Wednesday, April 03, 2013
Surely last week’s surprise snowstorm was the last roar of March and we can rely on April to behave like a lamb. Yes, spring is finally here so it’s time to get out our boots – hiking boots that is. My favorite outdoor activity in spring is hiking, and we are lucky to live in an area with many lovely walks, as well as challenging trails, close by. If you are new to this area or just want to discover a new destination, a good place to start is the library. Hike on over to the aisle with Dewey Decimal number 917.52 (a librarian would be happy to direct you) where you will find guidebooks specifically for hikers, like 50 Hikes in Maryland: walks, hikes, and backpacks from the Allegheny Plateau to the Atlantic Ocean. There are also guides to the Appalachian Trail, the C & O Canal, dog-friendly trails and more. Maryland and Virginia both offer a wealth of State Parks with a variety of scenery and activities for all ages. Cunningham Falls, an easy day trip, and Calvert Cliffs, where you can collect fossils on the beach, are two of my family’s favorites.
I have a particular fondness for hiking to waterfalls. This dates back to my first hiking trip when I was a teenager. My friends and I backpacked through the English Lake District staying at Youth Hostels, including the most remote in England, Black Sail, a stone cottage high on the fells. Bathroom facilities consisted of the stream steps from the door, which we shared with the sheep. I will never forget my first sight of Scale Force, the highest waterfall in the Lakes. Years later I tried to reproduce this experience with my children, but they were at an awkward age when they could see no point in climbing sheep dung covered hillsides in the pouring rain. “Only English people would call this fun,” protested my daughter. We had to turn back before seeing Scale Force and I’ve regretted it ever since. But early experiences do stick even if you don’t enjoy them at the time. My daughter is now an enthusiastic hiker. She and her family, including a baby and two little boys, just enjoyed a weekend escape at Deep Creek Lake. Despite the cold they hiked to Muddy Creek Falls, the highest free-falling waterfall in Maryland. A few years ago I visited Shenandoah National Park in Virginia and hiked to seven waterfalls over three days. Waterfall enthusiasts can find plenty of places to visit in Waterfalls of the Mid-Atlantic States: 200 Falls in Maryland, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. For the hardiest adventurers, check out Waterfall Wonderland.
For those seeking gentler walks closer to home consult 24 Great Walks in Washington D.C. and the Montgomery County Parks website. Gardens are always a relaxing place to visit for a stress-free walk. Personal favorites include Brookside Gardens and the National Arboretum. A useful guide is Gardenwalks in the Mid-Atlantic States: Beautiful Gardens from New York to Washington D.C.
My interest in hiking wanes with the rising temperature as the Washington summer’s humid heat descends like a soggy blanket. Then it’s time to do some vicarious hiking from the comfort of an air-conditioned retreat. Even if you’ve already read Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail, it is a classic well worth rereading for its good-natured wit. Also full of humor is Christopher Buckley’s irreverent walking guide to Washington D.C. Washington Schlepped Here. Of course vicarious hikes need not be confined to the local area. Venture further afield with Unforgettable Walks to Take Before You Die and Walking the World’s Most Exceptional Trails, which cover adventurous walks across the globe.
I can always visit my beloved Lake District with Martin Edwards’ mystery series beginning with The Cipher Garden. The series features DCI Hannah Scarlett and Oxford historian Daniel Kind who buys a cottage in the Lake District hoping for a quiet life. Of course that is not what he gets. Aside from the pleasure of the well-contrived mystery plots, the appeal of the series is in how Edwards’ so powerfully evokes the landscape and history of the Lake District. A particularly nostalgic reading experience that I love to return to is Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons series. These children’s books written in the 1930’s about a group of friends who holiday in the Lake District are what inspired me to go on my teenage hiking trip. Do you have memories of a favorite place? Check the fiction database NoveList Plus or ask a librarian to help you find reading that will take you there on a virtual journey.
Happy hiking and happy reading!
Wednesday, September 05, 2012
Summer has sped right on by, the kids are back in school, and baseball season is winding down, which must mean that fall is right around the corner. With other deadlines and a big late summer vacation beckoning, I've decided to dig into the archives for some of this post, so if some of it sounds familiar, I hope you'll indulge me.
Normally in our area fall means football (be it Redskins, Ravens, Terps, or your favorite team) but for the first time in at least 43 years, Washington's guys on the gridiron will have to compete with their ballpark counterparts for attention. With any luck the playoffs will beckon both the Washington Nationals and the Baltimore Orioles. Anyone for a "Battle of the Beltways" World Series? While the area's sports nuts will be brimming with excitement, there are plenty of other ways to frolic this fall.
Getting outdoors and enjoying the fresh air is one of the joys of fall. There are plenty of places in our area to take advantage of it too. Climb up Sugarloaf Mountain and enjoy the scenic vistas while catching a glimpse of soaring hawks before they migrate south for the winter. Closer to home, take a stroll or a ride on horseback through Wheaton Regional Park or Rock Creek Park.
A Youtuber's Hike on Sugarloaf Mountain
Fall also brings with it one of my favorite childhood excursions....visiting the local apple orchard and picking (and eating) fresh, juicy apples. My favorite orchard even has cute farm animals, including some acrobatic goats! After you've picked your apples, come in and visit the library to find that perfect apple pie recipe. Yum!
Here's to a leaf loving, apple munching, colorful autumn!
