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When and Where: Interesting places to visit in the Washington, DC Area

26 Jan

By Bruce Summers, Personal Historian, Summoose Tales
Board Member, Association of Personal Historians

January – Hemlock Overlook Regional Park provides access to some great hiking trails with rolling wooded hills. It connects to the 18 mile long Bull Run Occoquan Trail, it was fun to walk along the river and “runs.”  We even got in a bit of train spotting.

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It is also a great time to spend a day indoors exploring the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center – a part of the National Air and Space Museum out near Dulles Airport.  We visited the recent open house and saw a lot of behind the scenes sections of the restoration center and archives. It was also a treat to see a large model of the Star Trek – Starship Enterprise.  Even when there is not an open house there are hundreds of exhibits, displays, planes, jets, rockets, space capsules, the Concorde and of course the Space Shuttle Discovery  to see.

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March – Spring is the prettiest time to be in the Washington, DC area. The trees start to bloom, the light green leaf buds emerge and spring flowers erupt. Many visitors make a special trip down to see the Cherry Blossoms, but I find the suburban neighborhoods around Washington, DC equally beautiful in the spring.

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July – A rooftop or balcony with a view of the Washington Monument on the 4th of July provides a perfect view of the spectacular national fireworks display on the National Mall. We enjoyed a beautiful 4th of July night with colleagues watching from the balconies of a federal building. The sunset made the rooftops of Washington, the U.S. Capitol, the Jefferson Memorial, and the monuments glow with rose colored hue and the fireworks display was amazing.

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OctoberWas a great time to stop by the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, it is all outdoors with lots of water features and memorable quotes. Nearby you can take in the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial or catch a few ultimate frisbee teams scrimmaging across the street.

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DecemberThe Hirshhorn Museum and the National Gallery of Art on a cool but not so cold winter day is a great escape. The exhibits in the Hirschhorn are a bit more avant-garde, they often provide novel ways to look at art. The National Gallery of Art provides a more historical view of masterful art. The two museums provide an interesting contrast. The nice thing about winter is that around closing time you get to see the sun setting over some of the grand spaces and buildings on the Washington Mall.

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Our Trip to Paradise – Part 5 – Arrival in Paradise (Wildflowers were everywhere)

3 Oct

Arrival in Paradise

Continuing from Our Trip to Paradise – Part 4 – The Road to Paradise

We continue to climb. We finally reaching Paradise with its sweeping view of Mount Rainier peak.


As promised there were alpine wildflowers everywhere.

20140826_135650 Wildflower Garden, Mount Ranier

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Paradise Inn
We had booked our second night at the Paradise Inn


We checked in then headed out to join a ranger walk on one of the trails. The paths were covered with meadows of wildflowers at their peak.

20140826_144554 Ranger Led Hike at Paradise

The views of the mountain, the trails, the meadows and the flowers were spectacular.

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There were more waterfalls.

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A great view of the terminus of the Nisqually Glacier

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We could hear and see the water rushing out of the bottom of the glacier, the headwaters for the river we had crossed and re-crossed earlier on our way up the mountain.


After our hike we thanked our ranger and headed back to the Paradise Inn. We were still unpacking in our rooms, it was getting towards dusk. Just across from our room we saw Paradise deer grazing. They seemed to also enjoy the wildflowers and the setting.

20140826_172057 Deer grazing at Paradise Inn Cropped

While the ladies settled in to relax a bit before dinner, Mike and I took a drive down to Reflection Lake hoping to capture a reflection of the mountain in the water.


Our timing was good. The sun’s rays were at a great angle.


But there was a little bit too much wind, causing ripples and waves on the lake. We could only get part of a reflection in some of the sheltered backwaters of the lake, not a full reflection.


However the late in the day sun’s rays did a great job illuminating flowers along the trails by the lake.

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We headed back to the Lodge to enjoy the sunset, a bottle of wine, a relaxing dinner, and a good night sleep to prepare for a full day of hiking in the morning.


See also:

Our Trip to Paradise – took 25 years

Our Trip To Paradise Part 2 – Northern Virginia to Longmire

Our Trip to Paradise Part 3 – The National Park Inn

Our Trip to Paradise – Part 4 – The Road to Paradise

Our Trip to Paradise – Part 6 – The Sunrise at Mount Rainier National Park (To be posted soon)

Our Trip to Paradise – Part 4 – The Road to Paradise

1 Oct

The Road to Paradise

We stopped to view glacier fed rivers




Beautiful Waterfalls


Majestic valleys


And stopped to see and admire views of Mount Rainer as it loomed larger and larger as we climbed the mountain to Paradise.


This waterfall seemed to have a permanent rainbow in the spray as it cascaded down the mountain.


See also:

Our Trip to Paradise – took 25 years

Our Trip To Paradise Part 2 – Northern Virginia to Longmire

Our Trip to Paradise Part 3 – The National Park Inn

Our Trip to Paradise – Part 5 – Arrival in Paradise (Wildflowers were everywhere) (New)

Our Trip to Paradise – Part 3 – The National Park Inn

30 Sep

Day 1 continued – We arrived at the National Park Inn


As promised it had a great view of the Mount Rainier peak, with thousands of feet of glaciers well above the tree line.


