National Howl-iday Scene, Part VI: President’s Park

Pathway of Peace 2013

Tavish beholds the National Christmas Tree from the Pathway of Peace in President’s Park. The national tree has been illuminated by GE since 1963–originally with thousands of incandescent bulbs and now entirely by eco-friendly LEDs. The lighting design changes each year.

Intrepid Pup Tavish has been in dogged pursuit of the best of the national howl-iday scene. In Christmases past and present, he’s sniffed out “Season’s Greenings” activities at the U.S. Botanic Garden, Christmas at George Washington’s Mount Vernon, yuletide preparations at The Biltmore, and much more (see the blog index for the others).  His next stop? The National Christmas Tree!

The tree lives year-round on the grounds of President’s Park, 82 acres maintained by the National Park Service and encompassing the White House itself. For much of the year visitors take little note of the evergreen on the Ellipse, but come December, it becomes the focal point of the park. Fitted with a mantel of LED lights, the tree is officially turned on by the President during a televised ceremony complete with a concert.

Tavish in President's Park with the 2012 National Menorah

Lighting of a national menorah was a tradition begun by President Jimmy Carter in 1979 in nearby Lafayette Park. The 30-foot menorah was incorporated into the President’s Park festivities in 1987. Here’s Tavish in 2012 on the final night of Hanukkah.

President Franklin Pierce is credited with putting up the first Christmas tree inside the White House in 1856, but it wasn’t until 1923 that President Calvin Coolidge lit a national tree outside for the benefit of the American people. For more than 90 years, the storied tradition of a national Christmas tree has continued. Early on, the ceremony took place either on the White House lawn or in nearby Lafayette Park, and various trees were designated as the “national community Christmas tree.” During WWII a national tree was decorated but never illuminated. When the ceremony permanently moved to its existing location on the Ellipse in 1954 to better accommodate crowds, the National Park Service began annually cutting and transporting a tree to the site. By the early 1970s, however, they returned to having a planted tree, and there have been 5 since. The long standing 1978-2011 tree was removed after irreparable storm damage. Its replacement lasted only a year before succumbing to transplant shock. The current National Christmas Tree—a 28-foot-tall Colorado Blue Spruce—was planted in October 2012.

Just as the trees have changed, so too has the pageantry at President’s Park evolved. Various elements have been added, such as a menorah (1987), a model railroad (1993), and Santa’s Workshop (2008); others have fallen by the wayside like the Yule Log (2012) and live reindeer. Performances by local choirs and musical groups occur nightly (except Mondays) following the initial tree lighting ceremony and continue all the way up until Christmas Eve. What has remained a constant since first introduced on the Ellipse in 1954 is the Pathway of Peace, a walkway lined by cut Fraser Firs to flank the National Christmas Tree each December. The Pathway now contains 56 tree representing all 50 states, plus Washington, DC, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Each is decorated with distinctive ornaments handmade by schoolchildren and artisans from that region.

Click to see what a "1" on the Wag-a-meter meansDogging the Details

38°53′41.57N,  77° 2′10.98W
The National Christmas Tree
, President’s Park, Washington, DC
Annually, early December to January 1 ( site is accessible 10 AM – 10 PM)

National Tree 2013

The 2013 National Christmas Tree with the White House in the background.

President’s Park ranks a “1” on the Intrepid Pup’s wag-a-meter for being relatively easy to get to and for providing a unique experience once you’re there. If you’re coming with your dog, plan on doing some walking as you can’t bring your pup on the Metro system. Metered street parking is available, though, and we’ve found that it’s usually a little easier to find a space in the blocks west or north of the White House. Timing your visit for during the week or early in the evenings also helps.

Leashed dogs are permitted on the grounds of the National Christmas Tree, and admission is free—no tickets or reservations are required. Be forewarned, however, that there are typically large crowds, which aren’t always every pup’s cup of tea. If your dog doesn’t like getting jostled or is otherwise prone to claustrophobia, simply forgo walking along the Pathway of Peace; you can still enjoy the tree lights from afar from various vantage points throughout the Ellipse. It’s also been our experience that visitors are so busy looking at the tree that they’re not necessarily looking down and may even be startled to see a pooch in their midst. For your and your dog’s comfort, we recommend visiting at an off-peak time. If you’re going at night, consider adding something reflective so your pet stands out and is visible to other passersby (Tavish’s Chilly Dog® jacket has reflective piping, and he sometimes wears his Nite Ize® SpotLit blinking LED collar light, too). Your best photo ops will come a bit away from the fray, where the Pathway leads south from the tree and opens up onto the Ellipse. With the tree and the White House as your backdrops in the middle distance, you also won’t be holding up throngs of foot traffic to get that perfect shot!

