Friday, April 10, 2015

Going Wild for Spring

Even though I love snow and cold weather, spring always makes me happy. I can get out hiking or walking without worrying about snow and ice on the trails and sidewalks, there are beautiful green signs of new life popping up all over the place, and I can open my windows and let the fresh cool air blow away the winter doldrums from my home. (My cats appreciate that last one, too!)

View from the top of Crabtree Falls Trail in Virginia. Photo by Tina R., September 20, 2014.

Warmer days get me thinking about what new outdoor adventures I can have. Work and funds don’t always allow me to get away to exotic locations for extended times, so I plan short excursions and day trips to find new trails and natural areas that let me escape the feeling of urban living. You can find “green getaways” all around Montgomery County—there are probably more than you think! We also have the nation’s largest wildlife research refuge nearby at Patuxent, where you can find lots of trails and educational activities for the entire family to enjoy. Venture farther afield and spend a day on one of the many trails in Maryland State Parks. (Some maps are now available in a downloadable format.) There are several long distance trails that pass through the state if you really want to get ambitious. The two best known long distance trails in the region are the Appalachian Trail and the Chesapeake and Ohio (C & O) Canal tow path. You can find several access points for both of these trails, which is nice if you want to hike the distance in small sections over time rather than doing it all in one long expedition. Most of our branches have guidebooks for hiking locally and afar, too.

Not a hiker? Live vicariously through a book without the pain of blistered feet, the aching legs, the swarms of gnats, or the dilemma of what exactly to do when you are nowhere near the porta-potty and (ahem) nature calls.

Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods is a perennial favorite about inexperienced hikers hitting the Appalachian Trail. Plenty of humor makes it an enjoyable read and the audiobook version would be a great listening choice for a family road trip.

Cheryl Strayed created a big sensation with the book Wild and saw her experience translated into a movie last year. More soul-searching than Bryson’s book, this one chronicles not just a physical journey but also a mental one.

Walden by Henry David Thoreau is the classic reflection on giving up "modern" life and getting back to nature. Even in the mid-1800s, someone wanted to get away from it all!

If you are a biker instead of a hiker, you still have lots of options! Not all hiking paths allow biking so make sure you check before going. In the local area, there are lots of interconnected trail systems that can take you pretty much everywhere from DC to Baltimore and beyond. Montgomery County has an interactive bikeways map (click on Bike Request, Maps and Racks for interactive bikeways map of the county) online to help you find a trail near you. The Rails to Trails Conservancy has an online list of trails with detailed information about where to park and what to expect along the trail as well as with comments and ratings from people who have used the trails.

Maybe you are not the outdoorsy type but you do enjoy watching nature videos. A walk through the 500’s section of the library should yield some engaging DVDs that you can watch from the comfort of your own home. Why fight the tourist crowds at the National Zoo when you can view their live web cams any time? My personal obsession for the last few weeks has been live footage of a bald eagle nest from Hanover, PA. The two little eaglets that hatched recently and are growing through their awkward stage rapidly. I can’t wait to see them start flying (predicted to happen by mid-June).

Whatever way you decide to connect with the natural world, I hope you have fun "going wild!"

Tina R

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