Botanic Day Adventure

I studied the plant. It looked simple enough – full glossy leaves splayed open with a thin but sturdy stalk running along the length. I peeked closely, searching for the pod-like fruit, knowing full-well that I was staring at the most toxic plant in the world.

The Castor Oil Plant was just one of the truly interesting things I saw at the United States Botanic Gardens. I was expecting pretty flowers and lots of color, but not so much intriguing vegetation with unique stories.

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Just hanging out (in the heat) in a rose garden

I wandered around the Conservatory, taking in the beauty and diversity of the flora. The World Deserts room brought back fond memories of my time in the Southwest. I marveled at the cactuses, saying hello to old friends that I had encountered during my miles of desert hiking. The Mediterranean room was crisp and refreshing, reminiscent of my visit to the southern coast of California.

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Cactus gathering

The Garden Court featured commerce plants – cacao, bananas, citrus, cotton, and many others. I enjoyed reading each placard, soaking up the information about each unique tree or stalk. When I joined up with a tour, my curiosity about economy-based plants was satiated; lots of questions = lots of answers!

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This endangered plant is nicknamed Cabbage On A Stick.

The heat finally started to get to me, so I ate a sushi burrito for lunch and hopped on the metro to go home.

Day adventures can be fun and I still get to sleep in a real bed in a real house.

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Don’t know what these are called, but they’re quite nice-looking. 🙂

Sugarloaf Mountain

Nothing quite beats climbing on real rock. While I thoroughly enjoy my local rock climbing gym, gripping raw granite while puzzling my way up a cliff face is a whole other type of adventure.

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Taking a break and scrambling around off-rope

During my year of travels, I only climbed a handful of times. Getting back into climbing shape has been a gradual process, so Sugarloaf Mountain in Maryland seemed like the perfect place. This local crag is short-ish (35 feet?) with easy routes and a simple approach. It was supposed to be hot, so Lauren, my climbing buddy, and I headed out early to avoid the heat.

On the hike to our spot, we passed a wild raspberry bush. I couldn’t help but pause for a little taste. They were cool, tart, and delicious – one of nature’s little surprises.

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The next couple of hours passed along quickly; time was eclipsed by the flaking of rope, placement of gear, and the motion of scurrying up the rock. There is something so beautifully methodical about climbing outside. At the same time, the climbs I did at Sugarloaf felt so natural and rhythmic. I let myself relax, happy for the shade provided by the tree cover.

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Look at all those fabulous cracks.

I was reluctant to leave, but knew that the high heat of the day was fast approaching. This trip rekindled by love for outdoor trad climbing. Over the past year, I’ve put in quite a few miles hiking in the wilderness – over 320 to be exact. Now, I feel like it’s time I put in some vertical miles. There’s simply so much rock to conquer!

Beach Respite

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Corolla sunrise

Beaches are beautiful. I’ve spent a lot of time on the coast this past year. From snorkeling with the fishes in Dry Tortugas to exploring tide pools in Olympic, the ocean is a magical place.

That’s why my trip to the Outer Banks in North Carolina came at an opportune time. Nothing beats the post-trip blahs like a gorgeous landscape and sunshine. As I floated on my back, cocooned by the salty Atlantic water, I closed my eyes and relaxed like a little star fish. There’s something incredible about letting all your senses be lost in a natural space. Three pelicans jolted me out of my revelry, swooping down nearby to pick up an early lunch from the sea.

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A couple days later and a couple shades more tan, I was pretty darn happy. The freckles littering my arms were a pleasant reminder of my time on the beach. If I close my eyes, I can still recall the scent of the delicious salty air…

* sigh *

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And the Winner Is… (Part II)

Congratulations KENT! 

On our most recent contest, you guessed that I had stayed in 110 places during my trip, which is pretty darn close to the actual answer, 100. I zoomed around quite a bit in my little teardrop, but also frequently hunkered down for a couple nights in one spot.

Kent, leave me a comment on this post with your email (I won’t publish it), so I can get in contact with you regarding your grand prize.

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