Maryland Outdoor Club
Sun, Apr 30 2006 - Day Trip to the U.S. National Arboretum (View Original Event Details)

Event Organizer(s): John Fogle
Participants:Eric Johnston, Theresa Delaney, Patrick Haas, Glenn Peddicord, John Fogle, Beverly Hoeftman, Kelly Thomas, Alison Stevens, John Putman, Ian Wright, Tom Reichelderfer, Sandra Gendleman, peggy clapp, Terrick Khan, Ruwan Alwis, Charon Birkett, Allison Ehrman, Steve Ehrman, Marla Zucker, Alex Zucker, Rebecca Frankenberger, Scott Davis

Write Up:

One could hardly have wished for better conditions on Sunday’s trip to the U.S. National Arboretum in Washington, DC. The weather, to borrow a phrase of corporate-speak, met or exceeded all of our expectations. It was sunny and pleasantly cool as 23 MOCers met at 9:30 AM. At that time of morning everyone easily found parking in the main lot near the Visitor Center.

After introductions and distribution of guide pamphlets, we began our tour with a walk along the wooded paths of Mount Hamilton. During late April of each year, this is the most popular area of the Arboretum’s large campus. Literally thousands of azaleas, at or near peak bloom, cover the flanks of the hill in a blaze of color. You needn’t be a botanist or landscape architect to enjoy this sight! After our leisurely stroll through the azaleas, we headed across an adjacent open field to visit the famous National Capitol Columns. One of Washington’s more unusual landmarks, the columns give the almost eerie impression that a bit of ancient Greece or perhaps Rome has somehow been transported into the present day. In fact, the columns began their life on the East Portico of the National Capitol in 1828. They were quarried from sandstone near Aquia Creek in Virginia and then barged to Washington in the early days of our country, before the familiar Capitol dome was completed. The columns were removed from the Capitol during an addition in 1958. In the 1980’s they found their way to the Arboretum, where they remain as a striking display in their own right. Our only disappointment was that the reflecting pool and fountain by the columns were empty during our visit, but this detracted little from their visual impact.

We next headed back toward the Visitor Center, making a brief stop at the Herb and Perennial Gardens along the way. Behind the Visitor Center we stopped at the large koi pond to check if the little (and many not-so-little) fish might be seen. Sure enough, a number of them immediately went into begging mode at the sight of nearby humans. Unfortunately the koi food vending machines weren’t yet in service for the season. This surprised me as I had visited on the same weekend last year and they were in service then. An obviously temporary sign on the machines Sunday explained that koi didn’t require food during the winter season. Whoever placed the sign might do well to realize that the last day of April hardly constitutes winter in the mid-Atlantic. Still, there’s little danger of these plump fish starving any time soon. Unlike the koi, several of our group were able to take a snack break and made use of picnic tables by the pond for this purpose.

Having survived the koi experience without a single MOCer falling into the water, we next checked out the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum just a short walk from the pond. Even if you’re not particularly into the Japanese art of bonsai or its precursor, the Chinese art of penjing, the nearly 150 live specimens on display here cannot help but impress. At least one dates back to the 17th century! By the time we'd finished with this unique collection, most of the highlights within short walking distance of the Visitor Center had been hit and we'd essentially concluded the basic tour. As this event was flexible by nature, many of the group chose to head home at this point. Nine of us opted to continue our visit by taking a hike to one of the more distant corners of the campus. At times we walked on roads, at times grass, and at times on paths to reach an area known as the Asian Collection. The name, of course, gives an obvious clue as to the origin of this section’s plants and trees. A path here winds down to the edge of the Anacostia River, which marks the eastern boundary of the Arboretum grounds. We returned along a different route, which enabled us to pass through an

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