In late June I will be hiking my 2nd Annual Appalachian Trail Section Hike. I have 6 weeks to get in shape and break in a new pair of boots. Saturday was a gorgeous spring day so I hiked a local trail in right near my house. I was once again reminded how easy it is to access nature right in the heart of the NOVA-DC urban environment. The route is called the Key-Chain because it crosses the Potomac at Key Bridge and then again at Chain Bridge. One can still hear air traffic approaching National Airport, and car traffic on the George Washington Parkway, but even those fade as signs of nature take over.
I began my hike at Roosevelt Island. This impressive park, dedicated to Teddy Roosevelt, is in the Potomac River and partly under the Roosevelt Bridge.
- I spend plenty of time navigating traffic on top of the bridge and it never occurred to me there could be a guy peacefully fishing beneath it!
There is a plaza and monument in the center of the island but there is also a nearly 2 mile trail around the perimeter that is a tribute to TR’s love of nature and the outdoors. The trail proceeds on a wooden walkway through marshy swamps and undeveloped woods. At times you get a glimpse of the river and across. Georgetown University, the Watergate Hotel, the Kennedy Center are all right across the river but this quiet little enclave is a world away.
- The vast watery marsh at Roosevelt Island
From Roosevelt Island my next steps were onto the Potomac Heritage Trail which runs up the Potomac River on the Virginia Side. It gets hilly, often reaching points 50 feet above the river and then back to the water’s edge. It’s a great trail to break in new boots because there is some minor rock scrambling, and often requires careful footing. Most importantly, it offers quick easy access to relatively untouched nature right in the heart of DC.
Though the trail was not crowded, I did see a lot of people fishing along the banks of the river, as well as kayaks, paddle surfers, and crew teams.
At the 5 mile mark I reached Chain Bridge and crossed into the northern tip of DC. To return, I followed the historic C&O Canal all the way back to Key Bridge, back across that and back to Roosevelt Island. The C&O is not quite as interesting visually but it is flat. The hike took 4 hours.and though my new boots left my feet blister-free, it was a little ambitious and my whole body appreciated the easier walking.
In the coming weeks I will have to move to more mountainous training hikes, and begin carrying weight on my back; but, this was a great way to kick off the training and enjoy some great DC weather.