My dream job has probably always been to be a photographer for National Geographic someday. That being said, I just biked into White Clay between classes one day and snapped this picture on my phone because, why not? There is an explorer inside of everyone – a piece of them that’s waiting around to see the world the way they want to. I’m here to say, don’t wait. Hop on your bike or just your own two legs, and find your future adventure today.
I grew up in the same place I now attend college – Newark, Delaware. But a lot of times I find myself questioning if it is really the same. As a runner and a general lover of the outdoors, I have often found myself at home in White Clay Creek State Park. My family made a tradition of running there every Thanksgiving in our own “Turkey Trot.” I got lost along its trails with a couple of friends one time and ended up travelling in three different states on one run. I ran there, I raced there, and I return there again and again.
And each time it surprises me. The day I took this picture I had a spontaneous break between classes that I was not expecting to have in my busy schedule. So, after organic chemistry, I went to Einstein’s Bagels, like anyone granted with a sudden burst of free time would, got a pretzel bagel with garden veggie cream cheese, stuffed it in my backpack, and took off on my bike, feeling like a true adventurer. With only a brief delay at the endless stoplight across Cleveland Avenue, I was soon flying by the North Campus bridge and suddenly engulfed by the feelings of being outdoors.
Of course, before I even made it past civilization, squirrels were darting right in front of my bike, as if it would be their only chance to cross the street when there was no one else on the roads. The squirrels of White Clay are a little different than the campus squirrels, though. Instead of racing across streets, they were leaping from branch to branch in the canopy above me as I entered their home, shouting to one another and ignoring me completely. I pulled my bike over just a few hundred yards after the base of the hill that led from campus grounds into this natural wonderland. I locked my bike to a tree, scouted out a good route down to the water, and hopped onto a rock where I sat with my backpack open, bagel and notebook out. I checked my watch. It had been about seven minutes since I left Einstein’s Bagels. And I was already basically living my dream.
In a schedule that I had normally planned down to the minute, I was being spontaneous. I was making time for myself and getting work done all at once. I had a project for my Wildlife Conservation class that involved observing wildlife. I was nervous that I didn’t go deep enough into the park to really see anything, but in just the hour that I was there that day, I filled pages of my notebook with things I’d seen and questioned. From patterns of water striders perched on the water’s surface, to standoffs between ducks and geese, to glimpses of ripples, of wings, to the sounds of birds and frogs chirping—I had more than I needed for my project. I had what I needed for the day; I had time, time for me to live and to see the world that I wanted to. And when it was time to go, I hopped on my bike with fifteen minutes until class and was still the first one there.
White Clay Creek State Park has been the craziest constant in my life. Underrecognized and underappreciated by even me, this park can be a home away from home. It is a place that connects me to home, literally, as I used the trails to bike to my house one day, and on a more spiritual level as I find myself at peace there, where I know I’ve been before and where I know I can always return. I encourage all who have and all who haven’t to walk at least five steps into this wonderful preserve of nature at its finest and see something new or in a new way. I hope everyone can find somewhere out there what they’ve been looking for inside of themselves.