Crying Out

A hawk crying to its mate along the Potomac River near River Farm, Virginia.

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Living History Events during 2022

Last year was the 160th Anniversary of the American Civil War battles that took place during 1862, so our hiking group visited several Civil War battlefield sites, some of which had “Living History” events, featuring costumed reenactors. You don’t get in as much mileage as you would get from a normal hike, but you certainly get some interesting sights.

Cedar Mountain

This battle took place on August 9, 1862, and the living history event took place on August 6, 2022. In the historical event, Confederate General Robert E. Lee responded to the advance of the newly-formed Federal Army of Virginia, under the command of General John Pope, by dispatching Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson’s corps, reinforced by A.P. Hill’s division, towards the center of Pope’s line. The two forces collided at Cedar Mountain, just southwest of Culpeper. The result was a narrow Confederate victory, but also a shift in attention from the Peninsula back to northern Virginia, giving Lee the initiative. The living history event took place on land preserved by the American Battlefield Trust, and featured civilian, Confederate, Union army reenactors.

Second Manassas (Brawner’s Farm)

The Battle of Brawner’s Farm took place on August 28, 1862, the follow-on from the Battle of Cedar Mountain and the prelude to the larger Battle of Second Manassas. The living history event took place on August 27, 2022, at the Manassas National Battlefield Park. A unique feature of this event was that spectators were invited to join in the ranks and accompany the reenactors as they marched around the battlefield. Once the shooting started, however, they had to stand aside.

I managed to take a couple of videos during this event; the first is somewhat marred by the sound of aircraft flying overhead. You can’t win ’em all.

Fredericksburg (Slaughter Pen Farm)

We have hiked over the Fredericksburg battlefield before, but always focused on the ill-advised Federal attack along Marye’s Heights, on the Confederate left flank. The Federal attack at Slaughter Pen Farm took place on December 13, 1862, against the Confederate right flank. The living history event took place on December 10, 2022, on land purchased and preserved only in June, 2022, by the American Battlefield Trust.

Upcoming events

This year is, of course, the 160th anniversary of the Civil War battles that took place in 1863. I’m not sure yet which will feature living history events, but here are a few notable opportunities we will keep an eye on, either to attend living history events, or just to hike:

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Looking back on 2022

During 2022 our hiking group continued to burn up the trails! We went on 108 hikes for a total of around 500 miles; averaging about 4.6 miles per hike. That’s not much different overall from last year, but this year featured more events of a slightly shorter distance.

During the first three months we saw wood ducks in the Rappahannock Canal, spoke with Civil War soldiers at Marye’s Heights, and enjoyed the cherry blossoms on the Tidal Basin in Washington DC.

During April through June we hiked through the bluebells at Seneca Park, got a view of Alexandria from the George Washington Masonic National Memorial, and hiked at Stony Man in the Shenandoah Mountains.

In late Summer and early Fall we saw eagles along the Potomac near Jones Point Park, went on moonlight walks in Alexandria, and watched the sun set over Fredericksburg from Chatham Heights.

As late Fall and Winter arrived, we enjoyed the beautiful leaves at Prince William Forest National Park, enjoyed a brisk hike at the Great Falls of the Potomac, and closed out the year seeing a pair of muskrats frolic at Government Island.

Of course, I couldn’t possibly have run all these hikes by myself! Jim Bovard, the well-known author and perennial public policy hooligan, hosted 39 hikes; around 200 miles. Many were along the ever-popular C&O Canal, but he also spent a lot of quality time reintroducing folks to the beautiful scenery in Washington DC.

What a great year for hiking, and we’re already looking forward to 2023!

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In October this year Abigail passed away, at 16 years.

She came to me with her brother Quincy in 2006, a rambunctious pair of playful kitties who brightened my life. Abigail was supposedly the shy one, even though she sometimes led her brother in play. A loving cat, she was also the first to comfort and come close. She was never the aloof cat, and always affectionate.

After Quincy passed away in 2018 she became even closer; she was my ever supportive friend. But over the past year or so Abigail’s health became increasingly guarded, as she battled asthma and thyroid issues. On a sad day this October it all became too much. She went into cardiac arrest and I finally lost her.

Abigail, you were my dearest friend for so many years. I love you and miss you so much.

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NGC Has Dropped Its Sweetheart Deal With ANA

Back in 2017 the fee for an NGC (Numismatic Guaranty Company) Associate membership was $39 per year. At that time an ANA (American Numismatic Association) membership ($28) included a free NGC Associate membership, so it made sense to join ANA and save $11 per year.

During the following year, 2018, the NGC Associate membership fee dropped to $25 per year and it has stayed there since. Nevertheless, an ANA membership still included a free NGC Associate membership and was still only $28, so the digital magazine and other benefits made the extra $3 for the ANA membership worthwhile. In 2020, ANA membership went up slightly to $30 but the other benefits were probably still worth the extra $5.

As late as June 2022, NGC was still touting itself as “The Official Grading Service of the ANA,” and the free membership was still available.

But as of August 2022, NGC now offers ANA members only a $15 discount on a new 1-year NGC Associate membership. If you are already an NGC Associate member, the discount does not apply. (In fact, you can’t apply for the ANA discount if you are currently an NGC member. The NGC ANA Submitter Application form states, “If you have an active membership with NGC and PMG you should not complete this application.”)

