Collingwood Picnic Area, Virginia

I hope I won’t spoil this little spot by telling you about it. On one of our visits to Mount Vernon, we decided to meander on down the road, following the Potomac, to see where we’d get.

We stopped at a place called Fort Hunt, which is across the river from Fort Washington (you can see a map of them here). I guess at some point these two forts were used to control water traffic toward the capital, but they weren’t in use anymore. They are now parks and they are open to the public.

As we continued driving south, a little place called out to us. From the road, it only looked like a little parking lot, and perhaps we were simply looking to stretch our legs once more — or something told us to stop. We did, and as you’ll see in the photographs, it was well worth it. The shoreline of the Potomac is special there. The river flows by quietly and you get these little ripples in the water that look wonderful in the light of the late afternoon. Round little pebbles of all colors are mixed with the yellow mud and brown sand on the shore, and when the light hits all of them just right, it makes for magical little vignettes that capture your imagination.

I didn’t have GPS with me at the time, so I had to guesstimate the location 10 years after having visited it, but after spending about half a day looking at maps and satellite imagery, I believe this spot is the Collingwood Picnic Area on the Virginia side of the Potomac River. Perhaps it’s changed since we visited it and these photos represent a certain moment in time when things simply came together. I don’t know. I’ll let you rediscover the place. Enjoy the photos!


A late winter snowstorm

One thing about winters is they don’t like to leave. Just when you think they’re packing to go back north, they settle back down for at least a few more days. And they’re not shy about it, either. They’ll let loose and bring on a bonafide winter storm.

This particular one happened just about six years ago. The set of pictures you’re about to see were taken in Grosvenor Park and Cabin John Park, MD, and in Tyson’s Corner, McLean, VA.

Things can start out picturesque in the morning…

… and turn into this by evening.

By morning, things are back to picturesque — a beautiful, white winter picturesque.

Sadly, that doesn’t last long. In a day or two, rising temperatures melt it away.

By the way, there are few things that cheer me up better than warm miso soup and veggie sushi after exploring in the snow.


A freezing spell

Exactly six years ago to the day, there was a freezing spell overnight. It rained over fallen snow, then it quickly froze, encapsulating plants in a sheath of ice. This sort of thing is dangerous for trees, because it makes their branches so heavy that it can split them apart. Back in college, in Vermont, we had a serious freezing spell one winter that broke apart many of the trees on campus; thankfully, this wasn’t that serious. It helped that we were in Virginia at the time, where winters aren’t that rough.


Upperville in the spring of 2005

Upperville is a quaint little town on Route 50 in Virginia, about 50 miles from DC. We visited it twice, once in 2004 and once more about a year later. We loved its historic church and library. The stone architecture and cobblestone courtyard had an immediate appeal to us, as the buildings seemed to have come to life from the pages of a fairy tale.

We loved being able to walk about the buildings unhindered, and the orderly appearance of everything around, including the furthest grounds of the church.

Let’s go inside the church for a bit.

Have you ever seen a smaller and more endearing public library?

If you get the chance, please visit it. According to Wikipedia, there are a number of thoroughbred horse farms in the area, so that might be of interest to you as well.


The John Douglass Brown House in Alexandria

The John Douglass Brown House stands apart from the rest of the houses you see in Alexandria because of the choice of its building material: wood. (Most of the houses in that part of the town are brick.) The simple, rustic architecture talks of an early, more modest beginning as a farmhouse, not a townhome for a wealthy trader, like the rest of the places around it.

Built in the 1700s, the house was owned and occupied by the descendants of the John Douglass Brown and Mary Goulding Gretter from 1816 until the 1970s-80s. When we visited it (it’s not open to the public), not knowing anything about it, we realized something was different nonetheless, and began to look at its exterior more closely.

The neighbors came out, and we talked to them. They graciously offered to introduce us to its current owner, Mr. Charles J. Reeder, who couldn’t have been nicer. We got to talking, and asked if we could come inside the interior courtyard to photograph it. He allowed us in.

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