Guest Host: Diane Vogel

Labor Day is here and that means packing up the beach chairs and getting out your hiking boots and biking helmet. As summer winds down, we explore outdoor recreation destinations where you can enjoy the flora and fauna of fall.


  • Shane Farthing Executive Director, Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA)
  • Joe Olbrys Dock Master, Thompson Boat Center
  • Paul Elliott Author, "60 Hikes Within Sixty Miles: Washington D.C."; Hike Leader, Appalachian Mountain Club, Sierra Club


  • 12:06:40

    MS. DIANE VOGELFrom WAMU 88.5, at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your community with the world. I'm Diane Vogel sitting in for Kojo. Coming up this hour, adventures in the great outdoors. In the past two weeks, our area has had extremes of nature, an earthquake followed by a hurricane. It's enough to make you want to stay inside and duck and cover.

  • 12:07:15

    MS. DIANE VOGELBut as Labor Day approaches and summer melts into fall, the cooler air beckons us to go outside and play. Whether it's fun on the waters of the Chesapeake or hiking the hills at Sugarloaf or anything else, our region offers enough outdoor activities to entice even the weather weary to gear up and head out. We've invited three outdoor enthusiasts here to join me in the studio and talk about all that the Washington region has to offer.

  • 12:07:44

    MS. DIANE VOGELWith us today is Joseph Olbrys. He's the dock master at the Thompson Boat Center. Thank you so much for being here, Joseph.

  • 12:07:51

    MR. JOE OLBRYSThank you for having me, Diane.

  • 12:07:53

    VOGELAlso with us is Paul Elliott, author of "60 Hikes Within Sixty Miles of Washington D.C." He's also a hike leader for the Appalachian Mountain Club and the Sierra Club. Thanks for being here, Paul.

  • 12:08:05

    MR. PAUL ELLIOTTThank you, but I'd rather be outside right now.

  • 12:08:07

    VOGELI apologize for making you guys be in the studio for an hour. And, Shane Farthing, always good to see you. Shane is the executive director of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association.

  • 12:08:18

    MR. SHANE FARTHINGGood to be here.

  • 12:08:19

    VOGELThank you. So as I was thinking about this show today, I thought, I know one of the ways that I always show off the Washington region to people when they come to visit. And that is, if it's a nice weather day, I'd just take them to Roosevelt Island. It's nearby. It's in the city. And I get to show them that you can have snakes and deer and rabbits and all kinds of adventures in the -- you know, close enough so that you can still see the dome of the Capitol.

  • 12:08:55

    VOGELI'm wondering what some of your favorite places, just outdoors, to take people the first time they come to Washington. Maybe, we'll start with you, Joe.

  • 12:09:04

    OLBRYSWell, Diane, I love to take people out on the Potomac. I consider myself very lucky in that I have a job that allows me to work there all day long. And I get some great views of the city, great views of Rosslyn across the river from where the boathouse is. I've got the Kennedy Center down by me. I've got some great restaurants, which I hope are going to be opening soon after the floods this past spring.

  • 12:09:31


  • 12:09:32

    OLBRYSBut it's an absolutely beautiful place to be. You get good views of the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial from the river. You know, I just get people out there on our kayaks and take them around and show them the best of the city from the river.

  • 12:09:47

    VOGELAnd for those who don't know the Thompson boathouse, tell us exactly where it is.

  • 12:09:51

    OLBRYSThompson Boat Center is at 2900 Virginia Ave., Northwest. It's right at the end of Virginia Avenue on Rock Creek Park. So if you come right to that intersection, you'll see the sign for the boathouse. You just park in the parking lot there or walk down from the Foggy Bottom Metro Station, and we're right there next to the river.

  • 12:10:10

    VOGELTerrific. I'm going to ask Paul your next -- the same question. Where do you take somebody the first time they're coming to the Washington region?

  • 12:10:18

    ELLIOTTCouple of places that come to mind immediately, one is the National Arboretum up in Northeast.

  • 12:10:24

    VOGELThat's a great suggestion.

  • 12:10:25

    ELLIOTTAnd also, in fact, the C&O Canal Towpath, which happens to start right next to Joseph's boathouse, boat center.

  • 12:10:33

    VOGELTerrific. And we'll be talking about both of those places a little bit more because there's all kinds of new offerings along the towpath and so on. And, Shane, I know you're our biking enthusiast. Where should we -- where do you go? Where do you take people?

  • 12:10:47

    FARTHINGWell, since both of these guys mentioned the Potomac, I'll take on the Anacostia a little bit because there is a great network of trails around the Anacostia River. In D.C., it's the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail, and that's still being built out. But you can actually go down to Anacostia Park, have a cookout. Those who don't want to ride a bike can stay there and can have fun having their picnic.

  • 12:11:07

    FARTHINGAnd those who do want to ride can be on a pretty nice trail. There's also the Anacostia Tributary Trail System, which is really one of the hidden gems. It's the Northeast Branch, Northwest Branch, Sligo Creek, Paint Branch. There's a whole network of trails that all come together in that part of Maryland.

  • 12:11:21

    VOGELTerrific. And I understand we've linked not only to the WABA site but to everybody's websites here, as well as a number of other places you can find recommendations for how to get around in the great outdoors here at our website, kojoshow, K-O-J-O-S-H-O-W, dot-org. The trail that you just talked about, you said it's still being built out.

  • 12:11:43

    VOGELWhere would it start me from? And where does it take me to? Because that may be an area of our -- of Washington that most people haven't explored yet.

  • 12:11:52

    FARTHINGWell, essentially, the tributary trail system really does follow right along the waterways. So I know some folks in D.C. and the region might not be as familiar with the waterways either, but if you look at a map, you can see the Anacostia does have a Northeast Branch and a Northwest Branch. There is a Sligo Creek that feeds into it. There's a Paint Branch that feeds into it. So if you look along there, you can see the trails that go right along the waterways.

  • 12:12:14

    FARTHINGSometimes on the map, it's easier to see that. But they start in the Beltsville Heights region, where it all comes together into one Anacostia River and spread out from there basically from Wheaton, all the way to the east.

