Try This: Archery, cake-decorating and hiking the Appalachian trail in the spirit of ‘Hunger Games’


Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) is an ace with the bow and arrow in "The Hunger Games," which may prompt fans to take up archery.
March 21, 2012

As fans of Suzanne Collins’s dystopian trilogy already know, the appetite for “The Hunger Games” doesn’t subside — it grows stronger. And seeing the film adaptation, out Friday (read the review), will satisfy that desire for only so long.

There’s more fun to be had after the credits roll. Grab a bow and arrow and become as skilled as Katniss Everdeen at hitting a target. Escape the brutality of Panem and head to the woods, as Gale Hawthorne would do. Or bake a cake and then decorate it to the nines, just like Peeta. Here’s how:

Archery

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/
hunting_archery.php

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.

My moderate hike to Annapolis Rock starts with a good — though not difficult — climb and winds through the woods for two miles before ending at the outlook, with its wide views of the tree-filled valley below.

Another popular hike along the Appalachian Trail takes you to Mary’s Rock in Shenandoah National Park. The steady, strenuous climb goes uphill on switchbacks for two miles, “but then you get these fabulous views,” says Laurie Potteiger of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. Read up on mountain lore beforehand for some added fun.

For those who want a more challenging trek, there is the hike to Crescent Rock, which takes you over what’s known as the Roller Coaster because of its ups and downs. The 2.6-mile walk goes through piney woods, and at the Crescent Rock vista, you’ll get 180-degree views.

Annapolis Rock hike Off Route 40 in Boonsboro, east of Greenbrier State Park. Parking lot on Route 40. Follow blue-blazed trail to white-blazed Appalachian Trail markings.

Mary’s Rock hike Off US 211 on Skyline Drive. Parking off Skyline Drive at Thornton Gap entrance. $10 entrance fee per vehicle. Follow trail signs at north end of parking lot.

Crescent Rock hike Trailhead off VA 679, just before it ends at VA 7 in Bluemont. Parking available in lot.

Cake decorating

Peeta Mellark, the baker’s son, is more closely associated with loaves of bread, but he shows considerable prowess with the piping bag and decorates cakes with a painterly touch. Several programs in the Washington area teach beginners the art of cake decorating.

At L’Academie de Cuisine in Gaithersburg and Beryl’s Cake Decorating in Springfield students learn to spread icing on a cake with polish. Then comes the tricky part: using the piping bag. How much pressure do you apply? What if the buttercream rose comes out looking like a buttercream blob?

“Just make it happen, just do it,” says L’Academie instructor Dave Arnold. “Novices don’t want to make a mistake, but you’ve got to put the stuff on the cake.”

Both Arnold and Beryl Loveland, of Beryl’s Cake Decorating, encourage their students to be fearless with the icing — much like Peeta is.

Still, for the anxiety-prone uber novice, there is an even more approachable option in cupcake decorating. At Sur la Table’s “What’s New Cupcake?” classes, students are free to roam around the kitchen as they make fish out of circus peanuts and flower petals out of marshmallows.

“I’m absolutely cupcake decorating-challenged,” says student Wendy Lee, “but these are pretty easy, I think.”

Cake Decorating 101 L’Academie de Cuisine, 16006 Industrial Dr., Gaithersburg. 301-670-8670. www.lacademie.com.$85, adults only.

Beginning Cake Decorating Beryl’s Cake Decorating & Pastry Supplies, 5520 Hempstead Way, Springfield. 800-488-2749. www.beryls.com. $45.

What’s New Cupcake? Sur la Table, Pentagon Row, 1101 S. Joyce St., Arlington. 703-414-3580. www.surlatable.com. $69, all ages.

Jung is a freelance writer.

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