April 24-27 — DC interlude

Spent the past four days in Washington DC and northern VA with the family, and didn’t get much of an opportunity to get out into “nature.”

The main outdoorsy experience we had on the trip was an afternoon in scenic Great Falls Park, along the Potomac River, on the first day.  It was a lovely spring day, perfect for scrambling around on the rocks alongside the river.   Although the parking lot and main viewing areas were packed with people, the crowds thinned out considerably once we got a quarter mile down the trail.Image

Another view of the PotomacImage

The Great Falls area seemed to be an amazing hub for birdlife.  There were dozens of buzzard-looking birds and at least a couple of raptor-looking ones riding thermals above the river.  There were many ducks in the area, plus many of these black cormorant-looking ones flying swiftly upstream and downstream through the gorge.Image

I also spotted at least two blue herons fishing at the water’s edge and occasionally flying past.  Of course, none of them came close at exactly the moment I had my camera ready, but even this blurry photo gives a bit of a sense of what amazing dinosaur-like birds these are.Image

I also spotted many wildflowers growing in the rocks along the river’s edge.  These attractive blue ones were the same as the ones I saw in Charlottesville a few days ago, still haven’t figured out what they are.Image

In a crack in the rocks, I spotted these pink azalea-like blossoms, one of which had fully opened.Image

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Other cracks in the rocks were filled with masses of tiny white flowers.Image

The rocks themselves along the river’s edge were covered with amazing patterns and designs– hundreds of millions of years of sedimentation, compression, and erosion creating exquisite designs.  Great Falls Park is really a special place, and I hope to return there sometime when I have longer to explore.  The boys had a wonderful time climbing on the rocks, and we had to leave before any of us were really ready to go…Image

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The next few days were mostly spent in and around Washington DC.  Although we made several trips out to assorted parks and playgrounds, nothing really felt like it fit in with this journal.  We spent one afternoon at the National Zoo, which was fascinating in all the ways that a zoo is fascinating, and depressing in all the ways that zoos are depressing.  Mostly, it was sad to see so many amazing species of animals, all of which have been nearly wiped out by people, through hunting or habitat loss or climate change or just plain meanness.  Every informational display told of some tragedy, one of nature’s creations just barely holding on to the edge of existence, while all around me I was surrounded by thousands and thousands of human children (including my own), who will in turn fill the earth with thousands and thousands of their own offspring and I wonder if in a generation or two we’ll still even have room on this planet for gorillas and wolves and the like.Image

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