  • 12:12:28

    VOGELTerrific. We want to hear from you and hear your favorite places to spend time in the great outdoors here in Washington. Do you have a place that you have to take visitors when they come? Or is your -- is there a favorite place in your neighborhood you'd like to share with others? Call us and join our conversation at 1-800-433-8850. 1-800-433-8850, or email us at

  • 12:12:54

    VOGELYou can also get in touch with us through our Facebook page or by tweeting us, @kojoshow. So, Joe, on the water, what kind of age range and how do you first introduce it? 'Cause it seems pretty intimidating to me if you haven't taken out a canoe since you were in sleep-away camp or...

  • 12:13:14 haven't been -- ever used a kayak. The idea of it sounds exciting, but the reality might be a bit intimidating.

  • 12:13:22

    OLBRYSWell, actually, the reality is not that intimidating, and it's not really that exciting because the rivers around here are so calm as a general rule. We do have windy days, and it can be rough. But as a general rule, it's calm enough and the river is slow enough that it's really not that difficult the thing to do. We make sure everybody is safe. We make sure everybody's got lifejackets on.

  • 12:13:42

    OLBRYSAnd we recommend everybody going out on the river systems in this area do wear lifejackets when they're out on the river. So it's just -- it's a very easy paddle. And I would like to piggyback on something Shane said. The -- a lot of people don't realize that the Anacostia River, while it's got its problems is actually also a beautiful resource in the city. Some time ago, the National Arboretum put in a small dock down at the foot of the Japanese Garden.

  • 12:14:13

    OLBRYSAnd you can actually paddle up there and land on that dock, get out, have a picnic, walk up through the arboretum. It's absolutely wonderful. And then you've got the aquatic gardens. It's not far upriver from that.

  • 12:14:29

    VOGELThat would be the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens.

  • 12:14:30

    OLBRYSExactly. Yeah, so -- and all the way from -- I think it's Benning Road on upriver is green space. So it's all wonderful. A lot of birds nest over in that area, and it's just a beautiful little piece of river in the city.

  • 12:14:48

    VOGELAnd just so we know, obviously, if somebody has their own kayak or their own canoe, they can do that. But how -- what is the going cost these days for renting a canoe or a kayak? Or can somebody use a raft that they've bought somewhere? Are there warnings about that?

  • 12:15:04

    OLBRYSThat would be something to discuss with Harbor Patrol.

  • 12:15:06


  • 12:15:08

    OLBRYSI know for our facility, for -- and up at Fletcher's Cove, $10 an hour will get you a single kayak. If you want to go with a friend, a double kayak runs about $17. Jack's Boathouse charges a little bit more, but they also have a substantial amount of equipment up there. Jack's is underneath Key Bridge.

  • 12:15:29

    VOGELMm hmm.

  • 12:15:30

    OLBRYSAnd then you can also go down to the Washington Sailing Marina, take sailing lessons, get out there on the river there or rent a sailboat. Renting, I think, generally runs around $40 for a two-hour period for a sailboat.

  • 12:15:49


  • 12:15:50

    OLBRYSSo -- and our canoes are about the least expensive way to do anything. They're 12 bucks an hour, $24 if you take them for the whole day.

  • 12:15:56

    VOGELMm hmm.

  • 12:15:57

    OLBRYSSo it's a cheap date.

  • 12:16:00

    VOGELYou're listening to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show" on WAMU 88.5. I'm Diane Vogel, managing producer of the show, sitting in for Kojo. You just heard Joseph Olbrys. He's the dock master at the Thompson Boat Center here in D.C. Also with us is Shane Farthing, executive director of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association, and Paul Elliott, the author of "60 Hikes Within Sixty Miles in Washington D.C."

  • 12:16:24

    VOGELAnd he's also a hike leader for the Appalachian Mountain Club and Sierra Club. So, Paul, if I also am looking for an outdoor adventure, but I can't seem to afford the $20 an hour, something like that, is there something that, if I have a car, I can get to a great hike within a half an hour, something that maybe kids could enjoy? Where would we begin our hike or start?

  • 12:16:49

    ELLIOTTRight here in the city.

  • 12:16:50


  • 12:16:51

    ELLIOTTAnd the use of feet is somewhat cheaper than the use of a boat.

  • 12:16:55

    ELLIOTTThere are many places to go. And also, we have about a dozen hiking groups in the area that put on hikes, take people out there, show them where to go, and those use carpools. And, in some cases, an emphasis is put on using public transportation to get to a trailhead.

  • 12:17:13

    VOGELI had heard about one. There was one I know called Wander Birds.

  • 12:17:16


  • 12:17:16

    VOGELThere's another one called the Mosaic Hiking Club.

  • 12:17:19


  • 12:17:19

    VOGELI saw a couple of others well worth exploring. They all seem to be fairly inexpensive if there's a cost involved at all.

  • 12:17:26

    ELLIOTTThe Wander Birds go out every Sunday and often up to the mountains and also north into Pennsylvania, and they use a charted bus. So all you have to do in getting to the trailhead is relax. And on the way back, there are refreshments.

  • 12:17:41

    VOGELMm hmm.

  • 12:17:42

    ELLIOTTSo that's a wonderful way to go. The Capital Hiking Club also does the same thing on Saturdays using a bus.

  • 12:17:49

    VOGELAnd the age range on these -- these are all...

  • 12:17:51

    ELLIOTTIt's quite -- it's actually quite limited to approximately, I'd say, between 10 and 90.

  • 12:17:58

    VOGELYeah, it's hard to fall outside of that, I guess. That's terrific. Shane, when you're starting out for -- if you're looking for a place for kids to bike, sometimes, I know I mount sometimes on the Mount Vernon Trail.

  • 12:18:12

    VOGELAnd I really feel badly for kids whose parents take them out on the Mount Vernon Trail if they're not kind of midrange bikers already, if they haven't kind of mastered how to stay straight and how to stay on a fairly narrow course. Are there particular places that you recommend for starting out with kids, one place that's better than another?

