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posted by | on , , , , , | Comments Off on Teddy Roosevelt’s Mar-a-Lago

By Melissa Lembke

When you think of Washington, D.C., hiking isn’t the first thing that comes to mind.  You more likely think politics, monuments, and museums.  But, truth be told, the nation’s capital is home to hundreds of miles of natural beauty and opportunities for exploration.

According to The Trust for Public Land’s 2016 ParkScore® index, Washington, D.C. (which is 21.9% parkland) comes in third out of the 100 largest U.S. cities for meeting the need for parks.  All those triangles, circles and squares add up, especially when you add in major resources like Rock Creek Park which is enjoyed by 2.48 million visitors a year.

Make that 2.48 million and one, as I recently had the pleasure of joining Melanie Choukas-Bradley, author of the award-winning book “A Year in Rock Creek Park,” for a morning hike.  Melanie has spent hundreds of hours exploring every inch of the park and she shared a few of the highlights at a recent DC EcoWomen event.

We set off walking in the footsteps of our 26th President along the Theodore Roosevelt Side Trail.  While on the trail I was reminded of Teddy’s love for the outdoors.  His favorite resort was Rock Creek Park, and he frequently led members of his “Tennis Cabinet” and foreign ambassadors on grueling hikes here.  To be invited by the President to go on one of those hikes was regarded as a mark of special favor.

My favorite story that Melanie shared was one occasion when the President lead Jean Adrien Antoine Jules Jusserand, the French Ambassador to the United States, on a jaunt in the woods and when they reached the Potomac they shed their clothes and dove in.  The Ambassador sent the following account of the outing to the French Foreign Office:

“At last, we came to the bank of a stream, rather too wide and deep to be forded…But judge of my horror when I saw the President unbutton his clothes and heard him say, ‘We had better strip, so as not to wet our things in the creek.’  Then I, too, for the honor of France removed my apparel, everything except my lavender kid gloves…’With your permission, Mr. President, I will keep these on; otherwise, it would be embarrassing if we should meet ladies.”

The President and Ambassador became fast friends after the outing and remained friends for life.  Today, a monument honoring Ambassador Jusserand – reportedly the only diplomat who could keep up with Teddy on a hike – sits near the trail to commemorate his achievements and love for Rock Creek Park.

As we continued onto the Valley Trail we approached the historic Boulder Bridge.  Melanie explained that the extra large boulders that comprise the bridge resulted from a misunderstanding by the bridge contractor.

“The plans called for ‘man-sized’ stone, which meant stone that could be easily handled by a stone mason.  Instead, the contractor used life-sized boulders.  When the Corps of Engineers head, Colonel Beach, arrived at the site and saw the work underway with the large boulders, he liked the way they looked.”

Not a bad decision as the structure has held up exceptionally well through the years.

Boulder Bridge is also the site of the well-known tale where a prized ring slipped off Teddy’s finger.  After a search failed to turn it up, he placed an ad in the local paper for its return reading:

“Golden ring lost near Boulder Bridge in Rock Creek.  If found, return to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.  Ask for Teddy.”

To this day, his ring has still not been returned.

While that ended our short adventure, it only scratches the surface of the fresh air, landmarks, and years of history that Rock Creek has to offer.  With this green oasis just moments from the heart of the city, there is no excuse not to join Teddy and the other famous users of this “all-inclusive” park featuring a golf course, equestrian trails, tennis stadium, and amphitheater.  No plane ticket to Palm Beach, Florida required.

Melissa Lembke is a DC EcoWomen Board Member. 

posted by | on , , , , , , | Comments Off on Get Outside, Feed Your Soul: Tips to Living Your Best Outdoor Life

By Sara Murrill, DC EcoWomen Board Member

Let’s face it, DC is a career-obsessed city. Our jobs here are intense; the grind is nonstop. There’s always more work to do.

Fortunately, there is a reprieve from the craziness. DC has an impressive amount of greenspace, with plenty of biking and running trails through trees and alongside creeks and rivers; spots where you can disappear into the woods and totally forget you are in the middle of our nation’s capital (save a distant siren). Many studies have shown how beneficial greenspace is to physical and mental health. In our overworked, over-connected society, it’s becoming more essential to unplug and immerse yourself in some therapeutic quality nature time.

