I Gotta Get Out of This Place

22 May

Yesterday was one of those I-just-can’t-stay-in-this-house-today days for me. That’s okay in a way because it was my day off. I have plenty of stuff that needs to be done around here that I could have done instead. But the weather was supposed to be in the 80s and not very humid. I figured I could do my chores on Saturday and Sunday when it’s supposed to be rainy.

So, I threw my camera equipment into my backpack, grabbed the keys to Shannon’s car, and headed out for the day. Her car hasn’t seen much use, so I figured it could use some exercise.

I wanted to do something different. Something urban. Don’t ask me why I decided to be among people. I’m not usually a city girl. Maybe it’s because I was driving Shannon’s car. She is a city girl. Since we almost never go to Washington, DC, despite the fact that it’s only about 30 miles away, I decided to go there. The last two times I was there, I went to the National Mall / Capitol area. So this time I decided to head to Georgetown. I thought it might be cool to see this end of the C & O Canal (as opposed to this end).

Mid-afternoon temps hit 92 degrees (taken at just one of my MANY traffic stops).

Bad idea. Bad, bad idea.

I was totally not prepared. I mean, I pretty much knew how to get to Georgetown. But on the whole, I don’t know DC very well. I didn’t take a map. I also didn’t bother to check out what was going on in Georgetown yesterday. As I learned later, this is graduation weekend at Georgetown University which, of course, is in Georgetown. Traffic SUCKED. Traffic was heavy all of the way through the city, but it got really bad in and around Georgetown.

I made one wrong turn on M Street and ended up heading away from the main shopping area. No worries, though. I have a great sense of direction and knew I’d get back there eventually. I was almost back to that spot, though, when I made another wrong turn and ended up heading across the Potomac into Virginia. I could have just turned around and headed back at that point, but opposing traffic heading back into Georgetown was backed up all the way across the bridge. I’d already had my fill of the whole stop-and-go scene, so I hopped onto the George Washington Memorial Parkway, instead. It pretty much parallels the Potomac River from Great Falls, Virginia (northern end) to Mt. Vernon (southern end). Because one of my Flickr contacts (Nikographer [Jon]) has shot lots of great critter pics there, I made a spur-of-the-moment decision to head to Great Falls National Park. I’d never been to the Virginia side before.

Aside from the kamikaze commuters doing 80 mph on the GWMP, my drive to the Falls was without incident. NOTE: click on any of the images below for a larger view.

Great Falls of the Potomac

Great Falls National Park in Virginia has three “official” overlooks providing views of the river. You can see it from many more spots, too, where some of the gazillion visitors over the years have blazed their own paths to the river’s edge. An average of seven people die from drowning here each year. Not all, but most of them fall into the river after blazing or following one of these paths and climbing on the rocks. Idiots. I stuck to the overlooks (a sure sign of impending old age!).

Overhead shot of a Great Blue Heron

I didn’t realize until I was at the Falls that I’d left my zoom lens at home. I was so bummed. There were Great Blue Herons all over the place, fishing for lunch. Luckily, I had my doubler (doubles the power of a lens). That did allow some degree of closeness. But I would’ve ended up with much better bird shots if I’d had the zoom lens along. These are just snapshots to give you an idea of what I saw.

That Great Blue Heron was on the rocks right below the overlook. I got a couple of half-decent snapshots of him (or her).

My favorite GBH shot of the day.

Same bird, different angle.

There were a lot of international visitors there, which surprised me. I never knew Great Falls drew tourists from afar.

Another thing that sort of surprised me were how many people would come to the overlook, “ooh” and “aah” about the water, but not even bother to notice the birds. These are BIG birds; they’re 3.2 to 4.5 feet tall with wingspans of 5.5 to 6.6 feet.

When I left the park, I was not at all happy to discover that traffic on 495 was stopped. I wouldn’t have needed to be on there for long, but I didn’t feel like sitting in traffic. So I just stayed on the Georgetown Pike. I’d never been on the road before, but I figured with a name like that, it HAD to lead back to Georgetown. I was right. But it was even more crowded and congested than it had been earlier in the day. So I just decided to get out of the city. Remember, I don’t know my way around DC. So I just drove. When I saw a road name I recognized as a route to the suburbs (New Hampshire Avenue), I followed it. Easier said than done. It’s not a straight road. And the traffic! Ugh.

