Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Lake Hodges; Piedras Pintadas (#63)

June 26, 2011 -  My first view of Lake Hodges was looking down upon it from Olivenhain Reservoir back when Wilson and I hiked the Elfen Forest Trail (#52) on March 13th.

From the picture you can see why we'd want to come back, right?

Lake Hodges is fairly large and spread out, but on this day, accompanied by my lovely wife, we chose only to hike the 4 mile Piedras Pintadas trail that skirts the southeast portion of the lake.

We hit the trail early at 6:40 a.m. after the nearly 40 minute drive to get there from our home. The early start was a great idea because by the time we completed the trail a couple hours later it was downright toasty!

The first part of the path took us past these beautiful fields.

Wilson commented that looking back he could see the heights of the Elfen Forest from where we first spied the lake.

Word has it, according to my honorable trail guide, Jerry Schad, that there are still large hillside rocks out in this region donned with pictographs portraying Kumeyaay rituals. Understandably, these are protected and therefore not accessible.

Meanwhile, back on the trail, Wilson started questioning if we were ever going to see the lake at all from down here.

Fortunately, he was soon distracted by this tree chock full of little tweety-birds. At times Wilson's short attention span can actually be a plus!

Next thing we knew we caught our first view of the lake!

So, we kept walking, and...

...found this cool little bridge, and...

...spied these interesting wild flowers.

We really were not expecting that which we saw next. There is likely not a single person in San Diego who is not aware of the sad and cruel story of Chelsea King who lost her life on this trail at the hands of a demented, selfish and unworthy monster of a human being.

Chelsea's light shined in and around us on this fine June morning with these wonderful snowy egrets standing as if our sentinels keeping watch for us.

This part of the lake was downright teaming with all sorts of birds, so much so that I failed to take advantage of some serious photo ops while I simply stood there, looking dumb, as amazing birds flew past us.

In fact, a VERY "great" Great Blue Heron (it was huge) rose up out of the nearby greenery and flapped his wings looking like a creature out of "The Land Before Time." He was so close to us I felt as though I could reach out and give him a feathery "high-five!"

Marching onward we found a lone Coast Live Oak standing singularly along the trail looking somewhat regal.

If you look very closely here you should be able to see "The" waterfall.  To tell the truth, had we not heard the happy sounds of water slapping along the rocks, we might well have walked right past this pint-sized Niagra!

We continued trekking westward along the south side of Lake Hodges.

Then the trail grew wide and turned directly to the north, which, as we learned, was the beginning of a loop portion of the path.

As we approached the lake, the trail turned east...

...and then north and upward.

From here we took in some peachy vistas of the lake.

The loop soon brought us back...

 the trail from whence we came. The return hike was pleasant, yet it was obvious that someone had cranked up the thermostat!

It didn't seem to bother this lizard who appeared to be out working on his tan.

Another Splendid Hike!


View of Lake Hodges from Olivenhain Resrvoir


A view looking back toward the Elfen Forest peak.

Are these the "Piedras Pintadas?"

Tree full of Tweeties

First glimpse of H20

In Memory of Chelsea King

Snowy Egrets keeping us company...

... and appearing to stand guard!

One of but a few Coast Live Oaks we found in these parts

"The" waterfall!

"Pass the tanning lotion, please?!"

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Washington D.C. (#62)

 May 9th - 12th, 2011 -
 Based on this photo you might guess this to be different from our usual walks. That would be an understatement! After all, how often do you find yourself strolling past Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's digs?

This, my first visit to our nation's capital, came by way of a true act of kindness from my cousin, who not only uses his saved up flier miles allowing me to accompany him on a business trip, but books me for "first class" baby! And this, mind you, on the same flight that he flies coach with the rest of the normal folk!

Next thing I know I'm here kicking it with good ol' Albert Einstein in Washington D.C!

I didn't walk far before crashing smack dab into one of those many somber moments to be had here. The picture says it all. My own reflection on the wall reminded me that the draft only just ended in my first year of high school.

58,000 U.S. killed.

No kidding, seeing the Washington Monument in D.C. is like spying buffalo in Yellowstone...   you just can't help but get use to it. Everywhere you go, there it is! And its awesome every time!

Look closely enough here and you'll see the U.S. Capitol Building far across on the other end of the National Mall.

Okay, now are you ready for this?

Abraham Lincoln, 1809-1865. 16th president of the United States (1861–65), who preserved the Union during the American Civil War and brought about the emancipation of the slaves.

"Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves."

Nearby awaits another one of those somber, and in this case eerie, moments I spoke of. 

The Korean War Veterans Memorial.

