Friday, September 6, 2013

Keep It Local: National Arboretum's Washington Youth Garden and Asian Collections

We haven't made a visit to the Arb since the sequestration forced significantly reduced hours (it is now open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday to Monday only). But we recently found ourselves with a free Friday and headed over to check out the Washington Youth Garden. We'd heard great things about the children's garden from friends and were most excited to do some exploring in the free play area. It didn't disappoint.

I spent most of my time designing and building "jungle gyms" with the fantastic grouping of stumps and log planks. Apparently you aren't actually supposed to move the heavier planks, but I couldn't help myself and seeing as it was keeping me occupied, mom didn't object. Our little daredevil Cam feigned fright at the balance beam, so mom was spending most of her time walking Cam along my designs. I especially loved building "hidden seesaws," which wasn't really helping allay her fears. But I thought it was a blast to jump and teeter-totter along.

Mom eventually dragged us to explore the rest of the garden and we had a great time picking out all of the vegetables we refuse to eat and the select few we like -- who knew that's how edamame grew!? On our way to find the beehive, we discovered a perfectly-sized corn maze and had a ball weaving in and out, pretending to rescue mom (who was only half pretending to hide). Outside of the Youth Garden's shade, however, the sun quickly did us in and we took off in search of a cooler spot.

Cam suggested looking for a geocache and mom quickly found that one was placed in the Asian Collections, which we'd never visited before. We took a short drive over, parked at the top of the Asian Valley, and set off down the hill for the cache. It became clear quickly that the cache was well hidden at the bottom of a steep off-trail location. And while mom is used to schlepping both of us up the sides of hills, it was muddy, and her flip flops were not going to cut it. So despite the motto of the geocaching Green Team, "never give up!," we, well, gave up. We didn't find the cache, but we did find the sprinklers watering neighboring China Valley and that was just as good (if not better). We cooled off and then packed it in.

If you get a chance to make it to the Arb on a weekend, definitely add these two spots as places to explore. Although, the Asian Collections are not really stroller friendly and while it's lovely walking down, keep in mind that you will have to turn around and go back up!

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