Greenbelt Park

Greenbelt Park is a quiet and fairly deserted park, just 12 miles outside of Washington, DC.  This park has the major advantage of being accessible from public transportation; however, my friend ended up driving for our visit to the park.  There is no entrance fee to the park so I didn’t actually need to use my annual pass.  The park has camping, hiking, and picnic options.  The parking area is with the picnic area.

We decided to walk the Perimeter trail, which is a 5.3 mile trail around the park.  The trail is a loop and begins and ends at the front of the park, a bit away from a parking lot.  There are many points where you can enter the trail, though.  This trail is surprisingly green and beautiful and very shaded.  It was perfect on a hot Memorial Day, and so much more peaceful than expected.  We only walked past 8 people on our walk, although the picnic areas had a few people.

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Greenbelt Park isn’t completely flat, but the elevation change throughout the park is essentially negligent.  We did see people with hiking poles, but this is no more than an easy walk through a wooded area while dodging some puddles and mud.  A few areas had wooded walkways even to avoid the mud.

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The biggest issue we found was that the trail is labeled fairly poorly.  There are lots of signs, but they are often in odd locations and well past forks in the trail.  We ended up walking an extra mile along other misleading trails, but we weren’t in a rush to get off of the trail.  However, if you have any kind of hiking app, we did find it helpful at the non-labeled forks.  We did see some ticks, but we mostly stuck to the paths and didn’t have any issues.

Since Greenbelt is essentially a suburb of D.C., this isn’t a totally peaceful walk, as you are directly next to a parkway at multiple points. In a quick online search, you can find various conversations about the safety of the area.  We saw two men acting pretty suspicious on our visit, but I felt perfectly safe with a friend.

If you are looking for a two to three hour wander through the woods, a picnic spot, or somewhere to camp near DC, then Greenbelt Park is a great place to stop.  If you want to hit another National Park area, you can make your drive back to D.C. on the George Washington Memorial Parkway.

Thanks for reading my post, and thank you to my new followers as well!  In an hour, I am heading to Shenandoah National Park in Virginia to spend some time hiking with my parents’ favorite child, Hudson (AKA Sir Woofs A Lot).  Hopefully we will have lots of fun and have plenty to report.

Assateague Island

As I do more research for this blog, I am finding out just how many people love the National Parks.  There have been 42,519,388 visitors to the National Parks in Washington, D.C.  While I have visited most of the sites in D.C., it’s great to see how many more I have to go.  But first… Let me tell you about my trip to Assateague Island.

It’s been many years since I have gone on a vacation with my family, but I had the opportunity to in May.  We went to Dewey Beach, DE, which is not far at all from Assateague Island in National Shore, MD.  When the rain crashed our beach plans, we headed down to see the wild horses for the day.

Around 10 years ago now, we actually went to see the horses while in Ocean City, MD.  It was July and overwhelmingly hot.  The only places we saw wild horses were in the parking lot trying to take food from people.  A May visit was less crowded, and the cooler weather meant seeing more horses as well.

The idea of the island housing wild horses seems a little silly, as the horses clearly know that humans have food.  I wouldn’t feed a horse, but a lot of people must do so.  The horses aren’t afraid to be close to humans at all.  While it can be a challenge to find them, we didn’t have any troubles.

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Horses standing together about 10 feet away from us

While the picture looks cute, the horses got into a skirmish about 1 minute after this photo was taken.  This was the best view of the horses we had, aside from one at the main entrance.  Often times, we could see horses in the distance, but this isn’t an island packed with wild horses by any stretch.  You really do have to drive around and just be patient.

If you are looking to spend longer than an hour or two on the island with the horses, you can also camp here!  There is a beach to hang out on, as well as campgrounds and lots of parking.  Dogs are allowed to, and my parents’ 10 pound Poma-Poo enjoyed the horses too (Not as much as the ice cream at Dumsers Dairyland on the drive back, but you cannot please everyone).  I’m terrified of the idea of camping, but I am determined to try it at some point during my National Parks year!

It is $20 to visit Assateague, which is 25% of the cost of the Annual Parks pass!  It’s a great place to buy a pass if you plan to visit other National Parks, and I am glad I got my pass here.

Thanks for reading this post!  I love sharing information about my trips with other people looking for fun.  If you like learning about the National Parks, please sign up to follow my blog.  The next post will be for Greenbelt Park in Greenbelt, MD.

Colonial Park- Yorktown Battlefield and Historic Jamestowne

My friend and I booked a trip to visit Colonial Williamsburg for three days in May, and based on research and reviews, we assumed that was only enough time to see that. However, thanks to some well timed rain, we ended up with time to see two national parks as well!

My visit to Yorktown Battlefield and Historic Jamestowne in mid-May inspired me to buy the America the Beautiful Pass, but I didn’t actually have my pass yet for my visit. Nonetheless, I thought it was important to include them since my annual pass journey is from May 2017- May 2018, and maybe longer!

Our first stop was Yorktown Battlefield on Sunday evening, and the park is open until dusk. As the visitors’ center closes at 5:00 PM, we ended up not needing to pay to visit this site. I’m not saying you should avoid contributing to the parks, but we had no way to do so either. There were some things to do in the center, but I can’t speak to them.

Now, I should place a caveat right here: I am not a battlefield person. One time in junior high or elementary school, my father insisted that we go to Gettysburg. It was hot and humid and terrible, and he wanted to walk all of the battlefields. (Dad still talks about this trip.  He liked the battlefields.) To be honest, I don’t really get battlefield sites. I understand the importance of them, but areas like Colonial Williamsburg and Historic Jamestowne are more my speed.

