Most people would probably say that if you are going to be an empty nester, the DC area is a great place to be. There are theaters, museums galore, dining and parks, and sports, offering no end of entertainment possibilities. But if I’ve learned one thing while living here, it’s that there is a big difference between being a DC tourist and a resident. Regular life and daily routine intrudes on all those great plans you had to get out and about.
The first time we lived in the area, I had the chance to chaperon a daughter’s class trip to the National Gallery of Art. I was amazed at the number of other chaperons who told me this was going to be their first visit. They’d never had a chance before, because…life intrudes. Kids sports or chores around the house that had to wait for the weekend because of work and school…you know how it is. The routine takes hold, even now.
Well we are stepping away from the routine and creating time for new experiences. And as we learned one recent weekend, adventure doesn't have to involve exotic locations – it can start with just slipping on a good pair of walking shoes.
We took the opportunity of a lazy Sunday to head to Shenandoah National Park (http://www.nps.gov/shen/index.htm) and Skyline Drive for a day of hiking and picnicking. (The normal Sunday routine would have involved a likely trip to Home Depot for that screw needed to finish a repair project, a visit to the PX or Commissary, and of course, football.) It was our first visit and I am so glad we finally made time to go. We hiked the South River trail to the bottom of a water fall. We dipped our feet in the fall’s pool and had fun chatting with our fellow hikers on a truly beautiful day.
The drive back home along Skyline Drive was amazing – I can only imagine what it must be like in its full Autumn display. We stopped at the Visitor’s Center to learn the history of the park’s development and found the exhibits on the Civilian Conservation Corps’ role in the park’s growth fascinating. A quick stop at the Skyland Resort tap room gave us a chance to quench our thirst with a local brew, while enjoying the breathtaking views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Most of all we learned that it’s easy to add a little adventure to our lives, by taking time to do something out of the routine. We had a successful first step and hopefully our experiences can give you a little inspiration on taking the first step out of your normal routine.
Jump on in, the water’s fine!
There are many wonderful locations for walks in the park close by, too, whether for empty nesters or families. We found a great guide book recently – “Country Walks Near Washington,” by Alan Fisher with features on Prince William Forest, Great Falls Park, the C&O Canal and much more. “Off the Beaten Path Virginia,” by Judy Colbert, is a compilation of unique places to visit throughout the state, with many located in Northern Virginia.
If you have a suggestion for an Empty Nest adventure, share in our comments section. It will be fun to check them out.