(By Trip Co-Leader Martin). 16 Adventurers gathered at the Visitor’s Center on a silent and grey Sunday morning for the inaugural Damon Miller Memorial Hike, also known as the Arboretum Azaleas Ramble. The azaleas were in full bloom, painting the hillside in a stunning array of colors with a palette that included deep luscious pinks, double pinks, whites, purples, reds, and hot pinks.
Traipsing along the slopes of Mount Hamilton, we had an opportunity to view the nest of the mated Bald Eagles. The nest was way up above in a Tulip Poplar tree and observable with the scope set up in the viewing area. Afterwards, we then headed over to the Capitol Columns overlook and across the park to the Dogwood collection.
A hidden overlook was discovered nestled in the Dogwood collection. The overlook provided a splendid view albeit a narrow one of the flowing water of the renewed Anacostia River and the drifting clouds above. Following a winding path down to the river through China Valley we had a very peaceful lunch on the banks of the Anacostia.
Trudging up from the river after lunch we encountered two additional Adventurers (Robert and Larry), one with a historic car. Next we stopped by the Capitol Columns which were surrounded in by an orange plastic safety barrier. Lastly we ended were we began at the Visitor’s Center.
In summary it was a great hike in full remembrance with memories fondly recounted.
24 Adventurers showed up on an unseasonably cool and blustery day inside the Petworth neighborhood Metro station. The group had lots of questions about President Lincoln's Cottage and the Soldiers Home in which it resides. Few of us had known about Henry Gerber, America's first gay activist, buried in the Soldiers Home National Cemetery. We spent a good deal of time in Rock Creek Church Cemetery, DC's oldest public burial ground, with much levity about gadflies Alice Roosevelt Longworth and Evelyn Davis but with much solemnity about the transcendent sculpture "Grief" at the Clover & Henry Adams Memorial. We swapped stories about Gore Vidal, who lies between "Grief" and the love of his life, Jimmie Trimble, a major-league baseball prospect tragically lost at Iowa Jima. We then made our way down Upshur Street to GA Avenue to see the impact of gentrification. Our lunch plans were disrupted by the appearance of a rat outside our intended eatery, whereupon we abruptly adjourned and scattered.
Five Adventurers -- three grizzled veterans and a couple of relative rookies -- ventured out to the distant southern reaches of Shenandoah National Park on a chilly, cloudy, but still serviceable spring day. We got quite a shock in Madison, where we discovered their local Sheetz is closed for renovations. Luckily, we found a perfectly adequate Emergency Sheetz a few miles down the road at the Wolfville Country Store, where they made us some fine tasty sandwiches, thank you very much. The first leg of our hike was punctuated by a number of large trees evidently blown down by the gales of March 2; fortunately, most of them have moved off the fire road. Only one large fallen tree still remains to be removed. Crossing Doyles River is more interesting than it used to be, as the flat slabs of stone that formerly facilitated the crossing were apparently swept away in some flood and have been replaced by rocks of irregular size and stability. Our lunch next to the base of the Upper Doyles River Falls was a scenic delight, as there was more water crashing over the falls than we had expected. The climb up to Skyline Drive was a bit of a slog, but we took frequent breaks to catch our breath. The views from the two overlooks along the Drive were quite impressive and tempted us to return to explore more of this beautiful country. We made quick time along the AT back to our car at Browns Gap. Dinner at Giovanna's was a novel experience for most of us, but we all seemed well satisfied by both the quantity and quality of our meals.
Nine Adventurers got to enjoy a beautiful, sunny spring day as we trekked 15 miles in the northern section of Shenandoah National Park. Even though the Park was free that day, we had the trails pretty much to ourselves, and we took full advantage of them. The morning and early afternoon consisted of three steep ascents, two of which resulted in spectacular views from the tops of North and South Marshall Mountain. The afternoon provided an equally awesome vista from the Big Devil’s Stairs Overlook, as well as three stream crossings. Even though we were pretty tired as the afternoon wore on, we had to endure one long, final push uphill to return to our waiting cars. After that grueling climb, we had definitely built up an appetite, which was more than satisfied at Front Royal’s Jalisco Mexican Restaurant.
20 Adventurers were finally able to enjoy our annual cherry blossom trek, though the peak bloom was delayed quite a bit by the unseasonably cool weather. After meeting atop the Smithsonian Metro Station, Craig Howell and Elaine Rowley led the group around the Tidal Basin to enjoy the spectacle. The blustery winds and cold weather scared off a few tourists, allowing for a pleasant stroll. The smaller crowds and leisurely pace allowed us ample time to snap photos, take selfies and sniff petals. A stop at the Jefferson Memorial provided a sweeping postcard panorama, along with an informative talk by Craig on the history of the cherry blossom trees and their cultural significance. Next was the FDR memorial which provided more blossoms and some great history, followed by a long stop at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial and a brief stop at the Lincoln Memorial. Each stop was illuminated by a great talk by our in-house historian Craig. The final leg of the stroll was along the Reflecting Pool, which currently has a moving and powerful display of Holocaust survivors and their stories. We finished where we started, at the Smithsonian Metro stop. Some of us then went to the Smithsonian Castle to warm up with coffee.
