Sunday, April 18, 2010

West Dike Trail in Back Bay

With April finally here, the dike trails in Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge are finally open all the way to False Cape State Park. So I had to go for a hike, especially since my legs didn't feel too tired after yesterday's seven+ mile Hollywood Cemetary run. I didn't have time to hike to False Cape on this cool and blustery day, but I did do a two mile in - two mile out along the West Dike Trail. And I was hardly alone. I passed two guys backpacking out, followed a while later by two young women on bicycles with all their camping gear stapped on. Two other women on a bike tour passed me going the same way, and then I ran into a group of about 10 people, heavily loaded with packs, coming out. A ways behind them was a group of maybe 15, looking like they were loaded for a trip up Mt. Everest. This looked like a boy scout troop - all teens with two men bringing up the rear.

At first I saw only a little wildlife: brown headed cowbirds and red winged black birds. Then I came to a turtle - a mud turtle, I think - crossing the path. About a mile after that, I came on a large marshy area that was loaded with wildlife. There were about 50 glossy ibises, 30 American egrets, and numerous ducks of some kind in there, along with a few shore birds - maybe greater yellowlegs.

When it was time to hike out, I realized how strong the wind was. It was a steady 15 knots, gusting to 25, and made walking difficult and cold. Back in my old sailing days, so long ago now, the boat's rails would have been under the water beating into the wind, and maybe even on a beam reach. But the boat would have been moving a lot faster than I was today.

Here are a few photos of the hike today.

New growth is coming up in the marsh - primavera! Ah, spring!

This little guy was convinced I was a threat - after all, I am about 1,000 times larger than he was. I think it is a mud turtle. He would not stick his head out to say hello.

The dike trail runs along impoundments that add edge and habitat for all kinds of wildlife.

It was in this marshy area that I saw all kinds of wildlife.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

This afternoon was a perfect time to spend an hour or so walking around Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. Among other things, the tulips are amazing, and they had beautiful glass artwork on display. Between this walk, my three mile training run this morning, yesterday's hiking at Great Falls, and Friday evening's six mile run / walk combination, I got a lot of great time outside since knocking off work Friday afternoon. But tomorrow, it is back to the office and being indoors.
Here are some photos from today's walk. The flowers were beautiful, the artwork so creative, and the weather perfect.
Firey tulips greet one at the garden entrance.
The tulip beds are incredible.

Nature is amazing, isn't it?
And so is human creativity, as demonstrated in the glass art pieces.
This goose is on her nest. I watched her turning her eggs. Behind her, turtles catch a few rays.
The botanical garden makes effective use of water for wildlife, vistas, and tranquility.
A tranquil and colorful path through the gardens is a delight.
Team in Training colors - purple, green, and white!
They also do a great job incorporating man-made features in the garden.
The oriental garden is especially tranquil, I think.

Great Falls on the Potomac

Because I did my weekly long mileage workout Friday evening with my teammate Lelia, it left Saturday free for Mary and I to head to Northern Virginia to go to LL Beans, and then spend a beautiful afternoon at Great Falls Park. This spectacular setting feels like one is far out in the country, but is just 12 miles from downtown Washington DC and minutes from the suburban sprawl that characterizes the metro area. Our hike started along the calm area above the falls, continued downriver past the spectactular waterfalls and through the Mather Gorge, and then returned along a path by the ruined Potowmack Canal and an abandoned villiage, Matildaville. A picture is worth 1,000 words, so here are some pictures and many less words than that to describe the day.
Above the falls, the river is placid and wide.
Other than the fact that some idiot threw a beer bottle into the cavity, this would be a perfect place to hole up in a storm. Why is it that someone can carry a full beer bottle but not his or her empty?
Redbud is so pretty this time of year.
The path here is easy and broad, and reminded me a bit of the Buttermilk Spring Trail in Richmond.
Great Falls would have put an absolute stop to any navigation on the river.
Downstream from the falls, the river curves and narrows as it heads toward a deep gorge.
Massive floods can occur here. This post, the bottom of which is about 75 feet above the normal river level, shows the high water mark of several spectacular ones.
Steven Mather Gorge is named after the founder and first director of the National Park Service. But if you saw Ken Burns series last year, you already knew that.
This obviously skilled kayaker made this look easy and loads of fun as he hung around into the swift current of Mather Gorge.
The hike back passed big clumps of skunk cabbage, bringing back memories of spring hikes in Pennsylvania with my sisters, brothers, and dad when I was a wee lad.
The Patowmack Canal was built to allow navigation around the falls for commercial purposes. George Washington was its first president, and it took about 18 years to complete. It was not finished until three years after his death, and went out of business a couple of decades later. Five different locks raised and lowered boats 77 feet to get them past the Great Falls. This small section shows some of the skilled masonry work.