This weekend, my true love and I got Paul’d. Again. Getting Paul’d is what happens when you try and follow Paul Elliott‘s convoluted directions, along with his purple prose, in his infamous (in some circles, anyway) 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Washington, DC. We’ve done about half the hikes in the book, which has its gems. But this is typical:

Touch not the electrified anti-deer fence….Look around. In the warm-weather months, deep in the sunny thickets, dragonflies seemingly hang like blue threads in the still air.

Instead of a simple trail map or enumerated directions, Elliott goes on and on in loping, interminable paragraphs, often starting hikes anywhere but where they should start. Go to parking lot A, walk around it thrice, then proceed to parking lot B where you will find charming cracks in the curb. Observe, then walk purposefully toward the trailhead… (I jest, but not by much.) The thing is, the guy’s got D.C. hikers by their SmartWools. The wonderful books and maps put out by the Potomac Appalacian Trail Club just don’t cover all the parks and hikes in our region. And, well, Sugarloaf and Rock Creek and Great Falls are nice and all, but sometimes you need variety. Sometimes, apparently, you need to get Paul’d.

For example: Elliott’s book is the only one I know of with a trail guide to Piscataway Park, an interesting spot in PGC, across from Mount Vernon on the Potomac. It’s full of marshy critters, farms, and people in colonial garb picking gourds. (I’m not kidding. We saw them do it yesterday.) But instead of taking the obvious trails, he has his intrepid readers going through open fields and following roads that curve to the right that don’t actually curve to the right. They dead-end. And I love this sentence: “Instead, turn right and walk about 50 yards uphill—-to a sixth junction.”

Aaaaaarrrrgghh!!! Who wants to count “junctions” when you’re trying to take a walk in the woods??