2006-04-28 - Happy Birdday

~18 miles @ ~15 min/mi

A cool front has just passed by and the weather is lovely, temperatures in the 60's with low humidity. At noon I drop a family friend's car off at the neighborhood mechanic's shop and set out without definite plans, just hoping to have a nice run on my day off. From Linden Lane I take the Woodstock Court route to Walter Reed Annex's forest trail, and just before the little bridge over Rock Creek (near RCT mile 2.3) I see a well-beaten path on the eastern side of the stream, one that I've never tried before. It leads me a mile downstream along Rock Creek and then merges with the "Inner Purple Line" which leads back to RCT. Southwards, past the temple and the stables and the first ballfield, and I leave the asphalt again on a woodsy pathway.

Soon I'm in DC and on the Valley Trail of Rock Creek National Park. I jog slowly with plenty of walk breaks, plus bonus pauses to take photos of oddly-shaped trees, dramatic vistas, trail markers, and whatever else catches my eye. Today is the day of birds — countless robins, quail, vultures, and others that I can't name. Butterflies also flit about in great numbers — tiny yellow ones, middle-sized white ones, and large blue and orange varieties with veined wings. Perhaps the birds are enjoying a feast? I see bumblebees too, gathering nectar. Alas, my camera (or its operator) is too slow to catch bird, bee, or butterfly.

The Valley Trail takes me past the park golf course, where an old water fountain behind one of the greens (maybe [1]?)tempts me to divert and investigate; it's nonfunctional, alas. After ~2.5 hours I reach the end of the Valley Trail and turn northward on the paved jogging path. It immediately passes the Jean Jules Jusserand memorial, a stone bench dedicated to the French ambassador to the US (1902-1925) in a part of the park that he loved. I take pictures of the monument and continue past another broken water fountain and Peirce Mill. I'm trying to find the Western Ridge Trail but have a hard time. Eventually a horse path leads me to a big equitation field where I spy some blue blazes and get back on course. After crossing Military Road at Oregon I detour to photograph Fort DeRussy [2], one of the Civil War era defenses of Washington. Only a plaque and some overgrown earthworks remain.

A bit shy of the four-hour mark I'm back in Maryland. Two calibrated miles (RCT 0-1 and CCT 0.5 to home) suggest that my pace is still 12-13 min/mi on level terrain — but allowing for all the walking I do on hills and all the pauses to take pictures my overall speed is more like 14-15 min/mi, implying a total distance in the 18-19 mile zone. En route today I consume two bottles of Gatorade, 20 oz. of experimental ^z mix (dilute instant tea + instant lemonade + 1/8th teaspoon of salt), a couple of root beer barrel candies, and a Clif Builder's Bar.