The British were so excited by the beauty and multifarious recreation opportunities offered by King's Landing when they disembarked from warships in 1812 that they burned and pillaged all the way to Washington. For us colonials, the heavily wooded 300-acre park in Calvert County, 30 miles south of the Beltway, should have a more soothing effect.

The main attractions are water-related. How many places are there where one can choose between swimming in a pool, going crabbing or fishing off a new 200-foot pier, or launching a canoe or kayak to paddle a scenic river.There are also hiking trails through bamboo and roads to bike on. Like the best things in life, everything is free, except for the swimming pool. It is also very uncommercial; the only thing you can buy is a soda. So bring a lunch, swim trunks, kayak, crabbing gear and bicycle for a multipurpose day.

King's Landing Park is located at the end of King's Landing Road, 3.5 miles from Route 4, in Huntingtown, Md. For more information call 410-535-2661.

--Ralph Bucca, Huntingtown

Pooch Paradise

When the dog days hit and Fideau's enthusiasm for another listless turn around the dusty soccer field is low, why not perk up the pup with a cool woodsy hike and a swim? If your pet's a puker, like mine, driving to Appalachia is out--but do you really have to set foot out of the city? Hmm. Park. Creek. We've got that.

And sure enough, in Rock Creek Park there's a popular doggy swimming hole, close to Dupont/Woodley and Georgetown. To get there, walk down the ramp from Connecticut and Woodley into the park and follow the paved jogging trail. At the footbridge, veer right onto the horse trail. Obeying the leash laws (but of course), take a pleasant 10-minute walk across another footbridge and under the Taft Bridge and you're there.

Hard to say where, exactly, but when your pooch races off the path toward the water (okay, so leash laws are sometimes honored in the breach), drawn by the eau de other dogs frolicking in a shallow bend in the creek, you've arrived. Just make sure Cuddles is a social animal and plays nicely with other campers before you go. It's difficult to maintain control when there are excited animals of all shapes, sizes and speeds racing around on muddy, uneven ground.

--Rebecca A. Porter, Washington

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CAPTION: King's Landing Park in Calvert County, nature's own water park.