Theodore Roosevelt Island

Did you know that you can plan an island getaway without ever leaving D.C.?  It’s not your standard trip, but the Theodore Roosevelt Island feels like a peaceful oasis compared to the rest of the District.  The island was turned into a memorial in the 1930s, and it’s a very cool site to visit in the District!

I made my first visit to Roosevelt Island with my partner in crime, Cacia.  Her sister came to town, and Cacia was more than a little determined to make sure her sister saw as much of D.C. as possible.  On a Friday evening that was D.C. humid, there were very few people here.  However, this let us take in the full memorial.

IMG_4982
The memorial to Theodore Roosevelt.  There is a fountain to the right and a bridge to the left.  The large stones have quotes carved into them.  It’s really amazing in person.

The site is so peaceful, and we really enjoyed seeing the various aspects of the memorial and hanging out on a bench.  Based on this picture, you may assume that this is most of the island, but the island is very large and has plenty of trails.  While we did not explore any on our visit since I had to get back to work for an evening show, I did make note that the island is dog friendly!

The following weekend, the one and only Hudson dog came to town.  Hudson is a great adventurer, but he has seen so many places in D.C. that I always want him to take new walks.  Even with some humidity, we had so much fun walking Hudson!

IMG_0394
There are many paths to choose from, and we let Hudson take the lead!

The amazing thing about Roosevelt Island is how different the terrain is along each part of the trail.  The opening of the trail we took was very wooded, and there was lots of shade to protect us from the sun.  As there were quite a few people out walking their dogs, I was surprised to come across wildlife on the paths we were walking along.

IMG_0410
This little fawn, a sibling, and their mother all stood on the path right in front of us.  I managed to snap this picture as they scurried off of the trail.

As we continued around the island, we came into an area known as “the swamp.”  The swamp area was a little more humid and had a little less wildlife.  This part of the path was raised wooden planks, just like I had seen in the Everglades.  However, this path was in much better shape.  Even in the swamp area you could take a variety of different paths, and there were signs explaining different things one could see.  There were lots of cattails, and as the island meets the Potomac River, some interesting wildflowers grew along the sides.

IMG_0415
Little yellow and purple flowers around the edges of the island

Essentially, the beginning of the park is wooded, and the center of the island is a swamp.  As you cross around the island, you can see the Potomac River, and on a few sections of the northern tip, we could see over to Georgetown.

IMG_0422
A view of Georgetown from Roosevelt Island

As you can see from the photos, there are so many different areas to see on Roosevelt Island, and once it is not so humid, I could see myself wandering around here quite a bit in the fall.  This park was maintained very well, and we did pass one small area of bathrooms on the island part way down a path.  This was a really fun place to visit with my family, and it was the right speed for everyone.

IMG_0390
Hudson aced this selfie! (Usually he looks away)

I know what you are thinking- it must be a pain to get to an island in D.C.!  However, it’s shockingly easy to get to Roosevelt Island.  Leaving from Washington, D.C., you can take the blue, orange, or silver line to Rosslyn, and it is a short, safe, and easy walk over to the park.  Alternatively, there is quite a bit of free parking to utilize as well.  With such easy accessibility, there is no reason not to visit.

If you are making a trip to Washington, D.C., I encourage you to check out this unique little part of our nation’s Capitol!  If you are a stamp collector, the stamp is located at Arlington Cemetery, which is no longer dog friendly (Don’t worry- Hudson visited there before dogs were banned!).  Best of all, it’s 100% free to visit Roosevelt Island.  There is no entrance fee or parking fee.

Pro Tip:  Be sure to hydrate if you visit this park!  There were no running water fountains on our visit.

IMG_0380
Don’t forget to bring water for your furry friend!  We love using pop-up bowls for Hudson, and then he can drink on the go!

Thanks so much for reading my blog again this week!  This was one of my favorite sites we have visited so far, and I hope you have enjoyed it.  Be sure to subscribe to my blog to stay up to date on my latest posts.  I have been to Wolf Trap twice this week, and I am making another trip this weekend so I am hoping to post about that park next week.

The National Mall (Evening)

Previously, I published a post titled The National Mall (Daylight).  People swear it is an entirely different experience at night, and I have to agree that away from the crowds and under the starlight that you see a different angle of the Mall.