In between recurring bouts of winter, Washington's Cherry Blossoms nevertheless made their glorious appearance. Eleven Adventurers (including one who arrived just as we were about to finish) did our annual stroll around the Tidal Basin and soaked in the beauty of this unique springtime treasure. Probably because of the colder temperatures, the crowds were smaller than normal (which suited us just fine). After circling the Tidal Basin, we next strolled down to DC’s newest attraction, The Wharf, stopping momentarily to warm ourselves at the bonfire near the end of the District Pier. After that, eight of our number stopped for a delicious dinner at the Station 4 restaurant and then called it a night.
Like a budding adolescent, spring has been reluctant to come out this year. But fortunately the hormones proved too much and eight Adventurers got to enjoy a one-day stand: A morning and afternoon of sun and warmth as we hiked the Overall Run Falls trail in northern Shenandoah National Park. The day started easily enough with a largely downward trek that eventually delivered us into the Overall Run Valley. But as experienced hikers know, what goes down must eventually come up. During the second half of the day we got to “enjoy” a steep 2900 foot climb back to our starting point, combined with a number of “interesting” stream crossings. Fortunately along the way we got to glory in stunning views of Shenandoah’s tallest waterfall along with an expansive vista that encompassed the entire Overall Run valley, the Massanutten Mountains to the west, and Great North Mountain beyond that. After all this effort, we thoroughly appreciated a calorie- and carb-laden dinner at the Jalisco Mexican Restaurant in Front Royal. And as a final grace note for the day, we got to watch the rising of a spectacular Blue Moon on our drive home.
The luck of the Irish was with us this St. Paddy’s Day when 13 Adventurers met on Church Street for a walking tour of our city's Irish landmarks. We began at the official location of Solas Nua, an Irish arts center; some of us found their table full of free Irish Literature at Dupont Circle later that afternoon. Our tour included stops at St. Matthew's Cathedral, the Civil War Nurses Memorial, the White House, the John Barry Memorial Statue in Franklin Park, and the original site of Swampoodle, the moniker for the old Irish community that was mostly destroyed when Union Station was built more than a century ago. Afterwards we managed to find room to stand at the Irish Times but lost two of our hikers when they found a seat at the bar. We finished our day with lunch at the food court in Union Station.
Rain, sleet, graupel, snow, sunshine: this hike had it all. The finicky month of March refused to obey the usual signal for the arrival of the hiker's spring—the switch to Daylight Saving Time—and summoned a diverse meteorological show to overawe us. Nevertheless, we five Adventurers persisted. Whiteoak Canyon, always a beauty of Shenandoah, was even more remarkable as the melting snow fattened the multiple waterfalls by the trail. Robertson Mountain, Shenandoah's eternal challenge, was a workout as always but this time, with the branches still bare, under the witness of Old Rag's watchful eye. Corbin Hollow trail, a plunge into a seldom-visited valley, still bore the remnants of the recent wind storm and offered an unexpected obstacle course. The hike concluded well before sundown and, with consensus, we rewarded ourselves with amazing Thai food in Warrenton, which has the winning attribute of being 15 minutes closer than the regular Northside 29.
23 Adventurers and/or Chrysalians showed up on an exceptionally windy morning for a walking tour of one of DC's most historic yet least-known neighborhoods. After plowing through adjacent LeDroit Park into Bloomingdale, we went up one short street notable both for being atop a major tributary of Tiber Creek and for being the childhood home of Chita Rivera. As we came to the southern boundary of McMillan Reservoir, we luckily stumbled into another walking tour filled with experts on both the history and the ongoing controversies surrounding the reservoir's redevelopment. Serendipity at its best! That encounter happened along Bryant Street, which was historically the most important block in the neighborhood, because it was the legal cases involving housing here that led to the overthrow of restrictive racial covenants. After strolling south on First Street, many of us lunched at the Boundary Stone pub before ending our tour with tales of Moms Mably and Senator Edward Brooke.
Mother Nature giveth – and then asks for penance. For our Hazel Mountain Loop hike, Mother Nature gave us an unusually balmy day for February – but then required us to hike in the rain and the fog. She provided the magnificence of the swollen cascades of the Hazel River – but then required us to cross these rushing waters five times. The eight Adventurers and one canine companion were more than up to the challenge (though the Trip Leader decided to give up trying to stay dry on the slippery rocks for Crossings 2-5 and had us just wade through the currents). The hiking directions warned us of some steep climbs (and they weren’t kidding), but we were rewarded at the summit with views of a beautiful waterfall (and a so-so cave). After an exhausting 11+-mile hike, the group happily retreated to Northside 29, an Adventuring favorite, where three of our number (who had ordered the day’s Special) got to exercise the virtue of patience as they watched everyone else chow down and finish their meal before ours was served.
Just as predicted, the weather in Gettysburg was a lot drier and clearer than it was in the DC area this late January afternoon, rewarding our eight Adventurous participants. We began, incongruously enough, at a Mickey D's for an early indoors lunch. Then we shuttled ourselves to the western edge of the battlefield to begin our history lesson/stroll. The soggy ground we encountered near the Railroad Cut was but a hint of quagmires yet to come. We walked around the newly-restored landscape surrounding Lee's HQS (a.k.a. The Widder Thompson's--by law, every CW battlefield has to have an Unfinished Railroad, a Widder Somebody's home, a Wheatfield, etc.). Then we spent a productive 45 minutes inside the Seminary Ridge Museum, focusing on (among other topics) the overwhelming impact the battle and its legions of wounded soldiers had on the local population. We finished by recreating Pickett's Charge as it might have been if the battlefield been a sloppy swamp that July day in 1863.
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