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Sunday, January 27, 2013

Enjoying the cold

After a long spell of unseasonably warm weather for this part of the country, winter finally arrived in the Washington, D.C. area last week. Temperatures have been cold, dipping into the low 20's/high teens Fahrenheit at nights, and in the low-to-high twenties (F) at times during daylight hours. And we've had snow on a couple of occasions - not enough to close the schools or shut down the government, but sufficient for some of the kids in the apartment complex to do some sledding down a short hill (as well as being cold enough to freeze over part of the swimming pool). With the forecast for Saturday calling for slightly warmer temperatures and sunlight, I decided today would be a good one for getting some fresh air and exercise. And to my daughter's surprise, her mother decided to join the two of us as we drove into Maryland to visit Piscataway National Park - Accokeek Foundation, located across the Potomac River from Mount Vernon.

The Potomac shoreline was covered in sheets of ice. The temperature as we entered the parking lot was 33°F (0.6°C). Things warmed up a little as we moved away from the river.

Mount Vernon, on the opposite side of the Potomac. Congress established the 5000-acre (2023 hectares) Piscataway National Park in order to preserve the view George Washington enjoyed from his estate (which we visited earlier this month). The Accokeek Foundation manages 200 of those acres (81 hectares) in conjunction with the National Park Service, and it was this section that we visited today.

It was cold this afternoon, especially by the river, but methinks my significant other is exaggerating the effects of the chill somewhat. Either that, or she's Taiwanese.

Amber stands over a fallen scarecrow at the Museum Garden, a small enclosure dedicated to raising colonial-era crops, though it didn't come as a surprise that there wasn't much to see there in late January. I pitied the poor chickens, who didn't look like they enjoying the weather much.
 
This building, located in front of the caretaker's residence, had a sign out front saying it was established in 1772.


The frozen Conservation Pond. The girls had a great time skipping rocks across the icy surface, and using sticks in an ultimately futile effort to break though the ice and let the trapped pockets of air beneath escape. For Pamela, this was the first time ever to see a frozen body of water (Amber encountered her first a few weeks ago).

Most of the snow that had fallen this week had already melted, leaving the trail a muddy mess in some places. Only a few patches remained.


We walked on several trails today, going from the Potomac through the woods, past open fields and up small hills.

Geese were wintering in many of the fields that we walked by. Their tracks could be seen on the ice covering the pond above.

A Milking Red Devon bull at the Colonial Farm (see below). They were once common in the American colonial period but, along with the three Ossabaw Island Hogs we saw today, are very rare these days.
 


The National Colonial Farm is a living-history museum that attempts to recreate a middle-class farm of the kind that existed around the time of the American Revolution. Outside of the winter months, guides in period clothing provide historical interpretations to visitors. The building in the middle photo is an 18th-century tobacco barn.
 

Posing by the frigid waters of the Potomac River once more as the loop we took brought us back to our starting point, the visitor center. 

We saw a large woodpecker at work in the frozen-over freshwater tideland area (it didn't stay still long enough for me to take its picture, unfortunately). In addition to the aforementioned (and photoed) geese, we spied a couple of bright red cardinals during our walk.

Where we stopped to pick up some dinner before heading home, and the real reason I suspect for my wife agreeing to walk four miles (6.4 kilometers) in close-to-freezing temperatures in the middle of winter.















 





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