As someone who has spent much of my career in national parks, I encourage everyone to reap the benefits of spending time in the great outdoors. Make sure you’re properly prepared and then get outside! Here are some tips to living your best outdoor life.

Explore every nature spot you can

From Rock Creek to Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens to the Capital Crescent Trail, the more you get out there and explore, the more you’ll realize what DC has to offer. Venture out regionally to nearby mountains for weekend trips. Discover world class landscapes and America’s stories by visiting national parks across the country.

You know what is the best thing about Vegas? It’s only two hours from the Grand Canyon. Anytime you go out of town on a work trip or to attend your millionth wedding of the year, research public lands nearby and tack on a visit!

Go off the beaten path

Not literally – please stay on the trail. The most popular places are popular for a reason; visit them to find out why. But the lesser known places are just as amazing even if they’re not as obviously glamorous. A backpack and a tent are a great investment for exploring more remote places. You’ll feel like it’s all your own.

Appreciate nature’s tiny details

Sitting in the same spot in the woods for 40 hours a week for entire summers taught me to really appreciate the subtleties in nature. How many water droplets are on that flower? Is that fluttering butterfly ever going to pause for a rest? Where’s that beetle going? What’s that weird growth thing on that tree? Do the squirrels that I see every day recognize me? Forget everything else and occupy your mind with nature’s curiosities.

Examine your own motives

Another yoga pose on a mountain peak? Are you doing a hike for yourself or for your Instagram? What do you want out of your time in nature? How might your experience change if you only focused on being present in the moment and immersing yourself fully in being outdoors?

Enjoy the natural soundscape

When I first moved to DC, I joined a Silent Hiking Meetup group. I still have no idea who those people were or why they joined – I never talked to them. Presumably, we all understood the power and enjoyment that intentionally tuning in to your natural surroundings can bring. Try it for yourself! If silence isn’t for you, please be mindful (especially in large groups) of your noise levels.

Take some time for yourself

If you can make some time alone for yourself outside, it’s the perfect setting for reflection and inner growth. Sitting by an endlessly babbling creek or staring up at majestic mountain peaks that make you feel like a tiny speck can help bring perspective and a sense of calmness. The peace you build through time spent in nature seeps its way into your normal life. Nature is therapeutic.

Respect ecosystems & wildlife

Please, learn and follow Leave No Trace principles. Many people harm ecosystems without even realizing it. When I lived in the backcountry of Yosemite, a beautiful black bear used to roam near the ranger campsite in the evenings. He minded his own business and we minded ours. One night, a park visitor broke the rules and slept with food in his tent, and our bear took a swipe at the tent looking for a snack. No one got hurt, but this bear was now a “problem bear” and had to be hazed each night so that he wouldn’t return to the area and potentially cause harm. Know and follow all park rules. Respect all wildlife by keeping your distance and do NOT feed or touch them. You are the visitor; this is their home.

Learn, share, and protect!

Check out a ranger-led talk, read up on the park’s history, and learn more about the incredible resource that you’re visiting. The more you learn, the more you’ll come to value these irreplaceable treasures. Share your experience and invite others to join along – preserving these special places will take effort from all of us!

 

Sara Murrill is a DC EcoWomen Board Member. She currently works at the National Park Foundation, the official charitable partner of the National Park Service. Previously, she was a contracted field researcher for the National Park Service.

Captions: Pic 1: Who needs a gym when you can run these trails? Rock Creek Park, Washington, DC; Pic 2: Work trip summer 2018: solo sunrise hike in Rocky Mountain National Park, CO; Pic 3: Camping in Dolly Sods Wilderness, Monongahela National Forest, WV; Pic 4: An Avalanche Lily – a bit droopy from the morning dew. Mount Rainier National Park, WA; Pic 5: Me and a friend doing a double arch at the double arch. Creative, huh? Arches National Park,  UT; Pic 6: Channel your inner mountain goat and get outside! Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forest, CO.

posted by | on , , , , | Comments Off on Hiking and Walking Around the DMV: Finding Time, Locations and Having Fun

By Deyala El-Haddad, DC EcoWomen member and Liveamongchic blog author

Going outside for a walk or hike and getting some fresh air can positively impact your mental and physical health and science has told us that being outdoors and in nature can significantly improve your overall health and happiness.