Gettysburg: Intrepid Pup Ventures to Hallowed Ground

Gettysburg_collage

Gettysburg’s hallowed ground. At left: the Virginia Memorial overlooks the field where Pickett’s Charge took place and General Lee lost more than 5,000 men in a single hour. Center: Cannon dot the fields along West Confederate Avenue, near the Observation Tower. At right: A memorial to the 5th Michigan Infantry in the Rose Woods.

Seven score and ten years ago, there was Gettysburg. Or, more to the point, the Battle of Gettysburg, the “High Water Mark” of the Civil War and its most devastating battle. The first three days of July 1863 turned Pennsylvania farmland into a blighted battlefield, claiming some 51,000 casualties and 3,000 horses. It’s a battle rightly memorialized—its tactics, weather, and personalities endlessly scrutinized.

Team Tavish’s visit to Gettysburg came about after spending the better part of a day hiking the trails at Maryland’s Catoctin Mountain Park (see blog post).  In consulting a map, Gettysburg looked to be close by, just across the Mason-Dixon line (and the Maryland-Pennsylvania border).  Before heading on, though, we consulted with a local just to be sure. Even as she confirmed that it’d indeed be a short trip, she began shaking her head. “You know, we used to take our horses out to ride the bridle trails at Gettysburg,” she said, her face clouding. “But those horses spooked every damn time. And if you were riding by yourself? Forget it. It’s like they knew.”

Gettysburg_20thMaine

Tavish traced the footsteps of fellow Mainers en route to Little Round Top and this memorial commemorating the role of the 20th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment.

So with that little sense of foreboding, we drove up the road to Gettysburg, covering in a half hour a distance we knew would’ve taken Civil War troops infinitely longer.

With a late afternoon arrival and a lot of hiking already under our belts, we opted to experience Gettysburg this time around via the 24-mile auto road.  A map obtained from the Visitor Center guided our way, and the sixteen stops provided ample opportunity to get out and explore. Cannon, historical markers, and memorials are at every vista. It seemed fitting for Tavish as a native Mainer to check out the memorial at Little Round Top dedicated to the 20th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment. As we traversed the path through the copse to the monument, the stillness was in marked contrast to the bedlam of July 1863. There, on the battle’s second day, Colonel Joshua Chamberlain and his Maine volunteers were charged with holding the beleaguered Union line at all costs. . . which ultimately translated to a bayonet attack and fighting at close range. The line held, and for his leadership that day, Chamberlain was awarded the Medal of Honor. Chamberlain would also go on to personally see the Civil War through to its conclusion at Appomattox Court House, Virginia, in 1865; General Grant asked Chamberlain to command the Union troops overseeing the surrender of weapons and colors by General Lee’s infantry. Notably, Chamberlain ordered his men to silently salute the Confederates as they passed. Chamberlain remains one of Maine’s most beloved native sons—for his battlefield valor as well as his post-war contributions as Maine governor and president of Bowdoin College. Chamberlain’s house remains open to the public and is interpreted as part of the Pejepscot Historical Society in Brunswick, Maine.

Gettysburg_wolfhound

Tavish meets the gaze of the wolfhound at the memorial to the Irish Brigade in the Rose Woods.

Our last task at Gettysburg was to locate the monument for the three New York regiments of the Irish Brigade.  The narrow approach skirts The Wheatfield—where fierce fighting killed and wounded more than 4,000 men—and then snakes into the Rose Woods.  Despite all the tourists at Gettysburg  on the afternoon of our visit, we were strangely alone when we came to Sickles Road. Dappled sunlight streamed through the trees, and it was here more than anywhere else that day that it wasn’t a stretch to imagine spooked horses. On the left of the roadside, a Celtic cross reaches some 19 feet skyward. Crouched in perpetuity at its base, head resting between outstretched paws, is a lone Irish wolfhound sculpted by William Rudolf O’Donovan, a veteran of Gettysburg.  The noble hound is meant to signify the fidelity of the Irish Americans who fought for the Union. The Irish Brigade had already suffered heavy losses in the war and on the evening of July 2, 1863, added another 76 to its grim tally of wounded, missing, and dead.

