It's been a freakishly warm December here on the East Coast and with the summer-like temperatures coming right in the middle of winter break, I knew I had to take advantage! There were a few warm days before Christmas, but the warm weather came with pouring rain so it wasn't good camping weather. After Christmas it looked like the warmth would continue AND the rain was going to stop!
One of the challenges of winter camping is finding open campgrounds. I knew the campground at Assateague Island National Seashore was open year round and the beach is somewhat on the way home from my parents house in Williamsburg.
We'd had a nice family Christmas with bike rides, Scattergories, fettuccine, and way too much fudge!
When I left about 2:00pm on Saturday it was misty and cloudy, but the temp was in the 60s. As I got closer to the coast the fog got thicker and thicker!
Just before the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel I experienced my first inspection station for my propane tank! The fog was thick going across the bridge that I could hardly see the water! There were a few hardy fishermen out there though!
The Cheasapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel was more of the same, fog as far as they eye can see - which wasn't far! This time however, no one inspected my rig to ensure that the propane was off, they just collected $13 and let me drive across. The Cheasapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel is neat because it's almost 18 miles across! It reminded me of the Overseas Highway in the Keys. There's even an island in the middle with a rest stop, gift shop and a resteraunt!
On the other side of the bay the road went further inland and the fog lifted! It was just cloudy and occasionally drizzly!
The Long Dark Night
Another challenge of winter camping, particularly in mid-December is how to deal with the long night. Sunset of Saturday was at 4:45 and sunrise Sunday was at 7:15 so 14.5 hours of dark!
Since I didn't leave until 2 I was going to spend at least the first hour of dark driving. This is good and bad. It meant less time to occupy myself in the campground, but I'm not a huge fan of driving at night and I really don't like coming into a campground after dark. I'd been to Assateague before so I kinda knew where things were and I was glad because it was really dark out there. The fog/mist and the clouds blocked out the full moon and there was no artificial light.
The park and the campgrounds were pretty much deserted! I saw 5 other campsites occupied! I found a site in the Oceanside campground that was right by the path over the dunes to the ocean! It was a big wide site with no trees or other obstacles, I was able to back in and get the RV perfectly in the site on the first try!
It was so dark and dreary it felt like it was midnight, but it was only 6:00! I started the generator and heated up dinner. I opened the windows and once I turned off the generator I could hear the ocean crashing right outside! After dinner I'd thought I'd go for a walk in the campground.
I grabbed my raincoat and headlamp and headed out. It didn't last long. The mist was so thick I couldn't see anything and the headlamp made it worse. I walked about 5 feet from the van and decided that I'd just go back in and read.
I was reading Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica - it's a psychological thriller and it was very good and not really scary, but reading the last 100 pages sitting in a deserted campground on a very dark and rainy night was a bit creepy! Luckily I had Becoming Chloe by Catherine Ryan Hyde with was more warm and fuzzy, to start when I finished Pretty Baby.
About 10 I decided it was time to go to sleep. I slept great. I had the window open and there was a chilly breeze - it was in the 50s all night - but I was in my sleeping bag. I woke up at 6 and it was still dark.
View from my campsite, if it wasn't foggy I would have had an ocean view.
I made the coffee and got dressed and settled in to read some more. Soon the sky was getting lighter and the sun was up! The fog however hadn't budged. If anything, it was thicker!
As soon as it was good and light out, I went for a walk around the campground and out to the ocean. It was too cold for wading, but otherwise pleasant, even if I couldn't see anything.
The Sun Comes Out
It was mid-morning when I started up the road to Cape Henlopen State Park. I drove up Route 1 to Ocean City and then up through the other Delware beaches. It took about an hour and a half and slowly the clouds lifted and the sun came out! By the time I got to Cape Henlopen the only clouds were high and thin! The sky was blue and the sun was shining! It was also quickly warming up!
I changed into bike shorts and a t-shirt and took off on my bike! I had no plan, no map, I just followed the bike path.
Cape Henlopen is a great place to ride your bike! They have several scenic bike paths - paved, crushed cinder, and totally off road - that can be linked together to get a good length.
I started on the paved Bike Loop and rode it around to the main beach area. I walked up to the beach but didn't go out on the sand (I'd had enough sand this morning!). Then I had to ride on the park road a bit to get to "The Point". I could have walked further out, but that would have meant walking on the sand, which I didn't want to do. I went back to the bike loop and continued around to the campground. I took a detour into the campground to check it out. After the campground I headed out the Salt Marsh Spur. This path was off road, but it was still smooth and easy to bike. That brought me to the Gordon Pond Loop. This part was the best part! It was wide crushed cinder and wound through the marshy area! It was 3 miles down to another parking lot, then you had to ride back! When I got back to the van it was earlier than I'd planned to leave so I rode the paved bike loop (3.3 miles) again! All told it was 16.99 miles! Should have ridden a few more feet to get an even 17, but my GPS is on my phone and it's in my backpack so I don't see it until I'm done.
It was 3 hours home and I'd wanted to get to the Bay Bridge before dark. The route before the bridge is a lot of country roads and it would be easy to get lost, but after the bridge it's just US 50 to the beltway, I've driven it bunches of times and don't mind driving it after dark.
I left Cape Henlopen at 2:30 and crossed the bridge with the sun low in the sky! I made it almost to the beltway before it was good and dark. It was stil 70* when I got home so I was able to unload the van while it was still warm! It's supposed to get cold tomorrow!