Saturday, February 5, 2011

Natural Beauty of Cape Henlopen / Camping #9

November, 2010

It's Thanksgiving week-end. I do all the "family" stuff on Thursday. And head to Delaware to Cape Henlopen for a luxurious 3 days / 2 nights trip. Not only do I get to explore a new camping area, but I love going to the ocean in the wintertime; I'm looking forward to side trips to Rehoboth and Lewes. Maybe more. But I've learned not to plan or expect too much; often times I just want R&R.

I arrive fairly early; no problem arriving too early -- very few people are there. On Friday night, there'll be a handful of other camping groups: some folks who camp to be close to the outlet shopping on "Black Friday", an RV couple and a tent couple who both enjoy "winter" camping, and a party-group arrives later that evening.

My holiday home - what a glorious camp site!

I'm struck by the natural, rugged beauty of Cape Henlopen and the campground at the state park. It's nothing like other areas along the ocean, like Rehoboth, Dewey Beach, Bethany, or Ocean City.

 Along the coast:

The day is cloudy, very breezy even for the ocean. It feels "cold". I explore the beach area and drive around the park to familiarize myself with my surroundings.

In the afternoon, I drive down the road a few miles and explore Lewes. It's a small town, sort of touristy but fun window-shopping. Special treats are an Italian market deli/bakery/shop; and some very appealing small cafes. I have a nice, late lunch and buy goodies at the market for breakfast and snacking.

The days are very short now. It's solidly dark by 5:45pm. I don't mind an early evening inside the tent, as I'm usually so exhausted by the weekend, I appreciate the opportunity to do nothing but sleep. I don't sleep very well though the first night. The wind is gusty and the sounds of the tent flapping and the wind through the pine trees keeps me in a light sleep.

On top of that, there's a large group a few sites down. They're not drunk, loud, or obnoxious. But they come & go, like every hour. I don't know where they're going. Sometimes they are going to the bathhouse, and to do so they have to walk right by my campsite. So the sounds of starting a car, driving in and out of the camp area several times throughout the night, or laughing on their way to the restrooms keeps me awake.

I'm definitely within "whistle distance" of help if they cause any trouble. Though the pictures don't show it, I've chosen a site that is actually right across from the camp host. I'm alone, but someone is near by.

The campground:

I'm awake before sunrise. The moon is still strong, but it's cold. I think it's in the 20s. I should buy a small thermometer. I use my blackberry to check weather dot com. I'm set on seeing the sun rise over the ocean, so I bundle up and drive to a parking spot close to the beach.

The day is bright and clear, but windy and cold. It's not too much  fun getting hot water going, even with my little Esbit stove. I didn't even think to use a tarp to block the wind ... I do have success with coffee and warming up food for breakfast; and I enjoy some of the treats I bought at the Italian market.

I decide to explore some hiking trails at the park; the activity will be refreshing and keep me warm. On the "nature trail", which should be the easiest of all, I get confused. Luckily, I encounter another camper. I can't tell if I'm going in the right direction or re-doing a portion I've done before. It's all pine trees, scrub, and sand dunes with pine needles. If you've seen one sand dune .... But they point me back to the nature center. I hike longer than I had planned, but I'm warm. And the park is very pretty.

After the hike, the day is warmer and the wind is subsiding. I decide to get my bike out and try for a bike ride. I haven't ridden in ... months .... years ? .... It takes me awhile to get my gear organized. Ready to take off, I realize my back tire is flat. It's a new tire. I just pump it with air, hoping that somehow it just deflated and doesn't need replacing.

I head down the highway to Lewes, and stop at a bike shop. I have them check the tire and they put more air into both. I do some window-shopping at the shop.

Leaving the bike shop, I walk over the canal bridge. I turn down a road heading to the Rehoboth bike trail, and my front tire blows out. I'm really not happy at this point. In my annoyance, I attribute the blow out to the bike shop person putting too much air in my tires.

I don't want to ruin the rims so I carry my bike back to the bike shop. My bike is not light. It's mid-afternoon and the breeze is picking up again.

The bike shop repairs my tire because I'm too cold and tired to do it myself, but it costs me $25. I give up on the idea of biking to Rehoboth today and head back up the highway to the state park and my campground. All is well; the bike is working fine. I decide to explore the bike trails around the park and end up having a delightful ride.

Late afternoon, I freshen up and drive my car into Lewes again. I have a wonderful dinner at a Mediterranean-style cafe, including oyster stew and homemade Spanish hot chocolate which ends up being like a hot rich chocolate mousse.

I get back to the campsite and it's solidly dark. And cold. But the dinner warms me; I snuggle into my sleeping bag by 7:00pm.  A car goes by about 10:00pm; I assume it's the park ranger checking out the place; and that's all I hear all night. There's only one RVcouple and the camp host on site. I sleep for a total of 10 hours; the best sleep I've had in years. I want to somehow take sand dunes covered with pine needles back home with me, so I can sleep like that every night.

I'm definitely rested but it's too cold to get started on any outdoor fun. So I gather up my personal care items, head to the bathhouse, spread out my supplies and have some girly time: facial masque, moisturizing, paint my toe nails, etc. I feel indulgent.

The day turns out to be a bit warmer and less windy. I pack up and move my car to a general parking area. I spend the morning/afternoon biking on the trail to Rehoboth. It's wonderful! The trail goes through woodland, along marshy areas and farm fields, and skirts behind the shopping centers and highway. It is the best way to get to Rehoboth.

I keep my holiday tradition of Thrasher's french fries on the boardwalk at Rehoboth overlooking the ocean. :)

After biking back to Cape Henlopen, I drive home and promise to repeat the trip next Thanksgiving.

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