Category: District of Columbia

U.S. Botanic Garden — and the Corpse Flower

On Tuesday, August 29, 2017, I went on a hike to the U.S. Botanic Garden with the Mid-Atlantic Hiking Group. Because it was a dreary, rainy evening, it ended up just being two of us walking… hike leader Toby and me. It actually turned out to be a perfect evening for a hike, because the garden’s corpse flower was in bloom!

Corpse flower in bloom. U.S. Botanic Garden, Aug. 29, 2017
The thing was huge; the flower alone was about a little more than eight feet tall! I didn’t find it to be as smelly as people say. The air in the room was warm and humid, and if anything, I thought it smelled like a stinky old locker room or some gym socks. We got there the day after peak bloom. The flower’s size was still rather impressive, even though it had started to lean a bit.

We started our hike under the Friendship Arch in D.C.’s Chinatown.

From there, we made our way to the nearby National Law Enforcement Museum, which is currently under construction. The museum’s garden features this adorable statue of lion cubs at play. The cubs were under the watchful eye of their mom, who was guarding them from the other side of the path.

Lion cubs at play. National Law Enforcement Museum, Washington, D.C., Aug. 29, 2017

Site of the City Spring. John Marshall Memorial Park, Washington, D.C., Aug. 29, 2017
Our next stop was at the John Marshall Memorial Park, where we saw the tribute to the City Spring that you see to the left.

Below are some additional photos taken at the U.S. Botanic Garden for you to enjoy. It’s a beautiful garden, well worth a visit, regardless of whether you’re a long-time DMV native or you’re just passing through.

Chenille Plant
Datura metel
Venus flytrap

Meridian Hill Park in the rain

This evening, I hiked to Meridian Hill Park with the Mid-Atlantic Hiking Group as part of their Hike DC series. Meridian Hill Park is a bit off the beaten track. It’s not in a part of DC that tourists typically see. It’s situated along 16th street (see map below) and is managed by the National Park Service as part of Rock Creek Park, although the main sections of Rock Creek Park are nowhere to be seen. (See the NWS page about the park for details.)

Photo of our group taken by hike leader Toby
Our hike started and ended at Dupont Circle. Right before the hike started, we were unexpectedly hit by a drenching thunderstorm, prompting a few of us to scoot over to CVS for umbrellas. The park was unexpectedly lovely in the rain.

These weekly four-mile hikes have been a perfect way for me to train for my participation in the Avon 39 in Santa Barbara, Calif., later this year. Plus, they’re a lot of fun, and they have given me an opportunity to meet lots of nice people!

Here’s a map that shows the location of Meridian Hill Park:

USDA Farmers Market in Washington, D.C.

Rick Franklin strums his guitar at the USDA Farmers Market in Washington, D.C., on Friday, June 14, 2013. (Photo by Andrea Kenner)
Rick Franklin strums his guitar at the USDA Farmers Market in Washington, D.C., on Friday, June 14, 2013. (Photo by Andrea Kenner)

The USDA Farmers Market brings a taste of country to downtown Washington, D.C. Located at the corner of Independence Avenue and 12th Street, S.W., the market is at the Smithsonian Metro stop, just a block from the National Mall. It’s open every Friday, from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m., from June through October, 2013.

The market features live entertainment, and the atmosphere is laid back and friendly. During your visit, you can pick up fresh fruits and vegetables; olive oil and honey; garden herbs and plants; breads, pies, and muffins; and many kinds of flavored popcorn. If you’re touring downtown D.C. in the summer months, it’s a good place to pick up some inexpensive treats for a quick lunch.

