Category Archives: Outdoor

A Fossil Hunting Stop at Westmoreland State Park

 

Last week I popped in for a visit at Westmoreland State Park in Montross, VA, a nearly two-hour drive away from DC.   And before you think I’d just pop-in to a place that far away, I should mention that this was on my way back from the Tides Inn, where I’d enjoyed a lovely, quick getaway with a couple of friends. (Note: While my pop-in at the park was sans kids, it’s definitely a place for the whole family!)

While I hadn’t planned on going to the park then, Westmoreland has been on my To-Go list for about a year, ever since friends mentioned the park was known as a fossil hunting spot.  Located on the Potomac River, prehistoric remains found there are from the Miocene Era, up to 30 million years old.  We’ve definitely done our share of searching for shark teeth and fossilized remnants over the years — it’s a favorite activity that I’ve written about a lot here on the blog. So, when I hear of a place to fossil hunt that I haven’t visited, the name naturally sticks in my mind.

Anyway, as I was driving home from the resort in Irvington, VA, I passed a sign on the road that read “Westmoreland State Park 4 Miles.”  That sparked a little jolt of excitement as I remembered the name, so I did like any fossil hunt diggin’ lady would do and made a little detour on my route home — and popped in.

I drove down the entrance road and eventually came to the gatehouse where I paid $7 admission and asked the ranger about the fossil hunting area.  She handed me a map and told me Fossil Beach is accessed via the Big Meadow Trail that starts right from the parking lot by the Visitor Center.  It was about a half-mile drive to the lot, and I parked right in front the trail with a kiosk displaying the trail map on one side and a “Fossil Beach” sign on the other.  I found an old ziplock bag stuck in the back seat (thanks, kids!) that could hold my fossil finds, then headed out on the trail.

It’s a little over a half-mile hike to the beach on a wide, mostly flat trail under a canopy of leafy trees. There are small info signs on the way that identify  trees and other nature. It took me about 10 minutes to reach the beach mostly walking briskly, also jogging a bit, so it would take longer with young kids along.  I saw a dad pushing a stroller on the way,  albeit a large sturdy one that handles trails well.  The Big Meadow Trail is marked well and leads directly to Fossil Beach.  A couple of short boardwalk paths let you know you’re almost there.

When the woods finally opened up to the beach area, I took a minute to take in the pretty scene.  It reminded me a lot of Calvert Cliffs State Park with about a quarter-mile stretch of sand backed by grassy wetlands and cliffs on each side.  There weren’t many other people there, just a small homeschool group and a few couples, but it was a weekday; I assume it gets more crowded on weekends.

After enjoying the views, I went right to the waterline and got to it, bending over and examining the sand all around below for several minutes, hoping to spy the familiar triangle-ish shape of a shark tooth.  After many years of doing this, my eyes have become trained, and I usually can spot one somewhat easily.  No initial luck here.


But fossil hunting often requires patience, so I slowly made my way down the shoreline, stopping to scoop up piles of shells in some places and spending time watching the gentle tide wash in new pieces.  Still not a single shark tooth, however, I did find a few ray fossils and picked up other pieces to try to identify at home (I use FossilGuy.com to help with that).  Chatting with other folks there, I learned they didn’t have much luck finding shark teeth either.

I spent about an hour on the beach before I had to head back to the car and resume my drive home.  And while it may not have been a very successful fossil hunt, my curiosity was sated and I had a chance to check out the park a bit.

There’s more to do there than just search for shark teeth.  It’s a beautiful forested area with campgrounds and cabins, plus several trails to hike and one that allows bikes. Kayak, paddleboat, and standup paddle board rentals are available from mid-April through Columbus Day, there’s another beach area, a playground, plus boating and fishing opportunities (permits needed).  Of course, you can also enjoy a little beach day and even do some swimming — the water looked quite nice and fairly shallow there.

So, while I wouldn’t recommend the park just for fossil hunting — sure, it could have just been a slow shark tooth day, but it’s a long way to go to find out — it looks like it would be great for a fun, easy camping adventure or beach day trip with kids.

Westmoreland State Park
Where: 145 Cliff Road | Montross, VA
When: Daily, dawn to dusk | Visitor Center, M-F 10am – 4pm
Admission: $7/car daily (see website for camping/cabins)

* If you’re keen to fossil hunt, check out this post with info and links to more places to go that are closer to DC, plus tips on making the most of your experience.

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Filed under All ages, Outdoor, Virginia

Children’s Performances are Back at Wolf Trap’s Theatre-in-the-Woods!

 

This post is sponsored by Wolf Trap, however, I only promote programs, places, and events that I genuinely believe in and think will appeal to KFDC readers.

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Filed under 2021, Live Entertainment, Outdoor, Seasonal, Summer, Theatre, Virginia

Children’s Performances at Wolf Trap Start Next Week!

 

Play, sing, dance, and learn this summer at Wolf Trap!

