Tuesday, June 5, 2012

This River is Wild: Riverbend Park

OK, so we know we talk a lot of smack about Virginia (and we think most of it is well deserved).  What can we say?  We're city brats.  But on a beautiful morning last week we made the trek (it actually really is a trek) out to Riverbend Park in Great Falls, Virginia and we just may now have one nice thing to say about the Commonwealth.  Because this park was sick.  Out past all of the individually gated and named mansions and located a few minutes past the Virginia entrance to Great Falls, Riverbend Park is a free, public Fairfax County park consisting of 400 acres of forest, meadows and ponds.  We started our trip at the Visitor's Center (which houses some live animals and some stuffed ones, too), where the very friendly staff informed our choice of hikes -- we picked the blue trail headed downstream, which was level and right next to the river.  The trails are not stroller-friendly, but if you drive up to the Nature Center (which is open only for special events), there is a looped and paved "trail" you could take.

Cam and I were both in the "let's sit by the water and make mom tell made-up stories" mood, which mom indulged for a bit.  Then we had some epic rock throwing contests.  And finally made our way to the super nice picnic area right next to the river.  We spent most of our time here -- turning the picnic tables into pirate ships and planks.  I worked up the courage to jump off the end.  Cam worked up the courage to jump the gap between the two tables.  And we both played "I'm falling off the boat and there are sharks" for a LONG time.  We saw some people on the trail, but nobody seemed to mind that we were screaming at the tops of our lungs.  And the wildlife.  We saw tons of butterflies, ducks, herons, and a hawk scoop down and grab a SNAKE (which we only saw when mom yelled "holy H, that hawk just caught a snake!").

We eventually made our way back to the Visitor's Center -- it has a small snack stand and mom had promised us lemonade if we were good.  We sat out on the nice deck overlooking the water and had our drink.  We watched the boat launch and planned our return -- you can rent rowboats, canoes and kayaks (or bring your own and pay a launch fee).  The Visitor's Center was also well stocked with fishing gear (or at least it seemed that way to non-fishing people like us), if that's your thing.  Count us in for a canoe.  We see no downside in that plan.

If you live in the area or are willing to make the trek from the city, the park offers all kinds of neat camps and programs for families and kids, including "glamping" (which mom is attempting to convince dad to undertake), nighttime hikes, nature for the tiniest of tots, and boating activities.  Check out their Calendar of Events and explore all the programs offered here.

leading a dancing hike

our rock throwing spot

our story-telling spot -- see the canoes?

our picnic/snack spot 

debating the various ways one can "jump the gap"


butterfly watching

doesn't this look sweet?  in reality, cam is throwing me a S-eating grin after tossing my walking stick into the water.  in the next frame, i smack her.

a spider in our lemonade chair


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