My wish for Mother's Day this year was to camp with my family and friends at Patuxent River Park about 45 minutes southeast of Washington, DC on the Patuxent River. Over the past couple of years, our family has hiked the trails in this park from the upland woods to the boardwalks in the wetlands. This park is special because you can't image that you are so close to an urban area with its quiet peacefullness, abundance of wildlife, and lack of people. I debated whether to tell my secret or keep it to myself. In the end, I decided everyone needs to feel the peace and joy that this park deliveries once you have spent an afternoon or a weekend in its boundaries. So now the secret is out.
I reserved the campsite on January 3rd. It is very difficult to reserve for weekends because there is only one campsite and it is such a gem. Our family arrived on Friday evening after tackling beltway traffic. We opened the gate and drove to the site, got out of the car and said wow. The site has a magnificant canopy of mature trees covering it with three picnic tables and a campfire ring. The campsite is big enough to stake down four tents. The campsite sits on a bluff on the river. After checking out the campsite, my kids ran to the river's edge to discover a dock where I heard, "Oh mama, look." This is where we spent most of our time over the weekend: reading, talking, playing, bird watching, canoeing and kayaking.
On Saturday morning, we rented a canoe and a kayak for two days. The rental is cheap at $12 a day or $17 for the day and overnight. The kids had a lot of fun learning how to paddle a canoe and kayak, many of them taking the kayak out themselves after gaining some confidence in their skills. At various times during the weekend, different combinations of parents and kids explored the pathways amongst the reeds to discover, turtles, snakes, beavers, ducks, geese, frogs and lots of osprey who were nesting at the time.
On Saturday afternoon, we hiked the trails to Merkle Wildlife Sanctuary connected to Patuxent River Park by a long boardwalk through the wetlands. Even though the hike was not a highlight of the trip for the kids, they used their imagination to create an adventure on the trail. For them, the best moments were play on or next to the river and the "secret" fort they created near the campsite. For me, the best moments were listening to nature's quiet and my children's laughter, sitting next to and on top of the peaceful river and sharing the natural, beautiful spot with family and friends.