My first evening experience on the National Mall was on the 4th of July.  Cacia and I decided to brave the crowds to see the fireworks, which were truly an amazing experience.  Getting to the Jefferson Memorial, however, was not a picturesque experience due to multiple security checkpoints we had to pass through.  I have spent enough time on the National Mall to know basically every route to a memorial, and it took us 1.5 hours to get from Metro Center (Red line) to the memorial.  However, our timing was perfect, as this location was not terribly packed and full of mostly respectful people.  The payoff was gorgeous too.

IMG_4916
Our view of the 4th of July fireworks from the stairs of the Jefferson Memorial

While we figured this was a bucket list experience, we both agreed that we plan to come back and see the fireworks next year.  Our viewing area was spectacular, but we hope to try the Lincoln Memorial next year!

When my friend, Emily, came into town this week, it happened to coincide with the August full moon.  I thought this would be the perfect time to finish seeing the National Mall at night!

Since it was nighttime, we were not really looking to cover the whole National Mall (See my former post for that!), but we were trying to see the monuments with the most interesting lighting.  My personal favorite view is the view from the World War II Memorial, looking towards the Lincoln Memorial.

IMG_4995
The Wold War II Memorial with the Lincoln Memorial in the distance

The World War II Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial were my favorites to see in the dark.  There are some amazing pictures online of the Lincoln Memorial in the nighttime, but it is really hard to get a great picture of it closer.  There are tons of people on the stairs taking pictures with flash, which makes it hard to even to get a good view.  If you really want a great view of the Lincoln Memorial and/or a great picture, a summer full moon may not be the best night.

However, if you go to visit the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial, you have a great view of that monument, and the Jefferson Memorial looks pretty from afar too.

IMG_5003

While I will agree that the National Mall in the evening is a great experience, I just love it so much more during the daytime!  I missed the trees and the green on the night walk.

I hope you enjoyed this week’s blog!  If you have any questions or comments, feel free to post them!  The one and only Hudson dog is here this weekend, and he had a great walk on Roosevelt Island, which I will post about next week!

On an unrelated note, my friend Emma (Mentioned in Everglades National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve) just started her own Florida State Parks blog after being inspired by this blog.  If you want to check out her blog, featuring her adorable Cocker Spaniel hiking in Florida, check it out here!

Everglades National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve

I already know what you are thinking- Who takes a trip to Florida in July?  And to see the Everglades nonetheless?  Yes, I did in fact do this!  Thanks to a work trip, I was lucky enough to spend a few days in Florida.  My friend from graduate school, Emma, and her soon-to-be husband Kevin crazily agreed to make this journey with me!

The number one tip I can give you is to take bug spray and plenty of sunscreen if you visit these parks in July.  It is hot, humid, and takes mosquito bites to a whole new level.  The idea of seeing swamps may seem to be crazy, but it is so cool!  We started out at the Shark Valley Visitors Center.  I felt like I was adventuring through the tropics.

IMG_0350
A flooded pathway in Everglades National Park

Since it was the summer, we found most paths to be completly flooded and not accessible.  Due to the heat, we walked down the tram path for about 1.5 miles and then turned around.  Many people used the path to bike through the National Park, which could be fun in the cooler months.

While on the tram path, we did find a really cool wooded walkway over a large part of the swamp.  While I was convinced the whole time that an alligator was going to jump out and eat me, that did not happen.  It was so cool to walk over the swamp, though!

IMG_0344
Kevin, Emma, and I crossing over the swamp on a walkway!

To get around the Everglades, you actually cross through many parts of the Big Cypress National Preserve.  The National Preserve has spots where you can observe wildlife.  We really did not see very much wildlife there, but we did see the only wildlife we needed to see.

IMG_0351
An alligator peering out under the walkway we were crossing over at the Ochopee Visitors Center.  It was cool to see one, and it was just far enough away for comfort.

As we started venturing back up to Naples so I could pick up my rental car and settle into my hotel for the conference, we stopped back in the Everglades to see the Gulf Coast.  It was great to see the coast in a non-beach setting, and there had been many dolphin and manatee sightings over the last few weeks.

While my experience in the Everglades mostly involved driving, there are many more activities and less heat in the winter.  It was still very cool to see such a different area, and it was interesting to learn that this actually is a flowing body of water, not just a big swamp.  If you collect the National Parks cancellation stamps, there are many to collect here.

IMG_4960
Five different cancellation stamps

With a $25 entrance fee for the Everglades, my National Parks pass proved it’s worth again.  After saving $20 to enter Assateague Island in May, $25 at Shenandoah in June, and another $25 here, I am at $70/$80 spent for my National Parks pass.

