Tuesday, November 20, 2012

What a Spectacular Day!

So, we drove into DC-ish yesterday (now day before yesterday--took me two days to type this!).  First near, then into town proper.  See, when we went to Mount Vernon earlier this month, I spotted an amazing, almost medieval-looking fortress across the Potomac as we drove up the George Washington Parkway (known by locals as "the GW").  It captured my imagination, and I've been wanting to check it out ever since.

Fort Washington from the GW Parkway

This behemoth, it turns out, is Fort Washington. Completed in 1809, it was scuttled five years later by its own garrison to prevent the invading British, who were approaching both overland and by way of the Potomac, from benefiting from its strategic location.

We weren't really expecting to even get out of the car.  This was my hunting trip, hubby wasn't too enthused, and my back and heel/plantar fasciitis have been giving me grief.  I figured it was going to be a drive-by sort of visit, something to use up the time between then and dark, when we were going to go into town and see the monuments all aglow.

Arriving, we were immediately faced with this--and I was already in love.  I figured the fort itself would be off-limits, but look at this!

And this!

As we continued driving, it appeared that it was just a loop through park-like grounds.  Disappointing, but still, a pretty diversion.  But then we saw a sign for a side-lane promising a lighthouse and river walk!  Still didn't feel like I wanted to do much walking, but it might make for some nice pictures, right?

The place was nearly deserted for a Sunday, and parking was a breeze.  We parked next to the (clean, open!) bathrooms and decided to walk in.  Just a little walk. 

Just a few hundred feet in, we were greeted by this:

And then this guy:

Before really attending to the gigantic fortress on the hill, we strolled down to the small, still-operational lighthouse on the shore below:

Lighthouse overlooking the Potomac

  After that?  I climbed a very steep hill to reach the water battery, which is where the cannons protecting the water way were placed:
Water Battery
    Advancing on the fortress proper, we stumbled upon . . . BAG END!
Bag End (post Sharkey, I'm thinking)
     And the SHIRE!
The Shire, again, after Sarumon's scouring
    Checking out the gate (the stairway is closed at the top), I managed to capture a REAL LIVE GHOST ORB!. 
Ghost orb near left-top of inner arch.  No, I don't believe in ghost orbs.
After checking out the gate, we walked around to the main entrance, where the drawbridge once lived:



Gosh yes.

The drawbridge stretch is now, of course, a permanent strutcture.  Made of plywood, which left me a little iffy, but I was game.  I was hanging back a bit, with hubby and son a ways ahead.  I like to take a lot of pictures (you can probably tell, huh?).  When I got into the guard's rooms, hubby came RUNNING back, and he was talking a mile a minute, pointing things out, incredibly excited.  I can't even tell you how happy that makes me--his imagination was absolutely ablaze. 

Guard Quarters
Yes, those are cannon balls!

Once inside, it became clear just how huge this place really is. The scale sort of escapes you when you're on the outside looking UP. Sure, it's big, but big enough for two mansion-sized barracks, cannon batteries, out-buildings, and parade grounds? Why yes--yes it is!

Hubby and son ran all over the place--down the steep stairs to check out the gun ports while I wandered about the upper battery.  I chatted with a few folks--there weren't many there, but those present were quite friendly.  It was a gorgeous day, maybe 55 degrees, with enough of a wind that you wanted to keep moving.  One gentleman told me he'd seen the fireworks from the fort, but that they weren't all that impressive because they were so far away.  One lovely woman who was caring for an elderly gentleman told me to be sure and come back in the spring when the trees have fully leafed.  And the young Ranger, who was very friendly and kind, talked about both his love of the job and the plans for the fort in the future.  He said that they're working on fire suppression systems for the two barracks so they can open them up to the public with period artifacts. 

Officer's Barracks

Enlisted Men's Barracks (with our Ranger)

While the two barracks look the same, there is a major difference--the inside of the Officer's Barracks are sectioned into private quarters, whereas the Enlisted Men's Barracks are split into four equal rooms (two per floor), where bunks are arranged.  No privacy for the enlisted men.

Sadly, the place closes at 4 pm during winter hours, so we were soon on our way out, though we're planning on returning later this week. That will give us the chance to more fully explore the backside of the battlements and the Commandant's Quarters, which we only saw from a distance this time around.

Commandant's Quarters.  Had to work really hard to get it tilted like that.

It wasn't until after we got home that we discovered hubby had brought home a hitchhiker.  A bloodsucking, scuzzbucket hitchhiker from hell.  Oh, I hate ticks!  Including the tick, though, the cost for a day at Fort Washington?  Five bucks, and the parking is free.  Bring along a picnic lunch and there you go--a beautiful, affordable day.

Hubby's tick--should have taken the pic while it was still embedded in his shoulder, huh?

After we left the glorious Fort Washington, we headed into DC proper to visit the FDR Memorial.  We've been before.  Repeatedly, in fact.  It's a favorite.  But I'd never seen it at night, and hubby strongly recommended it.  Boy, was he right!  I'm not going to post about that now, though.  This is a big, long blog entry and if you've made it this far, I owe you a break.  And a Twinkie, huh?  And maybe I won't even have to pay 200 bucks for a box!

Hope you enjoyed!  I strongly recommend you visit Fort Washington, especially if you or your kids have a love for castles, fortresses, war history, or just really big, cool places.  The feel is European, and if you've ever read or watched Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe's series, you'll feel like you're in the middle of it.  Go (and bring the DEET and Permethrin)--you won't be sorry you did.

Oh, and please forgive the Tolkien references.  You gotta admit, though, right?


  1. Now that it has started to rain again I have to be on guard for ticks. Not as bad as when we had dogs, they would get them and they would jump off in the house! Yuck!

    I had a bout of Plantar fasciitis some years ago. I tried every kind of less expensive shoe insert I could find, and the doctor was no help at all. Then I heard that Burkinstock sandals were very helpful. I remember limping into a Burkinstock store almost in tears. I was delighted to learn that they also sold insoles and foot beds that were less expensive than the sandals and could be put into any shoe.

    I got almost immediate relief. Of course it still took a long time for my foot to heal, but it did! Since then I have always invested in more expensive footwear. No cheap shoes for me, the pain is not worth it.

    You can look at Burkinstock insoles here:


    I wore them for about a year, even way beyond the healing.

  2. Thanks, Merikay! No cheap footwear here--I wear some pretty pricy Asics with Dr. Scholl's (spelling?) inserts, and they don't help even a little bit. I will definitely look into the Burkinstock inserts--no longer can afford pricy shooes, but maybe those inserts can help!