Friday, February 22, 2013

Keep It Local: Winkler Botanical Preserve

Yesterday, having already been home three days this school week (holiday, sick day, daddy stole our car keys day), I told mom I couldn't go to school. "I'm too tired," I told her. "You slept all night long. I know that because I slept in your bed with you for the third night in a row," she said. Hm. "My knee hurts?" I tried. "You are going to school," she insisted. Then she checked her email. "BLEEP BLEEPITY BLEEP. You're not going to school. The heater broke."

It was 27 degrees out. Again. But the cleaning crew was coming and we had to get out of the house. And while there are bars open close to our house at 7:30 a.m., instead mom checked No Monsters In My Bed's list of outdoor activities for something new and found it: Winkler Botanical Preserve -- a 44 1/2 acre private preserve in the middle of Alexandria sprawl. The preserve was recently threatened by VDOT plans to put a 395 exit ramp and roadway through the middle of it (because why would you want to leave any smidge of green space?), but it appears it's been saved. PHEW. Because this place is awesome. Random (you can see and hear NOVA development through the trees), but awesome.

The public entrance to the preserve is just through an apartment complex parking lot. There was a little kiosk at the entrance, but it was unmanned and there was no trail information. So we just took off following what looked like the trail to us. We'd heard that there was a "hobbit house" and we were on the lookout for that -- I was pretty sure we'd find Hagrid there. We thought we spotted it through the trees, but it turned out to be a pretty serious looking rockclimbing tower (the preserve runs a highly coveted summer camp and that appeared to be part of it).

We wound our way around a decent-sized lake and heard a group of school children arrive -- they were the only people we saw during our visit and they were only there a short time. They did draw our attention to a large rustic lodge, but we still had our hearts set on finding that hobbit house. Our hike (and this really is a hike -- it's a path, but hilly and rocky -- NOT stroller accessible) took us down to a little stream and we took up our favorite water-related nature activity: rock throwing. It was partly frozen, so that was even better. And then I spotted the hobbit house, across the river and up another hill. We took off. Only to find it LOCKED. Boo.

No worries. We continued our hike to a gentler, more shallow part of the stream and took up rock throwing again. I worked on a dam and Cam requested larger and larger boulders to chuck. We eventually grew a little cold and worked our way up to the lodge ("Catherine's Lodge") only to find that CLOSED, too. And no one around to explain what the deal was. And there's not much info online. SO, you can bet we'll be back in warmer weather (probably before that summer camp starts) to play in the shallow stream and find out what's what with the what with those cabins.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post. We visit this place yesterday and we all love it. If it wasn't for this post we would've never known this wonderful place existed.