Sometimes I like my weekends with a dash of history — and this was one of them.
As soon as I got wind that we’d see temperatures climbing past the 60-degree mark on Saturday, I began pestering Spencer to make plans. I wanted to go somewhere different! New! Exciting! Somewhere I could take pictures! I mean, aside from my Twosday shoots, I’ve barely held my camera since Christmas.
I turned to the trusty Internet, of course, and found the George Washington Birthplace National Monument in Colonial Beach, Va. It’s a skip across the bridge for us, so we shed our thick outer layers to cruise across the Potomac River for a look.
Run by the National Park Service, George Washington was born on this property in 1732 — exactly 282 years before our visit. That’s right, folks: we somehow timed our trip with George’s birthday, which was February 22! (Thanks, Jess, for pointing that out!) Color me downright impressed, right?
I mean . . . I totally planned it that way.
We knew we were in for a relaxing visit as we pulled into the parking lot with only a handful of other vehicles in sight. No crowds. After chatting with a friendly park ranger, we watched a short video about Washington’s life here along Popes Creek — he lived on the plantation until age 3 — and then set out to do some exploring on our own.
There’s nothing like seating yourself on a bench to feel warm sun on your face after the winter thaw. My icy heart opened at the sight of blue water and bluer sky, peering at the buds on trees to see if anything was beginning to open. Nothing yet, but all in good time.
The estate was quiet, tranquil, with only one other family walking around. We had the place to ourselves, a fact pointed out by the kindly park ranger — and I was impressed by their “this place is yours, too” attitude. They were very friendly, extremely welcoming. It felt good.
Though the original home where Washington was born burnt down in a Christmas Day fire back in 1779, the house’s foundation is now marked by oyster shells near the memorial house constructed in a similar style in 1931. We didn’t go inside, preferring to linger among the trees and herb garden, but it boasts a kitchen house and some furnishings authentic to the time.
The site’s major attraction is its expansive views along Popes Creek, which empties into the Potomac. Our park ranger told us the plan is to keep the plantation looking much the way it would have back in the 1700s, living farm and all. There were, in fact, many animals on the property . . . including a hog that was so scared of us, he squealed and hid until we’d left the path near his pen.
I felt kind of bad about that.
The cattle and horses couldn’t have cared less. It was lunchtime.
After we’d finished disturbing the local wildlife, we motored on to do some antique shopping and have lunch in downtown Colonial Beach, itself a beautiful waterfront town. We talked about presidents and history and life and everything in between, and it was pretty great.
Man, I love a good random day trip. You never know what you’ll stumble upon — or whose birthday you’ll inadvertently celebrate. Happy 282nd, George!
Heck yeah, America!