The past three weekends have been filled with hikes, as Mother Nature put on her Autumnal show of colors before finally turning the temperatures down to zero. Here’s a few highlights:
Brookside Gardens, in Wheaton-Glenmont, MD, with its manicured, terraced gardens, is the sort of place you’d normally think of visiting in Spring, right? Maybe so, but it’s beautiful during Fall as well, and the adjacent Wheaton Park provides lots of room to stretch your legs and get in a pleasant hike. The hike varied a bit from what was planned, but still wound up being almost 5 miles as plotted; a little more if you were wandering around.
Rock Creek Park
Rock Creek Park is a must-do every Fall; the water rushing through the rocky stream bed and over waterfalls against the backdrop of the colorful leaves is a sight not to be missed. A lot of Beach Drive, which runs through the center of the park, is closed to auto traffic during the weekends, so there’s plenty of room for a large group of folks to get together and enjoy the hike. The Cleveland Park Metro Station is a convenient place to start and finish. If you use the Melvin Hazen Trail to get down into the creek bed and hike north to the Park Police headquarters and return, it’s a tidy 6-mile hike, with the familiar landmarks of Boulder Bridge and Peirce Mill along the way, and plenty of nice places along Connecticut Ave NW for a bite to eat afterwards.
Fort Ethan Allen
Actually, Fort Ethan Allen Park was merely our point of departure, since the Madison Community Center, with its amenities and parking, was too convenient to pass up. What we were really up to was a hike that used Glebe Road and Potomac Overlook Regional Parks, along with a few side streets, to connect Donaldson Run, Gulf Branch, and a slice of the Potomac Heritage Trail. The stretch of the Potomac Heritage Trail from Donaldson Run upstream to Gulf Branch is fairly rugged, and the initial ascent up Gulf Branch can be a little challenging. An interesting spot to visit along the way is the Robert Walker Log House and adjacent forge used by the Blacksmiths’ Guild of the Potomac. The hike route was only about 4.5 miles, but because of the rugged terrain and rock scrambles, it took around 3 hours to get all 50 of us through to the end.
Down to zero: Carderock
I’m pretty sure this past weekend was the first hike in which when we started, around 10 am, it was still below freezing. We started in Carderock Recreation Area, which is in Great Falls National Park. It’s very convenient to Washington DC and the perfect access point to Billy Goat Trail, in between sections B and C. From the parking lot you can do one, then the other, for a nice 6-mile hike.
We’ve been doing two hikes a week all year, regardless of the weather, and the goal for the winter is to continue at that pace. The next big event on the calendar is our annual “Christmas in the City” hike, a walk around the National Mall in Washington DC to visit the National Christmas Tree, the US Capitol Christmas Tree, and the US Botanic Garden, to enjoy its annual “Season’s Greenings” display. Should be wintry fun!