  • 12:18:34

    FARTHINGWell, I think that there a lot of places that are safe and good for kids to bike in the city. And we've actually seen some growth in some organized kids' rides. If you're familiar with Kidical Mass, that's a group that actually does rides for kids to the city. I know they've got a ride coming up on the 17th.

  • 12:18:47

    VOGELI know they have -- can you repeat that? Kidical Mass, I like that name.

  • 12:18:51

    FARTHINGBut I think what you're really getting at is there are some trails that are just a little bit too fast, too many users, sometimes, for you to feel to comfortable having your kids out there. And I would say that the Mount Vernon Trail falls into that category on the weekends. So probably just the Capital Crescent Trail, these are the ones that are sort of the most used. And, certainly, kids are allowed out there.

  • 12:19:11

    FARTHINGBut if they don't feel comfortable, the last thing you want is to have your child intimidated and afraid of biking because they've had this sort of experience. So I would say pay attention to some of these lesser used trails. You can check our website. You can see the Google layer now that shows you where some trails are. The other folks might not know, right in the middle of D.C., you've got the Metropolitan Branch Trail.

  • 12:19:31

    VOGELAnd when you say right in the middle of D.C., where does it start, where does it end?

  • 12:19:34

    FARTHINGIt is absolutely right in the middle of D.C. It's at Union Station, and it's going to continue all the way up to Silver Spring. At the moment, it's completed, roughly, through Catholic University. But that's one that -- it does get a fair amount of commuter usage and growing. But you can always find a little bit of space out there.

  • 12:19:52

    VOGELThat's the one that, unfortunately, has gotten a little bit of bad press in a couple -- for a couple of incidents, I think, right?

  • 12:19:58

    FARTHINGIt has gotten a little bit of bad press. And there are some...

  • 12:20:00

    VOGELThere has been some...

  • 12:20:01

    FARTHINGThere have been some issues...

  • 12:20:02

    VOGEL...opportunistic crimes, let's call them.

  • 12:20:05

    FARTHINGThat's right. And the way to fix that, though, when we have this great resource is to get more people out there and get more folks using the trail, so that there isn't quite the same level of opportunity.

  • 12:20:14

    OLBRYSOne thing I would recommend to parents of small children, if you're going to teach your kids to ride, one resource that we have in the city is Rock Creek Parkway on the weekends. They shut down parts of the road to vehicle traffic, and it's strictly hikers, bikers.

  • 12:20:30

    VOGELThat's a great suggestion.

  • 12:20:32

    ELLIOTTAll day Saturday and Sunday, too.

  • 12:20:34

    VOGELWe -- you're listening to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show." We're exploring the great outdoors in Washington, getting ideas for this long weekend and for a time throughout the fall. You're listening to Joseph Olbrys, the dock master at Thompson Boat Center here in D.C., Paul Elliot, author of "60 Hikes Within Sixty Miles: Washington, D.C.," and Shane Farthing, the executive director of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association.

  • 12:21:00

    VOGELWe're going to continue this conversation on the other side of the short break. We hope you'll join us. Call 1-800-433-8850. I'm Diane Vogel, managing producer of "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," sitting in for Kojo.

  • 12:23:21

    VOGELWelcome back to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show." I'm Diane Vogel, managing producer, sitting in for Kojo today. We're talking about adventures in the great outdoors. Our Washington region is full of opportunities to explore nature, whether for 15 minutes or for five days. You can really take advantage of it, whether you're -- you know, anyone can take advantage of it, whether you're, you know, an active -- a teenager or an active adult.

  • 12:23:47

    VOGELEven many places are good for -- with handicapped-accessible things and so on. I'm going to go right to the phones before we go back to our conversation in studio. So, gentlemen, if you'll put on your headphones, I'm going to go to Chris in Northeast, D.C. Chris, you're on the air.

  • 12:24:06

    CHRISJust very briefly, a couple of outdoor opportunities for folks in Northeast, Southeast D.C., or in P.G. County that is quite close by. Right here on the District, we have two great underutilized parks and parks that a lot of people don't know about. One is Fort Dupont Park. There's a great outreach event for families and children coming up on Saturday, Oct. 15.

  • 12:24:27

    VOGELIf you can tell us -- Chris?

  • 12:24:28

    CHRISAnd then the other one is the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens. And that's just under a mile from the Deanwood Metro station with, you know, some decent pedestrian facilities. And there's a boardwalk right through a lily pad garden that blooms in May or June. It's really beautiful, so just a couple places. Thank you.

  • 12:24:45

    VOGELGreat. Thank you for those suggestions. And since Chris gave us a point of reference from the Kenilworth Gardens -- he said it's about a mile from the Deanwood Metro station. He didn't give us a point of reference for Fort Dupont. Can somebody else -- do you guys know whereabouts Fort Dupont is, for those who aren't familiar with the region?

  • 12:25:04

    ELLIOTTIt's in southeast.

  • 12:25:05

    VOGELOkay. And somebody else, perhaps, can give us an exact point of reference so that we know. I know that a lot of times you hear about a park. You say, I'm going to find my way there. But, without knowing precisely where it is, you might be a little intimidated.

  • 12:25:17

    VOGELIt's always good to know what's nearby and how to get there. You'll find those links at, so back to our conversation. I'll ask Joe, when you're out on the water, are there particular parts of the experience that you think, you know, really work for any age or for adults? In other words, is it the manpower? Is it your paddling that you're doing it yourself? Is it the quiet of being in nature? What is it about the experience?

  • 12:25:52

    OLBRYSWell, it's kind of hard to say it's the quiet of being in nature because the Potomac is an approach to national airports.

  • 12:26:00

    VOGELGood point.

  • 12:26:00

    OLBRYSSo you've got planes flying overhead. But, that being said, it's having that green space. It's having waterfalls next to the river. As you paddle upriver from Thompson's, you start to get into the G.W. National Park since they're a part of the system. And it's -- you've got green on both sides of the river in the spring. There are beautiful flowers, you know, that bloom along the banks of the Potomac.

  • 12:26:28

    OLBRYSIn autumn, we get beautiful color up on the highlands, on the Virginia side. And you can pretty much almost forget the fact that you're here in the city. You've -- it's just -- it brings a feeling of peace to you once you get upriver.

