One of the things I really enjoy about having visitors come to Washington DC is showing off a side of the city most people don’t expect. They plan to visit the Smithsonian, the Washington Monument, the White House, the Capitol, Arlington Cemetery, etc. but there are some wonderful, less familiar features of our nation’s capitol that will surprise and delight. Today’s tour takes you to several spots within easy walking distance of our house, which is in the NW corner of the District, about five mile west of the White House.
So, let’s take a beautiful Saturday morning– we’ll head down Cathedral Avenue a few blocks south to Potomac Avenue, which is up on a ridge overlooking the river into Virginia and the rocky bluffs known as The Palisades. Except for a few glimpses of the George Washington Parkway, which runs along the ridge of the other side, it looks like an isolated wilderness view.
From there we take a small dirt path down to the Capitol Crescent trail, an old railroad bed that is now paved and runs between Bethesda, MD and Georgetown, where we’re likely to join a number of urban outdoor enthusiasts walking, biking, or roller blading.
This section of the trail happens to run parallel between the Potomac River andthe Chesapeake & Ohio Canal. A short walk to the east brings us to the boathouse at Fletcher’s Cove, where you can rent rowboats, bikes, canoes and kayaks, and buy refreshments, a fishing license, bait and tackle. There’s a large picnic area right along the water as well.
Heading back west, we’ll take the C & O towpath along the canal, an unpaved path
running 184 miles along Maryland’s Potomac River valley, extending from the District all the way up to Cumberland, MD. It’s located entirely within the C&O Canal National Historic Park, and has an interesting history dating from the early 1800’s. Before the railroads were built, goods were transported up and down the river on boats “towed” by mules, which were attached to the boats by long poles. The “iron horse” soon replaced the mules, but the canal and the path have been preserved as park land.
A fifteen minute walk west of the boathouse brings us to the historic Chain Bridge, which spans the Potomac River into Arlington, Va. From here, you can get a fantastic view of the Potomac Gorge, a fifteen mile corridor stretching from Georgetown to Great Falls, which is one of the most significant and unique natural areas in the country and one of the most biologically rich ecosystems of the entire eastern United States.
So, by this time all of this fresh air and exercise will have given us an appetite. We’ll get back on the Capitol Crescent and head north towards Bethesda, but after a short distance we’ll peel off the trail and go to this great little French Bakery for a cafe au lait and pastry on the roof top patio.
We’ve seen a lot, but all of our capital city adventures this morning are things you probably never even knew about, and have taken us no more than a couple of miles in any direction from our house.