So, the ANA-NGC sweetheart deal is off. If you are currently a member of ANA and an NGC Associate member, you will have to pay full price for both memberships ($30 + $25 = $55), although NGC will give you a $5 discount for auto-renewing.

I guess the question you will now have to decide for yourself is whether the other benefits an ANA membership confers are worth $30 every year by themselves. If you plan to submit any coins to NGC for grading or participate in the NGC Registry, an ANA membership no longer confers any advantage.

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A young bluebird at our bird feeder billing with its parent and getting a bite to eat.

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The Young Victoria Collection – Best in Category for 2021

The Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) recently announced its 2021 NGC Registry Award Winners and, once again, “The Young Victoria Collection” was awarded Best in its Category.  The collection previously won the Best in Category award in 2012, 2016, 2017, 2019, and 2020. It has gotten edged out now and again since it was submitted for competition because it is intentionally limited to sovereigns with a shield reverse from 1838 to 1874, while the category in which it competes extends from 1838 until 1901, and includes sovereigns with a reverse depicting Saint George slaying a dragon.

Below is one of the highlights of the collection, an 1859 “Ansell” sovereign, so named in honor of George Frederick Ansell (1826-1880). Ansell experimented with a batch of gold that had been initially rejected by the Royal Mint for being too brittle and contaminated by traces of antimony, arsenic, and lead. Ansell’s efforts resulted in a strong alloy that enabled the Mint to strike 167,539 sovereigns from the batch, which were distinguished by an extra line on the ribbon holding Victoria’s hair. Today only 15-25 Ansell sovereigns are known to exist; this example is the finest.

The Young Victoria Collection in its entirety can be seen here.

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Looking back on 2021

Seems like 2021 was a pretty good year for hiking, if our hiking group is any indication. During 2021 we went on 102 hikes for a total of 500.5 miles; averaging 4.9 miles per hike. That’s the most mileage we’ve ever done in a year, since I started keeping track 5 years ago in 2016.

Our first quarter events included seeing the Tall Ship Providence replica at anchor in Old Town Alexandria and a Bald Eagle at Occoquan Bay Wildlife Refuge. In March we visited Washington DC to see the troops and fortifications surrounding the Capitol Building.

Among our events during April through June were a visit to Great Falls, hiking at Dark Hollow Falls and Hawksbill Mountain in the Shenandoah Mountains, and touring historic Frederick in Maryland.

In late Summer and early Fall our outings included a visit to Rippon Lodge, near Neabsco Creek, touring historic Manassas, and a couple of visits to Fredericksburg to check out the historic district and the Rappahannock Canal.

We didn’t see much cold weather during the last quarter, so we were able to do a lot of hiking! Some of the venues were Kennedy Peak, in the Massanutten Mountain Range, the Manassas National Battlefield Park, and Arlington Cemetery, which we visited on the Sunday after Christmas.

I certainly didn’t host all 102 hikes by myself! My partner in crime (so to speak), Jim Bovard, hosted 45 hikes. Most were along the ever-popular C&O Canal, starting from Carderock, Glen Echo, and the Palisades, for a total of 245.6 miles.

A good thing, too, because I was goofing off at the beach during July and taking care of something very important!

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The Young Victoria Collection – Best in Category for 2020

The Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) just announced its Collector’s Society 2020 NGC Registry Award Winners. My collection of Young Head Victoria Sovereigns, “The Young Victoria Collection,” was awarded Best in Category again!  The collection previously won the Best in Category award in 2012, 2016, 2017, and 2019.

Building a collection takes time, and very nice coins do not come on the market at your command.  I was only able to make one improvement since last year, a lovely MS64 sovereign minted in 1871.

The Young Victoria Collection in its entirety can be seen here.

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Looking back on 2020

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way—in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

– Charles Dickens, “Tale of Two Cities”

The year 2020 had much in common with the period Dickens wrote of. In 2020 the “noisiest authorities” again insisted that our time was superlative; unique from and more important than all others, and thus worthy of the most extreme measures. They didn’t set up guillotines, at least, but from March through June, in the supposed best interest of the public health, the authorities shut down all parks and health and fitness facilities, public and private.

Nevertheless, during 2020 our group still managed to go on 74 hikes for a total of 354 miles; averaging 4.8 miles per hike.

During the first quarter we saw mockingbirds at Fort Ward, checked out the Titanic Memorial in DC,  and visited the National Mall to enjoy the annual cherry blossoms.

During the second quarter, as noted, the authorities pretty much shut down all healthy outdoor activities for health reasons. Nevertheless, during the last few weeks of the quarter we were able to get in a little quality time at Brookside Gardens and along the Old Town Alexandria waterfront.

In Fall things started to reopen a bit, and we spent a lot of time hiking at Carderock, some more time in Old Town, and checked out the Neabsco Boardwalk and Schaeffer Farm.

As the year drew to a close and the presidential elections were in the offing, the authorities once again clamped down on outdoor activities.

In Maryland and the District of Columbia, science dictated that it was safe to hike outdoors with a group of up to 25 people, but indoor dining at all restaurants by even a single person was too risky. Meanwhile, in Virginia, the same science dictated that it was too risky to hike outdoors with more than 10 people, but any number of people eating indoors at a restaurant was just fine.

Don’t ask me to explain the jokes; I just tell ’em.

Anyway, we revisited Conway Forest and Brawner Farm, checked out the Christmas trees on the National Mall, and saw a Christmas kitty in Old Town at night!

Despite the trying times, 2020 was the most wonderful year! I love you Pamela!

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