Posts Tagged ‘vacation’

posted by | on , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on The Great Outdoors: No Car Required

By DC EcoWomen blogger Dawn Bickett

One of the reasons I love Washington DC is that its strong public transit and walkable neighborhoods often make owning or using a car unnecessary. But when I tried leaving the city for the great outdoors, I found I could barely get past the Beltway without one.

Turns out, I was wrong. Car-less DC EcoWomen, I have some exciting news! It is possible to hike, backpack, and camp outside of DC without driving there. And not only can it be done, it can lead you to one of the most famous hiking routes in the United States: The Appalachian Trail.

This summer, a friend suggested going on a backpacking trip, and I checked to see if we could get somewhere without taking a car. Looking up nearby hiking trails, I discovered that the Appalachian Trail briefly touches West Virginia in Harpers Ferry. Then, just 25 miles north of Harpers Ferry, the trail runs through the small town of Myersville, MD.

And researching transit lines, I noticed Myersville has a park-and-ride serviced by the 991 MARC commuter bus, and Harpers Ferry is served by MARC commuter trains on weekdays as well as AMTRAK trains on weekends. We had found the perfect weekend backpacking trip – no driving necessary.

The only hitch with using commuter transit was that we had to leave and return on commuter time. We headed to Myersville Friday afternoon on the first 991 bus and came back to DC via MARC train early morning the following Monday. In between those trips were two days of beautiful views, quiet rivers, Civil War sites, the original Washington Monument, and even some tubing down the Shenandoah.

We passed through several state parks, crossed two rivers, and got a small taste of the winding Appalachian Trail. All without a car. Total transit cost? $16 roundtrip.

Unfortunately, most regional and state parks around DC are not as easy to get to, but from Harpers Ferry, hikers can wander up in to Maryland as we did, head down into Virginia, or even just stick around near town.

Cycling ecowomen can also pedal up the C&O Canal, which travels from Georgetown all the way to Cumberland, MD, and has campsites every 6 to 8 miles.

So the next time you want to get out of the city and in to nature – whether or not you have car – consider looking first at public transit or even bike trails. You might be surprised at where you can get!

View of the Potomac River from our campsite near Harpers Ferry

posted by | on , , , | Comments Off on Do Summer Vacation – Eco Style

Originally published on Redefining Eco, and cross-posted here with their permission. 

It’s summertime. It’s hot, it’s sticky, it’s heavy. It’s time to get out of the city and out to somewhere cooler, or at least different.

You could hop a plane to the gorgeous beaches of the Caribbean, or take the next flight to the non-humid California, but that would demolish your carbon footprint for the year.  So how to get out of the sticky mess that is the east coast in July and August and still stick to your eco roots?

Here’s a few ways to do that:

Go somewhere by car.  I know, cars are still gas guzzlers and not great for the carbon footprint, but they are better than airplanes.  Head out to Virginia Wine Country for a weekend, or go down to Mount Vernon for the day.  Go somewhere where you can park your car and not use it again until you go home.

Better yet, take a train! Or a bus.  Both are relaxing ways to travel and use less energy than plane travel.  Also, train rides are really fun!

Train to Kuranda

Credit: Joan Campderrós-i-Canas

Take public transportation when you get there. I forget that other cities also have public transportation sometimes, or I don’t want to take the time to figure it out.  But it’s well worth it when you consider all the costs of driving in a place you don’t know (the frustration of finding parking is enough to make me sit down and figure out public transit!).  You can sit back and see the city outside the window of a bus, rather than missing all the sights because you are concentrating on driving.

Don’t leave your eco-friendly gear at home. Make sure to take your reusable water bottle, and any other items you might need with you.  If you are going on a day trip somewhere, pack a lunch with you! If you’re going to the beach, stop at a grocery store on the way or bring food with you to minimize having to go somewhere to eat out too – this is also easy on your wallet, and a great excuse to make things you’ve always wanted to try.

Think about what you take with you. If you’re going to a hotel, you probably don’t need to buy those little bottles of shampoo and conditioner.  Or, just refill the ones you already have, rather than buying new ones.  Think about what you’re bringing and if you will really use it on the trip, or just throw it out once you’re there.

Turn off things at home. This is one I always forget.  When you are headed out for a vacation, make sure to unplug things at home.  Things like the coffeemaker or the toaster use up a lot of energy, and will definitely not be in use while you are gone! You can unplug chargers that aren’t coming with you, and some lights.  I’d stop at unplugging the fridge or all sources of light though!

unplugging the machine

Credit: Chris Phan

Think about what you buy when you’re there. It’s so easy to get caught up in the novelties of a new place and buy, buy, buy.  But you don’t do that at home, so why do it on vacation? Think about what you really want to bring home – will your sister really use that ‘wish you were here!’ t-shirt? Take a nice photo to send to her instead! Photos are great souvenirs of a trip, and photo books make great gifts for people!

Simplify and leave those devices at home! It’s easy to get caught up in the big, vacation machine that tells us we need lots of stuff to go on vacation.  Simplify the way you do in your everyday life, and you’ll find it’s much more relaxing.  You’ll get a better understanding of the city you’re exploring, or feel more rejuvenated after reading all those books on your to-read list by simplifying everything.  Turn it off and tune it to your surroundings. That’s why you left home in the first place right? And, bonus points, turning it off means using less energy to charge it. Eco-win.

Summer read

Credit: LWY


Traveling in an eco-friendly way means re-thinking some of our standard travel procedures.  But we live that way every day, so why not while on vacation? There’s plenty to see right around you!

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.

Wikimedia Comons