An olive oil vendor discusses his products with a customer at the USDA Farmers Market in Washington D.C. (Photo by Andrea Kenner)
An olive oil vendor discusses his products with a customer at the USDA Farmers Market in Washington D.C. (Photo by Andrea Kenner)
An announcement of upcoming events at the USDA Farmers Market in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Andrea Kenner)
An announcement of upcoming events at the USDA Farmers Market in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Andrea Kenner)
Plant vendors displayed their wares at the USDA Farmers Market in Washington, D.C., on Friday, June 16, 2013. (Photo by Andrea Kenner)
Plant vendors displayed their wares at the USDA Farmers Market in Washington, D.C., on Friday, June 16, 2013. (Photo by Andrea Kenner)
Tourists and office workers stroll through the USDA Farmers Market in Washington, D.C., on Friday, June 16, 2013. (Photo by Andrea Kenner)
Tourists and office workers stroll through the USDA Farmers Market in Washington, D.C., on Friday, June 16, 2013. (Photo by Andrea Kenner)

Washington, D. C., Cherry Blossoms, 2013

This year’s crop of cherry blossoms has come and gone, but they were oh, so lovely while they lasted. Peak bloom was expected to be late this year, but nobody seemed to anticipate just how late that would be.

Cherry blossoms. (Photo by Andrea Kenner, Apr. 8, 2013)
Cherry blossoms. (Photo by Andrea Kenner, Apr. 8, 2013)

According to RestonPatch.com, the National Weather Service originally forecast peak bloom on March 23-30, and then shifted their predicted peak bloom dates to April 3-6. The Washington Post’s final prediction was for April 6-10. The dates kept shifting back because of an unusually stubborn cold spell in the D.C. area this spring.

I was at a conference in Baltimore during the predicted peak bloom days, and I was so worried that I would miss the blossoms. I needn’t have worried, though. This year, the blossoms started peaking on April 8, with the absolute peak on April 9, and I was there, camera at the ready, on both days.

Tourists, cameras in hand, attempt to capture of the beauty of the cherry blossoms. (Photo by Andrea Kenner, Apr. 9, 2012)
Tourists, cameras in hand, attempt to capture of the beauty of the cherry blossoms. (Photo by Andrea Kenner, Apr. 9, 2012)
So were thousands of others, all snapping away in an attempt to capture the ephemeral beauty of the cherry trees in full bloom. I’ve seen some beautiful photos others have taken of the same subject over the years, and I know mine don’t hold a candle to those. But, still… I want to share my photos with anyone who missed the blossoms this year and wants to take a look.

I want to say one more thing, and then I will just let you look at some pictures. If you’ve never seen the Washington, D.C., cherry blossoms for yourself, you really should put that on your bucket list. The experience is like strolling through soft, pink clouds under a clear blue sky. Add to that the warm sun and the gentle spring breezes — you couldn’t experience those if you gazed at a million photographs. As I said earlier, it’s kind of hard to predict when the cherry blossoms will be in full bloom, so, if you’re from out of town, you should plan to stay in D.C. for at least a week. Fortunately, there are plenty of other things you can do here while you’re waiting for the cherry blossoms to pop.

Jefferson Memorial, framed by blossoming cherry trees. (Photo by Andrea Kenner, Apr. 8, 2013)
Jefferson Memorial, framed by blossoming cherry trees. (Photo by Andrea Kenner, Apr. 8, 2013)
A couple poses for wedding portraits at the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Andrea Kenner, Apr. 8, 2013)
A couple poses for wedding portraits at the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Andrea Kenner, Apr. 8, 2013)
An artist captures the cherry blossoms in pastels. (Photo by Andrea Kenner, Apr. 9, 2013)
An artist captures the cherry blossoms in pastels. (Photo by Andrea Kenner, Apr. 9, 2013)
Ducks paddle beneath a flowering cherry branch. (Photo by Andrea Kenner, Apr. 9, 2013)
Ducks paddle beneath a flowering cherry branch. (Photo by Andrea Kenner, Apr. 9, 2013)
A stately old cherry tree shows off its spring finery. (Photo by Andrea Kenner, Apr. 9, 2013)
A stately old cherry tree shows off its spring finery. (Photo by Andrea Kenner, Apr. 9, 2013)

Disc golf: A fun sport anyone can play

Got a flying disc and a pair of walking shoes? That’s all you need to start playing disc golf.

