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Month: April 2013

A weekend in DC: U. S. Botanical Garden & National Zoological Park

Harlan admires the tulips at the National Botanical Garden
Admiring the tulips

Harlan spent the weekend with his parents and grandparents visiting places all kids (and adults!) should see.  We started with the United States Botanical Garden on Saturday and ended with the National Zoological Park on Sunday.  Here is a bit about our journey exploring these places.

The United States Botanical Garden, located at the east side of the National Mall near the American Indian Museum, is a large collection of plants from around the world conveniently brought together in this one location.  Harlan enjoyed looking at the plants in the jungle area but really enjoyed the kids’ garden that was in an open area within the confines of the building.  Along with a little house kids could play in was a hand pump well and watering cans that could be filled from the well and used to water the plants.  Harlan enjoyed watering the tulips that surrounded the walkways.

Harlan watering the flowers.
Harlan watering the flowers.

There was also a bamboo forest that he ran through a couple of times and a tunnel of vines that was quite entertaining.  Neither of these were as much fun as spreading water around, though.

We didn’t spend too much time exploring as we didn’t get into the city until later in the afternoon due to Harlan’s morning swim lesson.

Harlan watches the Sitatungas
Harlan watches the Sitatungas

We spent Sunday at the National Zoological Park which is located in the northern part of D.C.  Exploring this park will definitely take a few more visits as there are many animals that I’m sure Harlan would like to visit again.

We started with the sitatunga which live on the Central African continent.  They were quite lively and Harlan enjoyed watching them walk around and climb atop a termite mound.  We later saw elephants and pandas and other animals.  He was almost asleep when we got to the turtles.  These could not be missed and Harlan woke right up to watch the turtles not only nap on a nearby log but swim right next to where we were standing!  Most turtles that Harlan gets to see are way too skiddish to view this closely.  If Harlan was a bit older I believe he would have made notes and taking pictures.

Harlan on the Conservation Carousel
Harlan on the Conservation Carousel

After the turtles was a special treat: a ride on the Conservation Carousel which is solar-powered and exhibits over fifty endangered species that are being actively studied at the zoo.  This was Harlan’s first time on a carousel but he did a great job selecting which animal he would like to ride, a California seal, and then holding on with both hands and enjoying the trip.  I suspect this the first of many carousel rides.

After the carousel ride we made a quick trip to see the tigers and lions and then made the mile long walk back to the Metro station to take the train back to our hotel in Silver Spring.

The weather, this weekend, was great for being outdoors and Harlan dutifully spent as much time out in the sunshine playing, exploring, and generally having fun.  There will be more adventures in the coming weeks and months.

Additional photos from the Botanical Garden and the Zoo can be found on our Flickr account.


Exploring Patuxent River Park

Harlan and Amanda ready for the day's hike.
Harlan and Amanda ready for the day’s hike.

Winter has finally been run out of town!  With temperatures getting into the lower 70Fs we decided to venture out and explore some nearby parks in hopes of finding some good hiking trails, Geocaches, and wildlife that we could show Harlan.  Really, we want to make sure Harlan grows up with a good understanding and respect for the great outdoors.

Patuxent River Park lies on the west side of Patuxent River in Maryland’s Prince George County.  The park has many hiking trails and several scenic overlooks allowing viewers excellent observing opportunities of the natural lands that surround this ecosystem.  We chose the brown and green trails for our hike which allows us to work our way south along the river.  Almost immediately we were rewarded with our first sample of the wildlife that the park helps protect.

A little snake suns itself along a trail.
A little snake suns itself along a trail.

A little snake (still unidentified) was sunning itself along the trail and was nice enough to allow us to get some photos before moving along.  Harlan had only seen snakes in captivity and so this was a real treat for him.  A little ways down the trail we encountered several horses being ridden.  Again, this was a first for Harlan to be so close to such a large animal that wasn’t behind a fence and so he stared intently at each one as it went by.

Birds in the Patuxent River
Birds in the Patuxent River

We stopped at several overlooks to get a better look at the river.  It appears that the birds have free reign of the area and like to make this location their home.  We didn’t come across any deer or bear during our visit which was disappointing.  The previous weekend we did come across many deer making their way through the park area.

After a brief stop for Harlan to get something to eat we ventured back out onto the trails this time splitting up allowing Harlan and Amanda to head back north to the car and myself to hit the red trail and go south to meet them at the historic Columbia Air Center.  The trails leading to the red trail were quite muddy with wide holes filled with water blocking my path.  I was able to get around the water along the edges and didn’t get too wet in the process.

I noticed a few relics of a time left behind including the foundation and broken chimney of a structure, several metal frames, a large mixer of some sort, and what was left of a crashed airplane.  I wonder what else I might find along the other trails of the park.

Once I arrived and met up with Amanda and Harlan at the southern end of the park we explored the campground and paths that ran along the water.  The campground appears to be a cleared area with fire ring in the middle and port-a-potties nearby.  You do have to hike in a bit although it isn’t that far.  There is a nearby pier that looks perfect for launching kayaks and fishing.  Perhaps this would be a good place to start Harlan camping.

A trail cutting through the woods.
An invitation to explore.

The sun was setting and Harlan had already tired himself out so we decided to make notes of things we want to do here in the future and come back another day.  I was able to start mapping the trails in the park in OpenStreetMap and want to continue to add more as I get the time to do more hiking.  Next time I hope we can spend the whole day here exploring.

Incomplete map of Patuxent River Park
Incomplete map of Patuxent River Park
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