Monday, March 22, 2010

Let the Day Trips Begin!

Spring arrived Saturday with balmy blue skies. The itch had been growing and the boys and I woke knowing we were going on an adventure.

As I packed our lunch, a host of historical venues came to mind. I'd been wanting to go to Wakefield after writing an essay about our childhood trips. I also thought of St. Mary's City, my college home and likely that of my early American ancestors. I put the question to the boys and their vote was for "big hills" and a playground.

Last year's Park Quest introduced us to several state parks I'd never known. One of these was Washington Monument State Park. It's a smallish park located near Boonsboro, Maryland, and I knew it fulfilled the boys' requirements. The park also has a 34 foot stone tower, the first monument built in honor of George Washington. All in all a fine choice to open the day trip season.

The first ridges of the Appalachians are about an hour away from our apartment. As we approached Frederick on Interstate 70, the boys knew when to watch for the first glimpse of "big hills."

The Interstate is great for making good time, but day trips are all about meandering. As soon as it was viable, we exited the highway and almost immediately experienced local color. My favorite was an establishment advertising "welding and cold beer."

We wound our way through historic Middletown with its historic houses and lovely steeples.

Once clear of the towns, a new smell met the noses of my suburb-raised boys. Local farmers were taking advantage of the weather and spreading manure on their fields.

"What's that smell like?" Gabe asked.

"What do you think?" I responded

"Stinks like a skunk?"

"No, like cow poo."

Hoots of laughter from the back seat. Mom said poo.


The entrance sign to Washington Monument State Park is one of my favorites. It has a small-scale version of the monument attached.

The whopping $2/vehicle entrance fee is paid on the honor system. I stuffed an extra dollar in the slot (I'm a big spender) and the boys and I headed for the parking lot.

There were several families enjoying the sunshine, but still several empty picnic tables. We unpacked our lunch and chatted about the trees, birds, and squirrels while we ate.

Ever notice how much better peanut butter and jelly is in the fresh air?

We threw a mini Nerf football to each other in the corner of a large field. When the boys tired of that, I lay lazily in the sun while they chased each other on the playground. Eventually, I talked them into going for a walk.

The short hike to the monument follows 1,000 feet of the Appalachian Trail. The monument lies approximately at the halfway point of the Maine to Georgia trek. In true AT form, the hike is uphill. In walking it, I realized how out of shape the boys and I have become over the winter. Even Matt was a little winded. We're going to have to go on more walks if we're to be in shape for this year's Park Quest!

Last year, when we visited this park it was a hazy and the view obscured. Today it was amazing.

Even without our binoculars (I'd foolishly left them in the car), we were able to spot a bald eagle rising and falling above the ridge.

"I like this adventure," Matt said as he cautiously navigated the stone steps from the tower.

Me too.

May it be the first in a line of adventures this season.

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