Five for Friday: Walking is Wonderful

C&O Towpath
C&O Towpath, north of Violette’s Lock

It’s been a hectic month, so I thought I’d go with an easy read for today. Nothing too taxing, just a celebration of the worlds that open up when you have a chance to take a walk.

1. After the rains of the previous week, we finally made it down to the river last weekend and ended up just north of Violette’s Lock, on the C&O Canal towpath. There was plenty of mud to dodge, but the weather was fantastic, and the humidity and insects are still at manageable levels. The river, though–the river was rushing, carrying so much water and debris following the deluge. It felt good to be out and just walk. Certainly one of those days that made me wish I had a pack full of food and water, with plans to be out for hours. The cherry on top was spotting the first oriole of the season, not to mention leafy green views like the one above.

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Visiting the U.S. National Arboretum

Blue bells at the National Arboretum

We visited the U.S. National Arboretum in northeast DC last weekend on a gloriously sunny day. It had been at least eight years or so since we’d been there, and it was refreshing to see it again. Living in the suburbs sometimes makes me feel as though everything in the city is light years away. Every time we’re in DC, though, I remember that it’s not, which makes me inclined to head in on a whim more often.

The Arboretum is a good place for whims. First, it’s free. Then, if you walk in any direction once you’re there, you’ll find a great view, regardless of whether it’s the blossoming tree just before you, or a vista spanning a section of the Anacostia River. I highly recommend it as a day trip for those in the DMV region, or as an add-on to any out-of-towner’s schedule during a visit. The Arboretum is hilly, so walking it serves as a decent workout as long as you don’t drive from one spot to the next (and if you don’t need to, you shouldn’t!). Although visitors could previously take a tram tour, the website indicates that they have been suspended for the 2018 season.

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High Divide, or the Hike That Wasn’t

Heading toward Sol Duc Falls
Heading toward Sol Duc Falls

I am not Bear Grylls. I have no desire to be. I do not feel at all compelled to battle the elements in bizarre ways, to drink my own urine. Frankly, when I go out for a walk or begin a longer hike, I’m mainly just looking for a way to challenge myself a bit, relax, and enjoy the scenery (and yes, those first two can co-exist!). I don’t mind weather that’s a bit off or scenery that’s not as grand as I’d hoped. I do mind constant rain, cold, and fogged in views from the edges of steep mountainsides that make you lose all perspective — both physical and mental.

On that note, I should point out that this post’s title isn’t true: we hiked the popular High Divide (Seven Lakes Basin) trail in Olympic National Park, and while we didn’t complete the loop that meets up with Sol Duc River trail head, we hiked the section of the trail most renowned for its views of Mount Olympus. In the 2008 edition of Hiking Olympic National Park (revised just last month), Eric Molvar writes that “views of the Olympus massif expand to fill the entire southern horizon as the path crosses the slopes high above the Hoh River valley.” We saw nothing. Our intended two-night backpack turned into one very long (approx. 17-mile), very wet and cold, and very disheartening day that landed us back in the same place we’d begun that morning.

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Apgar Lookout

I’m not writing much this week or next because I’m busy hiking – well, not as of the writing, but as of the posting. So this is actually a look back at a hike from last summer, Apgar Lookout in Glacier National Park. As hikes go, it was one of the less rewarding ones we did in the park. As days go, it was one of my favorites.

Flowers along the Apgar Lookout trail.
Flowers along the Apgar Lookout trail.

The day was a scorcher and we got a bit of a late start. I always say I’m going to get up early and get going – definitely wishful thinking on my part. So as we set out, it was hot, bright, and sunny, although also a bit hazy and smoky from forest fires in nearby states and provinces. The Apgar Lookout trail is on the west side of the park, and is just over 7 miles round trip. But those are some steep 7 miles, for sure. Before beginning, we had driven to what we thought was the trail head at a horse corral. We were all ready to go when we encountered a very tanned and in-shape man with white hair who wore a gold cross on a chain and swung a bright yellow shirt as he walked around.

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Hiking Harpers Ferry (and McKee-Beshers WMA)

Butterflies at the Mckee-Beshers WMA in Poolesville, MD.
Butterflies at the Mckee-Beshers WMA in Poolesville, MD.

The greater DC area is currently in the throes of some hot and humid weather – that is, it’s summer. Much of this summer has been rainy, though; we got about a foot of rain in June alone. So any chance to get outside has been welcomed, even if it has been hot. I’ll get to Harpers Ferry in a minute, but first, sunflowers.

Today we walked around a bit at the McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area in Poolesville, MD. We were on the hunt for sunflowers. A former student of mine had posted a photo of them online about two weeks ago, and yesterday I learned that these fields stay in bloom just about two weeks, so off we went. I’ve also seen the area discussed on local online media lately, and indeed, many people we passed on the trails or in parking areas were also looking for sunflowers. By this afternoon, most flowers’ heads were facing downward, and while I know this is likely just because they’ve been in bloom for a couple of weeks already, I like to imagine that in today’s heat – which felt like 100 degrees – they were simply trying to stay cool.

Some look up, some look down.
Some look up, some look down.

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