in the drive. It is a big house with a twisting walkway down to the edge of the creek that weaves through here.

I knew that house existed, but I was unaware of so many others. Man, its like a walk in the city this time of year. I didn't know this house was here next to that big white place. This house is earth colors and still blends in with the trees and leaves around it, but during the summer it wasn't even seeable.

I wonder who these people are hiding back here in the woods? They are not near-paupers like me, that's for sure.

They are not really hiding back in the woods either. They are the encroachment of modern society upon the woods.

I never saw this garage like building on my right before the leaves dropped. Now it rises from the underbrush to glare at me.

It is the back of some kind of maintenance building for the park. On the other side it is quite visible fronting a large gravel parking area down below the Carriage House, but its hindquarters have always been well covered by nature in the warm seasons. Now its flanks are exposed for all to see and to the nip of approaching winter.

Walking through these parks is a reminder of the illusions of life. I am grateful and thankful, what with Thanksgiving just around the corner, that we have all these parks with their pleasant trails, but I know they aren't true wilderness. Modern life lurks all around and is much more a threat, isn't it, than any cougars or bears or other dangerous beasts that may have once roamed here.

Squirrels skitter away all around me, but squirrels hardly count as wildlife anymore. They skitter all about my neighborhood too and steal the sunflower seeds out of the bird feeder. They keep a respectful distance most times, but they also stand relatively close until they see whether you are carrying a spare nut their way. Squirrels are semi-domestic creatures.

As I was driving here this morning a deer did come awkwardly across the road ahead of me and then run down into Bringhurst Woods. I never met it on the trail.

More homes appear in the thinning foliage, homes big enough to be hotels, chalets at least. What do people do with all those rooms? Back when Joseph Shipley built Rockwood families could have filled them; after all, he himself was the youngest of twelve. Certainly, his mansion competes with these in size and scope. But by todays standards I, with three children, have a large family. With the kids grown and two moved away, my place is too large for us. We can't utilize the space we have. Maybe these people throw large parties with many guests staying over night to sleep it off. Perhaps these people just want to show off how successful they are. I don't know? My philosophy has always been you can only live in one room at a time. I'm grateful to have a roof over my head when it rains and walls when it is cold.

I hope these people are grateful for what they have. I hope they don't take it for granted or think it is owed to them or look down on those with less.

If you want to get over into that community beyond the trees you cross this bridge. Another path will meander up a grade and into that neighborhood and take you out to Rockwood Road. If you go along that road and under a couple of overpasses, you will come to more large estates. There you will pick up the path again and if you follow it, you will eventually come into Alapocas Run State Park.

Our little protected roadway of nature, our shelter where civilization crumbles.

I've been across the bridge and out to that road and I've come out of Alapocas toward it from the other direction. There are a lot of big houses and I keep wondering who lives in these places and how many wish they didn't since the housing bubble broke? Driving by such communities at night we see darkened shells and wonder how many foreclosed.

But we didn't come out to trouble our mind with these types of questions and cares. We came to ramble away from the cares and worries of the world, to clear our head, not clog it up, so let's chance the subject.

You know how stream of conscience is, though, just like the stream under that bridge. It meanders about and sometimes bumps up against a rock. My mind does gather a bit of flotsam hear and now. I don't know the names of these streams that pop up in these parks. I suppose eventually they feed into the Brandywine, which takes them along with it to the Delaware and eventually out the bay to the sea. All part of a self-contained hydro system. Water flows about the earth until it is sucked up by the sun, then it settles in clouds until the weight is too much and it falls to earth again. Always the same amount of water as when the planet began.

We may pollute it, but we never really destroy it.

Now our path turns 90 degrees toward the East, away from the high-end urban villagers toward the parking lots for the maintenance barn and the Carriage House.

I've ambled along perhaps a mile so far and haven't seen another soul. As I approach the cross path ahead a lady jogger comes bopping down it and by me. I say hello, but she is oblivious to my greeting, an unusual occurrence on these Delaware Trails. We Delawareans are generally a friendly tribe who always speak.

I passed this same jogger another day and she didn't acknowledge my existence then either. I do notice she has earplugs planted in her ears and an IPod hooked on her belt. I guess she is deep into her ITunes and her ITrot and has blocked out all else her IEyes see.

I turn up the trail she came down.

Here again houses I never noticed before. They're like big fat ticks on the hide of a Razorback hog, bloated and ready to pop.

There are lampposts all along the trails here. I've never been here at night. I wonder if they light them? Maybe they only put them on for special occasions. I see no purpose to illuminate the trails at night. The park is open from sunrise to sunset, so who would be wandering back here after dark except those who shouldn't be. Let those who shouldn't be fall in a groundhog hole or something in the dark. Often when I come in the morning there is a police car in the parking lot. I have never figured out if the officers are there to protect or just hiding out and goofing off. I wonder if they patrol the drives here during the dark hours. I wonder if they even drive to the parking lot in the dark hours.

There must be some who visit after closing, but not to explore the park. The other morning there was a used condom lying on the macadam when I stepped out of my car. Nature lovers?

I don't know if you recognize this path. It was the one I snapped from the porch of the Carriage House and put in my last post.

