Here are some great reasons to celebrate the thawing ice by getting out and putting some tracks on the ground this weekend. Take plenty of water, a small contribution if indicated, and flexible warm clothing — and be sure to carpool!
Saturday, February 5
o Take part in a four-mile and roughly two-hour hike where exotic plants abound—in the spacious and very uncrowded National Arboretum, in Northeast Washington, starting at 10 a.m. Convene in the locale’s parking lot just inside the R Street NE entrance. For details and to RSVP, contact Amelia Lancellotti ([email protected] or 301/237-6755). (Ski Club – http://www.scwdc.org)
o Visit Gunpowder Falls State Park, in Baltimore County north of Baltimore, to take part in a five-mile hike. This outing will highlight the winter woodlands as it traverses the stream valleys and upland forests on the south side of the Big Gunpowder River. Bring cross country skis or snowshoes if snow is too deep for hiking. For details, contact—Mary ([email protected], 410/239-4590, or 443-786-0862 [mobile]). (Greater Baltimore Group of Sierra Club’s Maryland Chapter)
oTake an afternoon hike/walk on the Indian Head Rail Trail for an unspecified distance but a specified time (2.5 hours) to see and learn about Mattawoman Creek and its woodlands-and-wetlands watershed—and the developmental threats to their future well-being. As the event blurb says, the creek is “one of the crown jewels of the Chesapeake Bay. It is the last remnant of what the Chesapeake Bay was like when it was healthy and productive.” To participate, plan on either carpooling from College Park at 11 a.m. or meeting at a certain parking lot along the trail at 1:30 p.m. For details, and to RSVP, contact Dave O’Leary ([email protected], 301/277-7111, or [email protected]).
o “The view from the summit of Duncan Knob always is awe-inspiring,” say the leaders of this outing on Massanutten Mountain, that great slab of rock that towers above the Shenandoah Valley and includes part of the George Washington National Forest. To see for yourself, ride the chartered bus there and back, and, in between, take part in either a hike of up to eight miles with 1,800 feet of elevation change, or a hike of eleven miles with 5,600 feet of change—your choice, as usual. You’ll also have the option of not doing the combination bushwhack and rock scramble to reach the 2,733-foot-high summit, but if you plan to go on up, say the leaders, be sure to “wear clothing that can resist the occasional bramble.” Cost: $25/person; $3/person nonmember fee. For the chartered-bus schedule, reservations, and other details, contact Michael Martin (571/225-6763) or Jim Curren (703/216-4287). (www.capitalhikingclub.org)
o Moderate eight-mile hike in the Skyland area of central Shenandoah National Park, using the Appalachian Trail and other trails. If the weather cooperates, you’ll get fine winter views from such vantage points as Millers Head, Stony Man (the park’s second highest peak), and Crescent Rock. Irrespective of the weather, most likely, there will an optional dinner stop after the hike. Cost: $12/person carpooling fee, $10/vehicle park-entry fee (or use of park pass), $2/person nonmember fee. To carpool, connect with Stu in the Vienna Metro station’s north parking lot at 9 a.m. For details, contact him (703/517-3490). (www.centerhikingclub.org)
Sun., Feb. 6)
o Join Liz Guertin for a nine-mile hike, with roughly 1,000 feet of elevation change, in the Weverton and Harpers Ferry area of the Blue Ridge. The outing will start in Weverton with a stiff climb on the Appalachian Trail to the magnificent Weverton Cliffs overlook, high above the Potomac River. Then it’ll be back down to follow the river to Harpers Ferry on a segment of the C&O Canal towpath that’s coextensive with a section of the AT. Finally, says Liz, the group “will wander around Harpers Ferry Lower Town, have lunch, then walk along the canal back to the cars.” So you’ll be spending the day in three units of the National Park Service and two states (as Liz can explain). To carpool, meet her at 8 a.m. in the Grosvenor–Strathmore Metro station’s Park & Ride lot’s open area in back of the garage. For details, contact Liz ([email protected] or 202/415-4639 [before 9 p.m.]). (www.sierrapotomac.org)
o Join other volunteers on a “stewardship outing” to remove invasive non-native plants in Chapman State Park, on the shores of the Potomac River, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Sponsored by the Maryland Native Plant Society and Sierra Club, this event will include instruction in plant identification, discussion of methods of controlling invasives, and a lunch break on the beach (take along food). For details, contact Marc Imlay (301/442-5657).
o Take a hike of about nine miles, with about 500 feet of elevation gain, in Great Falls Park, on the Virginia side of the Potomac River. It seems likely to me that you’ll get safely close to the falls, which I rank as the best in the mid-Atlantic region for both kayaking and watching, and also that you may possibly venture into the park’s adjoining areas. Expect a “moderate pace of 2.5-to-3 miles per hour,” says the leader, and “[b]ring water, lunch, appropriate clothing and a cooperative spirit.” Cost: $5/vehicle park-entry fee; $2/person carpooling fee (if you travel that way); $2/person nonmember fee. To participate, meet either at 9 a.m. at the East Falls Church Metro station or at 9:30 a.m. outside the park’s visitor center (ground level, near the toilets). For details, contact Michael S (703/677-7777 [before 9 p.m.]). (www.centerhikingclub.org)
o Wanderbirds, who like to travel by chartered bus before they put their feet to work, to take part in a hike of either 9 miles or up to 14 miles (hiker’s choice) on Massanutten Mountain. The high point of this “wild hike” will be 2,650-foot-high Kennedy Peak, which will afford you “wonderful panoramic views of the Page Valley and six bends of the Shenandoah River,” say the leaders. Cost: $27/person bus fare. For the bus schedule and other details, plus reservations, contact Annetta de Pompa (410/535-5171) or Antonia Curiel (301/656-9169). (www.wanderbirds.org)
o Treat yourself to a moderately paced hike of about ten miles, with 1,500 feet of elevation gain, in Catoctin Mountain Park, which is located in Frederick County and can be a superb hiking venue in winter for its leafless overlooks and uncrowded trails. Cost: c. $8/person carpooling fee; $2/person nonmember fee. For details, and to register (required), contact the leader (410/871-0066). (http://www.maryland.sierraclub.org)
o Spend three morning hours in bird-rich Riverbend Park with the Audubon Society of Northern Virginia’s Carol and Jay Hadlock, in search of, as they say, “wintering waterfowl, winter birds in the woods, and possible Bald Eagles.” This close-in park lies in northwestern Fairfax County, on a great bend in the Potomac River. To participate, gather at 9 a.m. in the visitor center’s lower parking lot. For details, contact the society ([email protected] or 703/438-6008).