For many, a summer stuck in quarantine has resurrected a connection with nature. With no commitments, get-togethers, or places to be, we’ve found the outdoors to be the only place open. The outdoors offers a chance to breathe, finally free from the confines of our small DC dwellings. We welcome the fresh air (with masks on in the presence of others, of course). And my family hasn’t been immune to the desire to be outside during this very weird time.
But it seems that everyone has the same idea. To deter overcrowding, the mayor shut down many roads running through Rock Creek Park and other DC parks during the week. Trails just outside of DC are busy—so much so, my husband and I found ourselves almost in a single-file line on one, trying our best with two toddlers to keep 6 feet apart to pass on through. And so, the hunt for kayaks began.
We’ve been saving for years, dreaming about owning our very own kayaks. We love renting at boathouses in DC, but the idea of being able to take a kayak anywhere is adventurous! And when the very nice spring weather hit DC this year, we decided to jump in and outfit ourselves with kayaks.
But it wasn’t that easy. Lots of people decided to take to the water to avoid crowded trails. Kayaks were actually sold out everywhere! We swallowed our disappointment by ordering them anyway, expecting them to arrive in mid-September. To our surprise, they arrived a month earlier than expected on our tiny one-way street in a giant truck just for us!
And so, on a drizzly Saturday morning in August, we headed over to Bladensburg Waterfront Park with our kayaks strapped tightly to the top of our car. When we arrived at the park, the clouds parted and the sun shone brightly. It was a sunny, hot August day—my favorite kind of weather.
Rowers were in the water when we arrived. My husband carried our two kayaks to a dock while I watched our little boys by the sidewalk. We quickly got everyone suited up for a paddle, and we were on our way. I was shocked by how quickly we got into the water once we arrive. It couldn’t have been any easier. And everything with two little kids is usually super hard.
Our first wildlife sighting was a turtle swimming by the dock. I absolutely adore turtles, so I knew we were off to a great start. After spotting the turtle, however, my son pointed out litter. It turned out that our paddle would reveal a lot more litter than the little bit we saw at first. This is a problem all along the Anacostia River, and something we noticed a lot at Bladensburg Waterfront Park. We need to do better for the environment.
With rowers racing nearby, we were advised to stay along the shore. That was fine with us—it was a great place to spot turtles sunning themselves on logs. They often jumped off as we approached. It was so fun to see their different sizes. We certainly saw a lot of babies!
My husband had our 3-year-old in tow; I had our 13-month-old. My baby was actively trying to jump into the water, so I patiently pointed out different things to him to keep him engaged. We saw a big blue heron and vultures, as well as a few other birds. He also enjoyed waving to those fishing along the riverbank. I kept repeating my own version of lines from my son’s favorite book Baby Bear, Baby Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin, Jr. and Eric Carle: Blue heron, blue heron, what do you see? I see a kayaker looking at me!
I sat back while he drank a bottle thinking about the last time I was in a kayak. It was just a few days before he was born the summer before. Times certainly have changed since then!
After an hour or so on the water, we paddled to shore and hopped out of our boats, avoiding the goose poop on the dock as best we could. My husband carried the boats over his head to the car while I fussed with the kids, handing out snacks, changing a diaper, asking my 3-year-old if he had to go potty. I wanted to help my husband, but it turns out that when you have little kids to watch, it’s difficult to carry kayaks and watch the kids at the same time. So I was grateful that he could carry them himself!
Bladensburg Waterfront Park has more than a boathouse. There’s a paved trail along the Anacostia River where people were running and biking. We also found an empty playground with a large grassy area nearby. We took the kids to the playground to celebrate a successful day on the water and our very first family paddle during a global pandemic.
A connection with nature can mean many things: hiking, biking, running, paddling, going to a playground. Share your favorite ways to connect with nature in the comments below.