The Wilmington Trail Club
Hike Across Delaware participants along the C&D Canal.
Gallery: Wilmington Trail Club [6 Images] Click any image to expand.
By Carla Lucas
On any given day, people are meeting
and enjoying the outdoors, whether for a short hike in Brandywine
Creek State Park, a paddle around Lum's Pond, a bike ride along the
farm roads in lower New Castle County, or a 16-mile hike along
Horseshoe Trail. This is all possible because they are members of the
Wilmington Trail Club (WTC).
WTC was started in 1939 by a small group of outdoor enthusiasts from Wilmington who organized a few hikes each year in the New Castle County area. Today, on just about every day of the year, the 800 members of the Wilmington Trail Club have the option to participate in one of the organization's sponsored activities. All these activities are planned by the members themselves, and open to all members. Some of the many events are open to the general public as well.
“Participating in any of Wilmington Trail Club's activities is a great way to exercise, get outdoors and do it with other people,” says Gary Kirk, spokesman for WTC. “It is a great way to learn about new trails and to meet people with similar interests.”
Kirk became involved with the group many years ago, when he purchased a kayak and was interested in finding someone to paddle with. The salespeople at the L.L. Bean store on the Wilmington waterfront introduced him to WTC. He attended a few kayaking events, but found the organization's hikes drew his interest more, and today he hikes two to three days a week on WTC-led hikes.
Members volunteers as Group Leaders to scout and plan a route, and then lead the event. Locations can be anywhere, near or far. Events could be a four-mile hike at a local park in the tri-state area, multi-day backpacking trips along the Appalachian Trail, or week-long cross-country skiing trips in upstate New York, Pennsylvania or Vermont.
Hiking trips seems to be the most plentiful and popular activities. Each Wednesday, there's a choice of two: An eight-to-10-mile hike, or a 12-to-15-mile hike. Each Thursday is a three-to-five-mile morning hike. Saturdays usually have at least two hikes planned. Half-day Sunday hikes are on the schedule, too.
The more popular locations are Brandywine Creek State Park, Fair Hill Natural Resources Area, White Clay Creek State Park and Preserve, Cheslen Preserve, Northern Delaware Greenway, Anson B. Nixon Park, Peacedale Preserve, and Auburn Heights Preserve.
The second Saturday of each month features a shorter New Members Hike. This is a great introduction to WTC and gives new members a chance to get their questions answered and meet a few of the current members before joining. These hikes are posted on the Public Monthly Calendar on the website.
On Tuesdays from April through November, WTC sponsors a bike ride. The scenic rides are on paved roads, usually a 25-mile loop with a stop for lunch somewhere. Delaware routes include Delaware's Amish Country and Middletown to the Sassafrass River. Examples of Maryland routes are loops from Chesapeake City or a Millington Farm Country ride. Popular rides in New Jersey are the Fort Mott Ride and the Ride of the Seven Wawas. Scenic rides in Pennsylvania include the “Witness Ride” in Amish country and the Landenberg to Lewisville Ride.
WTC's kayaking events span calm lake and river paddles and thrilling trips down Class III and IV whitewater. To ensure the safety of everyone involved, WTC offers training for new members that is mandatory in order to participate in any of the organization's paddling trips each spring. Once trained, members are welcome to attend all scheduled club paddles – some just day trips and others multi-day adventures. WTC even offers low-cost rentals of equipment needed for kayaking.
One of WTC's premier events is the annual Hike Across Delaware, held on the first Saturday in November. This hike follows the C&D Canal. Those who finish the hike can boast they walked across an entire state in one day.
As a supported one-way hike, participants park at the end of the hike and are bused to the start. Along the way there are rest stations with snacks, and lunch is provided. For those who cannot make the entire hike, transportation to the end point (and your vehicle) is provided. All participants get a T-shirt to commemorate their accomplishment. With new sections of trails now open, plans are in the works for this year to hike from Chesapeake City, Md., to the end of the trail at the mouth of the Delaware River -- about 17 miles total.
Each April, the End-to-End hike, a 36-mile, one-day supported hike along the Brandywine Trail, is another event planned by WTC. It starts in Ludwig's Corner in Pennsylvania, and ends at Brandywine Creek State Park in Delaware. For some, the goal is not just to finish, but to win the annual trophy for fastest male or fastest female. Only those who hike the trail (not run it) can take home the trophy. An average of 130 people start the hike each year, and between 75 and 90 of them finish. The average finishing time is about nine to 10 hours. The End-to-End challenge attracts hikers from across the country who want the challenge of this long hike in one day.
The scope of WTC has grown over the years to include preservation of the region's natural resources. The organization has adopted a section of the Appalachian Trail to maintain. It advocates for recreational resources throughout the region and supports the creation of new trails. WTC members can be seen hiking with clippers on local trails to keep them in tip-top shape.
WTC is just as much about the trails as it is about the people you meet while on the trails. Many lifelong friendships, even a few marriages, have started from a WTC event.
For 75 years, the organization has attracted people who want to enjoy the outdoors. Today they fulfill their mission with every event: “To provide opportunities for members to enjoy outdoor recreation and to promote and support the protection and restoration of places of natural beauty and interest.”
More information can be found on WTC's website, www.wilmingtontrailclub.org. From the “Hiking” tab on the left, click on “Public Hikes” to see upcoming opportunities. You can also find them on Facebook (search for Wilmington Trail Club).