Here are a few benefits to being outside and surrounding yourself with nature:

  • Being outside and in nature can help decrease stress and anxiety.
  • Going for walks in the sunshine can increase your intake of vitamin D, which can reduce symptoms of depression.
  • Being outdoors in natural light can help regulate your body’s natural clock, which in turn improves sleep patterns.
  • Being in nature can help ground you in a meditative state by being present and in the moment.
  • Going on long walks and hikes can help reduce high blood pressure and can improve blood circulation, digestion, sciatica, and overall health and well-being.

Finding the Time

This all sounds great, so why not step outside and enjoy these benefits? We tend to focus so much on our day-to-day tasks that we forget to check in with ourselves and connect with nature. We tend to make excuses for ourselves as to why we don’t go outside and we’re all guilty of saying things like: “I’m too busy” or “I’m too exhausted after a long day of work.” If you’re too busy or crammed at work, try to schedule 15-30 minutes a day for walking around outside. This could be at the beginning of your lunch break, towards the end, or after work to unwind.

One other thing that I’ve noticed that I’m guilty of doing is spending too much time on my iPhone, social media, games and gadgets. I end up spending so much time without even realizing that I just scrolled for a good 20 minutes! That could have been time spent walking around outside! We are so busy with our gadgets and technology that we are forgetting the outside world. A good solution is to unplug or limit your screen time. Go to your phone settings and set time limits for how long you can use an app per day.

Locations

We also feel so overwhelmed by living in a congested city filled with commuters, buses, cars and buildings that we don’t know where to get that nature fix. A few things you can do is look up parks, hikes or trails near you on Google maps! You could walk around your neighborhood before or after work and plan to visit a trail or little park close to your home or work. If you’re feeling adventurous, you could do a hiking trip to Shenandoah National Park or to the Blue Ridge Mountains during the weekend with friends and family.

A few great hiking trails and nature walks that are within a 20-mile radius include:

  • Long Bridge Park
  • Windy Run Park
  • Potomac Overlook Regional Park
  • Bluemont Park
  • Tuckahoe Park
  • Theodore Roosevelt Island
  • Great Falls
  • United States National Arboretum
  • Gravelly Point

Making it Fun

  • Bring your headphones and listen to music, a podcast, NPR or even an audio book.
  • Bring a friend, your kids, or work buddy!
  • Pay attention to your surroundings and appreciate the little things like clouds, trees, flowers, insects and small animals.
  • Keep a step tracker and see how far you can go!
  • Do an art walk and take creative photos of interesting plants along the way.

Safety Tips

Remember to wear sunscreen, bring water and snacks, wear good gripping or hiking shoes with ankle support, go with a buddy, don’t touch any plants or ivy and don’t turn up your music too loud!

Happy hiking!

Deyala El-Haddad has a Master’s Degree in Environmental Science and is a firm believer in environmental preservation and conservation. Some of her previous environmental work includes interning for the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens in Richmond. Her experience spans within non-profit organizations as well as government contracting services. In her spare time Deyala enjoys hiking, traveling, yoga and blogging for her website liveamongchic and for DC EcoWomen. 

posted by | on , , , , | Comments Off on Environmentally Conscious Dating for Washingtonian Women

By Brenna Rivett, Dating in the District blog author

With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, it’s the perfect time to talk about dating. I thought I’d share tips for environmentally conscious dating in Washington, D.C. from someone who loves Dating in the District.

While many of us incorporate environmentally friendly practices into our daily routines – think recycling, using reusable shopping bags, and turning the water off while we brush our teeth, I’ve decided to take it a step further. When thinking about how I could reduce my carbon footprint in my social life, I realized that I spent a big part of it online dating! So, here are some suggestions – all tried by yours truly – for fun, environmentally conscious dates.

