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

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Trail Never Again to be Taken; Taken

Tis Saturday and I have no commitments most of the day, only dinner out tonight. I set out for my morning walk and decided to visit Alapocus Run State Park for not having gone there in quite the while. The lack of visitation was only part of the decision. I also figured it might be less muddy than Brandywine Creek State Park. The biggest decider was this gadget I got about a month ago called a pedometer. I've been finally confirming my hunches on how far I walk and I had not yet tested out Alapocus.

I originally planned to park in Lot 1, just off Foulk Road before Rt 202. This was not to be. I would walk through the Can-Do Playground, around the side of the athletic field, across Lot 2, down the hill, cross the road, into the woods across the bridge and to grandmother's house we would go...wait, that's a song, not my walk. Keep everything except that remark about grandmother's.When I came to Lot No. 1 it was full of cars and people were everywhere.I am not certain, but from all appearances it may have been football tryouts for the schools happening in the field there.  I would walk through the Can-Do Playground, around the side of the athletic field, across Lot 2, down the hill, cross the road, into the woods across the bridge and to grandmother's house we would go...wait, that's a song, not my walk. Keep everything except that remark about grandmother's. Anyway, I drove on to Lot No. 2 and parked. It had an unusual number of cars taking up most of it as well, but no people milling about or kids in shoulder pads and helmets scurrying back and forth.

Finally I reached the woods and walked to the gates, then across Alapocus Drive and down to the lip of the trail I swore was never again to be taken. At that point I turned off the wider path onto a dirt trail going up the mount into the deeper woods and called, big surprise, Alapocus Woods Trail.

I don't know why, but for some reason where I entered seemed different to me. Perhaps it was only how grown up the shrubbery was since the last time I passes this way. It a bit I did pass the exit down from the Upper Reach Trail. I had expected to return that way, yet what I saw changed my mind. The exit was obliterated by a number of failed trees. Recent weather was making a lot of obstacles about the forest these days.

I hiked out to the end of Alapocus Woods Trail, then turned back, meeting a slow meandering fellow with a camera. I asked if he was shooting birds. he wasn't, said he was just snapping whatever. I told him I hadn't seen any critters yet and we parted, him ambling along and I stepping lively back as I had come. I had noticed two trails off to the right as I had come in (they were now on my left) and having never taken either before decided to explore. I went on the downhill path and eventually this ended at a road. I scuffled about a bit and finally located the upper end of the uphill path and took it back. Once back where I had first noticed these I continued in my exiting direction, but I knew I was going to turn aside to my left just a short way ahead onto PawPaw Loop.

This would go down in a wide semi-circle along a cliff and turn back up to the Alapocus Woods Trail
further down, thus the name Loop.  I eventually came out of it and just ahead was my slow-moving camera buff. "Still here," I said. He saw no critters yet and I left him to his snail-like traipsing. He's in the picture to the right, but I caught him mostly hidden behind a tree.

Suddenly I came to another side trail off to my right called The Bancroft Mills Connector.  Hmm, I thought, maybe that is what I should have entered on back when where I did felt unfamiliar. Maybe I just hadn't went along as far as before and hadn't reached my usual entry point, even though I was on the Alapocus Woods Trail; who knows, it may be a two-headed snake.

Speaking of snakes, I came across the pictured sign along the way. Better the sign, I supposed, than the Copperheads it is concerning. I have crossed paths with snakes during my years of hiking, but so far nothing very threatening; nothing poisonous.

But I digress. Where was I?

Ah, yes heading down the Bancroft Mills Connector.

I knew when I was on the Alapocus Woods Trail I went by the old Bancroft Mills. They sat down by the creek well below the lip of the cliff and I had previously snapped photos of the smoke stack that rose high into the sky, but was somewhat parallel to where I had stood. These were cloth mills founded by a Joseph Bancroft around 1831. His descendent William Poole Bancroft was responsible for preserving much of the area as parkland.

This path was gradually descending with a fair slope. The ground was rough with small rocks and

somewhat tricky to maneuver. I was do well, but then I came to what we hikers always fear, a total road block of tree fall. There were two to three large trees that had fallen next to each other right across the path and there was no way around them. One end was to thick with brush and the other side dropped off a cliff. I had a choice, retrace my steps back up the hill or try and climb across this tangle of wood.

This of course set my course. Once I clambered down off the last branch I knew there was no going back again.

I also realized now why this was called the Bancroft Mills Connector. It was going to take me down by the creek directly across from the Mills. I had been down there before and if one followed around past the mills themselves one could follow the Brandywine right into down town Wilmington.

I was not interested in going downtown. I was interested in getting back to Lot No. 2 where my car was parked. I knew how to go. I was going to have to traverse the trail I swore never to take again.

I passed under an old bridge that ran across the Brandywine into the mills, which are now a condominium.  I took a sweeping curve in the trail just beyond and there they were.

The Blue Rock Cliffs of Wilmington.

To ever return to my car parked about a mile and a half away, I had to get up those cliffs and this meant going up the trail never to be taken again.

You see, years ago, when I first made a hike into Alapocus I had not turned up Alapocus Woods Trail, but had continued right on down the Northern Delaware Greenway, down to the flat below those cliff, down to where the mills were, where the trail to Wilmington's Brandywine Park began, down where I had to turn about and go back up.

I thought that day I would die.

The trail was one thing going down, but a killer to walk back up and up and up.

And it was winter then, not a hot July day like this morning.

I had felt my lungs burning that time, fearing my heart, which was beating like my blood had turned calypso drummer slamming its fists into a Congo.

On that day when I reached the Alapocus Gates at the top of the hill I expected my next stop would be at the Pearly Gates.  I had to drape myself over a fence, where
I clung and gasped for breath. Two women joggers came up along from the other direction and asked if I needed help. I wheezed out that I just needed to catch my breath and sent them on their way.

Then I collapsed back against the fence proper me up and hoped I had done the right thing. Once I could walk again, I swore i would never go down that way again and never, ever come up that cliff road.

And now here I was in the heat of summer trudging of it once more.

This time was different. I must be in much better shape now. I reached those gates and that fence beyond, but I didn't have to cling to it like a life raft.  I wasn't even breathing hard.

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