Five for Friday: National Trails Day and More

Black Hills Regional Park, May 2018
Kayaks on the water at Black Hills Regional Park in May

1. I’d like to start by posting a note of gratitude for the many easily accessible parks in Maryland. While parts of the state are most certainly being overdeveloped, there is still, for now anyway, an abundance of public land for enjoyment of the outdoors.

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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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Why write about walking?

Writing about walking sounds mundane. After all, walking is something most people do out of necessity–usually to get from here to there. But walking with intention–walking to notice, to experience the surrounding world, to be–is a less frequent occurrence. Why go out of the way to put so much thought into something that can be done mindlessly and for a single purpose? One reason is that walking can serve so much more than the purpose of necessity. Indeed, walking is activity; it is meditation; it is observation, inspiration, and immersion in the world that is all around. Writing about it only solidifies the experience, a sentiment that Anais Nin aptly expressed when she said that “we write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospection.”

Numerous studies have suggested a link between walking and both physical and mental well-being, but the benefits are tangible without ever having read the research. Taking time out of hectic days to be outside and move about is refreshing on many levels. It provides time and space for thought and reflection or simply peering through nature’s looking glass.

Admittedly, many of my own walks are, in fact, multi-hour hikes, and some turn into short climbs or jogs. But they all occupy the same space in my mind that says, “This is good–this is fun!” and they make me want to keep moving. I invite you to share in these walks and other walking-related content on this site, for there is more beyond walking than the walk itself.

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