2020 | Coronavirus Chronicles

Coronavirus Chronicles: Exploring Montgomery County’s parks and trails

‘Although I've lived in the county for more than 30 years, I’ve been wowed by all the natural beauty so close at hand.’

Lake Needwood in Derwood

FROM Carole Sugarman

(Editor’s note: This essay is part of Bethesda Beat’s Coronavirus Chronicles personal essay series. Visit the submission page to learn more.)

These crazy times have created unexpected consequences.

Pants purchases are down, while sales of shirts — the visible half on Zoom — have been up. Zoo animals miss human attention, while shelters see a surge in pet adoptions. The list goes on.

For me, an unintended effect of the pandemic has been this: The cancellation of in-person professional sports led me to explore Montgomery County’s parks and trails. My husband and I are season ticket holders to both Major League Maseball and Major League Soccer. During “regular” times, we’ve gone to countless Nationals and D.C. United games as our outdoor activity.

Now, a couple of times each week, in lieu of attending games, we find a new park and a new hike. And although I’ve lived in the county for more than 30 years, I’ve been wowed by all the natural beauty so close at hand.

In fact, I’ve gained newfound appreciation for the place, as these jaunts provide the perfect mix of social distancing, exercise and tranquility.

Among our mini-adventures, I got into a staring contest with a doe at Lake Needwood (she won); became entangled in a thorn bush on a densely forested trail at Black Hill Regional Park; watched my husband practice imaginary swings on the 8th hole at the former Redgate Golf Course, now a bird watchers’ paradise; saw the trickle of the namesake Sandy Spring on the Underground Railroad Experience Trail; and drove along the two-lane routes within the picturesque and underutilized Montgomery County Agricultural Reserve.

We meandered around McCrillis Gardens on a drizzly day and managed to see the sunflowers at their peak at McKee Beshers Wildlife Management Area.

While we missed the bloom at the Brighton Dam Azalea Garden, the trail overlooking the Triadelphia Reservoir and the crashing water over the dam were still revelatory.

With fall upon us, we’ll continue our treks each week. Montgomery County has more than 400 parks, so we won’t run out of ideas anytime soon.

Carole Sugarman is a longtime food writer and contributing editor of Bethesda Magazine who also tackled homemade bagels during the lockdown. Her husband made peanut butter with leftover packages of last season’s Nats stadium nuts.


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