  • 12:26:45

    VOGELIt's fantastic. I know that, this time of year, we start seeing a lot of birds, migratory birds, I would imagine, along the river as well and throughout our region, right, Paul?

  • 12:26:55

    ELLIOTTVery much so, in the fall and also other times you hear it, too, as in the spring. Currently, warblers are moving through. And in a few weeks, we'll start to see hawks, and they tend to follow the Appalachians. And, in fact, there was -- along the Appalachian Trail, there's a couple of parks where you can go and see the hawks swarming over your head.

  • 12:27:16

    VOGELWow. You know, whenever I hear someone talk about the Appalachian Trail, which I know runs from, what, Maine to Florida or somewhere to Georgia?

  • 12:27:25


  • 12:27:25

    VOGELGeorgia. It's a big trail. I always, again, maybe just feel intimidated. I think, how can I approach it? Is there a small hike, a couple of miles that is within our range that you can say, you can park in, you know, Poolesville and -- I'm making that up -- and go for a hike here? Is there an area that makes the Appalachian Trail approachable for a day trip?

  • 12:27:50

    ELLIOTTYes, Sky Meadows State Park, which is about 45 miles west of the city or the Beltway. It's a wonderful, large state park, and along the upper part of it, the Appalachian Trail takes its long way getting to Georgia or Maine, depending on which way you're going. So you get the combination of both the park and the AT itself.

  • 12:28:12

    ELLIOTTYou get gorgeous views from there because that overlooks one of the finest valleys that I know of in these areas, the Crooked Run Valley, gorgeous.

  • 12:28:22

    VOGELCrooked Run Valley. It sounds good just to hear the name.

  • 12:28:25

    ELLIOTTNo politicians are there.

  • 12:28:27

    FARTHINGAnd, Diane, I'll also mention that if your goal is to go out towards the Poolesville area, that does put you right next to the C&O Canal towpath, which is very accessible for everyone. And I'll also suggest that some of these long trails, they seem to get a little shorter when you do them on bike instead of by foot. So, for example, the C&O towpath going from Cumberland all the way to D.C. takes about three days. It's not quite the insurmountable thing.

  • 12:28:49

    VOGELWalking or biking?

  • 12:28:50


  • 12:28:51


  • 12:28:51


  • 12:28:52

    ELLIOTTWell, we can also add here that most of the trails that Shane mentioned earlier, biking trails are also hiking trails.

  • 12:28:57


  • 12:28:58


  • 12:28:58

    ELLIOTTAnd you have an opportunity to explore these, even on foot or with pedals. Just as in many cases, there are streams and rivers that go past these areas, too. Use your boat.

  • 12:29:10

    VOGELYou're listening to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show" on WAMU 88.5. I'm Diane Vogel, sitting in for Kojo. That voice, the last voice you heard was Paul Elliot, author of "60 Hikes Within Sixty Miles: Washington, D.C." We're also talking with Shane Farthing, executive director of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association, and Joseph Olbrys, the dock master at the Thompson Boat Center.

  • 12:29:33

    VOGELAnd, of course, we're taking your calls at 1-800-433-8850 and your email at We're going to go to a call from Andre. Andre, you're in Washington, D.C. You're on the air.

  • 12:29:51

    ANDREYeah. Hi, there. I just want to put in a word for rock climbing in the area. People have been climbing in D.C. for over 70 years, and it's actually one of the cradles of American rock climbing. And the two main areas are Carderock and Great Falls, both of which are about 25 to 30 minutes outside of downtown D.C.

  • 12:30:10

    VOGELAnd if you're a newcomer to the idea of rock climbing, where would I learn how to rock climb or get some early -- is this an area for beginners? Or it's really not for beginners?

  • 12:30:20

    ANDRENo. It's actually just great for beginners. Most of the climbing there is what's called top rope climbing, which is very suitable for beginners. And there are a variety of sort of small outdoor adventure schools, which will take newcomers.

  • 12:30:34

    ANDREAnd there's also a group called Potomac Appalachian Trail Club, and they introduce people to rock climbing and have pretty regular meetings where members can get together and all climb together. And they'll set up the ropes for you and make sure that everybody will be safe and have a good time.

  • 12:30:53

    VOGELMake sure everybody who starts out comes back. Thank you, Andre.

  • 12:30:56

    ANDREYou bet.

  • 12:30:57

    VOGELThat's terrific. And, Paul, I think he mentioned your area, the Appalachian Trail and the hiking.

  • 12:31:04

    ELLIOTTWell, that -- he's actually talking about the largest trails group in the area, the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club, which does a great many things, including maintaining trails, which is another critical issue we can get to. But I just wanted to add, if you have an interest in rock climbing, go to Great Falls or Carderock or also Sugarloaf.

  • 12:31:20

    ELLIOTTAnd you can watch people climbing and get a sense of what they're doing and how they do it and talk to them. Find out more.

  • 12:31:28

    VOGELIt's a good idea. I also know that there are some outdoor stores in our area that provide day or, you know, half-day trainings in rock climbing at relatively low cost as they try to sell you some high-priced gear.

  • 12:31:43

    ELLIOTTThey also have climbing walls on which you can practice for...

  • 12:31:46

    VOGELRainy day outdoor -- indoor adventures. Thank you. We're going to go back to the telephone one more time. And now, we're going to talk with Jen. Jen, you're in Rockville, Md., and you're on the air.

  • 12:32:02

    JENHi, thanks for taking my call.

  • 12:32:04

    VOGELGo ahead.

  • 12:32:04

    JENI'm just calling. I've got a great resource for anyone that lives in the area. It's a book called, "Going Places with Children in Washington, D.C." And, even though the title says children, you don't have to have kids to take advantage. It's got several chapters devoted great outdoor activities. It's got parks. It's got state parks, national parks. It's got locations, if there's any cost associated with it. It's got hiking trails, biking trails...

  • 12:32:29

    VOGELHey, Jen. Jen, are you the author, or a relative of the author? I'm just making...

  • 12:32:37

    JENI'm not, but it's actually -- it's written and edited and published by a local school called Green Acres School.