U.S. Soldiers:
     Dead:   54,246,
     Wounded:  103,284
     Captured:   7,140
     Missing:   8,177

We kept walking and walking, and then walked a little more, in the direction of that tall pointy obelisk shaped thing, before getting to the National World War II Memorial.

Unfortunately I didn't get great photos here, but what I can tell you is that it includes the "Freedom Wall" which has 4048 gold stars, each representing 100 Americans who died in the war. That equals 404,800.

From there we soon found our way to the OAS. The Organization’s four main pillars––democracy, human rights, security, and development––support each other and are intertwined through political dialogue, inclusiveness, cooperation, and legal and follow-up instruments that provide the tools to maximize its work in the hemisphere.

So now it has been a long afternoon of walking and gawking and with every next step I continue to see more beautiful, and significant buildings.

Just as I was about to say "Show me to the Metro," we stumble upon the piéce de résistance!

I couldn't believe it! There I was practically standing on the front doorstep of President Obama's house. Next thing I know I startle as I come out of a daydream. The gracious First Lady was inviting me in for a game of cards with the family. What? It could happen!

Thinking that I probably had enough, my cousin decided this would be a good time to teach me how to ride the Metro, so that's what we did. I didn't take any pictures as I was too busy trying to understand the ups and downs, ins and outs and backs and forths of these speedy underground trains. Tomorrow I was going to be all on my own!

Day two of my "walk," after getting sufficiently Starbucked, I take the Blue line from the Foggy Bottom Station, near our hotel, to the Smithsonian Station on the Mall. A great place to start don't you think?

The Washington Memorial, by the way, built to commemorate our first President, is the world's tallest stone structure at 555 feet 5 1/8 inches.

I was amazed by just how tall the monument was, then equally surprised by how long a stretch of grass I saw before me on the National Mall. That was clearly foretelling of just how much walking I had in front of me today.

But before making my way to that illusive little official looking building that appeared so close and so far away at the same time, I stopped to spend a few hours at the nearby American History Museum.

Great choice!

I lost myself in this place for hours!

Did you know that many people wanted George Washington to be king. That makes sense because he was a great man and leader. But, fortunately, he was so good that he knew that that was not what this was all about. This great man was so good that he actually "stood down" and relinquished his power to "civilian authority." How cool is that?

So as I'm all swelling with patriotic pride, the fact that all of this took place just a few hundred years ago right in this part of the world sinks in.

It's like I'm walking in history!  It's all around!

After the museum my next stop was at the National Archives. My goal was to get a glimpse of the original copy of the Declaration of Independence. Unfortunately for me, the security was so thorough, and the line of field tripping students so long, I decided to write that one off for a future visit.

Meanwhile, I kept on trekking down the trail spying one important building after another  until, before I knew it...

...I reached that illusive important-looking building that was always looking so small and far away.

The U.S. Capitol Building is sure much bigger when you finally get to it!

Next stop: Library of Congress.

It was such a beautiful place, outside and in. I was so excited to go up and see Thomas Jefferson's Library and I did.

Good news... I saw Jefferson's library!!!

Bad news...  No Photography Please!

So I followed the rules and refrained from taking photos there.

Especially given that I was so close to...

...The Supreme Court!

"Wouldn't be prudent!" (in Dana Carvey's imitation of George H. Bush's voice.)

From here I decided to get back to the White House area again, maybe for that game of cards with the President I had been fantasizing. So I hopped the metro to McPherson's square which landed me here at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

I found my way from there to Lafayette Square, directly across from the White House, which turned out to be all buttoned up tighter than a Redcoat's jacket! It appears they were having some sort of security drill so, oh well!

Next best thing?

Why the U.S. Treasury of course!

For some reason they didn't let me go in there either.

A lot more walking and I end up at Union Station where I meet up with the Cuz who just returned by train from Baltimore.

We hopped the Metro and zoomed over to... recognize it?

Yes, you are correct. It is a memorial!

And it memorializes an American Founding Father who was also our third president.

And his Memorial has an excellent view of that tall pointy thing I keep seeing.

"The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg."

-Thomas Jefferson

His statue was breathtaking...

 about LARGER than life!

Then we "Metro-ed" ourselves  back to the hotel, and walked down the road to Georgetown where we found a good meal before calling it quits for the day.

Day Three:

Big day ahead! Later on I'm going on a personalized, one-on-one tour of the inner sanctum of the Pentagon! But first I have just enough time (have to admit I slept in a bit this morning) to venture out to another significant location.

But it's a sad location!

Ford's Theatre is where Abraham Lincoln was assassinated.

Next my goal was to find my way to the Metro. So, once again, I'm walking. I pass a few more important buildings (go figure!), like the Justice Department and the Internal Revenue Services Headquarters. Those qualify as important enough don't they?

