Katniss learned to hunt because food was scarce — about as hard to find as formal archery instruction is in the Washington area. The Archery Program at Bull Run in Centreville offers an introductory program every other weekend at its indoor shooting range.
The relaxed two-hour session covers the basics of shooting technique using an Olympic recurve bow. While some students may hit the bull’s-eye in that first class, true mastery takes time and focus.
“This is a very quiet, still sport,” says Ruth Rowe, a former Olympian who founded the program. Archers, as she puts it, are “learning to be aware of what’s inside. It’s just you, the bow and the target. That’s it.”
That awareness does not come easily, as first-timers will find. Holding an eight-pound bow properly requires attention so exacting that my arms were shaking after just a few minutes. But there’s satisfaction to be had, too, once you make that first successful shot.
Fair warning to parents wanting to chaperone their children to class: You may not escape without catching the bug. As Adam Bigbee watched son Ethan, 11, take aim, he found himself wanting to do more than just accompany him the next time around.
“It’s physical but cerebral,” Bigbee says, “and we can experiment without committing to a huge investment.”
If you can’t get out to Centreville, another option is the archery program run by the Fort Belvoir recreation directorate. It hosts open coaching, from beginner to advanced, every Monday.
The Archery Program at Bull Run
7700 Bull Run Dr., Centreville. 571-215-4403. www.thearcheryprogram.net. $30.25, recommended for age 8 and older.
Fort Belvoir DFMWR Archery Program
Building 778 on Warren Road, Fort Belvoir. 703-805-3688. Open lessons Mondays from 6 to 8 p.m. $8 for civilians, $5 for service members. www.belvoirmwr.com/Facilities/ODR/
Explore the Appalachian Trail
It’s tough living in a society that celebrates a televised battle between children who fight to the death. For brief respites from her terrifying existence, Katniss slips into the forests of the Appalachian Mountains with her best friend, Gale.
While I hardly know the kind of darkness our heroine does, it is still a relief to step away from city life and on to nature’s path. There, the shade of towering trees and the crunch of dirt underfoot transport you to another time (to the apocalyptic future, perhaps?). There are a number of hiking options in the Washington area, and over the course of a typical trek, you will encounter weekend hikers, families taking in the scenery and skilled outdoorsmen traversing the entire Appalachian Trail.