Wednesday, August 15, 2012
Are your eyes blurry from all the fast-moving images of Olympic athletes? Mine are. Thank goodness the London event is over and the addicted ones can now catch up with our work and sleep. For those who have not had quite enough and are still under the spell of the lingering glow of those gold medals, the library can offer you a less exhausting option.
It's Not About the Bra: Play Hard, Play Fair, and Put the Fun Back Into Competitive Sports by Brandi Chastain
Outcasts United: An American Town, a Refugee Team, and One Woman's Quest to Make a Difference by Warren St. John
Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall
This may be the closest you will get to ultra-marathoners and Tarahumara runners in Copper Canyon, Mexico. One of the central characters in the book, Caballo Blanco’s death was recently in the news.
What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami
He writes, he runs and he also talks about writing and running in a Spiegel interview.
In the Long Run: A Father, a Son, and Unintentional Lessons in Happiness by Jim Axelrod
Endorsed by a former gold medalist, Bernard Lagat, who wrote, “An inspiration to runners and non-runners alike—and a reminder that the love of a family has no finish line.”
No Limits: The Will to Succeed by Michael Phelps and Alan Abrahamson
Even without a 6 foot 7 inches wingspan, if we have the will, perhaps…
Gold in the Water: The True Story of Ordinary Men and Their Extraordinary Dream of Olympic Glory by P. H. Mullen
On what takes to become an Olympic athlete.
Order on the Court: Pro Beach Volleyball a Rally for Respect & Recognition by Tom Burke
Why did this sport become such a popular Olympic sport? Sun, sand, sweat, and skimpy clothes…why not?
Bonus: Car Racing (This is not an Olympic sport)
The Art of Racing in the Rain: A Novel by Garth Stein
Just a good book about a philosopher dog, his companion human, and car racing, I had to sneak it into this list somehow.
Wednesday, June 13, 2012
For the first time in many years, baseball fans throughout Maryland and the DC Metro Area are finally getting a taste of what it feels like to have a winning team. As of this writing, the Washington Nationals lead the National League East while the Balitmore Orioles are just a game out of first in the American League East. While many are optimistic about the prospect of October baseball in our area, those who have been here before will tell you it'll take until after the All-Star break in mid-July until playoff fever can really set in. Plenty of other teams have been here only to hit the proverbial June swoon, sinking in the standings and never recovering. Others have hung in there until All-Star Game only to come back afterwards, unable to regain a footing.
If you haven't been to see either team yet, treat yourself to an evening at the ballpark. You can see both teams go head-to-head in Baltimore the weekend of June 22-24 in round two of "the Battle of the Beltways." If you can't make it in person, check out the teams from the comfort of your own living room on MASN, MASN2, or DC50 (check your local listings). Not quite ready for the Majors? There is plenty of Minor League fun to be had in our area as well. The Frederick Keys and Bowie Baysox (Class A and Class AA affiliates of the Baltimore Orioles, respectively) as well as the Hagerstown Suns (Class AAA affiliate of the Washington Nationals offer tons of fun for the whole family. Even closer to home are the local teams of the Cal Ripken Collegiate League (Bethesda Big Train, Rockville Express, and Silver Spring/Takoma Park Thunderbolts, among others).
You can also get in the mood by checking out several baseball related titles at your local MCPL branch.
For some mood music, check out our newest digital music resource, Freegal, and download some selections from the album Take Me Out to the Ballgame: America's Favorite Pastime in Song. (Freegal also has songs from current artists including Adele and Gavin DeGraw.)
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Unless you’ve been living in a cave, you’ve probably noticed that we seem to have lost a season
somewhere between fall and spring. And now it appears that we’re headed straight for summer, albeit about three months too soon. No matter what season we started on yesterday’s Vernal Equinox
, your local MCPL branch
can help you enjoy it or spend it productively.
On the productive side, spring is everyone’s favorite time to spruce up house and home. Check out the 648.5
s for a selection of helpful reads on cleaning and organization. (Clutterbugs should check out the 648.8
s.) For the digitally inclined, check out an electronic copy of titles such as The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Green Cleaning. EBSCOHost Masterfile
is the place to look for Consumer Reports
ratings of vacuums, cleaning products, and other related items. For those who would prefer to have others do their (ahem) dirty work for them, the Washington Consumers’ Checkbook
online (in-branch use only) offers customer ratings for everything from air duct and carpet cleaners to power wash and housekeeping services. (And while the cleaning crew is at your house, why not take your car for a spin to one the area’s best car washes, according to the WCC
Once you’ve maxed out on productivity, take some time to enjoy the warmth and sunshine. Check out a local park or hiker/biker trail. (Rock Creek Park
, Brookside Gardens
, and the Capital Crescent Trail
are some of my faves.) Root on your favorite local softball or baseball teams or go pro and take in a game at Nationals Park
in D. C. (could this finally be the winning season Nats’ fans have been waiting for?) or Oriole Park at Camden Yards
in Baltimore (now celebrating its 20th season
), both within 40-45 minutes of Montgomery County. Of course, the crown jewel of this season in our area is without a doubt the famous cherry blossoms, gifted by Japan exactly 100 years ago. It appears this week
may be the best one to catch them (just as the expanded 5-week Festival
kicks off). Did you know that some of those prized trees reside right here
in our county? You could also take a page from Mary Poppins
(not literally, please!) and go fly a kite
at the Blossom Kite Festival
on the National Mall.
Montgomery County Public Libraries