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!