 

By ANDREA KENNER

PATAPSCO VALLEY STATE PARK, CARROLL COUNTY, Md. – Disc golf is a game that’s a lot like traditional “ball golf.” The rules are pretty much the same. The main difference is that you can start playing disc golf with equipment you probably already have in your closet: A flying disc and walking shoes.

The bad news is that you’ll need to get yourself to one of the area’s disc golf courses and none are in Washington, D.C. The good news, though, is that there are about 65 disc golf courses throughout Maryland and Virginia, and some of those are within a few miles of the District. The two closest courses are in College Park, Md., and Arlington, Va. The College Park course is about a 10-minute walk from the College Park Metro station, and the Arlington course is about two miles from the Ballston Metro station.

At a disc golf tournament called Patapsco Punisher, played on the disc golf course at Patapsco Valley State Park in Carroll County, Md., April 7, more than 70 players — from professionals to newcomers — took to the tees.

Stephen J. Badger, a naturalist with the Patapsco Valley State Park, is also a tournament director and a promoter of the game.

“Disc golf is open to a wide variety of players,” Badger said. “We certainly have an eclectic mix. People from all socioeconomic groups and of all ages are out here to play. Today, we have competitors from 14 up to about age 52 or 54.”

Disc Golf
A disc golfer tees off at the Patapsco Punisher disc golf tournament at Maryland's Patapsco Valley State Park on Saturday, April 7, 2012. (Photo by Andrea Kenner/American Observer)

Badger said tournament play is open to everyone, and the tournament is divided into different expertise levels that make it possible for recreational players to play alongside the pros.

However, all of the players in the April 7 tournament were male. Badger said he has found it can be difficult for women to commit the time needed for tournament-level play.

“We’re always hoping to have new women come into the sport,” Badger said. “We do work on various promotional ways to get women into more tournaments. Sometimes we help by finding a sponsor to take care of the registration fees or add cash to their division.”

Matthew Kashima, 14, was one of the youngest players at the tournament. “My dad has always had a basket in the front yard, and I’ve just been playing in my front yard since I was two or three years old,” he said.

Kashima said he likes playing with the older guys, but “they’re a little bit slow.” Some of Kashima’s younger friends play in tournaments, too. “I have a couple of friends that live up in Pennsylvania that play, and a lot of times we get into some bigger tournaments.” Kashima said that the thing he likes best about disc golf is that “you don’t have to be in the best shape to play. It’s just a lot of fun.”

Badger said the Maryland Park Service offers disc golf clinics for people who want to improve their game. “There’s also the grassroots approach by just buying a single disc at a store and just going out and giving it a try,” Badger said.

He said some beginners use Frisbees, but “the discs don’t fly as far, and they’re certainly harder to control in a heavy wind.”

But tournament golfers don’t use Frisbees. Instead, they use specialized discs that are smaller but heavier than Frisbees. Just like “ball golfers,” many professional disc golfers select a different type of disc for different play situations, Badger said.

Course designer Jim Myers said every hole on the 18-hole course offers two tees and two baskets so that players can make the play harder or easier to suit their skill level.

“The thing that we wanted on this course was to incorporate all the elevation changes you see here and make the course something that could go from amateur play all the way out to professional play,” Myers said.

“This course here is one of the sweetest courses in the nation,” he said.

Many of the area’s disc golf courses are free, but for some require a small park entrance fee. The Patapsco Valley State Park charges a $3 entry fee for Maryland residents; the entry fee for out-of-state residents is $5. Once you’re in the park, the disc golf course itself is free.

Registration fees for tournament play varies. The entry fee for the Patapsco Punisher was $45 for pros and $25 for amateurs, but that helps to fund prizes for the top finisher. Mike Moser, the winner of this year’s Patapsco Punisher, brought home the day’s top prize: $195.

View Disc golf courses in the Washington, D.C., area in a larger map

Note: This story was originally published in the American Observer on April 28 2012.

