Summer fitness and adventure destinations in the D.C. region
By Vicky Hallett,
This weekend, I’ll be taking part in a time-honored Washington tradition: getting out of town.
To most folks, that means hitting the beach. But my husband and I are headed to my in-laws’ place in Cambridge, Md., a town on the Eastern Shore where you won’t see anyone baking in the sand. Instead, we’ll be strolling along the banks of the Choptank River, bird-watching at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge and riding bikes on country roads.
It’s a different way of life — and a different way to exercise. And I hope this summer we’ll be able to make time for other active getaways. Here are four ideas within driving distance.
Take a stand in Baltimore
What’s going to be hot this summer other than the weather? Stand-up paddleboarding (or SUP for short). Several local outfitters have added the long, floaty boards to their fleets of watercraft. That includes Baltimore’s Ultimate Watersports, which is pushing the Polynesian-inspired activity that looks a bit like surfing but doesn’t require a single wave.
In fact, when you’re starting out, you’ll probably prefer calm water. Although chief adventure officer Hal Ashman says it’s a cinch to learn, you’re guaranteed to fall a few times as you’re figuring out how to balance. Once you get the hang of it, you can row yourself around with a motion that’s great for strengthening your core and shoulders.
You can rent the boards, take lessons, go on eco-tours or attend a SUP yoga class — yep, paddle out and then stay steady as you try poses. “Hard to beat doing it on the water,” Ashman says.
Ultimate Watersports is at 7200 Graces Quarter Rd., Baltimore. 410-335-5352. Rentals $25 per hour, lessons $40; must weigh at least 65 pounds.
Out on a limb in Richmond
Even if you used to scramble up that huge pine in your parents’ back yard, chances are you never made it 70 feet in the air. (At least, not without getting grounded.) But Riverside Outfitters in Richmond, about two hours from the District, offers the chance for anyone age 5 or older to climb to sky-high branches using safety techniques borrowed from professional arborists.
The harnesses, ropes and pulleys designed to keep you from tumbling to the ground resemble rock-climbing gear, but the experience is different from scaling a wall, explains Matt Perry, president and co-owner. “You’re playing with the trees,” he says.
Staff members will happily show you the nitty-gritty of how they set up the system, but if you’re just into what Perry calls “thrilling fun,” then don’t worry about it. Simply enjoy the climb to the tops of red oaks, pretend you’re Tarzan and walk out along the limbs.
“For adults, there’s a nostalgic draw — and it’s a good workout,” Perry says. For kids, it’s a way to boost self-confidence. In other words, there’s something for everyone in your family tree.
Riverside Outfitters is at 6836 Old Westham Rd., Richmond. 804-560-0068. Prices vary depending on your needs; a two-hour outing with one instructor for up to five climbers is $150.
Zip it in West Virginia
The first part of any zip-line canopy tour used to be getting on a plane. But the highflying eco-tourism trend that originated in Costa Rica has finally made its way to the mid-Atlantic. In the past few years, the Washington region has welcomed adventure courses with zip lines. This summer, get ready to go the extra mile.
That’s how long you’ll be in the air at Nelson Rocks Outdoor Center in Circleville, W.Va. The four-hour experience that debuted this month includes 12 zip lines, three sky bridges and a hike, all designed to provide a glorious glimpse at 400 million years of geology. Guides are there for safety as well as education about the flora and fauna.
If a 31 / 2-hour drive seems too far, consider an option that’s only an hour away in Harpers Ferry, W. Va. River Riders, a popular company for rafting and tubing, is launching a canopy tour this weekend. It’s a shorter course with eight zip lines that participants can finish in about two hours. But it should still satisfy your adrenaline cravings.
Nelson Rocks Outdoor Center is at 141 Nelson Gap Rd., Circleville, W.Va. 877-435-4842. $80 weekdays, $85 weekends; 70- to 250-pound weight requirement.
River Riders is at 408 Alstadts Hill Rd., Harpers Ferry, W.Va. 800-326-7238. $77, age 12 and younger $72; 50- to 250-pound weight requirement.
Snow day in the foothills
“In the summer, people don’t think, ‘Let’s go skiing,’ ” says Drew Sherwood, general manager of Liberty Mountain Snowflex Centre. But that’s exactly what the slopes covered with synthetic snow substitute are meant for in Lynchburg, Va., a 3 1/2-hour drive from the District.
The newest innovation is a lift and slope for tubing, so riders can zoom downhill for 250 feet. “There’s no going slow,” says Sherwood, whose 2-year-old nephew has managed the descent on his own.
One bummer: You have to wear long sleeves and pants, because the surface has the texture of a doormat, which leaves marks like rug burns on exposed skin.
Although it’s run by Liberty University, which boasts the slogan “40 years of training champions for Christ,” Sherwood promises the only lessons at the center are in skiing and snowboarding. “This is a vacation place. We don’t force a theology on anybody,” he says.
Liberty Mountain Snowflex Centre is at 4000 Candlers Mountain Rd., Lynchburg. 866-504-7541. Tubing (includes tube) $10-$12 for first hour, $5 each additional hour; skiing and snowboarding $5-$7 per hour, $12 a day for equipment rental.