Hiking the Billy Goat Trail on Father’s Day

This year Arthur’s Father’s Day present was to visit his family in Maryland and hike the Billy Goat Trail.

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Billy Goat Trail is a 1.7-mile section of Great Falls Loop (4.3 miles) along the Potomac River.  According to alltrails.com it is one of the most strenuous trails in the east coast.  There are many attractions along the Potomac River, C & O (Chesapeake & Ohio) Canal National Historic Park on Maryland side and Great Falls National Park on Virginia side are just a few we frequent.

The entrance fee for the C&O Canal Historic Park is $10 per vehicle, good for 3 days. Make sure to first visit the Tavern Visitor Center, which opened in 1830 as an inn.  Imagine to reserve a bed (a bunk) for the night for only 25 cents!  During the weekend the mule-drawn canal boat ride is a popular family activity, see NP website for schedule and pricing.

We began our hike from the canal towpath, which was flat and shaded most of the way.  On our left we counted at least five locks along the canal. This wide open section of the canal is strangely named as “Log Wall”, I am not sure why since the canal bank is full of rocks, no logs.

On our right, the Potomac river, gushing through boulders and bedrocks, glittering in the afternoon sun, was quite inviting.  We saw parents with little children in strollers lingering along the towpath, having a good time.

About a mile into the towpath, the Billy Goat A Trail forked to the right.  The trail turned into a narrow and arduous rocky path.  This section A was what made this trail famous. It was so steep in some areas, we had to get on all fours, hands and knees.  Obviously the trail was destined for an agile mountain goat! 🙂 If not for the clearly marked blue sign, we would easily wonder off track since there was no visible trail, only rocky cleft!

However, our hard work paid off, the reward was the incredible view! And I haven’t mentioned the feeling of appeasing accomplishment! 🙂

When C & O Canal Company broke ground in 1828, their original plan was to dig a 360-mile canal to connect Chesapeake with Ohio River.  Of course, we know the canal never reached Ohio river.  At the time of its grand open in 1850, the canal was 184.5 mile long, getting as far as Cumberland, Maryland.  Coals were carried down on boats from the Allegheny Mountains to Washington DC through the canal.

We stopped briefly at Cumberland, Maryland on our drive back home.  This little historic town, the west end of C&O canal, is worth of a longer trip to fully explore.  We will be back for sure.

Georgetown, Maryland, the east end of the canal. The pictures were taken during Thanksgiving 2015.

So glad that Arthur rose to the challenge on this Father’s Day to tackle the Billy Goat Trail!  Now he has one more thing to boast about. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

A Weekend of Broadway Show and Sight-Seeing at New York City

New York City is one of my favorite cities, I can’t get enough of her.  Last year alone we were there three times: college tour of NYU in the spring with our daughter, Broadway show in the summer with our son, and parent weekend in the fall. We also visited NYC in the winter months, one year we even attempted to wait for the Big Apple drop at Times Square on New Year’s Eve!  However, our children were not ready for eight-hour without bathroom break, around dinner time we declared defeat.

A friend of mine is planning to visit NYC this summer, I thought to share some tips for her.

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First of all, don’t attempt to drive in Manhattan. When we were there last summer, we parked our car on the Jersey side of Hudson river (Weehawken, NJ), the parking was indoor, very clean, and conveniently located near the ferry dock (Port Imperial Terminal).  Because we purchased the Broadway tickets from the NY Waterway-Your Key to the City, we not only got free round-trip ferry tickets, the deal also included 40% off our Broadway tickets.  Way to go!

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The ferry dropped us at the West 39th street of Midtown Manhattan.  There were public transportation nearby.  However we packed light since we planned to do a lot of walking in the city, it took us half an hour to walk to our hotel on 46th street.

Broadway at Times Square Hotel is only two blocks from Broadway and Times Square.  Great location with walking distance to all actions.  Staying in the center of attractions has always been our strategy when visiting big cities. It may cost a bit more for hotel stay, but the right location save us from the hustle of commute.  Why wastes time and energy on driving and fighting traffic?  After checked in and left our luggage, we were ready to explore the city.IMG_4465_1

Depending on the hours of the day and days of the week, such as crowded evening at the weekend or early morning rush hour of a weekday, Times Square has very different vibes.

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Highly recommend “Something Rotten”! A great musical, very funny!