Fun for all ages, this summer’s Children’s Performances feature music, dance, and storytelling. Wolf Trap National Park provides a full day of adventure! After the show, explore with Ellen Reid SOUNDWALK, enjoy a picnic lunch, or play in the Meadow.

July performances start next week with Dan + Claudia Zanes with Friends, Inez Barlatier, Joanie Leeds, Oran Etkin: Timbalooloo, Elena Moon Park and Friends, and more.

Just added August performers include Sonia De Los Santos and The Okee Dokee Brothers, Yogapalooza with Bari Koral, Danny Weinkauf and his Red Pants Band, FLY DANCE COMPANY: The Gentlemen of Hip Hop, and many more!

Performances will take place at the Filene Center in July and at Children’s Theatre-in-the-Woods in August on Tuesdays, Wednesday, and Saturdays, July 20-August 21.

Visit the Wolf Trap website for the full schedule and to reserve your tickets!  And read about one of our past experiences at Children’s Theatre-in-the-Woods here.

 

This post is sponsored by Wolf Trap, however, I only promote programs, places, and events that I genuinely believe in and think will appeal to KFDC readers.

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Filed under 2021, All ages, Live Entertainment, Outdoor, Seasonal, Summer, Theatre, Virginia, Weekdays, Weekend

Scenes from a Visit to the Adventure Park at Sandy Spring

 

If you’ve been reading KFDC awhile, then you probably already know that we love the Adventure Park at Sandy Spring.  The aerial forest experience that has adventure-goers navigating ropes courses and ziplines in the trees is such a fun and thrilling challenge — and easily one of our favorite adventures in the DC area.

The Adventure Park opened in 2011 and has since become the largest manmade outdoor climbing park in the worldWe first experienced it not long after its launch, when Owen was just six years old, and we’ve visited at least once a year since then with the exception of the last Covid year, often as a special end of summer break outing, and with both kids since Sasha has been old enough to join.  A visit there is a bit of a splurge, so it’s not something we do frequently.

That first visit, Owen could only go on a couple of easier courses for 5-6 year olds, and he had to be accompanied by an adult (me).  As he got older he could tackle more — and on his own.  On a recent visit, he and his friends were making their way from tree to tree high, high up in the air, maneuvering across wooden planks, grabbing for dangling ropes, and whizzing down zip lines.

Sasha and I stayed on the intermediate trails, which are very fun and challenging, just not quite as intense or as high as the advanced black and double black routes.  It’s pretty awesome to see both of my kids conquer the courses and to think about how much they’ve grown — physically, mentally, and emotionally — since their first experiences on the beginner purples.  It’s like our visits to the Adventure Park are kind of a benchmark for their development.

So, as mentioned, it’s usually a tradition for us to go at the end of summer, but after this weird bummer of a Covid school year, I decided an early summer trip there was well deserved.  (And still planning to bring them before they head back to the classroom in August, too. )

In case it isn’t evident, I highly recommend experiencing the Adventure Park at Sandy Spring, especially for active kids who love the outdoors and a good challenge!  Kids as young as 5 can go, but ages 5-6 can only do the easiest purple courses and must always be with an adult.  Ages 7-11 can climb all of the intermediate courses with an adult,  ages 12-13 can do the advanced black courses with an adult, and ages 14 and up can do everything solo.

Current pricing for a three-hour climb (prices are Mon-Thurs | Fri-Sun):
Adult (age 12+): $60 | 64
Junior (age 7-11): $50 | 54
Child (age 5-6): $16 | 20

Other special climbs:
Last Call that begins later in the day: $45/adult, $16/child
Glow in the Park evening climbs on certain dates: $56
Keep it Lit adults only on certain date: $49

Good things to know if you plan to go:
* You must reserve in advance. Admission is timed-entry and spots can fill up, especially on weekends.
* Wear comfortable clothes that you can move around in easily. I like to wear something with a pocket that zips or stays closed to hold my keys and phone.
* The park no longer provides gloves, but you can BYO or buy them there for $3, which I recommend.
* Closed-toed shoes are required.
* There is a short orientation on climbing (pay attention!) and a chance to practice using the gear before you get on the courses.
* Plan to leave belongings in your car or store in a small locker for $3. (I bring my phone and keys, but keep them in a secure pocket.)
* Concessions are available from the Munch Mobile food truck (and the fare is good) or you can BYO. There are picnic tables on the grounds outside of the climbing area for eating.
* Portable restrooms are outside the climbing area, and I recommend stopping at them before starting your climb — no one wants to be stuck in the trees with an urgent need to go.
* If you’re feeling really ambitious and want to do a double outing, the park is located right by the Underground Railroad Experience Trail

The Adventure Park at Sandy Spring is located at 16701 Norwood Road in Sandy Spring, MD. It’s open every day through summer with varying hours, and mostly weekends in the fall and spring.

And since I brought my phone on my climb to snap pics, here are more scenes from our recent visit…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under 2021, Maryland, Nature, Outdoor, Spring, Summer, Weekdays, Weekend