  • 12:32:46

    VOGELGreat. Well, thanks...

  • 12:32:47

    JENAnd so you can get it on their website at

  • 12:32:51

    VOGELWell, thanks so much for that suggestion, Jen. Coming back to the conversation here in the studio, guys, I'm wondering -- we mentioned maintaining the trails, Potomac trails. Who is responsible for maintaining the waterways or maintaining along the riverside or maintaining the hiking trails or the Metropolitan Potomac Trail?

  • 12:33:13

    VOGELWhose jurisdiction does that fall under? And what's the -- my guess is, what's the challenge that you face in what's not getting done or is getting done?

  • 12:33:24

    ELLIOTTOne of the problems is maintenance of trails, as well as what it takes to build new trails. And a couple years ago, the National Park Service came up with an estimate that the country as a whole, in terms of its 400-plus park units, national park units, was short about $8- or $9 billion in maintenance costs. And the alternative to...

  • 12:33:43

    VOGELEight or $9 billion, did we hear?

  • 12:33:44

    ELLIOTTYes, yes. You know, maybe just a day or two of war elsewhere would pay for that, but that's something else. So what we have are volunteers who try to help out and there are a lot of active trail groups.

  • 12:33:58

    ELLIOTTAgain, PATC, Potomac Appalachian Trail Club, also, the Appalachian Mountain Club's D.C. Chapter does trail work. A number of other groups do, too. I also lead a small group that does that kind of thing, too. One of the reasons it's important is the cost of building trails, it runs $5,000 to $10,000 a mile just to build them.

  • 12:34:17


  • 12:34:18

    ELLIOTTIf you get volunteers to pitch in doing that, the cost comes down quite a bit.

  • 12:34:23

    VOGELAnd, Shane, these days, who's funding? Who is in charge of these bike trails and hiking trails that you were talking about? And what's the challenge that we're facing?

  • 12:34:33

    FARTHINGWell, it's a huge challenge because, in this region, we've got so many different groups responsible for the various trails. We've got the sort of acronyms who -- both the National Park Service, Parks and Planning, DDOT, the various counties that control certain portions. So I think one of the biggest challenges for cyclists is that you can view these trails two ways.

  • 12:34:54

    FARTHINGTo one group of cyclists, these are recreational trails. To another group of cyclists, these are main commuter transportation routes. So the level of maintenance that is necessary for this to be a way to travel to and from work is a little higher.

  • 12:35:08

    FARTHINGSo one of the things that we're constantly doing is trying to figure out who the right agency is to talk to about maintaining the trails, so that they're passable 365 days a year, so that they get the level of care they need to not just to be these wonderful recreational resources, but also transportation resources that we can count on, on a daily basis.

  • 12:35:28

    FARTHINGAnd it's an ongoing challenge, and, every day, we're trying to figure out who owns what piece of which trail that we're having a concern about.

  • 12:35:37

    VOGELAnd, Joe, the waterways, I imagine there's the same alphabet soup of people overseeing the waterways.

  • 12:35:44

    OLBRYSThere is. And one thing that -- when you -- when we first started this part of the conversation, the one that I think that we could all agree on is that we are all responsible for the maintenance of, you know, the waterways or the bike trails. It's up to each and every one of us to -- what the Park Service would say in their National Parks -- pack out what you pack in. Don't leave your trash lying around. Clean up after yourself.

  • 12:36:09

    OLBRYSAnd there are many opportunities for people to volunteer. We've got a clean water paddle coming up at Thompson's on Sept. 10. We've got a large group from American University who's going to be coming down. We've got 70 students and faculty.

  • 12:36:22

    VOGELAnd a clean water paddle is?

  • 12:36:24

    OLBRYSIt's a group that come down. They combine paddling on the river with cleaning it up. So they take boats out. They go out and clean up bags of trash, and they'll bring them back. And we'll get rid of them for them. So we've got that going on. Also, the National Parks Service does have volunteer organizations for the various parks who go out and clean up. I know we're a part of the C&O Canal volunteer organization.

  • 12:36:50

    OLBRYSWe're canal stewards for this tide lock down there at Thompson's. And we maintain that part of the property for the Park Service. We clean up -- there's a little beach down there, and we try to pick up what trash we can. We've got some volunteers that come over from the Watergate complex, who help us down there. So we're quite lucky in that respect. But again, it's up to everybody.

  • 12:37:15

    OLBRYSWhat people I don't -- what people don't realize a lot of times is what you throw on -- what they throw on the ground ends up in the river.

  • 12:37:21

    VOGELMm hmm.

  • 12:37:22

    OLBRYSAnd that's why we have such problem with trash in Anacostia, trash in the Potomac. It's people just disposing of stuff improperly, and it just all washes down in the heavy rain.

  • 12:37:35

    VOGELWell, speaking of that, we just went through the earthquake and the hurricane. How, if at all, have these areas been affected by it? I would imagine water sports -- I don't know. The river may be more exciting right now. But I'm guessing that there's a lot of trails closed. In fact, we got a tweet from Random, who said -- in response to our question about Fort Dupont earlier.

  • 12:37:58

    VOGELHe said, "Fort Dupont Park is along Minnesota Avenue Northeast. It's one of the only places you can take mountain bike on real trails within the District's boundaries." But we have another emailer tell us that they checked the website, and all of the trails at Fort Dupont are currently closed due to hurricane damage. So what about you guys? What have you found as a result of the hurricane or earthquake? Paul.

  • 12:38:23

    ELLIOTTI've been out of town, so I really am not up-to-date of what's going on.

  • 12:38:28

    VOGELOkay. No problem. Well, we know that we should just check the websites of...

  • 12:38:31


  • 12:38:31

    VOGEL...places before we go. To either one of you, have either one of you seen particular damage?

  • 12:38:35

    FARTHINGThere have been a number of trees down across trails and that sort of thing. And we've seen reasonably good response in this from the folks responsible for these various trails and getting cleaned up this time around. One of the places you can go -- there's the Washington Area Bike Forum, where a lot of cyclists tend to share those sorts of reports to see whether a tree is there.