The staff gave us a warm welcome. There was a bear in the lobby.


The front porch was cozy. We toasted to the start of our joint second honeymoon


The food in the restaurant was delicious


We took a hike the next morning on the Trail of Shadows.




Then we packed up to continue our journey on the road to Paradise.

See also:

Our Trip to Paradise – took 25 years

Our Trip To Paradise Part 2 – Northern Virginia to Longmire

Our Trip to Paradise – Part 4 – The Road to Paradise

Our Trip to Paradise – Part 5 – Arrival in Paradise (Wildflowers were everywhere)

Our Trip To Paradise Part 2 – Northern Virginia to Longmire

29 Sep

Day 1 – We traveled from Northern Virginia to longtime, Mount Rainier National Park.

Excited we got on an early morning flight at Washington Reagan National Airport, changed planes in Denver and we were on our way.
About 50 miles from the airport my wife points out of the airplane window. There it was – Mount Rainier in its snow-capped 14,410 foot glory.



We landed at the airport, picked up our rental car, checked our directions and started driving towards Mount Rainier. Even 30 miles away we would see house development campgrounds and even a winery named for Mount Rainier. It dominates the landscape for many miles in many directions as well as providing the source for a dozen rivers and the primary water source for Seattle and many other parts of Washington State.

We stopped in a small town about 10 miles from the park entrance to buy a few groceries and a case of water. Drinking water is great prevention from getting altitude sickness once we get into the park and especially as we prepare to hike and explore the mountain.

We saw railroad themed murals…


A “Caboose Hotel”…


And a railcar pizzeria…


We were tempted by beautiful lakes, and intrigued by signs warning that the water level could rapidly go up or down 25 feet due to flooding from the mountain run-off. “Look out for floating logs and submerged stumps!”


We continued on, entered Mount Rainier National Park and immediately noticed the old growth forest and huge trees, and something like Spanish moss covering the ancient evergreen trees.



We passed the park road repair crews but luckily we were only delayed a few minutes since it was late in the day. Finally we come upon a clearing and there we found our first destination the National Park Inn in Longmire, Mt. Rainier National Park.

See also:

Our Trip to Paradise – took 25 years

Our Trip to Paradise Part 3 – The National Park Inn

Our Trip to Paradise – Part 4 – The Road to Paradise

Our Trip to Paradise – Part 5 – Arrival in Paradise (Wildflowers were everywhere) (New)

Our Trip to Paradise – took 25 years

29 Sep

By Bruce Summers, Summoose Tales, Personal Historian

It took us 25 years to finally get on the long beautiful winding road to Paradise. My brother Mike and I married Jackie and Mary respectively in 1989. Originally, we planned on taking our wives on a joint fifth year wedding anniversary trip to Rio de Janeiro.

This was a great plan until we each had our first children during years 4 and 5 of our marriages. We later each had second children. Our lives got complicated with school, sports, Scouts, extracurricular activities, volunteering, busy careers and more.

Finally this winter, we compared notes Mary and I would be “empty nesters” after June. We would each be celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary this year. Three of the four children would be in college this fall and the fourth lived in the same town as his aunt and grandparents. He perhaps could stay with one of them for a week. We could finally align schedules, but where should we go?

We all enjoy wine tasting so we narrowed our choices to Napa/Sonoma Valleys in California or Washington State wine country. Luckily we chose Washington State, since the day before we departed on our trip there was a strong earthquake in Napa County, CA. Surely this was a sign that we had chosen wisely.

Well Washington State has a lot to offer, we decided to save the Olympic Peninsula and Seattle for another trip and head to the Yakima Valley. On the way we would stop over at Mount Rainier National Park. None of us had ever been to Mount Rainier. The more we researched the park the better it sounded. It was 14,410 foot tall and covered with large glaciers. It had historic lodges, hiking trails and the alpine wild flowers would be at their peak blooming while we were there.

So we booked our flights, arranged our lodging, and every night I would read a bit more about Mount Rainier, the glaciers, potential road construction (not more than a 30 minute delay), and the wild flowers were coming along nicely. They kept describing one of the places we were visiting as Paradise! A 2nd honeymoon in Paradise had a nice ring to it.

Note: this is the first in a series of blogs with photos and descriptions of our trip to Paradise. The scenery, glaciers, and the wildflowers were indeed lovely.  I hope you will enjoy our trip, and perhaps even plan your own trip to Paradise in the near future.

See also:

Our Trip To Paradise Part 2 – Northern Virginia to Longmire

Our Trip to Paradise Part 3 – The National Park Inn

Our Trip to Paradise – Part 4 – The Road to Paradise

Our Trip to Paradise – Part 5 – Arrival in Paradise (Wildflowers were everywhere) (New)

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