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Monday, October 19, 2015

Fall in the air and (another) spring in my step

A dental clinic that has closed shop, probably because potential patients had second thoughts when they saw the sign.

With impeccable timing, we recently purchased a set of bicycles for the family (used ones for my daughter and myself, a new bike for my wife), just in time for the weather to turn chilly. Actually, last weekend was still warm enough for us to break in the new (or not so new) wheels on the local section of the Washington & Old Dominion Trail:

This weekend, however, autumn made its presence felt, with temperatures in the low-Fifties Fahrenheit. Too cool for cycling, but still sunny enough to spend time outdoors communing with nature, or at least what passes for the Great Outdoors in the suburbs of northern Virginia. And so yesterday we made our second visit to the Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna. Our first time to the 95-acre (38 hectares) park was in April 2013, when cherry blossoms were blooming and I was hobbling around on crutches in the aftermath of knee surgery. This time I was able to see much more of what the gardens have to offer:

Amber strikes a pose in the small herb garden:

The leaves in our area are beginning to show their fall colors:

The park's geese are in no hurry to head anywhere south of here:

The remains of an 18th-century spring house, a sort of colonial-era refrigerator:

This cabin is all that remains of the home belonging to the husband-and-wife team of economist Gardiner Means and social historian Caroline Ware. The couple bought the farmland in 1935 and had a house built that incorporated the cabin as a living room. They donated the property in the 1960's to the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority, leading to the creation of the Meadowlark Botanical Gardens:

Though most of the park's walkways consist of paved asphalt, there are some more natural paths, like the Fred Packard Grove Nature Trail:

Striking a pose:

What may appear to the non-discerning eye (like mine) as an ordinary grove is actually a collection of rare trees native to Virginia:

In the Korean Bell Garden:

The park grounds contain three small lakes and numerous gazebos:

The Potomac Valley Native Plant Collection has examples of 16 kinds of shrubs and trees native to the local area:

In addition to serving as a botanical garden, the park is also a popular spot for having professional photographs taken, which must be set up by appointment (there are no restrictions on amateurs like myself, though if my camerawork is any indication, there probably should be). Starting from mid-November and lasting until just after New Year's, the gardens will be lit up at night, so we might make yet another visit there. As for our cycling ambitions, that all depends on how much tolerance we can build up in order to ride outside in a northern Virginia fall and winter. This being an El Nino year, it could be another "Snowmageddon" in the Washington, D.C. area. Then again, it could be another mild winter like the one the last time we were in Falls Church. Stay tuned as the seasons change...

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