Gettysburg_IrishBrigade

The solemn stare of Gettysburg’s Irish wolfhound.

While the wolfhound on the Irish Brigade memorial is symbolic, many actual dogs have been documented in the annals of Civil War history. Some were adopted as unofficial regimental mascots,  others followed their masters to war, and still others were strays seeking human companionship in the encampments in the wake of the conflict.

Gettysburg demonstrates the power of place, and reminds us still—in the words of President Lincoln—”that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion….”

 

Click to see what 2 on the Wag-A-Meter meansDogging the Details

39°48′40.08″N,  77°13′31.50″W
Gettysburg National Military Park, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

Gettysburg earns a “2” on the Intrepid Pup wag-a-meter for the many ways in which one can experience the military park and its canine connections. Make like the Intrepid Pup, and embark upon your time at Gettysburg with a stop at the national park’s Visitor Center.  An outdoor sculpture of Abraham Lincoln (see below) provides a good photo op. Once oriented, you can set out by bike, via hiking trails, with a licensed battlefield guide, or on a self-guided auto tour.

Gettysburg_Lincoln

Penny for your thoughts? Tavish and President Lincoln sit for a spell at Gettysburg’s Visitor Center.

Leashed dogs are permitted on trails and grounds throughout Gettysburg National Military Park. Be sure to bring ample water for yourself and your dog; it can get pretty toasty on the battlefield, especially during the summer months. As always, be sure to clean up after your dog.

Pets are not allowed in the Visitor Center itself or at Soldiers’ National Cemetery where Lincoln delivered his now-famous Gettysburg Address on November 19, 1863—a little more than four months removed from the battle. To fully appreciate the extensive interpretive offerings at these two venues, you’ll need to return on your own.

One final note:  unlike Tavish—who unfortunately missed seeing this on his visit—you’ll want to be sure to seek out the monument to the 11th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Regiment, located on Doubleday Avenue in the northwest corner of the park.  At its base lies a bronze replica of the regiment’s scrappy mascot, a bull terrier named Sallie. She was present at Gettysburg and had become separated from her regiment during the turmoil. Soldiers later located her at the day’s original battle line, where she was keeping vigil over the wounded and the dead. Sallie’s heroics were well documented throughout the Civil War. She had participated in the battles at Antietam, Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville; purportedly received a tip of the hat from President Lincoln during a review of the troops earlier in 1863; and was subsequently wounded at Spotsylvania. Sallie died of a gunshot wound in 1865 during the Siege of Petersburg. Her comrades buried her on the battlefield.

Four Ways to Savor the End of Summer with your Dog

Lounging

Don’t throw in the towel on summer just yet: Tavish the Intrepid Pup has—count ’em—FOUR great ideas for eking out the last bits of summer fun.

Labor Day Weekend is upon us, officially signaling that summer is drawing to a close. But just because the sun is setting earlier and the number of BBQs is dwindling doesn’t mean there isn’t still fun to be had. To that end, Tavish the Intrepid Pup has picked four can’t-miss activities to help you and your dog savor these last days of summer and tide you over ’til next year.

Click to see what a 3 on the Wag-A-Meter meansEach of these tops out the Intrepid Pup’s wag-a-meter at a “3” not only for being canine-specific but also for being fun for dogs and people alike. While they all happen to take place within the greater metropolitan DC area, Team Tavish suspects that there are similar events elsewhere in the country…let us know in the comments section below!

 

Canine Cruise

Ahoy! Tavish spent the whole Canine Cruise facing into the breeze.