Skip the Lyft ride and take public transportation to the date. While it’s tempting to take those extra 15 minutes to get ready and call a Lyft, I’ve found that taking public transportation to my dates is a lot easier (and cheaper!) than taking a Lyft. In cases where I take the bus and arrive early, I’ve taken the opportunity to walk around the neighborhood a bit and check out the side streets. Last fall, while walking around Shaw before my date, I stumbled upon a stationary store that took my colored pen obsession to a whole new level. Totally worth giving up those extra 10 minutes of prep time to catch the 92!

Pick a location that actively promotes or supports environmental work or research.  True environmental science nerd that I am, I love wandering through the Natural History museum and I’ve found it’s a good date spot! If the conversation doesn’t flow naturally, there are plenty of conversation starters throughout the exhibits. Some of my other favorite locations are the National Arboretum, Teddy Roosevelt Island, the Botanical Gardens, and Up Top Acres.

Choose a local distillery or brewery. Did you know that 25 percent of a food’s carbon footprint comes from transporting it to its final destination? By choosing a brewery or distillery in D.C., you’re eliminating that part of the drink’s carbon, and supporting local businesses in the process! Some of my favorite spots with a good, casual vibe for a date include Right Proper Brewpub, Cotton and Reed rum distillery, and Atlas Brew Works.

Take advantage of D.C.’s farmer’s markets and stay in and cook. Whether you love to cook and want to master Julia Child’s Coq au Vin or just want to dabble and stick with pasta and homemade sauce, you can shop local, save money, and reduce your carbon footprint.

This shift to environmentally conscious dating may also bring some great conversations. I’ve found that by actively thinking about reducing my carbon footprint before my dates, I’m more likely to bring it up with my dates. It turns out that this is a great way to see if my date shares my environmental passion, or at least see if they are interested in learning more about why I care so much. Of course, this may lead to your date “mansplaining” climate change, like what happened to me, but hey, you can’t win them all!

Have fun on your next environmentally conscious date!

Brenna Rivett is the author of the blog Dating in the District: One Girl’s Search for Love, Rooftop Bars, and the Perfect Saison. Brenna enjoys finding the humor in these sometimes painfully awkward online dating situations and writing about them, in the hope that other people connect with and enjoy them too.

Photos by Brenna Rivett

posted by | on , , , , , | Comments Off on Take A Hike! The Ecowoman’s Guide to D.C. Hiking

Getting the Most of Autumn: Where to “Hike Locally”

By DC EcoBlogger Dawn Bickett

The crisp air and changing leaves of autumn – along with a new reason to celebrate: the end of the shutdown – make it the perfect season to be outdoors and hiking. But finding, and getting to, a nearby trail can feel like a serious challenge, especially when you live in a city.

Luckily, there are many trails scattered in and around the District, several less than 2 miles from the National Mall! Whether you are looking for a strenuous hike or a quick stroll out of earshot of traffic, you don’t need to drive hours to get out of town – you can explore within the District for some time in nature.

Wondering where to start? Check out these great local trails in and near Washington, D.C.


Rock Creek Park 

Certainly one of the most popular green spaces in D.C., Rock Creek Park boasts miles of secluded trails that meander along hills and waterways. Trails here vary from rocky climbs to sandy creek-side walks. For some specific routes, check out these three great short hikes suggested by Active Life DC. Rock Creek Park is easily accessible by foot, car, bus, or by taking the metro to the Adams Morgan/Zoo Station.

Theodore Roosevelt Island
It is no accident that the memorial to President Theodore Roosevelt – the creator of 5 national parks and 150 national forests– is surrounded by hiking trails. Theodore Roosevelt Island is located in the middle of the Potomac River, just east of Rosslyn. And while the island is small, it has several miles of trails uninterrupted by development. The island’s parking lot is easily accessible by car, bike, or foot, and is near the Rosslyn Metro Station. Bird watchers take note: the island known for its large population of waterfowl.

Potomac Heritage Trail (PHT) 

The Potomac Heritage Trail is composed of a network of trails along the Potomac River, and the segment close to D.C. is a definitely worth a visit. Starting at the north corner of the Theodore Roosevelt Island parking lot, this trail runs up the Virginia side of the Potomac River for about 10 miles. The quiet and challenging trail is extremely rewarding – offering a wilder picture of the Potomac River than its cousin on the opposite bank, the paved C&O Canal. Be aware, the trail does have difficult footing in places and occasionally requires scrambling – so be prepared to get a bit dirty and wear shoes with traction!

Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens
If rocky trails and secluded woods aren’t your style, but you still love being outdoors, then the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens are worth a visit. Stretching along the Anacostia River, the gardens offer several miles of trails through cultivated water plants and the only remaining tidal marsh in the District. The gardens are peaceful, visually stunning, and within walking distance from the Deanwood Metro Station.

Great Falls Park 

At 18 miles from the National Mall, Great Falls Park is only accessible by car (or bicycle, for the motivated cyclist), but this list would not be complete without it. This park is a favorite for rock climbers and kayakers. And with over a dozen trails to choose from, it’s perfect for hikers as well. Different trails offer scenic routes to view the falls – an impressive cascade of the Potomac River. Whichever path you take in the park, the incredible view of the falls is worth the trip.

These are just a few of the amazing trails tucked away right here in our own backyard, so challenge yourself to ‘hike local’ this season.  As soon as the shutdown concludes, pick a new trail, and head to some of DC’s great green places.

Didn’t see your favorite DC hiking trail included here? Please comment with your recommendation to share the knowledge!

Great Falls

posted by | on , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Escape and Be Free in Washington D.C.

Washington D.C., the city of young professionals and fast politics, is one of the hardest working cities in our country. And as an environmentalist, it can be particularly easy to get disenchanted with politics. Sometimes you just need to escape.

It’s important to get away and remind yourself what you’re working for. To get lost in the woods, to paddle on a river. To remember why you are working for the environment in the first place. To feel at peace.

The pockets of nature and beauty dispersed throughout the city make DC wonderfully unique. Even in the midst of the hectic atmosphere, it is possible to find stillness in nature.

If you’re looking for your next get-away, here are some places to escape to without leaving city borders:

The National Mall

Although this is probably the most well-known (a.k.a. tourist-frequented) getaways, there are many pockets of beauty that aren’t the first stop on a segway tour. The World War II Memorial usually is less crowded than the others – and in the summer heat, the fountain is a quenching hiatus. You can also take the long walk around the tidal basin, which might seem too daunting for tourists, but is perfect for the DC native trying to escape!

Rock Creek Park

Washington D.C.’s most ubiquitous secret, Rock Creek Park extends all throughout the city. Almost anywhere you are, a patch of this Park is likely nearby. If this park is good enough for 200 deer then it is good enough for a peaceful escape.

National Zoo

Just a few steps can transport you to a foreign land with pandas, elephants, and dragons! Komodo dragons, at least. Go to the zoo to gaze into the eyes of a creature you’ve never seen in person before. Maybe you will see your own image deep in its the eyes – maybe it will awaken your inner tiger. (Or your inner penguin, no one’s here to judge.)

Capital Crescent Trail

This biking and hiking path that runs along the Potomac goes on for miles. It extends Northwest out of DC, eventually into Maryland. When the trees start enveloping the landscape, you may forget the city is just a mile away. Grab a bike and go if you want to get really far away – and be able to find your way back after.

Additionally, if you don’t mind leaving city borders (or at least crossing the river to Virginia):

Roosevelt Island

The monument that got separated from the mall. The Theodore Roosevelt monument rests in the middle of this tiny island, smack dab in the middle of the Potomac. With DC on one side, and Arlington on the other, the stillness lies in the middle of the noise. The island doesn’t feel that small when you’re on it – there are footpaths, riverbanks, and an expansive open area around the monument itself.

Gravelly Point – Ronald Reagan International Airport

This is secretly my favorite spot in all of D.C… well, I guess the secret’s out now. A simple, humble park on the Potomac, Gravelly Point is windy enough to be a respite on a hot day. And, the national airport is approximately 20 feet away. To be able to see airplanes heading towards you at top speed, and take off just barely over your head, is exhilarating. You feel like you can almost reach out, grab onto the wheels, and take a ride.


Next time you’re stressed
about the inequality of women in the workforce or after five oil spills in one week, you can go to one of these getaways and clear your head. When you come back, you’ll be ready. Ready to walk into work and ask for what you want. Ready to take care of yourself. Ready to jumpstart your career. Ready for change.

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