While others were unwrapping presents or scarfing down turkey or perhaps banging forlornly on the doors of closed stores, 20 of us gathered for a Christmas Day hike.
A long one.
It was hosted by the Wanderbirds, a hiking club that more typically hires a bus to drive hikers from the Washington, D.C., area to the Shenandoah Mountains for day-long, scenic hikes.
The hike was one of at least three offered by area hiking clubs.
We started at Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, Maryland. Everything was closed but the gates to the parking lot.
After hiking out of the gardens, we ended up on trails in the Rachel Carson Conservation Park.
Just one pileated woodpecker made its presence known during the four hours we tromped through the woods. Often I hear lots of them on local hikes, "creating starter homes" as a fellow hiker joked.
The day was chilly. But you warm up nicely at a brisk pace and this pace was more than brisk. That leader had some long legs!
I don't know whether there were solo travelers in the Washington area yesterday who were looking for something to do. I know I spent one dreadfully boring Christmas Day in London a long time ago, with nothing to do and nowhere to go. I wonder if there was a hike going on somewhere?
In any case, it's good for solo travelers to know about the Wanderbirds for any time of year.
Because they usually load up a bus for the day's hike (and serve beer, soft drinks and snacks at the end of it) not only do you have a chance to meet new people, you also can get out to the mountains without having to rent a car or figure out the mountain trails.
You just pay your money ($25 to help defray the cost of the bus) and get a ride and a guide. It pays to be in good shape. These people are some serious hikers. There is always a choice of at least two hikes, but even the shorter ones are not short.
The 50-acre Brookside Gardens within Wheaton Regional Park is another place to visit most any time of year. It's beautiful and relaxing in the summer. There's an azalea garden, a butterfly garden, a Japanese-style garden and more.
The larger Wheaton Regional Park it sits within also has horseback riding and ice skating, depending on which season you arrive. Most people drive to the park but there is a Metro station (Wheaton) not too far away.
As for the wide variety of ethnic foods available in the Wheaton area, that's a story for another time.
Happy holidays to all.