Canine Cruise with Potomac Riverboat Company, Alexandria, Virginia
38°48′18.40″N,  77°2′22.99″W

Only two more cruise dates remain in the 2012 season: Thursday 9/6/12 and Thursday 9/13/12 at 7PM and 8PM, weather permitting

Here’s your chance to get out on the water! The Potomac Riverboat Company offers a whole host of water taxi services and scenic tours along the Potomac, but this one is billed especially for dogs. Board the double-decked, open-air Admiral Tilp from the Alexandria Dock at the base of Cameron Street; look for the dog-friendly drinking fountain near the gangplank! Though you’ll have to purchase a ticket ($15/adult; $9/child, reservations are suggested), your dog rides for free and usually even receives a complimentary dog biscuit from the crew!

There were approximately six other dogs sharing the upper deck with us on the evening of our 40-minute excursion. It was typical, sultry end-of-summer weather, so the light breeze off the water was welcome. The captain pointed out the highlights and shared a few pieces of trivia, but otherwise this was not a highly narrated affair. You’ll head as far south as the impressive Woodrow Wilson Bridge and as far upriver as Bolling Air Force Base. Along the way there are lovely views of Old Town and National Airport on the Virginia shore and National Harbor and the Naval Research Laboratory on the Maryland side.

Dogs are required to be on 6-foot flat leashes.

Dog Swim

Tavish prefers wading and splashing to actual swimming but had an absolute blast at last year’s Dog Swim at NVRPA’s Great Waves Waterpark.

Dog Swim at NVRPA Waterparks
38°48′18.04″N,  77°6′1.56″W
Saturday 9/8/12 – Noon to 4PM

On the final day of the season before the pools get drained, all five of the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority’s waterparks go to the dogs! Although the “rides” and slides are off limits, there’s plenty of action to be found in the wave pool, play areas, giant bubblers, and waterfalls. Come prepared to fill out a waiver/registration form and to pay the entry fee of $5 per dog. Once you pass through the security gates you can let your dog off leash, but be sure to keep your dog in view. Remember to bring a towel, doggie bags, fresh water for your dog to drink…and a camera! The sight of all those dogs racing around and grinning away (easily 50 at any given time) was priceless!

Though you may be tempted to join in the frolicking, only dogs are allowed in the water on the Dog Swim afternoon. And one final tip, shared from personal experience:  As your dog careens through the pools, be mindful of his toenails and paw pads, since the concrete decking can rapidly wear them to the quick or cause a tear. If your dog is due for a nail trim, don’t do it right before the Dog Swim.

NPS tour

Fala, you sly dog, you! Tavish poses with the bronze statue of Fala, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s famed Scottish terrier and confidante, at the FDR Memorial. It’s the only presidential memorial to include a pet.

Presidential Dogs and Four-Legged American Heroes Tour, beginning at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial, Washington, DC
38°53′2.24″N,  77°2′38.89″W

Upcoming dates are Sunday 9/9/12, Sunday 9/16/12, and Saturday 9/29/12, beginning at 5PM…plus a couple dates in October TBA, beginning at 4PM.

How better to explore man’s best friends’ contributions to our nation than via DC’s national memorials? Well-behaved, leashed dogs are welcome on this innovative (and free!) walking tour led by a National Park Service ranger. This particular tour is a relatively new offering—the first one was a month ago— and is rapidly growing in popularity. The tour convenes at the bookstore at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial and, fortunately, finding late-afternoon weekend parking nearby on Ohio Drive isn’t impossible. In about 90 minutes’ time, you’ll cover approximately 1.5 miles at a leisurely pace, with built-in stops for water breaks and dog treats. Ranger Eddy Kahle readily held the attention of our multi-generational group consisting of 10 people and 5 dogs. Brimming with anecdotes and a dog-owner himself, Kahle is clearly passionate about the important role pets play in our lives. You’ll learn which president had the most pets in the White House (hint: one was a pygmy hippo!), who had a pair of beagles named “Him” and “Her”, and what dog joined the president on his morning jogs. As the tour moves away from the Tidal Basin and toward the war memorials, the focus shifts to the role of dogs in wartime and their value to returning veterans.

For your dog, bring along doggie bags, fresh water and a 6-foot leash. For you? Don’t forget a camera. After all, how else are you going to get that requisite photo of your dog alongside a super-sized Fala immortalized in bronze?