This path is going to take us into the woods and up to the top of Rockwood hill. This is what I call the gradual climb. There is a steeper way up the hill, but I prefer this one. I generally return down by the steep path.

I have come up that other way, but I have to confess I was panting by the time I reached the top. I'll leave that way to the younger crowd.

Not that I totally shy away from hills. These trails are full of up and down slopes and I like that. It helps in keeping one somewhat fit. Maybe in another ten years I'll feel different.

There is always the chance in ten years I won't be walking over grounds, but lying under them.

It is important to keep the body as fit as possible these days. After all, one never knows when you'll have to walk through an airport scanner.

Funny how we have turned ourselves into our own terrorists. People aren't so much afraid to fly anymore as they are getting from the ticket window to the boarding zone. Ten years from now the only people in airport security will be perverts, pedophiles and Bill Clinton, meanwhile real terrorists will be out blowing up trains. They don't call it Washington DC for nothing; Washington Dumb and Confused. We need to get our security peoples hands off our privates and looking in our eyes. We don't look for terrorists so much as we look for things. We have a nice collection of threatening baby bottles, pudding cups, nail files and nose hair clippers to show for the effort. I feel so much safer.

To show you how stupid our great security thinkers are, they even subjected the pilots to the same groping and voyeuristic scanning. Apparently they thought any pilot who wished to crash the plane needed to smuggle in a devise to do it.

Not everyone gets subjected to the peek-a-boo or the hands-on-grab. Here is another great mind at work. We select our subject at random. In other words, we play the lottery and hope some time we win a terrorist.

And the terrorists play the lottery and bet the odds are they won't get caught. I mean, think about it. You got a bunch of terrorists who want to repeat 9/11. So six of them head for the airport and spread out in the line. here comes a terrorist with his skivvies loaded up with plastic explosive. he is closer and closer to security and then a guard snatches away the 93-year old grandmother for a pick your poison moment, body scan or body pat. Meanwhile, the terrorist signs in relief for he know he is just going through the metal detactor and he is safe, and we are not. Maybe we even pick one of these dudes by random, but all six? Lotteries don't work that way.

Now here is where I could use some security. Some paths are so leaf covered you can't see where the path ends and the ground begins. It is easy to slip off the edge of the path and twist an ankle. I've done it about three times on narrower paths. You suddenly hit partway on the lip of the macadam and your foot twists over into the soft soil beside it. I am fortunate to have strong ankles. Otherwise I would have to lay moaning by the path until some jogger happens along, hopefully not the lady with the earplugs.

Obviously this is the path less traveled and in all honestly, I didn't travel it either. It would have led up to the parking lot for the Carriage House. I am on my way up the gradual hill to the summit.

As you can see we have left any houses behind. It would appear we have entered deep woods, but appearances would be wrong.

If you look closely at this photograph you may be just able to pickup something right along the horizon behind the trees. You'd never notice in the summer because in the summer you can't even see that horizon.

What you might catch in the summer a little further up this path is an out of place splotch of green that doesn't match anything in the forest.

You can clearly see what that odd green is in this picture. Follow the fence as it bends right and there halfway up above the fence is the green, a highway  exit ahead sign.

The thing that ran along the horizon that could barely be picked up was a guard rail. The infamous I-95 rolls right along side this upward path. It is easily exposed here in the autumn. Not only can you see it, you can hear it. In the summer the full trees and thick brush muffle the sounds of traffic to a few big trucks and noisy motorcycles.

And we won't escape the overhanging shoulder of I-95 on this side of Rockwood. I am walking up this hill and over to my side people are whizzing along in their cars, rushing where I do not know.  I stand on the edge where civilization crumbles.  Maybe we will see cars lined up over there while their turkeys grow cold upon the table, trapped by the inefficiencies of rebuilding the toll booth on the border, perhaps twenty mile backups the newspaper warns.

They are spending $32 million dollars on toll booths. Gonna have to collect a lot of tolls.

Is it necessary? Why not just throw open the gates for the holidays, give the weary travelers a gift. I always have the nagging suspicion the tolls go to maintain the tollbooths and pay the toll takers.  I hope on Black Friday I'm not stuck in any such backup. I exit not far from the toll plaza, far less than 20 miles. Heck, the state is only 30 miles wide at its widest, which is this part at the top and who wants a backup of traffic across two-thirds of your state?

Oh, we have reached the top of the hill. Here is an intersecting path that came up the steep side of the hill. Its level through the gap in the stone wall and a bit further, then it dips down.

In reality this isn't quite the apex. This is the high point of paved paths, though. If we go a little beyond the intersection we will find this unpaved path to our right.

Yeah, I know, it's hard to believe there is a path, but there is.  You step over the fallen log, go past the marker sticking up and wind in around those trees to be on it. This path will take you to the actual crest of the hill where you can look down over a sort of cliff.

Its pretty peaceful up there because few seem to make the short trek. You can see how undisturbed the path is. How buried by leaf fall.

Next time I'll take you up there and then show you the ways down and we'll talk to some dogs upon our way.

For now we have rambled far and wide and long so let's take a rest. If I don't get you back here before tomorrow, let me wish you a wonderful Thanksgiving. I hope you have much to be thankful for.

Meanwhile try to see what sits atop this hill. It is in this picture.


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