Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Teddy Roosevelt's Island

So here I was last Thursday afternoon about 3:45, all by myself in Arlington, Virginia, where I was spending the night before arising at 3:40AM Friday to start the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure. Should I curl up in my nice hotel room with a good book? Or sit in an outside cafe and have a mug of tea or a cold beer? Stay off my feet? That would be the smart thing. That would be the sensible thing. Or I could take a hike. Not smart just hours before starting a 3 day long 60 mile walk. Not sensible. But fun. Well, guess which I did? Go on, guess!

Theodore Roosevelt, our 26th and youngest president, was a fascinating and somewhat contradictory man. He was the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize and also was a war hero, a winner of the Congressional Medal of Honor. (His oldest son also won the Medal of Honor, and I wonder if they are the only father - son combination in American history to do so). He was a naturalist, a big game hunter, and a conservationist - as president, he created the National Wildlife Refuge System and took many other innovative conservation actions by bypassing Congress with executive orders. He was an accomplished author, and wrote something like 30-40 books, one of which was considered the definative history of the US Navy in the War of 1812. He was a rich city-born-and-raised kid who became a tough rancher in the Dakata frontier. He was a nearly life-long Republican who cost the GOP the 1912 election when he ran against Taft as an independent in the Bull Moose Party. He was an explorer who nearly died navigating down the River of Doubt in South America as one of the leaders of the first expedition to do so. He was proably vain and arrogant, and loved being the center of attention. It was said about him that he wanted to be "the bride at every wedding and the corpse at every funeral." He was a sickly child who deliberately lived an active life to overcome illness, lived the life of three men, and died young at about age 60 - totally burned out. He idolized his father but was ashamed that his dad had gotten an exemption to avoid military service in the Civil War. Every one of TR's four sons - the sons of a president - served in the military in wartime, and two of them died in the awful world wars of the last century. Can you imagine that today? We could sure use a guy like Theodore Roosevelt today - he might shame Congress into action.

So as I pondered what to do, the draw of Theodore Roosevelt Island just a half mile walk from my hotel proved to be too much of an allure. Like its namesake, the island is a contradiction - a wild and isolated 88 acre oasis in the middle of one of the world's greatest cities. So that is where I headed, walking about four miles. This was more than I should have walked, but much less than I would have were it not for my three days of upcoming extreme walking. I had a great time, then went out and had that beer in an outdoor cafe, listening to a muscian play the guitar and sing.

What a contradiction! These two photos were taken from the exact same spot as I walked down the ramp to the trail leading to the bridge to the island. The first, facing right, is of the urban towers of Rosslyn, Virginia. The second, facing left, is of Roosevelt Island just across the Potomac:
Roosevelt Island as seen from Virginia:
Once you cross this footbridge bridge, you leave the urban scene, and enter a wild place:
I think the Roosevelt would have been very pleased with this tranquil place. I saw as many deer - two - as humans on the trails. I can imagine the former president roaming the inviting paths.
There is a nice statue of the great man near the center of the island, and large structures highlighting some of his quotes in four subject areas, such as these about nature:
Nuts from a black walnut tree:Crew, I imagine from Georgetown University, crossing near the north end of the island:
Views of the Potomac River, which surrounds Roosevelt Island:


  1. Black walnuts!! They taste strange and stain the hands. This looks like a great place to explore.

  2. Thanks for the comment. Yep, it sure is a great place to explore - history and nature in the middle of the big city. I could have rambled for hours were it not for my long upcoming walk. Art