Yappy Hour

Tavish discovered that the Hotel Monaco’s open-air courtyard is a pretty happenin’ place.

Doggie Yappy Hour at the Hotel Monaco, Alexandria, Virginia
38°53′2.24″N,  77°2′38.89″W

5PM on Tuesday and Thursday evenings through October, weather permitting

One of the very first dog owners we met the winter we moved to northern Virginia told us point blank, “Come April, you must go to the Hotel Monaco.” That’s when the boutique hotel opens its brick courtyard for the much-anticipated Doggie Yappy Hours that take place every Tuesday and Thursday evenings all the way through October.

The ground rules are simple: no more than 2 dogs per handler, no paws on the tables, and dogs must be on 6-foot leashes and have current rabies tags. There’s a good vibe, and the people/canine-watching is pretty sublime. It’s not uncommon for the café tables and cushioned wicker sofas to be filled to capacity, with close to 25 dogs of all breed and sizes (plus a few adoptable dogs from the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria) lounging alongside. Hotel Monaco staffers are quick to accommodate with water bowls and complimentary dog treats. There’s no cover charge, but don’t think you won’t need a wallet. There’s an eclectic mix of non-draft craft beers available from the outdoor bartender. Wait staff will help you choose from a tasty selection of small plate “new American tavern” dishes from the hotel’s Jackson 20 menu. (Think fried green tomatoes, BBQ sliders, shrimp fritters, waffle fries with pulled pork and smoked gouda…yum!)

If you time it right on a Thursday, you can have drinks and appetizers at the Yappy Hour and then walk the three blocks down to the waterfront to catch the Canine Cruise described above.

A Grotto with a View: Olmsted’s Dog-Friendly Legacy

Tavish at the Summerhouse grotto on Capitol Hill

Today—April 26, 2012—is Frederick Law Olmsted Sr.’s 190th birthday. The Intrepid Pup is pretty sure Olmsted’s birthday isn’t widely celebrated nationwide, but it should be! After all, it’s because of Frederick Law Olmsted Sr. (1822-1903) that the terms landscape architecture, green space, and parkway are even part of our vocabulary.

Olmsted’s life is well-chronicled. An early writing and publishing career took the turn to landscape design when in 1857 he secured the position of superintendent of New York City’s Central Park. With a design competition for the park underway, Olmsted was approached by London architect Calvert Vaux (1824-1895), and together they submitted what ended up being the award-winning plan. In 1865 they formed Olmsted, Vaux & Company, a partnership lasting seven years, but eventually Olmsted’s reputation eclipsed Vaux’s. Olmsted would go on to found his own firm, which he relocated to the Boston suburbs in 1883. Today, the National Park Service maintains Olmsted’s Brookline design office “Fairsted” as the Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site. Prior to Olmsted’s retirement in 1897, he and his firm had executed approximately 500 commissions, notably including the landscape design for the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, Boston’s Emerald Necklace park lands, Detroit’s Belle Isle, the Stanford University campus, and Asheville’s Biltmore Estate. Olmsted’s nephew/stepson John Charles Olmsted (1852-1920) and son Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. (1870-1957) joined the firm and became full partners, successfully perpetuating Olmsted’s original design aesthetics and the family business well into the 20th century. Both men were founding members of the American Society of Landscape Architects. Frederick Jr. in particular became an adviser to a nascent National Park Service, and his influence can be readily identified in such parks as Yosemite and Acadia.

*  *  *

Where there are parks, there is Tavish, so clearly the Intrepid Pup thing to do in honor of Olmsted Sr.’s birthday is to visit an Olmsted landscape. In Tavish’s case, it’s the grounds of the United States Capitol.

