I have to explain before we get started that I joined a hiking group online so that I would have hikes to do more frequently and with other people. I don't think Chandra Levy jokes are appropriate - but I think we all know it's not safe to be alone in a park (especially in Rock Creek Park) if you're a woman in DC. That being said, the group I joined is the Mid-Atlantic Hiking Group and they were actually just featured in the Washington Post. The group is kind of a pain-in-the-you-know-where because it has so many members that the hikes are often booked and you are put on a waiting list. But there are an abundance of hikes offered - so I can't complain.
Anyway, the Rock Creek Park hike was my first with the group. I met some very nice people, which was a plus, but the hike in general was really not fun and for the first time since I started these hikes I found myself thinking like a 6 year old on a road trip - Are we THERE yet? The hike was apparently only 4.5 miles, but it felt like 40.5. We started around 11:15am and after a series of wrong turns finished around 1:30. Over 2 hours for only 4.5 miles. Absurd.
There are a few other reasons the hike was not fun.
1. Apparently to lead one of these hikes you do not have to be a certified hiker, guide or anything. It was like hiking with Helen Keller and letting Helen be your guide, even though you have five functioning senses and she does not. We kept taking wrong turns and having to backtrack over and over again. I did this hike Sunday and I mentioned that after Saturday's hike in Great Falls I am somewhat of an expert map reader. Helen, on the other hand, had an iphone GPS system for the trail and still couldn't get us from A to B. Let's say she's not on my level of map reading - anyone can follow a blinking dot on an iphone. Duh.
2. Rock Creek is not a pretty park. The title of this hike online was "Leaf Peep" and was described as experiencing the Fall colors of DC. I was mislead into thinking that our guide would be pointing out different types of leaves and trees and that the hike would be somewhat educational. Well, Helen obviously had no such intention or the capability to do so. On top of that - there are no Fall colors in Rock Creek - it was just a bunch of dead trees and dead leaves. The colors of Fall in DC are withered and brown. Take that info and do with it what you will. No wonder we're famous for our Cherry Blossoms as opposed to Fall foliage.
3. For a National Park, Rock Creek is poorly maintained - if it's maintained at all. It's embarrassing. I can't blame Helen completely for getting us lost because most of the trails are so covered in dead leaves that it's hard to tell they are trails at all. They are also covered in horse manure. There are also rocks jutting up on whatever trails there are - making me realize I need to take this hiking relationship to the next level and get some hiking boots (Mom and Dad: Donations welcome). There is also no paint on the trees as trailmarkers - which is a standard, pro-environment way of blazing trails. I know this from my expert level blazing through Great Falls.
I'm going to post some pictures that make the park seem pretty, but don't be fooled - whatever wasn't green was brown, and I decided to spare you from the death and destruction that is Rock Creek Park.
Don't be fooled.
This was the only tree with any semblance of Fall foliage. Don't be fooled.
The light was pretty in this one. Don't be fooled.
I'm going to give the Mid-Atlantic Hiking Group another chance - but I will not be going on the third installment of the Rock Creek Park series next weekend. 1. Helen will be leading (Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. I'm onto you Helen). 2. Rock Creek Park is disgusting and doesn't meet my standards of park beauty. I'm not willing to wait and find out if Rock Creek has a good personality - I'm judging this book by it's cover and there will not be a second date.
I wasn't the only hiker to have these feelings either - many were exasperated by the end of this trek. But I promised the good, the bad, and the ugly in this blog and well, this hike fulfilled 2 of those 3. I'll let you figure out which 2 those are. It shouldn't be hard. Unless you're Helen Keller.