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Washington DC: Cherry Blossom 5K

The Cherry Blossoms were in full bloom and the timing coincided perfectly with the Cherry Blossom 10 miler/5K. After four years of attempting to get into the run through their lottery system, I finally got the opportunity to run the 5K yesterday. It was sunny, about 65 degrees and zero humidity ~ ideal conditions for a run through the best parts of the city. Throughout the run, I couldn’t help but reflect how lucky I am to live in this beautiful area.

Cherry Blossom 5K
Running the Cherry Blossom 5K

Wedding with the cherry blossoms
Great spot for wedding photos

Washington monument the crowds and cherry blossoms
Lots of visitorsJefferson Monument blue skies

Jefferson MemorialCHerry Blossoms with the Washington Monument
Cherry Blossoms covering the view to the Washington MonumentJefferson Monument and cherry blossoms

Jefferson Monument Cherry Blossoms
Can’t get enough of the Jefferson Memorial ~ so beautiful

Memorial Bridge
Scarlet Tulips along the Memorial Bridge

Tulips
…more vibrant tulips

Washington Monument
Washington Monument and the Cherry Blossoms

Washington Monument
Washington Monument

Little did I know, the American Horticultural Society headquarters is located just four miles south of Old Town Alexandria,VA. I love plants and beautifully blooming flowers but my mother was the green thumb of the family. It must have skipped a generation, but I try.

American Horticultural Society River Farm
Entrance to River Farm

Because I have visions of lovely gardens, I’m planning to attend the Annual Spring Garden Market at River Farm scheduled for April 10 and 11, 2015. The market will have:

  • plants for sale (including natives, specialty plants and edibles)
  • garden books
  • garden accessories
  • garden paintings for sale by local artist
  • Food from Rockland’s BBQ and Grilling Company
  • Whole Food’s Cooking demonstrations
  • Free raffle for garden prizes
  • “Pet the Alpaca”
  • Family-friendly activities for kids

Even if you’re not a gardener, a day at the beautiful River Farm’s estate is worth the visit. The views of the Potomac River are lovely.

If you want to go, the location is 7931 East Boulevard Drive, Alexandria, VA. AHS members-only morning is Friday, April 10 from 10-noon. The public sales will be Friday, April 10 from noon to 6 p.m. and Saturday, April 11 from 10 am to 6 pm. Parking is $5.00 per car. For more information go to AHS or call 703-768-5700.

More Signs of Spring

Despite the continued cool temperatures, I’ve been getting glimpses of spring. Most recently I saw the lambs at Mount Vernon. Such sweetness:

Lambs
Peeking around the corner

Lamb

Lamb III

The Rear View (lambs at Mount Vernon)
“Rear View”

Mount Vernon is requesting name suggestions for these adorable lambs. Go to their Facebook page here to give your clever names. Someone has already suggested Charles and Camilla in honor of the recent Royal visit.

On March 27, 1912, Cherry Blossom (Sakura) trees were planted along the Tidal Basin in Washington DC. They were a gift of Friendship and Goodwill from the Japanese Government. The Japanese were thankful for the role the United States played in brokering The Treaty of Portsmouth which formally ended the Russo-Japanese War of 1904–05.

But the original idea for bringing the beautiful Sakura to Washington DC came from Eliza Scidmore. She worked as a travel writer and photographer. In 1885, she fell in love with the Cherry Blossom trees while visiting her diplomat brother in Japan and thought they would look lovely around the marshy area that had yet to be developed (later to be the National Mall and Tidal Basin). It took her almost 20 years to have her dream realized.

It wasn’t until she caught the attention of Dr. David Fairchild that the plan starting to take shape. He was a plant explorer and an official at the Department of Agriculture. In 1906, he personally imported seventy-five flowering cherry trees from Japan and planted these on his property in Chevy Chase, Maryland to test their survivability this area. By 1907, encouraged by the success of their own trees, the Fairchilds began to promote the idea of importing Cherry Blossoms for Washington DC. By 1909, First Lady Helen Taft was involved which meant the White House was on-board and it all came to fruition within a few years.