While these National Parks were very cool, there are so many amazing outdoor activities in Florida that should not be missed as well!  In addition to checking out Everglades National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve, I had a ton of fun in the sand at Siesta Key (Sarasota), kayaking through Mangrove trees, and seeing sunsets in Naples.

IMG_4929
Siesta Key in Sarasota, Florida

Thanks for reading my blog this week!  If you have any questions or comments, post them below in the comments section, and be sure to follow my blog to not miss any posts.  I am back in D.C. for a few weeks now, and I need to do some light hiking to get ready for my September trip to Utah!

Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens

Hidden in the southeast part of D.C., the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens are one of the most unique experiences I have had while living here.  My DC partner in crime, Cacia, and I had been talking about making a trip here soon.  However, we moved our visit up when we discovered that the annual Lotus and Water Lily Festival was on July 15 this year!  While the park was very crowded, it was a very worthwhile experience.

The closest metro stop is at Deanwood on the orange line, although for the Lotus Festival, a shuttle was provided from Minnesota Avenue.  You should not come to this park alone if you are taking public transportation, as the neighborhood has some safety issues.  There was some parking, but not nearly enough for the Festival.  We took the shuttle from Minnesota, but then walked to Deanwood and felt safe enough together.

The lotus flowers looked awesome and are best described in pictures.

IMG_0336
The never ending view of lotus flowers across the park.

To see the flowers, there are lots of walkways throughout the park.  While the park is not huge, it seems like the flowers go on forever.  While there were mostly the pink flowers, we found a few exceptions throughout the park.

IMG_0337
A yellow and pinkish flower

While the Festival is called the Lotus and Water Lily Festival, an employee at the gift shop told us that the event is scheduled around the lotus bloom, and the water lilies usually bloom in mid June, a bit earlier in the season.  We found this to be true as we walked through the park, but we still found a few water lilies.

IMG_0329
Little water lilies

Aside from the beautiful flowers, the Festival also has dance groups, vendors, and 2 food trucks to allow you to make this an all day experience.  While the aquatic park is probably beautiful at other times of the year, I would highly recommend attending the festival!  There were so many activities and seeing the bloom was an awesome experience.

This park has another large perk- it is dog friendly!  What could be more fun than bringing your dog to an aquatic garden?!  The Anacostia Riverwalk trail is directly next to this park, and the trail goes on for many miles and was particularly nice near the park.  Unfortunately, the area’s crime rate spills over on this beautiful trail so be careful.

I really enjoyed my trip to the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, and you should check it out too on your next visit to the District!  Next week I am looking forward to sharing my trip to Everglades National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve in Florida.  Make sure to follow my blog so you don’t miss any updates as I continue my National Parks adventure!

The National Mall (Daylight)

While many of the monuments in D.C. are called out as individual sites, I have perfected the art of seeing as many memorials as possible on my walks on the Mall after work.  The National Parks site calls out Constitution Gardens, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, Martin Luther King Jr Memorial, Thomas Jefferson Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington Monument, and the World War II Memorial.  There are plenty of monuments to see, and I hope as a resident of D.C. that I can give you some insider secrets.

I spend a lot of Fridays roaming the National Mall after work, and I love it on Friday nights as the sunset comes on.  What I have noticed over time is that most people do not get too far past the Lincoln Memorial, which is a real shame, because the Franklin Delano Roosevelt is my personal favorite!  I take the following route when I walk, utilizing the Foggy Bottom Metro Station (Blue, Orange, Silver), although many people start towards the mall from the Smithsonian or Federal Triangle stations.

1. Albert Einstein Memorial
The Albert Einstein Memorial is one of my personal favorites, even though it is actually just before the National Mall.  People treat poor Mr. Einstein as a jungle gym, and he is also popular for drunk photo ops.  However, I love stopping to see him!

2. Vietnam War Veterans Memorial
A very simple Memorial honoring soldiers from Vietnam.  It can be hard to read the names at sunset, but it’s incredible how many names are on this memorial.  While the wall is the main part of the Memorial that most people visit, be sure to stop at the Vietnam Women’s Memorial and the Three Servicemen Memorial as you head back towards the Lincoln Memorial.

3. Lincoln Memorial
The one that everyone has to see and for a good reason.  Once you see Mr. Lincoln and read his quotes, I recommend heading to the back of the Memorial to look out towards Arlington Cemetery.  It’s much quieter on this side.

