Day Trippers - Delaware and Maryland
You’ve got a weekend to kill in Maryland and Delaware. There are few better places to do it, if you’re living life adventurously.
These two small states on the Chesapeake Bay offer geological variety, wild beauty, and endless adventures on the margins between earth and water. Whether on the region’s many rivers and estuaries, or the bay itself, Maryland and Delaware offer nature lovers glorious experiences of water and wildlife.
GoApe is fortunate enough to call both states home. In Delaware, our Lums Pond State Park Treetop Adventure course swings out over 200 acres of water, glistening in woods that are beautiful beyond words in fall. In Maryland, we spend our time in Rockville’s Rock Creek Regional Park, where more than 1,800 acres of wilderness includes two lakes and the most diverse collection of wildlife in the Washington, DC metropolitan area.
But ours are far from the only adventures worth having. We make it our business to know the adventures wherever we build a new home.
With 48 hours to spend in Maryland and Delaware, here’s what we would do.
Day One, Morning
Rock Climb at Carderock and the Mather Gorge
Maryland has one of the most established, easy-to-join rock climbing scenes on the east coast, and the beating heart of it is the stunning cliffs the Potomac River carves through the region.
Pure beginners might want to go indoors – Columbia’s Earthtreks is the largest climbing gym east of the Mississippi.
But the real gem is on the river.
Heights range from 60 feet in the Carderock Recreation Area to 100 at nearby Mather Gorge’s Greek Wall. The rock is mica-schist, offering up a huge variety of shapes as it has cracked and shifted under thousands of years of river erosion. But the texture is outstanding, offering great friction. It breaks under old-school tools, so Marylander’s stick to top-roping.
But the real attraction is the scenery.
Sixty feet above the Potomac, watching kayakers work the rapids beneath you, in a landscape of grey rock, blue sky and gorgeous green canopy, you’ll find views that simply defy belief, just half an hour from the White House.
Day One, Afternoon
Paddle Through History
Delaware’s Brandywine Creek is one of our favorite paddles, combining gorgeous views with local history and interesting, but not impossible, rapids. They range up to Class III.
You’ll actually cross into Pennsylvania to put in, at Chadds Ford, quickly find yourself in Delaware.
The first mile and a half is calm, peaceful and flat. Then the fun starts.
Much of Delaware’s early industry was hydropowered, so creeks like the Brandywine are full of small dams. The first, near Rockland, is almost always runnable. Later dams, require you to pay attention to water levels and portage around some for safety. But the water is frequently playful and not too challenging, and when you manage to look around you, you’re surrounded by the 18th century.
This route takes you past the Hagley museum, which chronicles the early history of the DuPont company empire. You can’t pull out here, but the water itself is dotted with 200-year-old dams, spillways, waterwheels and turbines that still run.
Day Two, Morning
Try Surf Fishing
Having explored the fresh water of the region, you’re going to want to spend your second day with the brackish water of the bay itself.
Delaware is famous for its surf fishing (ocean fishing while casting from the beach or from wading distance into the water, trying to get your line out far enough to catch the bigger fish that lurk behind the breakers).
Delaware anglers know what a bounty they have – they run an all-species fishing tournament that lasts nearly nine months a year. The goal is to catch each of 43 species.
You won’t manage it in a weekend, but get a temporary permit and rental rod at one of the dozens of tackle shops along the beach towns of Bethany, Rehoboth, and Dewey, and you can spend the morning breathing in the salt spray, watching seabirds dive, and, perhaps, reeling in a photo-worthy fish.
Day Two, Afternoon
Hike Calvert Cliffs, and Explore Geological History
We’ll make our last stop in the region leisurely, and full of wilderness experience.
The 13 miles of trail through Calvert Cliffs is utterly unique, and something no outdoor lover should miss.
The trail overlooks the bay, giving beautiful views, but also offers the opportunity to legally collect fossils that date to the Miocene age.
The fossils come from the beautiful cliffs themselves – 24 miles of clay, diatomaceous earth and sandstone cliffs along the bay in Calvert County. It’s not legal to approach the cliffs themselves – they’re unstable and prone to collapses – but from the beach beneath, hikers can sort through fallen earth to find evidence of sea life 6 to 20 million years old.
It’s a hike that connects you deeply to the history beneath your feet, and a nice way to wind up a weekend.
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