GO TAKE A HIKE, Betty Wingfield
No literally, go take a hike! Hiking is a great form of exercise, and it can be done year round. It can be especially refreshing around the metropolitan region because of the seasonal changes. With a little preparation, you can enjoy the beauty of autumn or of a cold winter wonderland. Since there are not many people around in the woods, sounds travel, you can see and hear so much more. Look for rabbits, or squirrels searching for nuts, enjoy the birds chirping and perhaps you will even come upon a brook or stream and can hear the water flowing. Ahhh, all this beauty is so breathtaking.
What to wear – Should the weather be cool-to-cold, it is important to dress in layers so you can remove clothing as you warm up—and you will definitely warm up. To keep dry and warm, wear a cap/hat, gloves, wool socks, and hiking boots. Wearing wicking undergarments next to your skin; these will pull the dampness from your skin. The next layer should be cotton, and the outer layer can be a wind breaker or light weight jacket.
What to bring – Carry a backpack it will allow you to move hands free. I bet your child or grandchild will have one that you can borrow. Bring water, water, water, in small size bottles (8-12oz.). Your load will lighten as you walk, but never dispose of the bottles on the ground. Hikers never leave their carbon foot prints behind (i.e., any trash or mess). Pack healthy snacks like trail mix or protein bars. Bring handkerchiefs or a pieces of cotton fabric. One never knows what may occur (emergency or to wipe your nose). Tissues are messy and again you don’t want to throw anything on the ground.
What to bring back – One of the most important rules in the woods is: ”If you can carry it in full, you can carry it out empty.” You will probably find a trash can near the entrance to the park upon your departure.
Where to go – One of my favorite places to hike is the National Arboretum in Washington, DC. (446 acres in size, functions as a major center of botanical research on trees, shrubs, turf, and floral plants). This place is, in my opinion, one of the most underutilized havens in our national’s capital. Some local regional parks in Maryland include: Cosca Regional Park (short ups and downs and around the lake), Watkins Regional Park (covers more than 850 acres and offers all kinds of outdoor adventures), and Jug Bay Natural Area Trail (2,000-acre tract of land comprised of various natural habitats that buffer the Patuxent River). Here are a few in northern Virginia: Huntley Meadows Park (1,425 acres, vast wetlands and well known as a prime birding spot, with over 200 species identified in the park) and the painted Mount Vernon Trail (18.5-mile trail runs along the Potomac River, paralleling the George Washington Memorial Parkway leading to Mount Vernon. Sites along the trail includes: Theodore Roosevelt Island, Fort Hunt Park, Dyke Marsh, Old Town Alexandria, Dangerfield Island, Navy-Marine Memorial, and Lady Bird Johnson Park).
Precautions and Safety – Colored painted trail markers on tree trunks are your guide to keep you on the right path. These markers are very important if you are unfamiliar with the area and will bring you back to your point of origin. You may also find signs that tell you how many miles the trail is, and the signs will also tell you how many miles you have traveled. Different color markers inform you whether the trail is easy to hard. Blue is the easiest trail. Bring your cell phone in case of emergency but turn it off or keep it on vibrate so that you can enjoy the serenity and beauty of the hike.
There is no need to be fearful; however, it is better to be safe than sorry by properly preparing for your venture. During your hike, you will probably encounter an occasional park police car or a park police on horseback.
So gather some buddies, strap on your backpack, dress for the weather, and GO TAKE A HIKE!
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