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From in-town urban hikes and walks to scenic suburban forays to world-class area wilderness hikes, Washington, D.C. offers great opportunities for nature-lovers. This book guides locals and visitors to the wealth of possibilities here for every season, including a ridgetop trek on Massanutten Mountain, a leisurely walk through Prince William Forest Park, and a breathtaking tour of the 7.5-mile U.S. National Arboretum with its dwarf conifer forests, dawn redwoods, and Fern Valley. Detailed profiles of each site help readers determine the best hike according to length, time needed, difficulty, and scenery. The book covers special interests too — hikes that are sure to please children, wildlife enthusiasts, history buffs, waterfall watchers, and much more.
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Paul Elliott, a writer and editor by profession, relishes exploring the Washington, DC metro area on foot; devising new hikes and modifying traditional ones in both the city and wilderness; and leading group outings as a volunteer leader for the Appalachian Mountain Club, Potomac Appalachian Trail Club, and Sierra Club. He resides in Alexandria, Virginia.
For a short and exotic urban hike that's wonderfully non-urban, visit Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens and Park, on the Anacostia River near the Prince George's County line. There you'll find gorgeous water-lily ponds, a plant-and-wildlife-rich tidal marsh, wildflower-infested woodlands, and a lovely air of serenity.
As the only National Park Service (NPS) unit devoted to aquatic plants, the park is an intriguing blend of garden and mini-wilderness. Water lilies from several continents fill a 12-acre area of diked ponds (the garden part). Cattails, sedges, American lotus, wild rice and other mostly native plants flourish in the 50-acre marsh and adjoining woods (the wilderness area).
This 2.5-mile hike covers both the gardens and woods. The first leg is a brisk out-and-back excursion of 1.5 miles on a woodland trail. The second leg is a stroll through about half of the lily-pond area. The third is an out-and-back trip on a boardwalk that goes deep into the marsh (take binoculars). The fourth covers the rest of the pond area.
In planning a trip to Kenilworth, remember that the water-lily blooming season lasts from May until September, with color lingering into November. The hardy lilies, which stay outside year-round, have blooms that open during the day and are at their peak in June and July. The lotuses and other tropical lilies, which winter in greenhouses, are at their flowering best in July and August. They include both day bloomers and night bloomers. On a morning visit, you'll see-and smell-the day bloomers as they open and the night bloomers before they close. Remember, too, that the park can be glorious at just about any time of year. I especially recommend using an early morning in winter to watch the sun rise over the marsh and its waterfowl.
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