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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Walk Like a Camel

IMG_9248People walk for a variety of reasons, although in general, probably not as often as they should. There’s the walking that has to be done, the type we take for granted and hardly even notice. There’s walking for exercise or leisure – think of a good long hike that really gets the blood pumping, or a stroll on the beach whose intended effect is the opposite.

In his essay “Walking,” Thoreau describes what he calls the “art” of walking:

“I have met with but one or two persons in the course of my life who understood the art of Walking, that is, of talking walks,–who had a genius, so to speak, for sauntering, which word is beautifully derived ‘from idle people who roved the country, in the Middle Ages, and asked charity, under pretense of going a la Sainte Terre,’ to the Holy Land, till the children exclaimed, ‘There goes a Sainte-Terrer,’ a Saunterer, a Holy-Lander.

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Unexpected Souvenirs

Two years ago, I wandered from a laundromat in Southwest Harbor, Maine, into an adjoining bar I’d been avoiding for the past hour. It was mid-day, a rainy one at that (actually, the rain was partly what had brought us to the laundromat), and the sounds emanating from the bar were a loud mix of music, television, and voices. It didn’t seem like the type of place I really wanted to wander into in the middle of the day, but I really needed to use the restroom.

So, while Chris waited with the laundry-in-progress, I hesitantly walked through the divide. It ended up being possibly the best decision either of us had made all day.

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Planned Walks, ie, Hiking Vacations

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Guidebooks galore.

Everyday hiking and walking, as in the sort I might do after work or on the weekend, requires little or no planning. Obviously it’s important to make sure storms aren’t imminent, or trails aren’t closed for some reason, but beyond that, it’s easy just to pick up and go.

Trip planning is different – somewhat. Certainly I treat it differently, in that I take care to note which trails are “must do,” which look like nice backups, and so on. But in some ways, it ends up being similar to everyday experiences due to such factors as unexpected weather and individual whims.

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National Park Webcams

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From Glacier National Park, the Lake McDonald webcam, March 27, 2015

Before we went to Glacier in Montana last summer, I was already poring over webcam images featured on the park’s NPS website. Traveling there increased the frequency of my habit. Now, when I open one of my internet browsers, my home page is the Glacier webcam site. Some days, I’ll check it several times, just because. As a result, I’ve got a wide variety of webcam images saved on my computer. Each one is fascinating in its own way, and sometimes I have to stop myself from saving every one I see.

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Compare, for example, this webcam image from December 11, 2014, to the one above. Then, take a look at the one below to see what the lake looks like when it isn’t reflecting the entire world.
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September 5, 2014

Luckily, NPS makes it easy for anyone to develop this habit through a consolidated list of their park webcams.

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