As always, there are lot of things to see in this magnificent city, too little time. Manhattan is very walkable, and metro was reliable most of the time.

We could easily spend a whole day at Central Park and the nearby Metropolitan Museum.

Know ahead that there is no way you can do it all.  Pace yourself, save something for the next time.

Brooklyn Bridge is a favorite for many.  If you pick one bridge to walk through, make it Brooklyn Bridge! The view is amazing in any time of the day no matter which season. But it is spectacular at sunset.  So linger a bit longer, you will see the brilliant light of Manhattan as the night falls.

We walked cross Brooklyn Bridge in a cold afternoon last spring.  That time we took the New Jersey Transit train to Manhattan. Very nice ride.

One last tip to save money on Broadway tickets: if you don’t mind staying in lines to wait for the same day show, you may visit tkts Ticket Booth at Times Square (or other booths).  You may not have a huge selections, however the catch is you pay only half the regular price!

Cherry Blossoms in Washington DC

Every spring, visitors from all over the country come to Washington D.C witness the Cherry Blossoms near Tidal Basin. The beauty of Yoshito cherry blossoms captures the hearts of visitors, as they linger, admire, and marvel at the delicate blooms.  The visit often leaves an everlasting remark in their memories.  I know, because I am one of them.

The chase of the perfect blossoms is a constant battle. Timing is the key.  Because of the nature of the cherry blossoms, the forecasting peak bloom is near impossible more than 10 days in advance. As few have the luxury of leaving at the moment of calling, most of us often feel helpless with the situation.  We carefully research the weather trend of the current year, closely follow the online update, book our vacation to the best of our knowledge, then pray for the best.

Every year Cherry Blossoms in D.C. fall any time between March 15 to April 15. The blooms last from two days to two weeks depending on the weather conditions.  This year spring arrives early in east coast. The original prediction of the peak blooms fell on March 19-22, overlapping with my visit to Maryland!  Imagine the excitement when I found out that!!

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Then winter came, just two days before my arrival.  Long story short, the snow storm and the extreme coldness on March 14-16 tarnished most of the just out blooms and destroyed more than half of the flower buds close to final stage of opening.  Some even announced up to 90% of destruction and no Cherry Blossoms this year…

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I didn’t know what to expect, and didn’t dare to get my hope up. So imagine my delight when I spotted the first blooms after finally arrived in Tidal Basin!  Delicate white with faint pink, yet unmistakable, some cherry blossoms survived the storm, they insisted to let the beauty shine! What fighters they were!

We joined the Cherry Blossom Ranger Talk near Tidal Basin. It was very informative, we learned a lot about the history of the cherry blossoms and the lore of the annual Cherry Blossom Festivals in D.C.  The best photo spots in Tidal Basin are near the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, Franklin Roosevelt Memorial, and Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.

Besides the obvious, the beautiful blossoms, there are a couple of highly recommended sites near Tidal Basin: the location of the original Yoshino tree dated back to 1912, planted by First Lady Taft and the Viscountess Chinda, wife of the Japanese Ambassador, on the northern bank of the Tidal Basin. There you can also find a stone lantern, also a gift from  Japan (1954). Lighting this lantern by the Cherry Blossom Princess picks off the annual Cherry Blossom Festivals in D.C. If you like the lantern, make sure to check out the Japanese Pagoda, a stone statue, just outside of FDR memorial.

Other places also offer beautiful sights of cherry blossoms, such as along the shoreline of East Potomac Park all the way to Hains Point and Kenwood neighborhood in Bethesda, Maryland.

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Another interesting story is worth telling. As we know that the Yoshino cherry trees were the gift of City of Tokyo to Washington D.C..  More than three thousands trees were shipped and transplanted in D.C. in 1912, and many more trees in the years followed.  Throughout the years, they flourished and eventually called D.C. home.  Today Yoshino trees are the most common cherry trees in D.C area.  Did you know the bombing of WWII destroyed the trees in Japan, at one point Yoshino trees were extinct in Tokyo?  Sending back the propagated tree from the 1912 donation after the war helped Japan to revive their Yoshino trees, and the genetic lineage of the original trees is preserved and continued in Japan.  It is through the cycle of giving that the cherry trees have fulfilled their role as a symbol of friendship of US and Japan.

What an uplift of spirit from Cherry Blossoms! No matter how short the life span, the cherry blossoms persevere and let out the beautiful blooms, even facing the storm.  How marvelous!!