4.  Reflecting Pool

IMG_2998
While it was still in the high 80s, the crowds are usually down on Friday evenings after 6 PM on a hot day, allowing you to take some great photos.

5. Korean War Veterans Memorial
This Memorial, in my opinion, is hands down the most moving one for me.  I always find myself on the bench reflecting on this Memorial.  It’s not to be missed and often has veterans visiting the site.

6. D.C. War Memorial (World War I)
This one is so small that it is easy to miss!  Keep an eye out.

7. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial
This Memorial is really interesting, as a large-stone Mr. King looks out over the Tidal Basin.  The quotes are wonderful, and it’s a very unique site.  Coming from the D.C. War Memorial, you will approach from the back of the Memorial.  Be sure to look at it as you start down the Tidal Basin as well.

8. Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial
This Memorial is my personal favorite, particularly during Cherry Blossom season!  The water falls and walls are beautiful, the quotes are fantastic, and it does not see nearly as much foot traffic as the other Memorials.

IMG_3192
This is a great photo op if you bring your dog along! (Hudson has many a selfie here!)

9. Thomas Jefferson Memorial
As you need to take a long walk to the Jefferson Memorial or a tour bus, many people skip this beautiful Memorial.  I usually stop and take a little break here, looking out over the Tidal Basin and enjoying the breeze.  It’s well worth the walk!  At this point, you have walked 3.2 miles if you started at the Foggy Bottom metro.  Good job!  You have a 1.3 mile walk ahead of you to the Washington Monument.

IMG_3197

10. Washington Monument
Two days after I moved to D.C., the elevator in the Washington Monument was closed indefinitely, making this Monument far less interesting to me.  However, during the Cherry Blossom kite flying Festival, it is the place to be!  It is also the starting point for many a protest. Pro Tip:  The best view of this Monument is from far away!  Pro Tip #2:  You can get all of the Memorial cancellation stamps at the Visitors Center for your National Mall passport!

11. World War II Memorial
This monument is huge and really cannot be summarized in pictures or words.  Be sure to visit in the summer, as this one is drained in the cold months.

12. Constitution Gardens
Constitution Gardens is essentially a giant pond, but you can see baby ducklings in June!  In your overall quest to see the monuments, you have finished another 1.4 miles!

Plenty of events take place on the National Mall throughout the year.  I came down every few days during the Cherry Blossom Festival, and I loved the Smithsonian Folk-life Festival, which was circus themed this year.

IMG_4187

On my walk back to the Metro, I love to stop at Captain Cookie and the Milkman, which specializes in ice cream and cookies at all hours of the day.  Almost every snack is under $5 (My personal favorite being the ice cream cookie sandwich for $4)!  What could be more perfect after a long day on the Mall?

Thanks for reading my blog, and please subscribe for more National Park adventures!  I still need to see the National Mall by night (A whole different experience according to some), and I will be sure to post when I do!

Next week I will not have a blog post because I will be spending some time in Sarasota (Vacation) and Naples (Conference), Florida!  I am hoping to see some of the National Park areas in southern Florida during my visit.

Have questions about my walking tour?  Post in the comments below!

Arlington House, The Robert E. Lee Memorial

Within Arlington Cemetery, at the top of a very large hill, exists the Arlington House and Robert E. Lee Memorial.  If you are looking to visit this site, you need to arrive before August of 2017, as the house section is about to close indefinitely!  The house has a few rooms to look at, a small museum for Robert E. Lee and his family, a gift shop, and a small garden.

To get here, get off of the Blue line at Arlington Cemetery, and keep walking toward the large stone staircases and walls you can see directly in front of you.  Make a right, follow the sidewalk to the top of the hill.  You will go up a few hundred steps, about .3 miles, and the Memorial is at the top of the hill.  It is not the easiest thing to find, and we did not see any markers to point you in the correct direction.

Pro-Tip:  As of last fall, Arlington Cemetery stopped being dog-friendly.  You’ll have to leave your favorite companion at home for this one!

I did not take any pictures of this site, but it’s similar to going through a house in Colonial Williamsburg.  It was two floors, and we saw about 7 rooms.  The house stays cool so it’s great on a hot day.  The museum is a small 5-10 minute excursion as well, focusing on the history of the family.  The Lee family fell behind on taxes, and the government took their property, now home to the cemetery.  The site has some great historical information and was worth the trek up many steps.

