We have long been privileged to have a national park practically in our back yards. The trails through Rock Creek Park and tributaries including Broad Branch, Soapstone and Melvin Hazen have taken on new importance in the pandemic. Communing with nature has been a balm to our souls.
I walk these trails many times each week, and they still offer surprises, like this great blue heron.
When I came upon it, it was well camouflaged by the surrounding rocks in Soapstone Creek.
It then took flight and announced itself when approached.
Broad Branch Stream has been hopping. The frogs sing loudly at night, and if you bring a flashlight, you can see them and the many tadpoles too. During the day, don’t miss the west side of the stream. Lily pads cover one of the ponds.
The area has developed the feel of a wetland.
At times you may wish to explore a new trail, something further afield and perhaps more challenging. I recommend Billy Goat Trail. It is about a 30-45 minute drive to reach Great Falls Park where the trail’s Section A begins. This section is the most difficult to hike – check conditions before you go because rain and maintenance can close the trail. And be ready to do some rock scrambling. But it’s also the most spectacular.
Section A ends near the Old Anglers Inn, where you can grab a bite to eat and head back on the tow path along the C&O Canal – a scenic and much more relaxing route back to your car.
If Billy Goat Trail is a bit much for you, you can take a wooden walkway out to see the Great Falls. If you are lucky you will see kayakers trying to paddle up the falls until the force of the rapids forces them to turn around.
You might also spot lizards and snakes out sunning themselves on the rocks.
Turkey vultures sail the air currents above. Blue herons hang out along the river. And frogs croak in the canal.
So much natural beauty surrounds us, and provides us with a much-needed oasis.