Consulting the weather forecast is always a good idea when planning hikes (or any outdoor activities), but especially during the winter season. Even then, you just never know what you’re going to get.
A couple of weekends ago we were getting intermittent rain, so to avoid muddy trails, we went on an urban hike through Alexandria, tracing the line of Civil War fortifications from Seminary Ridge to Shuter’s Hill. There’s little left to see of most of the fortifications today: except for Fort Ward, which is nicely preserved, there are only faint outlines on the ground where Fort Ellsworth once stood, and the Fort Williams and Fort Worth are gone altogether. Nevertheless, it made for a nice hike up and down the hills that dominate the approaches to the city of Alexandria along VA-236 (Duke Street).
While we were doing that hike someone suggested going to Burke Lake the next weekend. A great idea, but with one reservation: since there are fewer visitors during the winter, many parks, including Burke Lake, sometimes lock all their facilities up. (I guess the reasoning is that the few visitors willing to brave the cold are also willing to pee in the woods.) To get around this we hiked from South Run Park, which has a nice recreation center with an indoor pool. Starting from there adds 3 miles onto the 5-mile hike around Burke Lake, but on the bitter cold, windy day it turned out to be, nobody minded the extra distance.
This past weekend was a study in contrasts. The forecast was for a clear, sunny Saturday, so without muddy trails to worry about, a hike along Billy Goat Trails B and C in Carderock would be just the thing. As it turned out, Saturday was a cold day, with children playing ice hockey along one stretch of the C&O Canal.
Sunday was supposed to be colder and rainy, possibly icy, so an urban hike through the Woodley Park and Woodland Normanstone districts in Washington DC seemed to be just the thing. Our route took us through Tregaron Conservancy and Dumbarton Oaks, as well as a nice stretch through Rock Creek Park. Dumbarton Oaks’ gardens are free to visit during the winter, and its museum, in addition to having fascinating exhibits of Byzantine and Pre-Columbian art, is a nice place to warm up. But Sunday’s temperatures soared above 60 degrees — a brief but glorious reprieve from winter!