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We decided to take advantage of the record-breaking warm temperatures this winter and go on a hike to celebrate the last day of 2015.   At the top of Buzzard Rock

Located in the George Washington National Forest , just west of Shenandoah National Park, is the Buzzard Rock trailhead. It’s just outside Front Royal and the address is 3087-3189 Mountain Road/Route 629. Parking is limited (if it’s full, see the link at the end of this post for larger parking areas). The drive from Washington DC takes about an hour and a half.  The 1.5 mile trail is marked with white spray paint on either a tree or rock along the path. At the beginning, the terrain is rolling and  gentle with a sprinkling of small creeks and a campground area. As you approach the top, the hike becomes steeper and rockier.   Beautiful stream My daughter jumping across the stream
For all the biology enthusiasts: lots of lichen along the trail. My favorite is the blaze orange…  Looking out toward the Front Royal Fish Hatchery and Passage Creek.

Note the white marking on the tree on the right. Good thing there are marks because some areas become a bit rocky.   At Buzzard RockThe views are lovely, even in the winter. I’ll be back to see the scenery in spring and autumn…

A quick comment on hiking etiquette: Most hikers we saw, greeted us with a “hi” or “hey”. But almost all of them didn’t realize hikers coming down should yield to hikers going up. Also, hike quietly ~ there was one woman speaking loudly into her cell phone as she walked down the hill (not stopping for us as we were ascending) and her partner gave us an embarrassed shrug.

If you decide to go, you can get detailed information, maps and how many calories you burn on the hike: here.

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Although I get strange looks when I mention I enjoy visiting historic cemeteries, it doesn’t deter me checking them out. They are interesting and peaceful. Recently I left busy M Street, with all its hustle and bustle of Georgetown’s shops and restaurants, and walked eight blocks up to Oak Hill Cemetery located at 30th and R Streets.

Oak Hill Cemetery was founded in 1849 through an Act of Congress and by Mr. W.W. Corcoran donating the land for the cemetery. Corcoran was a banker and philanthropist who also created the original Corcoran Gallery (now known as the Renwick Gallery).

The Gatehouse and Gothic Revival styled Chapel were designed by James Renwick in 1850. Renwick also designed the Smithsonian Castle building and St Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City.

Having visited Congressional Cemetery last August when they had visiting goats, I prefer the grounds at Oak Hill. The hilly, twenty four acres overlooking the Rock Creek are beautiful with mature trees, lots of plants and trails throughout the area.

My favorite thing to do when reading the headstone, besides finding an unusual name, is reading the dates and putting the life of the person into perspective as to what was going on at that time in history.

Here are a few photos from my outing:

Oak Hill Chapel designed by James Renwick.

Oak Hill Chapel designed by James Renwick.

Side view of the Oak Hill Chapel

Side view of the Oak Hill Chapel

Beautiful Fall foliage and blue skies

Beautiful Fall foliage and blue skies

There are trails throughout the cemetery so you won't be stepping on any graves.

There are trails throughout the cemetery so you won’t be stepping on any graves.

Oak Hill Cemetery Gatehouse ~ designed by James Renwick

Oak Hill Cemetery Gatehouse ~ designed by James Renwick

Original Bell at the Oak Hill Cemetery

Original Bell at the Oak Hill Cemetery

The fallen leaves throughout the Garden cemetery

The fallen leaves throughout the Garden cemetery

I found a "Giving Tree" stump

I found a “Giving Tree” stump

Oak Hill Cemetery's Welcome and Rules

Oak Hill Cemetery’s Welcome and Rules

Pumpkins in Georgetown

Pumpkins in Georgetown

Sweet Bulldog Statue

Sweet Bulldog Statue

Chesapeake & Ohio Canal in Georgetown

Chesapeake & Ohio Canal in Georgetown

Walking the leafy streets of Georgetown

Walking the leafy streets of Georgetown

The cemetery overlooks Rock Creek and the Rock Creek parkway.

The cemetery overlooks Rock Creek and the Rock Creek parkway.

For more information, click here.