I’m not a fan of introducing plants or animals into an area where they aren’t indigenous. There have been too many destructive results from both intentional and unintentional introductions. As an example from a very long list, Fireweed (also known as Madagascar Fireweed) was discovered in the 1980s in Kohala’s cattle pastures on the Big Island (Hawaii). Many believe it was brought in via ground cover seeds from Australia where it is also invasive. The weed is toxic to cattle and is estimated to cost the Australian government and cattle industry over $2 million a year.

Even the beloved Cherry Blossom trees were not without incident. The original two thousand trees had to be burned once they arrived due to heavy bug infestations. Despite the possibility of a diplomatic disaster, the risk to the native trees, plants and crops was too high to be ignored. Thankfully, another 3,020 Cherry Blossom trees were sent and haven’t had any negative side-effects on the local environment ~ unless you count too many visiting blossom stalkers.

This is what the Tidal Basin in Washington DC looks without the blooms…
Tidal Basin Cherry Blossom Trees

Waiting for the Cherry Blossoms

but in a few weeks it will look more like this (these were taken at the end of the bloom period in 2012):

Jefferson Memorial and Cherry Blossoms

Cherry Blossoms and a pagoda

Cherry Blossoms and Washington Monument

Cherry Blossoms in Bloom

The 2015 Peak Blooms Prediction is April 11-14 which mean the blooming period will start a few days prior and can go for up to 14 days past the peak times. I’m excited I’ll be running in the Cherry Blossom 5K which is on April 12 this year ~ and hopefully the prediction is correct.

The National Park Service provides much more historic details and information about the trees as well an event list for the Cherry Blossom Festival at their website. For those unable to visit Washington DC during the Cherry Blossom season, there’s a webcam for your viewing here. The live feed isn’t active yet but will be in a couple of weeks. Enjoy!

Hello to Springtime
Bright Sakura from Japan
Brief but beautiful

Predicting the peak Cherry Blossom bloom time in Washington DC is a “no win” situation just like those embattled school officials deciding whether or not to call a snow day. We’ve had visitors ask us when they should plan their vacations to see the Cherry Blossoms but there’s never a guarantee. The Cherry Blossoms are beautiful but extremely fickle. We felt very lucky when we visited Tokyo for a week in 2007 and the Sakura were still in bloom:

Cherry Blossom Tree
Japanese Park with beautiful Cherry Blossom Trees and a bicycling policeman

Cherry Blossom and Logan
Enjoying the view of the lake and Cherry Blossoms

Cherry blossom tree Japan
Cherry Blossom Tree and Japanese Temple

View from New Sanno Hotel, overlooking French Embassy
View of a Cherry Blossom tree from our hotel room

As we anticipate the 2015 Cherry Blossom season here in Washington DC this year, I’ve got my camera at the ready!

Grand Tetons, Wyoming

As I plan for a summer trip to the Rockies, I can’t help but take a ride down memory lane. Many years ago (way back in the 1980s), my college summer breaks were spent working at a lodge in the Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming. It was summer camp on steroids. I worked six days a week and spent every moment I had off either hiking, biking or partying with friends. Friends who were from all different parts of the country. Many who I still keep in touch with (thanks to Facebook we’ve reconnected) but sadly I’ve lost touch with many. Roommates, work friends, people I can’t even remember their names but remember fond times together.

I loved living there ~ the mountains are stunningly beautiful, the air is clean, and the lifestyle was extremely addictive. Not much to worry about unless you were climbing a mountain or out in the back-country in the winter where there was a definite possibility of serious injury or death. I jumped at the chance when I was offered a winter position. I took a year off of school. Not a decision my parents were thrilled with and when the snow was piled high with -45 degree temperatures (yes, negative forty-five), I wondered myself about my decision. But looking back I don’t regret one moment. It was truly a great place to spend my late teens and early twenties.

