Last weekend I finally managed to do a hike across the Potomac from Jones Point, in Alexandria, Virginia, across Wilson Bridge to The Awakening statue in National Harbor, Maryland. I originally planned the 6.4-mile hike for February 15th, and hoped to schedule a subsequent hike at a to-be-determined national park on Presidents’ Day, to take advantage of one of the National Park Service’s free entrance days. But as everyone in the eastern US knows, a heavy snowstorm hit a few days earlier, grounding many airline flights, covering the roads with snow and ice, and generally wrecking everyone’s Valentine’s Day plans. I postponed the hike until the following Saturday, February 22nd, and although the weather cleared, it was too late to come up with a big event on Monday to take advantage of the free entrance day. On Monday a friend phoned and rousted me out of my house for a 5-mile walk along Alexandria’s waterfront. Apart from the ice and snow on the ground, it was a beautiful, calm day and the Potomac River was like a sheet of glass.
The following Thursday I had an appointment at Walter Reed, so I thought to take an extra couple of hours’ time to reconnoiter the route for a 5-mike hike along Rock Creek, from Meadowbrook Local Park to the National Park Seminary and back, with an optional 1-mile excursion to Woodend Nature Sanctuary along the way. A good thing too, because while my plans looked good on paper, it soon became obvious they weren’t going to work. Meadowbrook Local Park proved to be an inadequate trailhead since it lacks public restrooms. (Unless you rent the building: $180 for 4 hours, plus a $150 deposit!) A herd of deer greeted me in Woodend Sanctuary, but I found out that its restrooms are locked on the weekend, too. Finally, the northern half of the route was an unpleasant mix of ice, snow and mud, so the hike as planned was just not going to happen.
The only good that came of the recon was confirmation that the National Park Seminary is well worth a visit. The site was an exclusive private girls’ school from 1894 to 1942 before being taken over by the U.S. Army for use as a rehabilitation facility for wounded soldiers. Since 2003 it is back in private hands, being renovated and restored to form the centerpiece for a residential neighborhood. The Seminary features a bewildering variety of sorority houses designed to resemble Swiss chalets, English castles, Italian villas and Japanese Pagodas. Dotting the grounds like pepper specks on your breakfast eggs are statues of Greek goddesses, lions, and even a statue of Hiawatha! Needless to say, we just have to hike to this place!
Getting back to The Awakening, Saturday finally rolled around bright and sunny, and the hike across Wilson Bridge to National Harbor went off without a hitch. One item of note is that construction of the Capital Wheel has begun. When completed in May, the 175-foot Ferris wheel supposedly will offer scenic views of Washington DC, although you would have to have pretty good eyesight to make out any detail! Here’s a few photos, but there are a lot more taken by some of the hikers here.