Thirteen Eagles

The Virginia Happy Trails Running Club [1] annually holds a free "Eagle Run" on the last Sunday in January. This year's was the 16th. The event begins and ends at veteran ultrarunner Gary Knipling's house and proceeds through the woods of the Mason Neck, a peninsula in northern Virginia on the Potomac River about ten miles south of Washington DC. A mile or so into our trek we pause to admire eight eagles sitting on the ice of Belmont Bay. the same promontory we spy two more eagles perched in a tree across an inlet of Belmont Bay. The faster runners (or those less interested in birds) proceed while I snap photographs with an old Nikon FM2 manual 35mm camera and a similarly antique 80-200mm zoom lens. It's heavy to carry, and the Kodak 800 film I'm using has significant grain, but at maximum zoom the eagles are distinctly visible.
A few friendly stragglers lead me along a winding trail through the woods to an overlook where we see another eagle across the water, probably in or near Mason Neck State Park. The forest floor is covered with a thick blanket of fallen leaves, so tree roots are a distinct hazard as we jog back to Gary's home and along Harley Rd to the first aid station. refueling on nuts and soda I join some runners who have taken a longer route. We ramble through a horse farm and across Gunston Rd to Pohick Bay Regional Park. Here those who want more mileage and more eagles follow signs to "Long" or "Medium" routes. I join Rick, a Ph.D. biochemist and patent examiner who is suffering from ITB pain and whose pace is compatible with mine. Rick lives in the area and shows me the way to Pohick Bay where we see another eagle in a tree across the water.
A strange barking sound gives me pause as Rick and I jog along the waterfront. Its source? Waves from Pohick Bay are striking the sheet of ice on the southern shore and breaking it up as temperatures rise. Rick and I catch up with other runners who point out an eagle perched not far from us in a tree on our side of the bay. It's our closest encounter with the species, and the last sighting of the day except for some distant glimpses of soaring immature eagles later on. enter historic Gunston Hall Plantation — the home of George Mason, one of the Founding Fathers of the US and a primary architect of the Bill of Rights. Runners who arrive early wait on the sunny side of Mason's home, Gunston Hall, built 1755-1760. When those who have gone farther arrive we gather and hear a brief talk on the history of the Plantation, focusing on African American slave communities in the area. Then we eat some pizza. Dedicated runners continue onward; others, like me, jog back to the starting point.

See for 23 photos I took of Eagle Run XVII. Many thanks to Gary Knipling and the VHTRC for sponsoring a unique experience!

^z - 2008-01-28

(correlates: MountWhitney, FarTooSmart, MovementForeAndAft, ...)