  • 12:38:55

    FARTHINGIt's hard to put together sort of a comprehensive report because, often, you come through in the morning, and it's there. And someone comes an hour later and removes it. So there has been some good response in this, but there are still a few trails blocked. And we're hoping that the various responsible parties for cleaning them will take care of that, so that everybody can get back to where they're going for this weekend.

  • 12:39:15

    VOGELTerrific. We're going to go to Dan in Rockville, Md. Dan, you're on the air.

  • 12:39:20

    DANHi, everyone, really enjoying the show. Just wanted to mention Rock Creek Regional Park in Rockville, Md. There's a -- just a really cool treetop adventure course that they have called Go Ape! And you can get up in a harness and swing from the trees on zip lines and Tarzan swings and other fun stuff, as well as enjoy the park that has the hiker/biker trail that runs all the way down into D.C.

  • 12:39:44

    DANSo just another opportunity for something to do in the D.C. region. It's really close to everyone in the region.

  • 12:39:53

    VOGELThank you, Dan. Why don't you give us one more point of reference for us? Rock Creek Regional Park -- we all know Rock Creek Park here in D.C. Where exactly in Maryland would you access that? And I will tell you that Josephine sent us an email about Go Ape treetop adventure courses, the adventure course.

  • 12:40:09

    VOGELAnd she says, "There's an -- there are awesome zip lines, swings and bridges that take you throughout the forest canopy." She said, "I've been there with my family, as well as for a bachelorette party. It's really great fun." So where is it, Dan?

  • 12:40:25

    DANSure thing. It's real close to the Shady Grove Metro, so you can even take the Metro. It's, I think, about two-mile walk or bike ride from the Metro in Rockville, Md., right off of I-270. It's probably about, oh, 14, 15 miles outside of Washington, D.C.

  • 12:40:44


  • 12:40:45

    DANAnd the hiker/biker trail, you can actually bike there as well from Washington, D.C. It's a pretty good bike ride. It would be a lot of fun for you.

  • 12:40:53

    VOGELThanks so much, Dan. That was greatly appreciated. We've gotten so many great suggestions. And we're going to keep getting more. After we take a short break, we'll be continuing our conversation with Paul Elliott, the author of "60 Hikes Within Sixty Miles," Joseph Olbrys, the dock master at the Thompson Boat Center and Shane Farthing from the Washington Area Bicyclist Association.

  • 12:41:14

    VOGELAnd all of you who are tweeting and emailing and on the telephone lines, we'll be right back. I'm Diane Vogel, managing producer of "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," sitting in for Kojo.

  • 12:43:28

    VOGELWelcome back. You're listening to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show" on WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington. I'm Diane Vogel, Kojo's managing producer, sitting in for him this hour. We're talking about outdoor adventures in the D.C. region.

  • 12:43:43

    VOGELAnd we've got Shane Farthing from the Washington Area Bicyclist Association, Joseph Olbrys, a dock master at the Thompson Boat Center, and Paul Elliott, the author of "60 Hikes Within Sixty Miles: Washington, D.C.," and we've got you. I think that Alonzo has a question that he wants to raise. Alonzo in Washington, D.C., you're on the air.

  • 12:44:06

    ALONZOHi. Can you hear me?

  • 12:44:07

    VOGELWe can. Go ahead.

  • 12:44:08

    ALONZOOkay. Coyotes have recently been discovered in the area. I wanted to know what's the protocol if you discovered one. They're supposed to be very smart, but it's said you should never run away from them because it gives them bad messages.

  • 12:44:22

    VOGELInteresting. So you should never -- at least the -- your belief is that you should never run away from a coyote. My guess is that people might also -- scary enough -- come across a bear. Paul, Shane, what do you do if you -- how do you prepare yourself for safety along the trails?

  • 12:44:38

    ELLIOTTWell, one thing to do is just be sure you can run faster than anyone else with you.

  • 12:44:44

    VOGELOnly the last person has to worry about the bear and the coyote that way.

  • 12:44:48

    ELLIOTTBut, you know, occasionally bears get close to the city. They're really not dangerous. One has to be careful. It helps to stand tall, look large. They have dim eye sight, but they hear and smell very well. Coyotes have, in fact, now been seen in Rock Creek Park. They tend to be furtive, and they tend to stay away certainly from adults. The danger there is pets that are not on leashes. Coyotes will look upon those as prey, as they do out west a lot.

  • 12:45:17

    VOGELInteresting. But, as far as you know, that's as good a recommendation of what Alonzo said, don't go running 'cause you become prey perhaps, stand tall?

  • 12:45:30

    ELLIOTTYes. Generally speaking, yes. And if you have children with you, just be careful.

  • 12:45:34

    VOGELSure, pick up the kids. Make yourself one big person as opposed to two people. We're going to go back to the phones. We're going to talk to Bill in Alexandria, Va. Bill has some additional information on zip lining and rope climbing, I think. Bill, are you there?

  • 12:45:53

    BILLYes, ma'am. Thank -- yes, thank you for taking my call.

  • 12:45:56


  • 12:45:56

    BILLIn a certain area, I'm always looking for great activities for taking teenagers out to. And Sandy Springs Adventure School out in Sandy Spring, Md., has an excellent zip line course. It's very similar to what sounds like Go Ape is. I've never been to Go Ape, but they -- you do zip lines, obstacles in the tree. And it has this wonderful self -- system so that it's very safe, and you're always attached to the cables that are under the trees.

  • 12:46:22

    BILLBut you don't have to -- it can just be you and the kids and not some other instructor or some -- you know, some other person out there kind of watching your every move. It's really nice.

  • 12:46:33

    VOGELTerrific. And where is the Sandy Spring Adventure School?

  • 12:46:36

    BILLIt's in the -- south of Sandy Springs. You basically get on Connecticut Avenue and just keep going and keep going. And, I guess, you go right out past to Leisure World and take a right, and you'll get there eventually. It's a...

