Today was a beautiful 65-degree day and I felt like going on a nice walk after work. So I drove over to Huntley Meadows, the largest park in the Fairfax County Park System at nearly 1,500 acres. Most of the park is lowland woods and swampy areas, but there’s also this really cool boardwalk that goes over a marsh. It’s a great early morning or late afternoon/evening walk if you want to hear birds chirping, frogs croaking and animals rustling through vegetation and dipping in and out of water. I say hear because I suck at actually spotting wildlife. Seriously, I didn’t even see a dear. This park is located in the Hybla Valley/Groveton area of Alexandria, which has kind of dodgy reputation in Fairfax County. There are lots of cheap motels, convenience stores, psychic/tarot-card reading spots, old ramblers and garden-style apartments giving the place a bit of a dingy, marginalized feel. However, I did a little research and discovered that the average family income in these two neighborhoods along the route 1 corridor is actually over or near $100,000, the poverty level is only about 5% and the crime level is significantly lower than the national average. I guess that goes to show what a bubble we live in here in Northern Virginia if the route 1 corridor is as big and bad as it gets.
Anyway, it was a great walk. Most of my fellow walkers were Latino families and couples who actually seemed to like each other out for an evening stroll. In my opinion, a boardwalk and water can’t help but be romantic and there is really no greater time to enjoy nature’s beauty than dusk. Or maybe dawn. The starting/ending part of the day just seems more enchanting to me. Nicer lighting, I think. Plus, everything seems to come alive at dawn and dusk; the sound of chirping birds backed by a chorus of croaking frogs was so omnipresent that I felt like someone had hit play on a Sounds of the Wetlands relaxation/sleep CD. I spent about an hour here and took about 250 pictures from dusk until sunset. I’ve discovered that the secret to taking pretty pictures when you’re not a good photographer is taking dozens of pictures of the same thing. That way, at least one or two come out OK! Anyone have any other nature-y suggestions in the D.C area? I’m always looking for cool/interesting places to visit!
I’m terrible at spotting wildlife. Supposedly, Huntley Meadows is one of the most bio diverse areas of Northern Virginia, but all I managed to see were squirrels, these little black birds with a bright red ribbon around their necks, a tiny turtle that a five-year-old proudly pointed out to me (it took her five minutes of pointing for me to actually see it), and ducks. Lots and lots of ducks. These guys were hanging out after dinner. Oh, and I also saw a fast-moving beaver. Or otter (are there otters in Virginia?) or some kind of furry water animal. But it was moving too fast for me to get a good picture of it.
These little guys decided to go on a romantic afternoon swim.
This little guy was fishing for dinner…
…and this one is taking a much-deserved nap after an evening of fishing and swimming. A posted this pic to Facebook and a friend kindly pointed out I titled it “fuck bed” instead of “duck bed.” Oops.
After stalking ducks for a while, I decided to attempt photographic artistry by taking close-ups of wetland vegetation. I have no idea what kind of plant this is, but I like it well enough. However, I decided photographic artistry wasn’t worth it after my phone nearly tumbled out of my hands and into Huntley Meadows Marsh. All subsequent pictures were taken from a safe distance.
Same plant, further away. This was as close as I was willing to get after my phone’s close call/near drowning.
The Huntley Meadows boardwalk. The trees are taking on an orange-pink tinge, which means they’re just about to bloom. Woohoo! I will probably go back to Huntley Meadows in a month or so when everything has bloomed and spring has fully sprung. I’m so tired of bald trees.
Huntley Meadows at dusk. As much as I love my iphone 5 camera, I think it’s time for me to invest in a fancier camera with better zoom. My iphone camera makes everything look slightly blurry when it’s getting dark. Actually, I just realized this problem probably could have been easily remedied if I had used my flash. Oh well.
The coolest thing about Huntley Meadows is the half-mile long boardwalk that goes over the marsh. I got here around 6:45 and stayed until sunset. There were enough people around that I wasn’t worried someone would kidnap me (I watch too many crime shows) but human sightings were rare enough that the marsh felt peaceful, quiet and solitary, the way they tell you nature should.
When I lived in Panama I was fully intrigued by the mangroves. It seemed like such a mysterious, slightly sinister but beautiful world unto itself. This isn’t exactly as dense or tropical as the Panamanian mangroves, but it’s as close as I’ve seen in Northern Virginia! You get the feeling that you have no idea what might be lurking under the water!
Lone tree on an island.
Another sadly blurry image. But I think this does capture the overall vibe of Huntley Meadows.
I think of myself as a mountain person (not as in a person of the mountains who wears raccoon hats, eats squirrel and lives in a ramshackle cabin..just someone who likes the mountains) but ever since I visited Dyke Marsh I’ve been intrigued by marshes/wetlands. So much life, beauty and mystery. Though I will say the mountains smell a lot better. Still waters may run deep, but they also do an excellent job of cultivating less than pleasantly aromatic bacteria. Also, I apologize for stereotyping mountain people.
So maybe using flash won’t cut it after all. There was pretty good lighting here and the trees in the back are still blurry. Any good but not ridiculously expensive camera suggestions?
And I’ll end with this photo of sunset at Huntley Meadows.
And now, a poorly shot video (sorry about the sound):
Categories: Alexandria, D.C Side Trips, DC Area Outdoors Activities, Hiking, Outdoors, Parks, Parks, Reviews, Suburbs, Virginia