Warm winter solstice brings out surfers, cyclists, hikers

Out of the spray and into the barrel. BY DENNIS FORNEY
December 27, 2013

What a wild week of weather. Last weekend, people were out in shirtsleeves. Temperatures reached into the mid-70s and broke 100-year-old records for the first official day of winter. At Herring Point in Cape Henlopen State Park, dozens of surfers took advantage of the warm weather and a terrific break fueled by a steady southwest wind. I watched one young surfer catch a wave just off the rock jetty. He rode it northward for at least 150 yards. Sweet.

Meanwhile, the state can’t finish its connector trail between the Gordons Pond parking lot at the south end of the park and the new parking lot opposite the Herring Point entrance fast enough. Cyclists and hikers alike took to the marked trail during the weekend’s warm days to enjoy nature and watch the construction progress.

The big-stone phase of the 10-12-foot-0wide trail is just about complete. Contractors have been working from both ends, laying down a geotextile fabric as the base for the big stones. On top of those they will place a layer of finer rock and dust to create a smooth surface for walking and bicycling.

The next phase will involve the sinking of metal screw piles in the marshier section of the trail. When those piles have been placed, they will be decked – starting at the Gordons Pond end - for a boardwalk-like surface that will cross a section of salt marsh just westward of the walking dunes. Those dunes are inching their way from the ocean into the marsh, devouring pines and scrub oaks at a glacial pace.

At the northern end of the connector trail, the new porous-asphalt parking lot is already accommodating trail and Herring Point users. It is a welcome addition for the dozens of Herring Point surfers, boogie boarders and skimboarders who regularly park up and down the narrow road leading to the Herring Point entrance and then hoof it with loaded arms to get to the popular beach.

As large as that new lot is - with spaces for at least 100 vehicles - it will still be overflowing on holiday weekends in the summer.

Owls and snow geese

As we hiked along the dune trail Sunday morning, hundreds of thousands of snow geese in noisy white clouds lifted above the canal and treeline. The green pine border marks the Wolfe Neck Wastewater Treatment facility. The geese like the lagoons there and trade back and forth between them, Gordons Pond and the ocean between the beach and Hen and Chickens Shoals. There are times great rafts of the snows, looking like an offshore ice floe, just like to bob up and down on the waves in the saltwater.

We kept our eyes peeled for one of the snowy owls that has been hanging out in the park this winter, but to no avail. Tony Pratt posted a photo of one of the owls in the dune grass that he found on Saturday. That image is in Tony’s blog at We weren’t so lucky.

I did see the trails of two animals intersect across the face of a dune. The X pattern kept me in the spirit of Christmas and reminded me that the X in Xmas - a common abbreviation for Christmas - comes, according to Wikipedia, from the Greek letter Chi, which is the first letter of the Greek word that comes into English as Christ.

Take a look below for a picture of the crossing trails and other pictures of the trail work and surfing last weekend at Herring Point. Enjoy these slow days between Christmas and New Year’s Day. Get outside, get active and get high on nature.

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