4: Delaware

Highpoint # 4
Ebright Azimuth, 447.5 Feet

July 27, 2002

I distinctly remember sitting in the theater watching Mike Myers and Dana Carvey experiment with their new green screen given to them by the network bigwigs in “Wayne’s World.” After pretending to be in several exotic locales with their stoner-lite humor, a background showing Delaware popped up to their mutual consternation. “Or… imagine being magically swept away to… Delaware. Hi, I’m in Delaware,” said Wayne with a look of quizzical disgust on his face. Immediately the entire theater leapt to their feet and erupted in wild applause and cheers. I’m guessing this didn’t happen in every theater; it happened that night because… “Hi – I was actually in Delaware.”

That’s right, I spent 17 of my first 18 years keeping it real in the First State. I actually defend the merits of Delaware to anyone who goofs on it. As the signs say on I-95 upon entering the state, “Home of tax-free shopping,” which is always a good thing. One thing Delaware never did offer me growing up was hiking. (Bear in mind that the only other state I lived in prior to college was Florida- it’s a wonder I ever began hiking; or perhaps that is precisely why I did start highpointing – that is, living in the two states with the two lowest highpoints caused me to have this urge to highpoint… hmmm).

At one time the duPont family pretty much owned New Castle County where I grew up outside of Wilmington, a lot of which is still preserved in state parks or family property upon which their mammoth “chateaus” are still inhabited by the inbred offspring of the family. The rest of the surrounding north Wilmington suburbs are poisoned with duPont facilities, suburban sprawl, box retailers, and pavement. It was here, officially in my parents’ kitchen, in Foulk Woods (a particularly leafy, nice, subdivision north of Wilmington, near the Pennsylvania border) Hoang and I began our ascent of Ebright Azimuth.

As I’ve mentioned before in my “Highpointing manifesto,” as well as in the New Jersey report, I refuse to simply drive to the summits around the country. That wouldn’t be as fun, in my opinion. I realize that for most people, there is no other way to reach Ebright Azimuth other than driving, but I was going to hike it, damnit, no matter how stupid it was.

Hoang entering the imposing suburban Delaware woods

It was a humid and cloudy day as we set out of the front door of my parent’s house. We could have simply walked out to the street, but I wanted some real bushwhacking so it was through the backyard and into the forest for us. Of course the “forest” portion lasted all of 80 seconds as we popped out the other side in someone’s backyard; the danger of this trek had us on high alert – you never know what octogenarian lunatic is going to take offense with you for traipsing through his overly manicured lawn and chase you down with a rake. We were lucky and made it out to the road and headed north towards Grubb road.

While making our way through the maze of suburbia, armed with a map supplied by my mother, we never broke a sweat. However, after walking further north along the length of Brandywood Road, we were confronted with the scariest, most dangerous obstacle we’ve faced so far in our highpointing exploits: Naamans Road, a 4 lane heavily traveled highway.

Fortunately, we had practiced our running by following the example of the street sign below, made it across safely, and entered another subdivision called Dartmouth Woods. After taking a left turn at Sturbridge Rd, we could see the rise ahead of us. There was an honest to goodness hill! (Let it be said that a few miles just west of here, in the Brandywine River Valley, there are plenty of hills. Some are actually quite steep and pretty long – I spent years cycling those roads and while they aren’t the Alps, they can be pretty tough).

There were many neighbors out and about, surely wondering what we were doing with a camera walking up their road, but we had a mission and nothing could stop us: not the barking terrier, not the speed bumps in the road, not the misting drizzle, not the enticing garage sale we passed…

…Not even the Evil Delaware Neighborhood Villain could stop us…

…Or a child at play

A left turn at the top of the hill onto Ramblewood Drive and thirty feet later there we were; The summit of Ebright Azimuth! With a view of the famous (in highpointing circles, anyway) trailer park across Ebright Road where the actual true highpoint is, we gave each other a congratulatory kiss and snapped the required summit shot. That’s right, the sign is not at the actual highpoint, which is, depending on your resource, about a foot higher in elevation in some trailer family’s yard. We could see it across the street easily enough, but trailer people scare me. In fact, my brother in law grew up about a quarter mile from where we were and told us, “We used to brawl with the trailer kids all the time.” The club recognizes the sign as “official,” so we were quite satisfied with our feat. I do however regret that there is no official record of Hoang being there, but I assure you, she took the picture of me. After taking one last gander at the view (Rhode Island was actually worse – the rock pile there was pretty wack) we began the descent back through Americana, Delaware style. (For the record, the azimuth is about fifty feet from the Pennsylvania border, perhaps the closest to another state other than CT and NV, but I’m purely guessing).

On the way back to my parent’s house, we encountered a curious species, indigenous to the suburbs of the Good Ol’ US of A. This beast is often seen in the front yards of Caucasian owned houses and is often in the company of gnomes, pink flamingoes, reflective globes, and pineapple “Welcome” signs. It often hides amongst rock gardens and weeds. It is best approached with a wary eye because the owners are often quite protective of it. I was determined to tame this wild animal, danger aside. Hoang and I utilized the predacious cat technique of walking past our prey to discuss attack choices, then circled back and prepared to pounce. From behind an overgrown boxwood bush, I could see this wasn’t going to be easy – there were neighbors watering lawns and cars passing every so often. Despite the “at-home” look of the owner’s house, we agreed that this rare sight had to be documented: I was going to ride the mini lawn burro! With a determination few possess, I approached the animal quietly and quickly, mounted it, and showed it who was boss. Mission accomplished:

Taming the rare and dangerous mini lawn burro

After the excitement of spotting such wildlife on our hike, we made our way back to the safety of my childhood home, went over to see my 22 month old niece, made an appearance at my brother in law’s family barbeque, bought a bushel of blue crabs and had a feast with our good friends Tam, Kerri, and Dave. Nary a mention of our dual conquests was mentioned to anyone due to the fact that my friends and family already think I’m enough of an idiot… and I don’t want Hoang to have to suffer the same indignation.

Hightpoint Difficulty Rating: 1
Hike Distance: 2.75
Distance from Current Residence (New Britain, CT): 230 miles

2 responses to “4: Delaware”

  1. AJH says:

    “One thing Delaware never did offer me growing up was hiking.”

    What do you mean??! Orienteering with the Eagle Scouts and the like was never in Delaware? (maybe it wasn’t…) And Brandywine Creek State Park? “Hiking” does not have to mean “climbing”, does it?

  2. Steve says:

    Wow, I’m floored that you remember/know about my orienteering past.

    Your point is well taken, but still… hiking and Delaware are not words usually associated with each other.

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