  • 12:46:49

    VOGELOkay. So it's pretty close to the city. Thanks for calling, Bill. That's great. I wanted to go to a couple of emails. The email have been pouring in. Kate H. emailed to say, "We live in Laurel, Md. and have found a great spot for beautiful and easy hikes to do with our three young kids at the Patuxent Research Refuge in Laurel, just off the BW Parkway, not so far outside the Beltway. I recommend it. It's especially gorgeous in the fall."

  • 12:47:17

    VOGELSimilarly, an email from Brendan says, "Hands down, my favorite place is -- my favorite outdoor space is Jugs Bay in Prince George's County along the Patuxent River. It's a river estuary that really makes you feel like you have traveled a hundred -- hundreds of miles outside the Beltway. The canoeing, the bird-watching, they're all amazing." Paul, I know that you know the Patuxent Research Refuge fairly well. What should we know about it?

  • 12:47:46

    ELLIOTTThree things, it is very large, about 12,000 acres or more, full of wildlife, including over, maybe, 200 species of birds. And, secondly, it's a place where you need to stay on the trail at all times.

  • 12:48:00

    VOGELAnd why is that?

  • 12:48:01

    ELLIOTTBecause it was a former military training area, and there was said to still be unexploded ordnance off the trail.

  • 12:48:08

    VOGELDon't want to stumble on to any unexploded ordnances.

  • 12:48:11

    ELLIOTTI've not known anyone who ever has. On the other hand, it's a great way to make sure hikers don't wander off.

  • 12:48:18

    VOGELAnd, Joe, we were just speaking about something else on the Patuxent River, which was Jugs Bay. Do you know much about Jugs Bay?

  • 12:48:25

    OLBRYSNo. I'm afraid I'm not familiar with Jugs Bay.

  • 12:48:27

    VOGELOh, Paul raised his hands. Go ahead, Paul.

  • 12:48:29

    ELLIOTTYes. Jug Bay is sort of -- it's an aneurysm in the Patuxent River. It's an enlargement. It's a broad area.

  • 12:48:37

    VOGELA beautiful use of the word aneurysm.

  • 12:48:39

    ELLIOTTThank you. Well, in this case, it's very healthy.

  • 12:48:41


  • 12:48:42

    ELLIOTTAnd it is actually bordered by Patuxent Park on one side and by the Jug Bay wetlands refuge on the other. Gorgeous place to go, great trails. You can also rent canoes there in the park. And I agree with the caller. Those are great -- both of them are great places to go.

  • 12:49:02

    VOGELWe go back to the telephones. Dan in Silver Spring. You're on the air, Dan. Go ahead.

  • 12:49:10

    DANYeah, I wanted to give listeners, who are bicyclists, a heads up on an event that they might be interested in. On Sunday, Oct. 16, the area mountain bike club, Mid Atlantic Off Road Enthusiasts, MORE, is going to be offering a supported version of their Montgomery County Epic Ride. There's four different lengths, anywhere from 20 miles to over 60 miles, and there's going to be a kid-specific ride as well.

  • 12:49:37

    DANA good way to think of it, it's like a mountain bike version of the Sea Gull Century. There will be, you know, stop, aid stations along the way...

  • 12:49:46

    VOGELI'm going to stop you for a minute 'cause, for those of us who have never mountain biked and for those who are listening and say, I don't know what a Sea Gull Century is, if you can translate a little bit for us, what does it mean to have a supported ride? What are we talking about with four different lengths? Are -- can it be a beginner mountain biker? Or do you have to really know what you're doing?

  • 12:50:06

    DANWell, it would be -- you know, if you're on your first time riding a bike, it probably wouldn't be the best choice of riding. But if you've given it a try a few times and are looking to, you know, spread your wings a little bit, again, there's -- there are different lengths offered. So depending on your fitness level and how adventurous you are, you could go for -- you know, you could choose the 20-mile length.

  • 12:50:29

    DANOr if you're a more experienced or more fit cyclist and you wanted to have an all day adventure, then you could go for the 100K, the 60-mile length. And, you know, by supported, you know, it's an indication -- I mean, throughout the ride, there's going to be aid stations along the way where you can refill your water bottles and get snacks and food, get help with -- if you need a new inner tube for your bike, there'll be help for -- of that nature.

  • 12:50:57

    DANAnd there'll be SAG support. So if you have a catastrophic mechanical failure or you just overestimate your fitness and get tuckered out, then you'll be able to throw your bike and your person in a van and get shuttled back to your car.

  • 12:51:11

    VOGELTerrific, Dan, well, thank you for telling us about that. That's on Oct. 16 with MORE, the Mountain -- I can't remember what exactly MORE stands for, but the mountain bike enthusiasts in our area. Shane, you also have some big events coming up, right?

  • 12:51:25

    FARTHINGWe do. September and October are just absolutely full of biking events. The one that I want to particularly mention is WABA's D.C. Focus Ride. It's really sort of our signature event. It's coming up on Sept. 24. That's the 50 States & 13 Colonies Ride. And that's the kind of ride that can only happen here in D.C. where cyclists ride on every state-named street. And since there is a state-named street for every state, you can do the whole ride.

  • 12:51:49

    FARTHINGIt takes about 65 miles of city riding. So I would say this is definitely not one for beginners. You need to be in pretty good shape. And if you wanted a shorter version and you don't think you can make the full 50 states, we also have a shortened 13-colonies version of the same thing. But, again, that's Sept. 24. And you can go to our website to find out more. But that's a great ride.

  • 12:52:09

    FARTHINGI'll also mention a couple of other things that aren't exactly bike rides coming up, but have a biking component. The solar decathlon is coming to West Potomac Park this year. Everyone sort of loves seeing the competition and what it's about. There's going to be a full bike valet for that this year since they've been moved off the National Mall. So you can ride down, park your bike for free, leave it there.

  • 12:52:31

    VOGELAnd the solar decathlon is a couple -- I can't remember. Is it a full-week event of celebrating alternative energy? It used to always be on the mall. Now, you're saying it's at Potomac Park...

  • 12:52:40


  • 12:52:40

    VOGEL...and it's free. And it's kind of a whole bunch of engineers and other cool companies, students, everybody, competing to show off...

