Great Green Escapes: Mt. Vernon Trail

A version of this story originally appeared in my Green and Simple column on the Old Town Alexandria Patch.

During the school year, I had a standing date with a friend whom I met 10 years ago at a new mom’s group at Alexandria Hospital. I had just had my first child and was in full-scale panic mode, fearful that every decision I made would scar my weeks-old baby. A recently broken-in, clear-headed new mom friend with a daughter a little more than a year older than my newborn, swooped in and whisked me and child off to the new mom’s group where I gained a little perspective.

As the newbie moms circled the room sharing fears and concerns (some rational, some not), I was embarrrasingly surprised to find that my issues were not unique or complex. I almost instantly began to feel more grounded as we all shared our stories and discovered how much we had to offer each other to help us through the challenging first months of new parenthood.

After a few months, many of us returned to work and our support group lost its structure and cohesiveness, though some of us kept in touch and got together  for the first few years or so. Fast forward 10 years (and two additional kids) and on any given Friday morning during the past school year, you might have found me and my friend April, from that new mom’s group, tucked away in a booth bonding over breakfast at Panera on Duke Street.

Since we are both work-at-home moms, we took advantage of the flexibility that structure offered to get together when both our schedules allowed … a sort of evolved, mature-mom support group. With five kids between us and the oldest having recently celebrated their launches into double digits, we both still enjoy sharing our experiences, child-related and beyond.

Unfortunately, when the school year ended, so too did our Friday morning breakfast dates. There is a funny thing that happens each summer, once the structure of school goes away. As a work-at-home mom, many aspects of my own life shift to accommodate our more liquid schedules and changing needs. Throw holidays, vacations, weekend adventures, camps, and classes into the mix and the weekly schedule becomes a quizzical puzzle. My Friday morning ritual with April felt victim. But after months of volleying dates and times to and fro, we were finally able to reconnect on a recent Sunday morning.

As much as April and I have shared over the years, we have not spent much time together in nature. When I suggested that we meet at a park or by the water, she offered to bake some muffins and bring some fruit and orange juice. I offered to bring the boiled eggs and some more fruit and we had the makings of an ideal Sunday morning outing.

After meandering through town and down the George Washington Parkway, we arrived at Riverside Park where we laid out our spread, picnic-patterned table cloth and all. The slightly overcast skies kept the temperature cooland comfortable. The countless walkers, joggers, bikers, and bladers offered inspiration to get active.

Over the years, I have walked, biked, and even roller-bladed along the Mt. Vernon Trail that snakes along the Potomac from D.C. to the Mt. Vernon Estate and Garden. As our family has grown and evolved, the Mt. Vernon Trail has been a consistent presence in our experiences.

We chased our toddling toddlers at Lyndon Baines Johnson Memorial Grove. We have had pizza picnics at Belle Haven Park and have thrown birthday parties there, too. Our girls attended Girl Scout Camp at Ft. Hunt Park and learned how to ride their bikes from park rangers. We have enjoyed leisurely strolls through Dyke Marsh Preserve and have hunted for wildlife to observe at Daingerfield Island. We have dodged airplanes landing at Gravelly Point, and run circles around Theodore Roosevelt Island. We have even dragged ourselves from bed in the wee hours of the morning to watch the sunrise and kept the kids up extra late to admire the massive expanse of the super moon from the banks of the Potomac.

Over the years, both as a childless couple and later as parents, the Mt. Vernon Trail has been an integral part of our lives and our family’s connection with nature. So, it was especially sweet to enjoy a breakfast picnic at Riverside Park with a friend who was there at the start of it all.

What memories have you created along the Mt. Vernon Trail?

Thanks for reading!

Filed Under: Children and NatureEco-KidsEnvironmentFamily FunFeaturedGreat Green Escapes

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