HI. I'M IN DELAWARE
I grew up in what is derisively known as a “flyover” state. An area thought to be so boring and bereft of beauty and culture that most people only experience it from above, peering down from an airplane window as they fly to somewhere more interesting. I understand that most people of the world, and even many citizens of the U.S., may not be able to pinpoint exactly where Indiana is. It’s a state covered by corn and soybeans fields. Residents claim they’re known for the sprawling farmland, and outsiders don’t have the heart to tell them that it’s not even known for that. Because really, who cares about corn and soybean fields? If you are into cars driving around in a circle for hours, you might know my home state for the Indianapolis 500 race. There are no mountains or oceans, the rivers are muddy and typically polluted by sewage and chemical runoff (from those corn and soybean farms we’re so famous for), and while the northwestern corner of the state is reluctantly kissed by one of the Great Lakes and has some amusing sand dunes, most of state goes unvisited unless you have family here.
Too bad, because every place has its charms; hidden gems, quirky towns, and preserved pieces of nature that make exploring them worthwhile. Places that the locals know and love. Usually considered a cluster of Midwestern land, there are some other states sprinkled throughout the country that share the flyover state accusation. Tucked away just east of the Megalopolis that is the connected chain of urban centers stretching from Boston to Washington, D.C., Delaware quietly sits on the shores of the Atlantic sharing the unfair flyover moniker.
As we made our way through the winding roads of northern Delaware, we were surrounded by gentle rolling hills. Taking in the colors of all the deciduous trees that were painted by autumn, we felt an instant kinship with this state. After spending most of the previous few weeks surrounded by the overwhelming stimulation of big cities and the metropolitan sprawl that often define the northeast, it was nice to see green spaces and trees. To exhale the stresses of the city and inhale the peace of the countryside.
After crossing a covered bridge, we pulled into the Ashland Nature Center, which is part of the Delaware Nature Society. Tasked with managing over 2,000 acres of land, including four educational sites (the aforementioned Ashland Nature Center, Abbott’s Mill Nature Center, DuPont Environmental Education Center, and Coverdale Farm Preserve), the Delaware Nature Society is a caring group of staff and volunteers that appreciate the beauty and natural resources that surround them, and are intent on preserving and protecting it. Aware of the traffic, crowds, tall buildings, and pollution that is continually conquering and eating up green space not far from them, the folks at Delaware Nature Society realize the treasure they have in their state and the importance of sharing it with others. They teach children and adults alike about their environment, its inhabitants, and how to care for them. Showcasing how the rolling hillsides and trees provide each citizen with the calming and restorative characteristics that are associated with nature.
We spent the day helping clean up a storage area in the Ashland Nature Center, and then blissfully spreading compost and preparing a high tunnel for winter at the Coverdale Farm Preserve. As we went to put away equipment, bumping along the dirt paths in the small utility vehicle driven by Farmer Dan, he explained to us with a mouth full of Halloween candy how Coverdale fits into the Delaware Nature Society’s ethos by utilizing regenerative agriculture methods and maintaining a vital link to Delaware’s pastoral history. The pigs, sheep, chickens, and turkeys all called out as if to punctuate the sermon on biodiversity and land stewardship. Although in retrospect, the turkeys may have been begging for mercy. Thanksgiving is coming soon, after all.
The following day, we were invited to join Ian, the staff Ornithologist, on an educational hike, as he taught us and others about the local birds, trees, invasive species, and even fungi, all in an impossibly delightful North Yorkshire accent.
In order to ensure there was no chance at any misrepresentation of their home, we were pridefully told by various staff members about other beautiful and fun things we could experience during our time in Delaware beyond the woods and fields that were cared for by them. Wildlife preserves, breweries, and hikes that would highlight the state.
If our travels have taught us anything, it’s whenever you go somewhere new, or really anywhere for that matter, talk to the locals. Find out what makes them proud of their town, village, city, or state. Inquire about places to eat. Find the hikes, museums, quaint towns, and oddities they feel you should see. Google doesn’t have all the answers. The myriad of ranking and travel websites and apps are helpful, but they’re no substitute for engaging with the people who call the place you’re visiting home. Love where you are like it’s your home. Walk around. Allow yourself to be awed by the new surroundings. With a little luck, this new place will feel like it’s the best parts of your home too, if only for a few days.
Go everywhere with an open mind. Go everywhere with an open heart. Go everywhere. Go Delaware.