Hike 1: Western Ridge Trail, Rock Creek Park
John Muir once said: “Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out going to the mountains is going home; that wilderness is a necessity…” I believe when he said this, he was referring to type-A personality moms who, like myself, have an unrealistic view on what it means to get out of the house with a child.
It’s our first official hike-in-training and I have a plan: Get baby up, play with baby, feed baby, change baby, quietly get baby and gear into car, and head to the trail. Plans are good: they keep us sane and organized, they help us establish a routine, and most importantly, they are meant to be followed. Apparently, plans and my son haven’t yet become fully acquainted.
That’s OK, because the key to all of this is to focus on the fact that we actually made it out of the house. Consider this adventure a success already!
Off we go to Rock Creek Park to walk the Western Ridge Trail for our very first hike.
The weather is beautiful at 60 degrees and sunny. As we enter the park and begin to twist and turn through the tree-lined street, making our way to parking, Christine and I ask ourselves a question that we will continue to ask throughout the morning: Why have we never come hiking here before now? It’s beautiful and at 9AM fairly quiet.
We decide to park at the horse stables where riders are beginning their morning horse duties and parking is abundant. You could also park at the Nature Center to pick up the trail where we started as they are virtually next to one another.
Since we aren’t sure which paths we’ll decide to follow once we start, I go with the Ergo Carrier today, but really you could use any variety of carriers. There are paved paths throughout, along with dirt paths that jut off through the sun-soaked woods so whether you have an infant, toddler or you’re a parent to the four-legged variety, all options work for this hike.
Of course, before we can start, we need one more diaper change, a bottle, and a bit of a bounce to ensure a happy baby. But then, off we go along the Western Ridge Trail.
With the freedom of having RJ attached me, about a mile into the hike we veer off along a footpath through the woods and follow the creek. It’s a beautiful, freeing morning. The trail is filled with singing birds, the sound of flowing water, and as the morning progresses, a handful of ambitious joggers.
For hiking in the park, be sure to wear shoes that have some traction if you’re planning to take the dirt path route. There are quite a few steep inclines and declines so if it has rained the day before, leaves could be slick. A walking stick wouldn’t hurt either as you’re working your way downhill. Otherwise, if you’re carrying a tiny human on your front you’ll be doing squats to get yourself down without falling.
While we didn’t fully follow our intended hike, we hit the desired 4.7 miles and got a better workout than anticipated considering the constant shift in hills. Doing this hike in cooler weather is great, but with all the tree coverage you could manage it well in the DC summer heat too. Although, I would absolutely be sure to have water for you and a bottle prepared for the baby.
Interested in hiking the park? The Western Ridge Trail is just one of many marked trails at Rock Creek Park. There are countless trails, various points of entry and even guided hikes for those seeking some ranger education. Check out http://www.nps.gov/rocr/index.htm for all the latest happening, trails and hours.