The mid 19th-century Capitol expansion responsible for adding the massive wings and installing a larger dome also necessitated attention to the surroundings. Frederick Law Olmsted Sr. presented a landscaping plan in 1874 and was brought in to oversee its implementation. What were by that time hallmarks of Olmstedian design—scenery, winding paths, integrated topography—were once again employed to the task at hand. Olmsted was cognizant that the Capitol itself was to be the centerpiece of the immediate landscape and thus created a pastoral expanse. He meticulously laid out the walkways and placement of more than 7,800 trees to create very intentional vistas. While he went fairly minimalist on exterior fountains and statuary so as not to distract or detract from the Capitol itself, Olmsted specified ornamental lamps and wrought iron streetcar shelters (thankfully still in place…see photo below!) to subtly harmonize with the overall design. In 1879, he began work on an open-air, hexagonal brick Summerhouse on the west, Senate-side lawn. An absolutely enchanting structure, neatly embedded among heavy vegetation along a sinuous path, it’s probably a safe assumption that many of the 3.5 million modern-day annual visitors to the Capitol never notice it. Yet step inside the Summerhouse, and it’s a little world unto its own. The thick brick walls keep it cool on even the sultriest of DC days, and the stone benches set into the alcoves can accommodate up to 22 people. In the center is a burbling fountain; originally, the cascading water was supposed to activate a series of musical chimes, but the mechanics were never quite right, so that feature was abandoned. Two oblong, rondel-like windows perforate the walls, but the third—fronted by a lattice of  ornamental grillwork—affords the view of a small grotto (see Tavish’s photo above). The effect is not unlike that of peering through the opening of one of those panoramic sugar Easter eggs to behold a magical scene.

Olmsted intended the Summerhouse as a place for travelers to regroup and perhaps ladle refreshment from the fountain. More than a century later, the Summerhouse’s role is unchanged, and it’s an apt spot for reflecting upon the considerable Olmsted legacy.

Tavish on Capitol Hill

Dogging the Details

38°53′29.33″N, 77°0′38.33″W
The Summerhouse
on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol, Washington, DC

Click to see what a "1" on the Wag-a-meter meansThe U.S. Capitol grounds, including the Summerhouse, are dog-friendly, but you must keep dogs on leash and pick up any waste. It’s worth noting that, for security reasons, you won’t find public trash receptacles in close proximity to the Capitol perimeter.

The central fountain is no longer fed by a spring, and the three drinking fountains surrounding it supply filtered DC water, so it’s safe for drinking…or for refilling a travel bowl for your dog!

The Olmsted grounds score a “1” on the Intrepid Pup Wag-a-Meter as they’re expansive, scenic, walkable, and easily accessible.

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Thanks, Teddy!

Tavish at Roosevelt Island If you’re as big a fan of America’s national parks as Tavish the Intrepid Pup, then National Park Week is like having Christmas, a birthday, and the 4th of July all rolled into one. In 2012 National Park Week runs from April 21 through April 29. Jointly promoted by the National Park Service (NPS) and the National Park Foundation—the parks’ official charity—National Park Week collectively celebrates the 84 million acres preserved as “America’s best idea” by offering free admission to all 397 national park sites throughout the country. To be fair, more than 250 of these are free year-round, but in going fee free system-wide for a week, cost simply can’t be an excuse for not visiting a national park. So, in the spirit of Intrepid Pup:  “Come! Adventures Await.”©

Throughout the week, Intrepid Pup will highlight various NPS sites he’s visited recently, so check back often! In the meantime, we’re starting with the Theodore Roosevelt Island National Memorial because, seriously, where better to step off National Park Week than the place dedicated to the guy who first made the environment and national parks central to domestic policy?

Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) became the the youngest man to ascend to the U.S. presidency, taking over when President McKinley’s term ended prematurely with an assassin’s bullet. While Roosevelt can’t lay claim to designating Yellowstone the country’s first national park (President Grant had that honor in 1872) or even to establishing the National Park Service (President Wilson got the credit in 1916), he arguably did more to shape the tenor of American resource conservation than any president before or since. During Roosevelt’s 1901-1909 tenure as the 26th president of the United States, he created five national parks and established the U.S. Forest Service. With the passage of the 1906 Antiquities Act he provided the precedent and legislative vehicle for presidents to protect historically significant sites as National Monuments…of which he then personally authorized 18. All told, among national forests, parks, game preserves, bird reservations and national monuments Roosevelt amassed a legacy of preserving a staggering 230 million acres of public land.

