Hiking Maryland and Delaware:
A Guide to Maryland and Delaware’s Greatest Hiking Adventures — Falcon
by David Edwin Lillard
Reviewed by Patrick Bagley
“This is an odd little hike that leaves you wondering what ecosystem you are in” (110). While arm-chair hiking through David Lillard’s walking guide to the Mid-Atlantic states, passages like this one made me want to leave the La-Z-Boy and check out the dozens of quirky trekking spots in Maryland and Delaware. And that says a lot, as I am what the author calls a “mountain snob.”
Lillard, a former president of the American Hiking Society and Mid-Atlantic resident, describes people like me as those “who believe the quality of the hiking experience is directly proportional to the elevation above sea level” (3). And while Lillard concedes that yes, few out-of-staters make special trips to trek in his relatively flat home region; he does say, no, the outdoors in Maryland and Delaware aren’t dull.
His guidebook, Hiking Maryland and Delaware, focuses on “getting the most out of hiking” (back cover) between Western Maryland’s highland to Delaware Bay for all ability levels. According to his book, this means that while the region’s walks are good, they become great when coupled with rich local history, surprisingly remote woodlands, hidden marshes, and scenic vistas.
Highlighting all of the sweeping views and cascading brooks in two states is a daunting objective, yet this well-organized guidebook makes small work of this large task. Like most Falcon Guides, Hiking Maryland and Delaware opens with a user-friendly “Overview Map.” In this case, the map is of Maryland and Delaware and is dotted with numbers that symbolize where each of the hiking spots are located relative to major cities like Baltimore and Washington DC and major throughways such as I-70 and Rt. 113. These numbered destinations are then referenced in a handy “Trail Finder,” a chart that lists the name, location, and various distinguishing features of each trail.
Both of these features (which are prefaced with helpful instructions) make trip planning a cinch. For example, if I was visiting my extended family from Baltimore and we wanted to go for a day hike, I’d open the guidebook to the overview map and see eight destinations surrounding the I-695 belt. Now, suppose I want to find a hike where I’d be rewarded by an open vista, but I also want the walk to be suitable for my young cousin. Well, based on those criteria, the Trail Finder indicates that we should go to Location 26, Soldier’s Delight Natural Environment Area.
Following the Overview Map and Trail Finder, the majority of this 228-page guidebook is dedicated to providing all the necessary information about the 62 locations in a format that is “easy to find, easy to follow” (3). To do that, each entry is kick-started by a list of helpful facts such as the length of the hike, the best season to visit, and any other special considerations. Lillard includes detailed driving directions to get to the trailhead, and a sharp–and often entertaining–description of the hiking trail. What really makes this guidebook invaluable, however, are the custom-made maps of each trail and mile-by-mile directions.
The clean, digestible trail descriptions are often complimented with photographs. While these visuals certainly help depict each destination, this guidebook could be greatly improved with better shots. In this second-edition, all images were donated from the less-than-flashy Delaware and Maryland municipalities.
Despite photos that leave something to be desired, Hiking Maryland and Delaware certainly fills a niche. The outstanding meat-and-potatoes of the guidebook–the trail descriptions–make the book’s price of $16.95 seem like a drop in the bucket, yet Lillard seals the deal by peppering the text with luring historical facts. For instance, one of his suggested walks follows the Northern Central line, a railroad that, after being completed in 1838, carried Abraham Lincoln’s body from Washington to his burial site in Illinois.
The helpful hints in this guidebook are also a strong selling point. For instance, Lillard builds upon the common advice of carrying two water bottles in your rucksack by suggesting sipping a third bottle in the car and at the trailhead. He also provides creative solutions for hiking with kids, such as letting them linger to play games such as “Pooh-sticks” in creeks and by bringing a hand lens and naturalist guide for them to marvel over the bugs and plants they may encounter.
And about that “odd little hike” that first piqued my interest in the hiking around the mid-Atlantic? That is found in the Soldier’s Delight Natural Environment Area, the location I hope to share with my young cousins from Baltimore. Of course, I will be relying on my copy of Hiking Maryland and Delaware for information on how to get there and what trails to take.
David Edwin Lillard
Hiking Maryland and Delaware:
A Guide to Maryland and Delaware’s Greatest Hiking Adventures — Falcon Guide
(Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot Press, 2003)
$16.95 228 pages