The National Mall in winter

Even on a cold day in January, there’s a lot to see on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. You just have to look a little harder to find it.

The Washington Monument stands watch over a lonely winter landscape, Saturday, Jan. 29, 2011, in Washington D.C. (Photo by Andrea Kenner)
Volunteer Allen McCabe stands in front of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Saturday, Jan. 29, 2011, in Washington D.C. (Photo by Andrea Kenner)
Volunteer Allen McCabe speaks with a visitor at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Saturday, Jan. 29, 2011, in Washington D.C. (Photo by Andrea Kenner)
A sculpture of a Korean War soldier stands in front of a granite wall of carved faces, Saturday, Jan. 29, 2011, at the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. (Photo by Andrea Kenner)
Two mounted police officers patrol the National Mall, Saturday, Jan. 29, 2011, in Washington D.C. (Photo by Andrea Kenner)
A wreath adds color on a gray January day, Saturday, Jan. 29, 2011, at the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. A ranger at the memorial told me that members of the Class of 1963 at the Seoul National University always maintain a wreath at the site in appreciation for the assistance given to their country by members of the U.S. armed forces. (Photo by Andrea Kenner)
A winter landscape frames the bronze sculpture at the Vietnam Women's Memorial, Saturday, Jan. 29, 2011, in Washington D.C. The sculpture, created by Glenna Goodacre, is "the first national memorial to female veterans," according to the Web site of the Vietnam Women's Memorial Foundation. (Photo by Andrea Kenner)

People of American University

January 15, 2011. It’s the beginning of a new year and a new semester at American University in Washington, D.C. New beginnings are reflected in the faces of these people on the AU campus.

Eden Pecha, AU freshman from Cleveland, Ohio
Vladimir Petrovic, AU student
Timothy Nicholson, AU student
Nathaniel Kline, AU student
Adam Zarrin, AU student and employee

Local novelists accept challenge: 50,000 words in 30 days

Washington, D.C., area novelists find fun, support and friendship during National Novel Writing Month

November has only 30 days. Holiday shopping, cleaning, cooking and decorating tasks add to already crowded schedules. November in Washington, D.C., is cold, dark and rainy.

So why would anyone in their right mind sign up for National Novel Writing Month? Why would anyone commit to blasting out 50,000 words in November — laboring over a novel that may never get published? Why would a group of busy professionals want to sit crowded together in a noisy restaurant, clacking away at their computer keyboards, lost in thought as they spin their respective yarns? The quick answer is, “because they can.”

As with most things in life, though, the real answer is much more complicated than that.

Write-in, Nov. 19, 2010, Bethesda, Md.
Local novelists swap stories and share notes at a National Novel Writing Month Write-in on Nov. 19

Katie Nolan is a screenwriter by day. She said she participates in National Novel Writing Month because it gives her “a way to enjoy another form of writing without any pressure.”

National Novel Writing Month “forces you to stop talking about it and just freakin’ write!” said Bryan Hughes, a risk analyst at a local energy firm. The 50,000-word “bar” is motivating, Hughes said. “Why do you climb Mount Everest?” Hughes asked. “Because it’s there.” In addition to his full-time job and his novel-writing stint, Hughes recently enrolled in a part-time MBA program. How can he do it all? “My classmates think I’m insane,” Hughes said.

“Wrimos” (as participants call themselves) are so enthusiastic, one even wrote a song about National Novel Writing Month.


Credit: Kristina Horner

Most people think of novel writing as a solitary pursuit. But National Novel Writing Month lets people play with the idea of social writing. Participants can do all of their writing at home, in their jammies and bunny slippers if they want. But for many, meeting up with other writers is the whole point of National Novel Writing Month.

Kay Robinson is one of two Municipal Coordinators of the Washington, D.C., chapter of National Novel Writing Month. According to Robinson, National Novel Writing Month has three goals: “Meet people, write novels, have fun.” And not necessarily in that order.