To visit Roosevelt Island today is to step onto a sylvan oasis. Wedged between Virginia and the District of Columbia’s banks of the Potomac River, this 88-acre dollop has had a schizophrenic past:  Inhabited by 16th-century Native Americans. Overtaken by various colonials in the 18th century. Owned by George Mason (author of the Virginia Declaration of Rights) and later by his son in the early 19th century for entertaining high society in a summer house built upon its ridge. Utilized by the 1st U.S. Colored Troops as a Civil War mustering ground in 1863. Cherished as a safe haven for escaped and freed slaves fleeing the South between May 1864 and June 1865.

The Roosevelt connection didn’t come until the 1930s, when the Theodore Roosevelt Association acquired the island and promptly transferred title to the National Park Service. Initial efforts to create the only capital-area memorial to Roosevelt involved the Civilian Conservation Corps removing invasive vegetation and planting nearly 20,000 native trees. Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. (1870-1957) was enlisted to come up with an overall design. Various issues hampered progress, including World War II, and the project wasn’t resumed until the 1960s. Though Olmsted had passed away in the intervening years, many of his original ideas like a Memorial Plaza and foot trails survived the final plan put forth by Eric Gugler (1889-1974). Paul Manship (1885-1966)—perhaps better remembered for his Prometheus Fountain in New York City’s Rockefeller Center—designed the 17-foot bronze statue of Roosevelt ultimately dedicated on the site in 1967.

In Tavish’s visits to the island, we invariably begin at the expansive Memorial Plaza where Roosevelt stands at the far end, backed by a 30-foot granite shaft, right arm raised above his head as if he were in the midst of an animated speech. Four 21-foot granite tablets bear Roosevelt quotations under the headings of Nature,  Manhood, Youth, and The State. Three trails (Swamp, Woods, and Upland) radiate from the plaza; none are longer than 1.3 miles. Except for a traffic helicopter’s shadow raking through the tree canopy or the dull roar of a Dc-9 following the river southward on its final approach to Ronald Reagan-Washington National Airport, you’d never believe you’re so close to the city. Don’t go expecting dazzling waterfront views; for most of the year, heavy foliage occludes shoreline panoramas of the Kennedy Center, the Watergate and Georgetown. The Potomac River is tidal but it’s fresh water that infiltrates the marshland skirting the Swamp Trail’s boardwalk. On our most recent jaunt yesterday, yellow irises were in bloom. Low tide had temporarily marooned minnows in the shallows. We spotted numerous marsh birds and encountered three deer grazing on green tendrils mere feet from the boardwalk. Two salamanders basking in the sun skittered away when we approached.

Roosevelt Island is one of five NPS sites—if you don’t count his visage on Mount Rushmore—specifically honoring our 26th President. (Intrepid Pup bonus points if you can name the others! Answers are below.*) In hiking the island,  Roosevelt’s foresight for preserving parkland is readily appreciated. As one of his quotations chiseled in the nearby stone states:

“The nation behaves well if it treats the natural resources as assets
which it must turn over to the next generation increased and not impaired in value.”

Thanks, Teddy!

Dogging the Details

38°53′50.70″N, 77°3′50.22″W
 Theodore Roosevelt Island National Memorial, Virginia

Click to see what a "1" on the Wag-a-meter means By car, one can only reach the parking lot for Roosevelt Island from the northbound lanes of the George Washington Memorial Parkway. The  lot serves as a trailhead for runners and cyclists on more far-flung journeys along the Mount Vernon and Potomac Heritage Trails. Though most who park here likely never cross the pedestrian bridge onto the island, the grounds nonetheless attract a fair share of walkers and joggers. Dogs are permitted on the island but must be on a 6-foot leash at all times. As always, pick up after your dog. Trash receptacles are understandably sparse along the island’s trails but are abundant in the parking area.

Be aware that low-lying areas of the island flood easily, and sections of trail are seasonally boggy or otherwise closed. Consult the bulletin board on the island side of the pedestrian bridge for current trail info.  Bear right and make the first left uphill to view the Memorial Plaza; otherwise stay right to embark on the Swamp Trail that encircles the island. The Island scores a “1” on the Intrepid Pup Wag-a-Meter for its easy hiking.

*The other four Roosevelt-related NPS sites are Roosevelt National Park (North Dakota), the Roosevelt Birthplace National Historic Site (New York City), Sagamore Hill National Historic Site (Oyster Bay, NY), and the Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site (Buffalo, NY).