  • 12:52:48

    FARTHINGYeah, it's the -- Sept. 23 through Oct. 2. And it's college groups competing, and they actually build their buildings on the mall. And since they've been moved a little further away from the Metro this time, they're encouraging biking as a way to get there.

  • 12:53:01


  • 12:53:01

    FARTHINGAnd then there's also, on Oct. 2, the Capital Criterium is coming up. And that's a pretty big deal for D.C. It's a big bike race. It's the end-of-the-year race. They've got men's, women's and kids' rides. And they're incorporating a real strong family and community element to it this year, so there are going to be kid rides...

  • 12:53:18

    VOGELThat's a real professional racers' race.

  • 12:53:20

    FARTHINGIt is.

  • 12:53:20

    VOGELThat's like our version of the Tour de France, right?

  • 12:53:22

    FARTHINGSo -- right. You can come and watch the best Criterium racers in the nation compete, while there's going to be all these other activities and safety rodeos and rides and relays and all sorts of fun things for kids and for the family as well. So that's a way that you can come out and watch racing, participate in some riding and then have a good biking weekend.

  • 12:53:39

    VOGELTerrific. Paul, I know that, this fall, you're certainly looking forward to spending some time at McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area?

  • 12:53:48


  • 12:53:48

    VOGELTell me a little bit about that. That's one I've never heard of.

  • 12:53:52

    ELLIOTTTwo thousand acres of land along the Potomac -- near Poolesville, basically -- just off River Road. There are several ways of getting there. It's gorgeous. It has lots of birds, and also plantings to feed wildlife, so it -- until recently, there were acres and acres of sunflowers there that were quite extraordinary.

  • 12:54:11

    VOGELAnd I understand there's even a good place to get a quick vegetarian lunch nearby.

  • 12:54:16

    ELLIOTTYes, in fact. It -- there is a Tibetan temple -- excuse me -- off River Road, right close to there. And on Sundays, they have a -- an inexpensive buffet. You just walk in, get food, go outside to where the benches are, eat there, and across the street from there is a 60-acre, basically, nature preserve, owned by the temple, little trails. And that's full of birds. Birds just love it.

  • 12:54:43

    VOGELThat sounds delicious, sounds wonderful, the McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area. Joe, are there things coming up that you want to make sure we know about, events on the water?

  • 12:54:52

    OLBRYSWell, we don't have anything organized, with the exception of the Clean Water Paddle that will be coming up on the 10th. We do have a regatta coming up in late September. I believe it's Sept. 29. It's the Head of the Potomac Scullers' Regatta. If you want to come down and watch some fantastic crew racing, it's a great introduction to the sport.

  • 12:55:14

    OLBRYSThe city is getting -- I'm sorry, the National Park Service is getting ready to open up a new park here in Georgetown that will complete the park system. That's -- it's going to have steps that go right down to the river. You'll be able to -- if it is, in fact, open at that time, you'll be able to sit there right on the banks of the Potomac and watch the racers as they come down the river. We also rent bicycles.

  • 12:55:35

    OLBRYSWe've got three different facilities that rent bicycles, one on the Mount Vernon Trail. The Washington Sailing Marina, it's an excellent way to get on the trail system. We, at Thompson's, are right at the intersection of Rock Creek. We're near the Capital Crescent Trail. We're also at the end of the C&O Canal Towpath. We're at Mile Marker zero, so you can...

  • 12:55:59

    VOGELReally, right at the beginning, as opposed to the end.

  • 12:55:59

    OLBRYSWe are really right at -- the marker is right there at the downstream end of the boathouse between us and the Kennedy Center. You take a little walk down to the end of the boathouse, cross a little bridge, and you're right there.

  • 12:56:12

    VOGELTerrific. And speaking of the C&O Canal one more time before we leave, I understand that there's now an opportunity to stay overnight at the -- some of the restored lock houses along the C&O, right, Paul?

  • 12:56:26

    ELLIOTTThat's true. The U.S. Canal Trust maintains those and is refurbishing them. They're -- so you can stay overnight, rent them, and it's -- apparently, it's delightful to stay there. I know hikers who have done that, and they talk about it with great enthusiasm.

  • 12:56:41

    VOGELIt sounds terrific. Well, we're coming quickly to the end of this hour. I can give each of you about 15 seconds. Shane, anything left that you want to make sure you mention?

  • 12:56:50

    FARTHINGWell, I'll just add to the discussion of the Canal Quarters program, that the C&O Canal Towpath is also a great place for bike camping. I tend to do that a lot. It's a lot of fun, in case you can't get into one of the canal lock houses. But I would say, everyone, have a good time, be safe on the trails, nothing else to add.

  • 12:57:09

    VOGELTerrific. One last recommendation that didn't get aired?

  • 12:57:12

    ELLIOTTQuickly. Shane said there are hiker/biker campgrounds about -- rough -- every five miles along the towpath.

  • 12:57:18


  • 12:57:18

    ELLIOTTOne last thing I'd mention is there are 20 to 30 hikes put on every weekend by the local dozen hiking groups. They're all on the website. Make use of those and get out there.

  • 12:57:27

    VOGELTerrific. Well, you've been listening to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," WAMU 88.5. We've been talking about the great outdoors with Shane Farthing of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association, Joe Olbrys, the dock master at the Thompson Boat Center, and Paul Elliott, author of "60 Hikes Within Sixty Miles: Washington, D.C." I just thought I'd wrap by giving you a few more of the emails because everyone wants us to know about places.

  • 12:57:54

    VOGELDave wanted us to talk about Holmes Run Trail that we couldn't get in. Stanley wanted -- said, "Definitely go to the Virginia site of Great Falls or to the Chesapeake at North Beach in Maryland. Definitely go to Thurmont and Cunningham Falls." A tweet from FreshYell (sp?) says, "Brookside Gardens in Wheaton is the best close-by option, but you ought to make the trip to Sugarloaf Mountain."

  • 12:58:16

    VOGELWell, there's way more on this topic. We'll have to continue at another date. Gentlemen, thanks so much for listening. I'm Diane Vogel, managing producer of "The Kojo Nnamdi Show." Thanks for listening.

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