Last weekend I went on a couple of hikes that were about as far apart in both subject matter and venue as you can get! On Saturday we went on a 6-mile hike in Washington D.C., on the sesquicentennial anniversary of the Confederate attack on Fort Stevens, and on Sunday we made an early morning visit to Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, also in Washington D.C., to check out the flowering aquatic plants.
On July 12th, 1864, a Confederate force commanded by General Jubal Early attacked Fort Stevens, on the north boundary of Washington, after marching around the Union Army of the Potomac through the Shenandoah Valley, crossing the Potomac River and through Frederick, Maryland, and defeating a force commanded by Union General Lew Wallace during the Battle of Monocacy on July 9th. It was the only time Washington was attacked during the Civil War. Because President Lincoln observed the battle from the parapets of Fort Stevens, it was also the only time a sitting U.S. president came under enemy fire.
Our hike followed a route somewhat like Early’s march in miniature: we started from Brightwood Recreation Area, we hiked west and north through Rock Creek Park (our own “Shenandoah Valley,” so to speak) and popped out of the woods a mile north of Fort Stevens on Holly Street Northwest. From there we roughly followed Early’s route of advance south towards Fort Stevens, along Georgia Avenue NW. Just north of the fort we stopped at Battleground National Cemetery Park, where a ranger came out and greeted us, handed out sesquicentennial booklets, and gave us a short pitch about the cemetery. It was as though we’d arranged for it in advance!
We continued south to Fort Stevens, where there was a crowd, flags, tents, reenactors dressed in period clothing and — just as we got into position to watch — a Union artillery section fired their 6-pounder brass Napoleon cannon in a salute! After that we continued the final mile back to Brightwood Recreation Area to end the hike. For some reason everything in the hike went off perfectly, even the unplanned bonuses! That certainly doesn’t happen very often…
The next day started very early, 8:00 am at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens. Every mid-July is when the lotus, water lily, and orchids bloom at the gardens, so it’s an event I don’t like to miss. The gardens are boxed in by marshy ponds and the Anacostia River, so there’s just not enough room for much of a hike. However, the River Trail is screened from the hubub of the visitors in the gardens, so if you’re quiet you can spot any number of critters. 🙂
It’s not often that everything works out even better than planned, but one thing’s for sure: when it happens, make sure to take credit for it!
Oh yes, what was the “sultry” part? Well, both the temperature and humidity were in the high 80s at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, so it was like an outdoor Turkish bath!