As much as I enjoy walking a good distance, I just can't spend 3 to four hours walking around on a "school night." I have a job and then obligations in the evening (e.g., taking the kids where they need to go, grocery shopping, walking the dog, so on and so forth). At most, I have an hour or two to spare. So, on those nights wherein walking around the neighborhood with the dog just won't do, I sometimes travel to more thrilling and scenic destinations. Among my favorite is the University of Maryland's flagship campus in College Park.*
I used to live in College Park, and although I never went to school there, I feel a certain affinity for this UMD campus. I've been walking around the place since 1999 and, between then an now, I've seen it grow. There are huge sections of this place that weren't there back in the day, I tell you what.
Normally, I tend to cast a cold eye on development -- especially the swanky, modern, sterile-looking type of development that's sweeping through UMD (and College Park in general). However, in this instance, I don't mind it quite so much because it's given me more places to walk. And because UMD has a lot of students walking around, the pedestrian infrastructure is top notch.Anyhoo, over the years, my walks around the UMD campus have taken different routes. This is the one I've been walking as of late. According to my pedometer, this particular route (see map) is just under three miles. I have some small additions ... tweaks if you will ... that make it a little longer and take it over that three-mile mark, but I guess I forgot to do them this time around.
* Note: I do sometimes bring the dog with me, but he poops every time I walk him and it's embarrassing when he poops in front of groups of students, who then comment and laugh as I pick it up.
Typically, I begin my walks by the Comcast Center because it has a huge parking lot where I can stow my vehicle for free. It's also kinda secluded and a good distance away from the main part of campus, which makes a nice way to enter the other-worldliness of the University of Maryland campus.
From the parking area, I walk South down Regents drive, past a slew of new engineering and computer science buildings. This part of the walk is like strolling through some not-too distant future jammed with rectangular, glass-sheathed buildings.
From Regents Drive, I hang a Ralph at the corner of the Martin building (I didn't know the building was named that until right now), and walk down the sidewalk that hugs the a series of classroom and office spaces. This is one of my favorite parts of campus because it is so green. The university's landscape architects did a stellar job here.After walking by the lush shrubbery, talk oak trees, and some nice fountains (which haven't been on recently), my route takes me across Campus drive to the heart of campus. There is construction here right now, and it kind of kills the mood, so I try to scoot through here as quick as possible.
Right around the corner, though, is a nice stretch of walkway across from the McKeldin Mall. I like this part of campus too because of all the huge oaks the ring the top of the mall. Good job, UMD, for not cutting down these magnificent trees!
From here I make another Ralph and walk along the south side of the mall, past a bunch of nice looking buildings that I believe are full of classrooms and offices. I have a friend who teaches at the university and I believe his office is in one of the buildings I pass by. Of course, I take this walk at night and I'm sure he's long gone by the time I pass by.
Continuing in a straight line, I go all the way down the mall, past the library, and up the hill. Then I make a quick left and a quick right until I find myself at the top of a set of stairs that leads down to a walkway that goes through a new part of campus by the Robert H. Smith School of Future Capitalist Monsters (or whatever it's called). The picture makes it look like the walkway goes on for ever. Don't be fooled.
If you do talk that walkway all the way to the end, you come to a road, which I believe is called Mowatt Lane. When I hit the road, I take a right and follow it along past the backsides of educational buildings, different centers of worship (on the far side of the road), and, eventually, a bunch of swanky new apartment buildings with fancy names like "The Liar." They are both impressive and ridiculous.
After taking Mowatt to the traffic circle, I stay to the right until I make it to one of my favorite recent finds, a long staircase/walkway I've dubbed "The Grand Staircase." It's not really that big ... or grand. I just like making up names for things.
At the top of the staircase, I hang a Louie and cut across the cement-filled courtyard in front of the Tawes building. Then I cross the road and head back toward the library and the McKeldin Mall, only now I'm on the other side of it.
From here, I walk halfway down the mall and then hang another left by the new(ish) education building. Then I cross over Campus drive and hoof it toward my absolute favorite part of campus, the plaza outside Hornbake Library and the curved staircase on the far side of the Plant Sciences building. My wife got her Master's degree from UMD and she had a lab in the Plant Sciences building. I used to love walking around in there at night while she went to check on her water fleas. If you haven't seen the lab with the tank full of cockroaches, I suggest you go check it out.
After the cool, curved staircase, I make a left on to Regents Drive and walk past the farm to toward the Comcast Center. Boy, you can really smell the manure when you go by the farm. The animals, however, are typically quiet.
Just before you hit the Comcast Center complex, Regents Drive makes a sharp turn to the right. This means that, if you want to go straight toward Comcast, you have to navigate the most bizarre intersection ever constructed. I'm not quite sure what's wrong with it ... it's like the angles are off or something. Anyhoo, I can't think of a place more in need of a crosswalk. Fortunately, when you take this walk at night, there isn't a ton of traffic, so crossing the road is easy. I'd hate to try to deal with this between 3 and 5 on a weekday.
Finally, from here it's a quick walk past the Comcast Center along the walkway between the Center and the "Recreation Artificial Turf Fields" and back to the parking area holding my car. Walk completed. That's it for now. Until next time, keep moving.