Friday, November 11, 2011

Appalachian Fall

Living in Arlington, it is sometimes difficult to see how fall is transitioning to winter. While our apartment windows afford us a nice view of wooded parks and Arlington Cemetery in the distance, our immediate surroundings are dominated by concrete. We planned to visit the Shenandoah National Park at the peak of fall colors to get a true taste of seasonal change, but the last few weeks moved quickly. The region experienced snow and strong winds at higher altitudes during the last week, robbing trees of their cover earlier than we expected. We decided to take the trek today for our last chance to see the colors this season. We were not disappointed, although bare trees were in abundance. Photos and some comments follow.

Despite the end approaching, the foliage featured some burgundy and burnt umber. The views were spectacular.

We found some wonderful rock outcroppings along the way. Carter was a bit nervous to climb up, but enjoyed the view.

One of our goals during the trip was to see wildlife. We came upon several deer, but had our eyes peeled for the prize - a black bear. Visitors had reported sightings over the last couple of weeks and with the natural cover disappearing, we were alert. We saw no bears on our way in, and were close to halfway back to the entrance when we spied a bear near the road. We doubled back and watched him from the car. When other visitors joined us and left their cars, Erik ventured forth to take some pictures from a safe distance (situating himself nearby others who were likely to be slower on the escape). Our bear friend posed briefly, then ventured back into the forest.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Progress Report

We have been busily exploring the Washington, DC area with most of our spare moments over the last couple of months (too busy to blog!). Lea and Carter took great advantage of August to visit major - and minor - sites throughout the area. They visited almost all memorials and Smithsonian museums, Theodore Roosevelt Island, and Arlington Cemetery. Once school began in September, we slowed our pace and took only weekend outings. Below are a few highlights of our many adventures.

On the weekend of the hurricane, which was mercifully mild in its effects on our town, we had a quick outing to Ford's Theater. We had prepared supplies in the event of power outages and had the morning to occupy before the storm's arrival. We chose Ford's Theater as our destination and were fortunate to catch a close-up glimpse of the spot where President Lincoln was assassinated (typically, the box is closed to visitors because demand is so high. It was not crowded on the day of the hurricane).

School started after Labor Day and Carter has settled into the routine nicely. He has met several wonderful kids and has especially gravitated toward one of them as a best friend. He still keeps in touch via email with his best friend in Lawrence, Silvia.

The weekend of September 11 was solemn in Arlington. While we knew that the Pentagon was in Arlington, its proximity did not sink in until that time. We can see the Air Force Memorial from our window and can easily watch the approach of flights to Reagan National Airport. We participated in the 9/11 5K raising funds for and honoring the fallen. The route took us past the Pentagon near the site of the attack. Below you can see Carter proudly displaying the medal he earned.

Erik and Carter have had a few adventures of their own, including a Columbus Day visit to the Library of Congress. The reading room was open for guests, another rarity, and they stopped by for a tour. Below you can see the room as well as another spot in the library where Minerva appears to be stabbing Carter in the head.

In the Great Hall, Erik and Carter happened upon a librarian who was answering questions. Carter asked if Erik's books were in the Library of Congress. When she asked for our last name, the librarian remarked that she knew a Herron who was a librarian - it was Erik's cousin who is at the University of Maryland. Later in October, we had a lovely gathering of Herron relatives and enjoyed great food and company while getting to know our extended family better.

The hurricane washed out the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial dedication in August, but it was rescheduled for October. We attended the ceremony which was touching and inspiring.

As fall moves on, we have been traveling outside of DC proper to see nearby sites. The Fall Harvest Festival at Mt. Vernon and Air and Scare at the Udvar Hazy Air and Space Museum were highlights. At Mt. Vernon, Carter had the chance to play 18th century kids' games, roast apples, listen to "George Washington" tell stories, and most importantly roll down the hill behind the house. We also discovered that George Washington shares Carter's birthday - he was born on February 11, but under the Julian Calendar.

Air and Scare was a fantastic Halloween event that was packed. Trick or Treating with the Space Shuttle is pretty cool. We also went to the local mall for candy and had a lovely party in our apartment building with schoolmates. This year, Carter's costume was a level of Angry Birds.

We continue to enjoy the DC area and will keep everyone posted on our future excursions and activities.