So, how is it that I'm getting a tour of the Pentagon? It's all about cousins! You see, my wife as a few cousins who live out this way, both of whom, for some strange reason, wanted to do nice things for me. So it comes down to "acts of kindness" once again, though I surely did nothing to deserve as much!

It is the Blue Line, this time, that gets me to the gates of the Pentagon. The visit began with a significant dose of high security (that's putting it mildly), after which I received a visitor's card that allowed me to march through the 17 1/2 miles of corridors, as long as I was accompanied by someone important enough to take responsibility for me. An unfortunate reality here, is that I wasn't allowed to take pictures, and I saw so much that it would require at least a small essay to convey even half of what my eyes and ears did  consume while there. One particular treat was walking down the hall where the Joint Chiefs of Staff offices reside.  Incredible!

After touring the U.S. Department of Defense where over 23,000 employees work in the largest office building in the world, based on its floor space of 6,500,000 sq. feet, I don't think I'll ever look at office space the same way!

While exiting we walked to the west of the building where the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial stands honoring the 184 men and women victims of the attack.

Day Four:

That great day with my "Pentagon" cousin was followed up with another awesome day of walking, with yet another cousin. How cool is that? We began by visiting Arlington National Cemetery and stopped to pay respect at the grave site of their father and mother.

Only a stone's throw away George Washington's nephew and niece are buried.

While we were there we also visited the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The Tomb Guards were there, on duty, as they have been, 24 hours a day, 7 days per week since July 2, 1937, even in bad weather.

 We were lucky enough to be there to observe the changing of the guard, which takes place every half hour during summer days, and every hour during daytime in the winter. The precision in how each and every detail of this ritual is conducted is simply amazing!

Our next stop was George Washington's home where we began with a tasty lunch at the Mt. Vernon Inn Restaurant. A unique, "must-try" specialty dish of theirs was peanut soup, and I highly recommend it. Next thing I know, President Washington's Mount Vernon Estate is begging me, "please do come in!"

History was jumping out at me from every inch of the inside of his home, but I had to save all the photos in my head since pictures weren't allowed. I was pleased to be able to get this shot of his "sweet ride" though!

According to those who would know,  Washington picked up up a severe sore throat and, within 36 hours, died at the age of 67. Per his directions in his will he and his wife, Martha, had their remains entombed at this spot.

When we found our way onto this beautifully wooded, Mt. Vernon Forest Trail, I felt kind of like I was cheating on Wilson...  getting a little "trail" on the side. But, after all,  its not my fault he's afraid of flying! I decided to forget to show him this picture once back in San Diego.

The trail eventually led us back to the new museum they have on the estate. Among the many significant artifacts they had there, we found these portraits of two of Washington's relatives, with the same names of those on the two headstones we spied in Arlington National Cemetery.

We bid farewell to the Mount Vernon Estate and drove back toward D.C.

On our way back to the hotel we stopped at the iconic United States Marine Corp Memorial, more commonly known as the Iwo Jima Memorial. The statue depicts five marines and a navy corpsman raising the American flag after capturing Mount Suribachi on the Island of Iwo Jima in World War II. About 6,800 Americans and 23,000 Japanese died in the battle of Iwo Jima.

At the end of this epic 4-day "hike" in Washington D.C., way "beyond" San Diego, one thing was obvious... four days was not enough!

Another Great Hike!!

Thanks Cousins!!


Harry S. Truman Building (a.k.a. Department of State)

Albert Einstein Memorial

Vietnam War Memorial

Vietnam Women's Memorial

The Three Soldiers

Washington Monument

The Lincoln Memorial

The Korean War Veterans Memorial

National World War II Memorial

Organization of American States

DAR Building

American Red Cross National Headqurters

The White House

St. John's Church

Hey, look! There it is again!

The National Mall

American History Museum

National Archives and Records Administration Building

Federal Trade Commision

The United States Capitol

The Library of Congress

Inside the Library of Congress

The Supreme Court Building

Department of Veterans Affairs

Lafayette Park

The Department of The Treasury

The Jefferson Memorial

Ford's Theatre

The balcony where Lincoln was assassinated.

Department of Justice Building

Internal Revenue Service Building

The Pentagon

The Pentagon Memorial

Arlington National Cemetery

Nearby... Grave Site of Washington's Relatives

Tomb of the Unknowns, Arlington National Cemetery

Changing of the Guard

George Washington's Home at Mount Vernon

George Washington's "Sweet Ride!"

Presidential Flag at Washington's Tomb

Mount Vernon Forest Trail

Portraits of Washington's relatives buried in Arlington

Iwo Jima Memorial