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CC PS Bench
My six year old self would have shuttered to know I was going to a graveyard just to explore and read the historic names on the tombstones. But my much older self enjoyed wandering through the lovely setting known as Congressional Cemetery.

Established in 1807, it’s officially the Washington Parish Burial Ground and is owned by Christ Church. In 1807, Senator Tracy (Federalist from Connecticut) was interned and until the mid-1830s, almost every Congressman who died in Washington was buried in the cemetery. Since it was associated with US Congress members it became the first National Cemetery (50 years prior to Arlington Cemetery). The cemetery occupies 35 acres and is the only place in Washington DC where a person can be buried within L’Enfants’s original city-plan. Congressional Cemetary toppled headstones

Congressional Cemetery is a feel-good story, other than the fact that it’s filled with dead people. It went through a period of neglect in the 20th century and, by 1997, it was added to the list of most endangered Historic sites. Thankfully, a group of dedicated Capitol Hill Washingtonians started taxing themselves for walking their dogs on the grounds. The taxes paid for mowing.

CC Dog friendly

Currently, the K9 Corps of the Historic Congressional Cemetery numbers in the hundreds. They pay an annual fee to walk their dogs off-leash. Other volunteers including service organizations, members of the armed forces and school groups have put in thousands of hours bringing the cemetery back to it’s original state. It’s designated as a National Historic Landmark and the association has regularly scheduled tours, fundraisers and 5k runs. The US Marine Band plays often at the grave of John Philip Sousa. Sousa enlisted into the Marines at age 13 by his father, after Sousa attempted to join the traveling circus. He excelled in the Marines, becoming the conductor for the Marine Corps Band. After the Marines, he started his own band and wrote “Stars and Stripes Forever” CC Henry Clay
Cenotaphs are monuments erected in honor of someone whose remains are buried elsewhere. There are 165 Cenotaphs for many famous people such as Henry Clay, John C.Calhoun, Tip O’Neill, etc.

CC Girl statue

Beautiful statues can be found throughout CC Music is the answer

CC A lifetime togetherInteresting quotes can be found around every corner.

And then there are the visiting goats.The Browsing Green Goats have been brought into the cemetery (paid for by an anonymous donor) for two weeks to control invasive species including poison ivy. Rather than use herbicides or expensive landscaping crews, the goats offer a wonderful alternative to battling the invasive plants. Plus they leave a good bit of helpful fertilizer. CC signs to the goats

CC Goat signFollow the signs to the goats PS Black Goat

CC Goats restingToo full to move CC Goat B&W

CC Brown goatDetails for visiting:

  • Congressional Cemetery is located at 1801 E Street, SE, Washington, DC
  • Cemetery hours are 9 am-5 pm
  • Goats can be seen from Dawn until Dusk
  • Goats will be at the cemetery until August 20, 2015
  • For more information about events (including the goats), click here

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It was thrilling to see the French Tall Ship ‘Hermione’ pass through the opened Wilson Bridge at midnight. Adding to the fun were all the people out with us who were equally impressed by, not only the Hermione but the mechanical marvel of the Wilson Bridge. As a side note, living in the Washington DC area makes me empathetic for anyone “stuck” on the bridge. Even at midnight, I could see the line of cars and trucks.

The Hermione Wilson Bridge

Night photography is a challenge for me ~ mostly because I don’t do much of it. My attempt to photograph the Hermione at midnight convinced me to practice, practice, practice. With that in mind, I’ll be up late on Friday when Hermione leaves Old Town en route to Annapolis attempting to get better shots.

Here are my attempts but for some really gorgeous photos from last night, check out Photographybykent:

The Hermione and Capitol II
If you look closely, the US Capitol can be seen on the bottom left

PS Hermione

The Hermione in the Potomac
Earlier in the day, the Hermione was anchored near Mount Vernon Estates where a Lafayette event was happening.

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The beautiful 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 reflected how lucky I am to live so close to this beautiful and vibrant city.

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 & 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 and the Kennedy Center across the Potomac River

Washington Monument
Washington Monument and the Cherry Blossoms

Washington Monument
Washington Monument

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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.

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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!

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