Municipal Coordinator Chuck Hughes (no relation to Bryan) said that people sign up for National Novel Writing Month to get support. “We’re all in the same boat,” Hughes said. Hughes said that new writers often think that a novel comes out in final form on the first try. “It doesn’t,” Hughes said. “But you might look back over it and realize that you have something to work with.”

The novel Chuck Hughes is writing is set in England in the mid-1700s, during the Jacobite Rebellion. It’s about a man who “gets press-ganged into the Royal Navy,” Hughes said. The man and his wife exchange a series of letters. The wife, who is left behind in England, eventually finds a way to join her husband in the new world.

The idea behind National Novel Writing Month

So, what is National Novel Writing Month? This is what the group’s web site says:

National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing on November 1. The goal is to write a 50,000 word, (approximately 175 page) novel by 11:59:59, November 30. NaNoWriMo is a novel-writing program for everyone who has thought fleetingly about writing a novel but has been scared away by the time and effort involved.

National Novel Writing Month is a project of the Office of Letters and Light (OLL), a nonprofit organization whose mission is to organize “events where children and adults find the inspiration, encouragement, and structure they need to achieve their creative potential.” National Novel Writing Month started in 1999, in the midst of the dot-com bubble. Founder Chris Baty, a San Francisco resident, rounded up 20 of his friends to write a novel in a month. Why? Baty’s book No Plot? No Problem! A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days, puts it this way:

My only explanation for our cheeky ambition is this: Being surrounded by pet-supply e-tailers worth more than IBM has a way of getting your sense of what’s possible all out of whack.

The OLL’s web site says that National Novel Writing Month now has more than 250,000 participants in 90 countries.

The project is funded by a long, long list of donors, including a number of corporate sponsors. There’s no fee to join, but participants are asked to make a donation if they can.

The Bethesda Write-in

Write-ins are an important part of the local National Novel Writing Month scene. A Write-in is an informal gathering that gives participants a place where they can schmooze, eat, talk, and write. Throughout November, the Washington, D.C., chapter’s page on nanowrimo.org lists Write-ins and other upcoming events. One set of Write-ins is held every Friday at La Madeleine Country French Cafe in Bethesda, Md.

View Larger Map

The Bethesda Write-in on Friday, Nov. 19 was a noisy affair. An occasional hush fell over the group, as members bent over their keyboards, thinking or typing. Mostly, though, there was animated conversation, followed by gales of riotous laughter. Participants asked for advice and joked about their mysteries, or thrillers, or romances or vampire stories. Several participants bragged that they’re usually much louder than the Mensa group that also meets on Fridays at La Madeleine. “The Mensans usually leave first,” one participant said.

La Madeleine does not offer free wi-fi service. Several participants said that was an advantage, because it helps them focus on their writing without the distraction of incoming tweets and Facebook messages.

Here’s a sampling of novels published by local novelists:

Attendees at the Write-in on Nov. 19 had many interests and accomplishments in addition to novel writing. Robinson teaches writing and mythology classes at Montgomery College and the University of Maryland. She has also played pool professionally. Participant Elizabeth Breier-Sharlow is a candidate for a Ph.D. in International Relations. Brier-Sharlow is also a poet. She participates in the National Poetry Writing Month every April.

So, how did they do?

November is over, so the official count is in: The 2,763 registered members of the Washington, D.C., chapter wrote a total of 17,611,818 words. That’s an average of 6,374 words per person. The National Novel Writing Month site sets the average figure much higher, at 22,153 words per person.

Chuck Hughes finished writing the last of his 50,000 words on Nov. 30, but he said he wasn’t thrilled with the result. This was “one of the hardest years I’ve had,” Hughes said. Hughes said he thinks the premise of his story is good, but he didn’t have enough time to research it before he started writing. Hughes said he would eventually like to publish his story on a self-publishing site like lulu.com, but he has a lot more work to do.

What’s your story?

Are you a National Novel Writing Month participant? Leave a comment to tell us why you joined.