I followed that route until I saw a sign for 193 heading east, which was the direction I was seeking. I recognized that road name, too, so I followed it for a while. Another mistake. More heavy traffic. When I got to US-1, a road I know runs north/south and passes relatively close to my house, I turned right. Yet another HUGE mistake. That right turn not only put me on US-1 south (the wrong direction), it put me into the heart of College Park.

The University of Maryland is based in College Park. And guess what yesterday was at UM? Graduation day. Crap. (That’s not the expletive I chose, I’m just keeping things clean here.)

I should have known it was graduation day there because a close friend of the family actually graduated from UM yesterday.

Jaime Gibbons (the graduate) and her sister, Nadya Spice.

Anyway… traffic CRAWLED through College Park. It was awful. I was so happy to see signs for the Capitol Beltway. But then, of course, the Capitol Beltway was stop and go, too. I got back onto 193, heading east again, to get to the BW Parkway. Traffic was stopped on that, too. So I just stayed on 193.

By that point, I’d spent most of my day in the car. I still wanted to get OUTSIDE. So I headed for the Patuxent National Wildlife Refuge. The last time I’d gone there was in January. I am still kicking myself for not having that zoom lens with me, but I got some neat shots anyway.

A toad! How appropriate.

The first time I have EVER actually seen a duck coming out of one of these boxes here or at any of my other many visits to wildlife refuges all over the country.

A Blue Grosbeak; first time sighting for me.

Lily pads and other aquatic plants.

It was a LONG day. It wasn’t nearly as relaxing or refreshing as I’d hoped it would be, but you know what they say… even a bad day off is better than a great day at work.

Visit my Flickr page to see the rest of yesterday’s photos.

4 thoughts on “I Gotta Get Out of This Place

  1. First, I have to say. One might think you were exaggerating about all the traffic jams you ran into. Not me. I know. I’ve been out there visiting my son and his family in Burke VA. All the same area, right? And the traffic is unbelievable.
    Second, your blue heron pictures are incredible including the one of him (or her) flying in ‘the rest of yesterday’s photos’. All of which are incredible by the way.
    And then, I have to tell you that I clicked on each photo as you suggested and as I always hope everybody will do on mine, and it was amazing what a difference it made. Although it’s true of all of them, you can’t really appreciate the color and detail of the water lilies without the enlargement. That is a really beautiful photo!
    So, nice job. Thanks for taking us along on your travels and also referencing the looks back to other interesting sites you’ve visited. Someday I’ll have, or take, the time to read your entire site. I know it would be great because you’re such a good writer and gifted photographer. (Or is it good photographer and gifted writer?) How about you’re such a gifted writer AND photographer.

  2. Aw, how sweet. I usually click on people’s pics, too, assuming I have time. That’s how I saw your swan’s curled toes (or flippers or whatever). Yes, Burke is in the same general area. It is SW of DC and I was NW, but it all blends in to one big mess. Normal days are bad. Fridays are worse. Fridays with TWO major universities graduation ceremonies, ugh.

    I’m glad you like the water lilies. That might be my favorite shot of the day. After the GBH landing.

    Thanks for the very nice comments.

  3. Thanks for exercising my car – I’m sure it appreciated having its motor turned on for (what turned out to be quite) awhile. You’ll have to go back to Georgetown on a day when graduations aren’t happening because the canal there really is nice and it’s a great little town to walk around in. And take my car when you go back! You’ll like how easy it is to park. 🙂

    Also, I almost never click on the photos, mostly because of time and because my connection can be prohibitively slow at times, but since you and Stillmar both insist, lol, I did. I already think your pictures are great, but it’s true – they really are even better blown up!

  4. Traffic around DC is definitely horrible! Leave it to you to find beauty and wildlife in such an urban setting… :- Great pictures, Kath! Thanks for including my girls, it was a great day, so full of emotion. Next will be graduation #2….exhausting!

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