When I left for the last time (in 1988), I made the conscious decision not to return, even for a visit. I was afraid I would want to move back. I even purposely missed the reunions. My memories were so wonderful that I preferred those to returning. I’m ready now though and plan to show my daughter all my old haunts ~ at least the ones still in existence.

I dug out vintage photos but will keep the “upside down margarita” party photos to myself. I’m so thankful there were no smartphones (instagram, snapchat, etc) during those days. Some things are better remembered in my mind and not on digits.

Moose in Wyoming
While housesitting, I had a visiting moose trying to stay warm.

Jackson Jenny Lake
Beautiful Jenny Lake Lodge at the base of the Grand Tetons. Too expensive for me but I had a chance to stay there when it was closed to visitors.

Jackson Mount Moran
Mount Moran in the summer

Jackson Mount Moran Winter
Mount Moran in the winter

Snake River
Looking at the Grand Tetons from the Snake River float trip

Grand Tetons in the winter
Winter in the Grand Tetons

My exposure to life in the Rockies left a lasting impression on me: it made me a “powder snob” skier, a strong supporter of the National Parks and very respectful of all wildlife.

In 1636, British settler Reverend William Blackstone (Blaxton) owned all of Beacon Hill including Boston Common. The Common got its name because the land was used as a common pasture for grazing livestock. Once the Puritans moved into the Boston area, the reclusive Blackstone moved to Rhode Island to get away from the crowds. Imagine how he’d feel today if he could see what’s become of his former land.

Boston Massachusetts State House
Massachusetts State House sits on top of a hill overlooking Boston Common. On a sunny day, the gold dome sparkles and is almost blinding. The State House can be toured free of charge on weekdays between 10:30 to 3:30. Click here for more information.

Boston Acorn Street
Acorn Street ~ one of the most photographed streets in Boston. Under the snow is a lovely cobblestone road.

There have been many interesting and famous people who live (used to live) here:

  • In 1625, William Blaxton (Blackstone) ~ was the first settler in Boston and owned all of Beacon Hill.
  • John Hancock, first signer of the Declaration of Independence and the one with the most wealth to lose by waging war against the British, lived here most of his life and was buried in Granary Burial Ground.
  • Robert Frost lived here for three years in the 1930s.
  • Before he became a famous author and film-maker, Michael Crichton went to Harvard Medical school and then worked at Massachusetts General Hospital. He brought us Jurassic Park, Andromeda Strain and “ER”.
  • Teresa Heinz Kerry (one of the wealthiest women in the United States) and Secretary of State John Kerry are current residents.
  • Senator Ted Kennedy lived here.
  • Sylvia Plath lived in Beacon Hill for a few years and she visited poetry classes at Boston University.She’s the author of “The Bell Jar” , a classic novel about mental illness and feminism.
  • Charles Sumner, ardent abolitionist Senator during the Civil War lived here as did Jack Welch, the former CEO and Chairman of General Electric.

The North Slope side of Beacon Hill was a central meeting place for abolitionists when Massachusetts banned slavery in 1783. The African Meeting House, under the leadership of William Lloyd Garrison, became a lifeline for runaway slaves. Beacon Hill was an important destination on the Underground Railroad which is where runaway slaves were hidden, fed, and clothed as they fled to freedom. Many of the residents were supportive of the Underground Railroad even though there were laws enacted making it illegal to help a runaway slave. Only two slaves who made it to Beacon Hill were returned to their owners and thousands of others gained their freedom. During the Civil War, men were recruited at the African Meeting House and made up the first black military regiment in the United States, known as the 54th Massachusetts regiment.

Old City Hall and Ben Franklin Statue
Old City Hall and Ben Franklin Statue

Boston Burro
Donkey Statue in front of the Old City Hall

Blog Boston Church and glass building
The Old reflected in the New

Boston Buried snow
Couldn’t resist another snow photo. If I knew a blizzard was coming with an expected 2-3 feet of snow and I parked on the street, I would move my car to a public garage for the duration of the storm and pay the overnight parking fees just so I wouldn’t have a buried car.

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