History in Delaware: The Bryan’s Field Loop

51685652_429529294457644_4051570670406991872_nDespite being the first state to join the Union in 1787, historical sites in Delaware are surprisingly difficult to find.  First State National Park certainly exists, though it’s a relatively recent addition to our tourism catalogue.  White Clay Creek State Park contains one such spot, though: a Mason-Dixon Historic site.  Parts of the famous line run through the park, not to mention a trail bearing the same name that runs into Pennsylvania.  If you want to visit this spot—which is marked very clearly on maps of White Clay Creek—the  parking area I’d recommend is this week’s hike nexus: Possum Hill.  Unfortunately, Google Maps seems to have trouble with where exactly that is.  Fret not; I’ll provide you with all the information you’ll need right here.

51882913_403152626922148_4540203546280198144_nThe map and I had a small misunderstanding, so rather than parking at Possum Hill, Morgan and I parked at a lot called “Nine-Foot Road.”  We had to drive into the woods a bit for this one as well, but rather than back behind houses and the like (like Middle Run), the turn from the main road is onto the driveway.  That being said, it’s a half paved driveway, so this may not be the best area to park after a rainstorm (or snowfall).  Instead, I’d recommend the Possum Hill parking area, as it also possesses the trailhead for the loop we walked.  However, it’s further from a major road than Nine-Foot, so take your pick.  To get to Possum Hill, start at the intersection of Possum Park Rd. and Paper Mill Rd.  Head away from Newark, with the Walgreen’s on your right.  You’re going to turn left onto Smiths Mill Rd. (not Smithmill, which is right).  The little parking lot will be on your left.

51567859_619698475167884_8158722164699168768_n.jpgStarting from this lot, and the Bryan’s Field Trailhead, if it’s the monument you’re looking for, head left, around the little pond you’ll be able to see from your car.  The Post Mark’d West Marker is not actually on the main trail, but sits on a cutoff that makes the loop significantly shorter.  It’s not far down the cutoff, and it’s absolutely worth the extra ten minutes of hiking it adds.  Boards proclaim that this is where Mason and Dixon began their famous survey, at a benchmark in the middle of a farmer’s field.  It’s now full of trees, but the site remains.

51697758_352048132191591_3379417557122416640_nAt perhaps the furthest extreme of the full loop is an intersection that baffled us.  The map shows a hairpin turn with a connector shooting off from it, but the Bryan’s Field trail appears to be a complete circuit.  What’s most confusing is the addition of a “skills trail,” which as it turns out, overlaps with Bryan’s Field, and could possibly more accurately be called a section of it.  As this sounded to us like some sort of training obstacle course set up for educating park rangers (or something), we didn’t go that direction, instead winding up on the connector that takes you right back to that intersection where my directions started.  We wound up having to cut across a fallow cornfield and trek through a good bit of mud to get back to our car (which was luckily at Nine-Foot).  My advice is to brave the skills trail; at least you won’t get lost.

Difficulties aside, this loop is easily the prettiest we’ve walked, especially considering its relative simplicity and historical significance.  The path meanders around ponds (which were frozen on our walk), skirts strangely twisted trees, and crosses streams more times than I cared to count.  Much of it is among the trees, but there are field sections as well, and even one that’s right between the two.  This is a hike Morgan and I will be going back to, if only to do it correctly.

This dock is on the far side of the pond from the Bryan’s Field Trailhead; were it not for the trees, the lot would be in this photo.

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