Although we lost an hour of daylight this past weekend, the November climes should still offer plenty of opportunities to indulge, if you haven’t yet had the pleasure, in the glorious immersion into history and natural beauty that is the new Wilmington-New Castle bike trail.
The route named in honor of former governor Jack Markell is a wonder and game-changer, like its twin cousins linking Lewes and Rehoboth through Cape Henlopen State Park.
As with those pathways, the Markell Trail is both a practical connector of two important towns and a venue for beholding vistas not easily viewed before at eye level – vast, thriving marshlands full of wildlife, old growth forests and even some discomforting surprises.
But unlike the Sussex County trails, the Markell offers something more – a diversity of vistas beautiful and mundane, and occasionally bracing and odd. It winds by neighborhoods and industrial parks, ballfields and penitentiaries and in so doing the trail showcases not just our state’s natural gifts but it also reminds us of life’s fragility and unfairness, juxtaposing environmental grandeur with the banal, heart-wrenching reality of a Potter’s Field filled with graves of people literally forgotten by the world.
My recent ride down and back from New Castle was a highlight of the fall, and the 90-minute journey ratified my belief that the ever-expanding network of biking/hiking trails across Delaware will be some of the best investments we’ve ever made in the state’s future. I couldn’t help but continually stop along the 14-mile round-trip to marvel at the surroundings but also to soak in the history and pure Americana.
If you start at Wilmington’s Riverfront, the trail’s payoff is the town of New Castle, whose cobblestone streets and colonial homes on an impossibly beautiful autumn Saturday shone like the most charming place you could imagine being at that precise moment.