You drive to the Yorktown visitors center on the Colonial Parkway, which is also part of the National Parks.  (I don’t understand the parkway park thing, but maybe I will figure it out eventually!) After parking in the visitors center parking lot, we stopped at the victory monument, slightly down a path and away from the battlefield and parking lot. It was big.

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Yorktown Battlefield Victory Monument

There are two marked driving tours with strong signage and so we spent 3 hours driving through the site. If you are really adventurous, we saw a lot of people biking the trip as well. The driving tour has lots of signs labeling things and explaining what happened where. There was also a small stream to ford across, which was supposed to be educational (It mostly provided comic relief). Some signs were hard to read from weathering, but they were brief and had good information. The wooded areas are so peaceful and beautiful, which is an added bonus.

After a successful evening at the battlefield, we committed to visiting Historic Jamestowne Monday morning. This site is not to be missed, in my opinion, and it should not be confused with the Jamestowne Settlement, which is a pricey private site. The visit to the Historic site is $14, but with a parks pass, it is only $7 (The other $7 goes to a Virginia preservation group.) We had absolutely perfect weather on a sunny 80 degree day. There is limited shade so a spring or fall visit is probably best.

Historic Jamestowne is mostly remnants of some of the first building structures in the United States, but it is just so incredible. While plenty is left to the imagination, there are enough partial structures to keep your visit entertaining and intriguing. There are lots of tours you can join, or you can walk around on your own. As we had just missed a tour, my friend and I just walked the area. When you first walk into the park, you come up to the Tercentennial Monument, celebrating the 300th anniversary of the settlement.

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The Miniature Washington Monument… So much for my weekend escape from D.C.

In the middle of the settlement is an active archaeological dig that excavates millions of artifacts, and the team working there still finds new things. The dig was, sadly, not active for our visit, but it was still very cool to see. The museum, which is fairly new, features artifacts that have been found on the dig site. It is exceptionally well done and is included in your $14 admission fee. The museum is not overwhelming and worth your visit, plus there is an entire exhibit on cannibalism. (It was well done but it did creep us out.)

The settlement was built on the water for transportation reasons, but it also makes this site extra beautiful! You can walk along the water, and there is a cafe where you can sit to look out at the water. It’s serene and peaceful.

My favorite part of this trip was meeting Pocahontas. I took a picture with her because I am a millennial and grew up with Disney princesses. So obviously I needed a picture.

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Hanging with Pocahontas

To make the trip perfect, the gift shop also proved to be excellent. I buy my parents a magnet for every place I visit, and I successfully found a magnet to add to the collection. My friend also found a really fancy National Parks passport to upgrade from her childhood one, and now we must continue to collect all of the stamps!

Once you are done at the settlement, be sure to jump back in the car to continue towards the glass blowing facility. There are artists actively making things and a little gift shop to make purchases of this handmade art as well. It’s fun and also right on the water.

While this National Parks trip was partially unplanned, I wouldn’t dare recommend someone visit Williamsburg without seeing these sites as well! We had 2.5 days and spent 1.5 days in Colonial Williamsburg, and a half day at each National Park. We saw everything we wanted to see and more in this timeline, and we had great weather too!

If you are looking to make the trip from D.C. (or the greater DMV area) to Williamsburg, you will read a lot of terrifying stories about traffic.  We left at 6:00 AM on Saturday, arrived at the Southern Pancake and Wafflehouse just before 9:00 AM.  Despite eating on our drive in, leaving that early in the morning required some warm food and protein to wake us up on a rainy day.  We were less lucky on the return trip, as we had planned to leave at noon and left closer to 1:30 PM on Monday.  We sat in and extra hour and a half of traffic starting near Lorton, VA on the way back.

This trip can also be done on a tight budget (at least from D.C.)!  For a 2.5 day trip, eating every meal out, splitting a hotel, and buying a Mother’s Day gift, I spent $253 total.  The big expenses were the hotel and Colonial Williamsburg passes ($169 per person).  If you don’t have a friend with a car, Amtrak also stops here, and you can get tickets for as low as $70 round trip from Union Station.

I hope you enjoyed this post! Thank you to everyone who already subscribed and liked this blog! I can’t wait to continue sharing with you. My next post will be for Assateague Island in National Seashore, MD.

Introduction

Hello Friends!

In 2011, I had a summer blog chronicling my trip to Graz, Austria. Between Facebook and Yelp, I haven’t found a calling to blog again- until now! A few weekends ago, I purchased an annual National Parks pass, and I thought I would try blogging again.

I had my first real hiking experiences in Aspen, Colorado, and I fell in love with hiking my second summer working there.  I moved to Washington D.C. last summer, and I frequently find myself feeling trapped in the tourist-ridden-concrete jungle.  I have spent most of my first year here exploring the Smithsonians (I only have a few left that I have never seen!) and finding happy hours.  It’s been great fun, but I am always looking for more outdoor things, especially with summer coming.

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The Saddle at Electric Pass near Aspen, CO

After a visit to Historic Jamestowne and Yorktown Battlefield a few weekends ago, I found out about the “America the Beautiful” pass through the National Parks Service.  After my visit there, I decided to invest the $80 to buy the pass.  The DMV area has so many National Parks to visit, and I cannot wait to explore them.  Additionally, I will also be making a hiking trip to Utah later this year.  I am so excited for this new adventure!

I don’t know if this will end up with any interesting information, but I am hoping to post about my visits to different parks.  I hope you follow along on my journey.