Are you feeling the Halloween mood yet? While we love taking a walk in the woods, sometimes it can feel a little spooky. At Catoctin Mountain Park in Maryland, when the mist floats through the forest and the owls hoot from the trees, you could feel a little shiver. The sound of a snapping branch can startle you and your mind can imagine the strangest things. But there’s really nothing to fear here. Since the park’s boundaries include the Presidential Retreat of Camp David, it’s actually a really safe place. Photo by T. Zygmunt, National Park Service.
The end of the day provokes purple skies and tranquil waters at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Maryland. This brackish tidal marsh is a vital waterfowl sanctuary. It was created to support birds migrating along the Atlantic Flyway, and does that and so much more. All week long we’ve been celebrating the varied and critical roles of national wildlife refuges and Blackwater is no different. The tidal marsh buffers storm waters, slows erosion and absorbs pollutants before they reach the bay. Photo courtesy of Youchun Yao.
Today marks the 157th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam. With over 23,000 combined casualties (over 3,600 dead) suffered by both the Union and Confederate armies, it remains the bloodiest day in American history. It’s hard to imagine the horror that ravaged this Maryland community when you walk the now peaceful fields of Antietam National Battlefield. Our public lands are managed for their natural and cultural importance. Among them are dozens of battlefields like Antietam. More than a century and a half after the guns fell silent, battlefields preserved for their historical impact now serve as critical natural landscapes, habitat for wildlife and remarkable outdoor classrooms. Photo by National Park Service.
The magnificent sky reflects a blend of colors on the water at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Maryland. A patient, great blue heron fishes as the sun sets, reminding us that the crepuscular hour is an excellent time to watch for wildlife. With four land trails and over 20,000 acres open for public recreation, the refuge has activities for visitors all year long. Paddling, hiking, fishing or spotting bald eagle nests are just a few reasons people return to this compelling place time and time again. Photo by Zolt Levay (www.sharetheexperience.org).
At Great Falls Park in Virginia, the Potomac River builds up speed and force as it falls over a series of steep, jagged rocks and flows through the narrow Mather Gorge. Located just fifteen miles from Washington, D.C., the park is a popular site with local residents and tourists from around the world. Photographer Gabe Leidy got to the falls early enough to enjoy this dramatic sunrise. “It was absolutely magical! Of all the places we’ve been before and since, I think my wife still talks about this one the most – what a rugged, inspirational landscape in an unassuming location.” Photo courtesy of Gabe Leidy.
⚡️⚡️⚡️ We’re awestruck by this intense lightning storm transforming the sky at Assateague Island National Seashore in Maryland. These bolts come from a sudden discharge of electricity between charged regions of thunderclouds and the ground. According to @nasa , only about 25% of lightning strikes are cloud-to-ground, and most are either cloud-to-cloud or intracloud. We recommend marveling at a storm like this from the safety of your social media feed. Be safe out there and please leave the beach if a storm approaches. Photo courtesy of Jeff Berkes.
If you’re feeling the need to walk off some of yesterday’s calories, head out to a local park, refuge, trail or recreation area for some fresh air and exercise. One of our favorite places to #OptOutside is Chesapeake & Ohio National Historical Park. Running 184 miles from West Virginia through Maryland and into Washington, D.C., the towpath and trails of the C&O Canal offer great opportunities to discover historical and natural treasures. From the popular trails around Great Falls to the quiet splendor of the upper sections, it’s a place we’re thankful for. Photo by Patty Ballay (www.sharetheexperience.org).
National Wildlife Refuge Week is a great time to remind everyone that refuges are some of the best places for birdwatching. One of the most thrilling birds to spot is the bald eagle. A majestic symbol of our nation, bald eagles are found in every state except Hawaii. Males and females work together to build large nests, and you’ll often see them hunting over open fields and water. This one just left its perch at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Maryland. Photo by Curtis Gibbens (www.sharetheexperience.org).
Today is the anniversary of the bloodiest day in American history – the Battle of Antietam. More than 23,000 soldiers were killed, wounded or missing after 12 hours of savage combat on September 17, 1862. The Battle of Antietam ended the Confederacy’s first major invasion of the North and gave President Abraham Lincoln the opportunity to issue the Emancipation Proclamation. It’s hard to imagine the horror that ravaged this Maryland community when you walk the now peaceful fields of Antietam National Battlefield. Photo by National Park Service.