Around 5:00 PM, all flags are taken down in the park.  We watched this ceremony, which was a nice touch.  The view is also great from the House, and you look out over D.C.

IMG_4621
You can also see L’Enfant’s tomb

Thanks for reading my blog!  I’m enjoying my National Parks adventure in the DMV area so far, and I am looking forward to continuing writing more.  You can subscribe for more information or ask comments in the questions below!

Shenandoah National Park

After a long week in the concrete jungle swamp known as Washington, D.C., I was so excited to finally make a return trip to Shenandoah National Park!  I visited Shenandoah in elementary school with my parents, and we drove down part of Skyline Drive.  Now with a 10 pound Pomeranian Poodle in tow, we decided to meet up in the park for a weekend trip.

While I drive, I don’t have a car in the city.  I took Amtrak from Union Station to Culpeper, VA, which is about an hour away from Shenandoah.  There are no rental car places so I did need to be picked up, but the actual park is only 75 miles from D.C.  If you are coming from D.C., Sperryville just outside of the park has some limited food options, and we found a GREAT cafe called Before & After to stop at for lunch.

After lunch, we started up to the park to check in.  We stayed in a pet-friendly room at Skyland, and the view was spectacular.  We had a view right over the mountain and overlooking Luray.  It was great to be centrally located in the park, and I immensely enjoyed leaving technology behind for the weekend. You can stay in rustic rooms, cabins, or camp within the property.  Eating can be a challenge, as the rooms do not have any way to cook, but we managed to make it work for the weekend.

After getting settled into the room, we began our first hike at the Hawksbill Gap Loop.  This trail takes you to the highest point in the park at 4,051 feet, and it’s an easy to moderate 2.9 mile hike.  The views are phenomenal, and we were happy to be the only people at the top.

IMG_4665
Hudson and I posing at the Hawksbill summit.  Little dogs can do big things!

Can you believe those little dog legs made it all of the way to the top?  Hudson was such a trooper on our trip!  You can see behind me that there is a compass in the wall at the peak.  The compass labels and points the direction towards the other peaks in the park.  It was very fun to know exactly what we were looking at.  The Hawksbill loop was my favorite hike we did this weekend thanks to the great views from the top.

The next day, we set out to hike the Rose River Trail.  This trail was a little different, as the final viewing points were two waterfalls, not a peak.  This 3.7 mile hike only has an elevation change of 908 feet, but with slippery rocks and some mud, it remained a little more than easy.  We really enjoyed this hike because you are allowed to enter the water, and Hudson enjoyed wandering near the little waterfalls.  The first large waterfall you pass is the Rose River Falls

IMG_4720
Rose River Falls

There were also a few butterflies by the Rose River Falls, which made me very happy.  These falls are about 1/3 of the way through the loop hike.  At the near end of the hike, you come to Dark Hollow Falls.  While the Dark Hollow Falls are taller, since they are accessible via a fire road, they are more crowded.

IMG_4768
Dark Hollow Falls

While I was ready to keep hiking, my parents were done with the wilderness after this hike.  We spent some time at the Big Meadows Wayside, which was a store and casual restaurant, and we enjoyed some ice cream as a treat after this hike.  We later walked the 2 mile round trip path from the store to the campground so I could check out campsites I would like to try in the future.  (I have never camped so we will see if I manage to pull this off this summer!)  In doing this, we found out that this is one of the big places to stop and watch the sunset!  We didn’t get any pictures that do the sunset justice, but it was beautiful.

In the morning, I decided to finish off my trip with a solo hike on the Stony Man Loop, which went a little awry when I got mixed up and ended up on the Little Stony Man trail somehow instead.  The trail head for the Stony Man Loop starts in Skyland, making it a great quick hike for a first or last day.

IMG_4834
View from the Stony Man Loop Trail

By some miracle, I did have enough cell reception to call and get picked up at the other trail head.  I wouldn’t recommend packing a hike in when you are trying to catch a train, but it all worked out in the end!  The views were worth it!

While it was sad to head back down the mountain to the Amtrak station, my parents, Hudson, and I had a great weekend trip to Shenandoah.  With a $25 entrance fee, my National Parks pass proved it’s worth again.  After spending $20 to enter Assateague Island last month and $25 here, I am at $45/$80 spent for my National Parks pass.

Even a little dog like Hudson can have fun hiking and swimming in the Shenandoah National Park.  While I wish the trip could have been longer, we will have to return soon.

IMG_4843
Thanks for reading!  Subscribe to stay up to date on my adventures.