Leaves are Dying, Here is Where you Monsters Can Watch Them

Sigh, autumn.  The season where the District skips off to collectively squee over shorter days, desolate beaches, vests and inedible corn, while its best friend summer is left to bleed out in a heap on the sidewalk.  IronCitySpy and I have spent countless hours trying to convince you people of the obviously superior season, a position that has only been reinforced by TV, music, movies, books, branding and overall number of smiles, but, in an attempt to turn over a new (dying) leaf, we decided to throw on some Tartan, sigh heavily, and help you watch some plants give up:

Option 1.  The best place in DC to take a million tree selfies without judgment and then watch Westworld

Image result for national arboretum

Columns at the Arboretum with leaves in various stages of despair (photo courtesy of DC-HBC)

The National Arboretum.  Hands down.  It is free, massive, and you can find plenty of places to practice your selfie in peace while still getting home for HBO Sunday.  You also can get pictures of autumn splendor reflected in other flora that thrive on the precipice of death, like certain  vines, shrubs, flowers, and autumn bonsai, which are ADORABLE.  The Arboretum does not have a restaurant, but it does sell snacks.  You could also pack a picnic and force everyone to eat on the freezing ground, because that seems like something that you people would do.

Other options include Rock Creek Park, C&O Canal Historic Park, Roosevelt Island, Arlington Cemetery (though perhaps not the best selfie spot) and yes, even the National Mall.  DC is actually a green city, unlike other cities who claim to be (*cough* New York) so just explore it.

Option 2. By “tree viewing,” I meant eating pumpkin pie in a large sweater.  Where can I do that, but surrounded by above-average dying trees?

An admittedly noble request.  The knee jerk response on most websites would be Harper’s Ferry, and honestly with good reason – great overlook hike, quaint restaurants, and a multitude of hiking options.  Yahoo rated it best foliage or something.  The problem with Harper’s Ferry is the CROWDS.  It is a zoo during peak leaf season, and it is tough to find anywhere to park or eat.  So go if you want, but, as an alternative, let me humbly recommend Frederick, Maryland.

Image result for frederick maryland autumn

Not only is that an old-timey locomotive, it is a MURDER MYSTERY DINNER LOCOMOTIVE. I am serious. Click the picture and search for “murder mystery dinner train”

I mean look at that.  It really has all your Fall things:  old buildings, Americana restaurants, covered bridges tours, three breweries in the city, one of which is named after Monocacy, a civil war battlefield that you can tour nearby if that’s your thing.  New Market, Maryland’s antiques capital, is a 15 minute drive away,  and, if you prefer eating your pumpkin pie in active wear, you can first hike in either Cunningham Falls State Park or Catoctin Mountain Park  25 minutes north of Frederick to really get the Thelma and Louise tree experience.

Blue Blazes Whiskey Still trail

Blue Blazes Whiskey Still trail, Catoctin Mountain Park, Credit: Alicia Lafever

I know, its almost too seasonal.  I’ll give you a minute.

Option 3. I can only tolerate tree viewing if I am constantly moving, like a shark.  I also have a dog. 

Photo of Overall Run Falls

Leaves in varying stages of death at Overall Run in Shenandoah National Park surrounded by water that cannot save them (credit MDEliz on Trip Advisor)

Another respectable request.  It will probably be freezing and dogs are pretty great.  For hiking, we are really spoiled for choice in the DC area, so I am going to highlight three trails that are good, dog friendly (on leashes) and maybe not as obvious as Old Rag and Great Falls:

  • Overall Run Trail:  Great views plus the tallest waterfall in Shenandoah National Park.  About 2 hours outside of DC.  There are many hiking options here depending on your persuasion. You can find a really detailed description of a 5.0 mile option on Virginia Trail Guide. Another option is 7.3 miles starting from Thompson Hollow.  
  • Sky Meadows State Park:  A pastoral state park with rolling hills, meadows and wooded areas.  Drive takes about an hour from DC. Numerous trails but one of the most popular is the Piedmont Trail. 4.7 mile loop. Then you can go to Hollins Farm for cinnamon donuts or Arterra Wine for…wine.
  • Kepler Overlook: Near Woodstock Virginia. Up and back hike. 6 miles total. Drive takes around 2 hours to get to.  Beautiful views, some streams and not very crowded. There is a berry farm and microbrewery combo nearby.  I know, I’ll give you a minute again. Tibet Knob is another excellent alternative nearby that is 3 hours but more strenuous.

Option 4.  I am willing to go wherever, but am anxiety ridden over figuring out when “peak foliage” is.  Do you know when peak foliage is?  Does anyone? I heard our summer pushed it back? Is that true? Did I miss it?!?!?

Deep Creek Lake, MD: presumably watered by the tears of leaves (photo links to park site)

First, no, you haven’t missed it. Plenty of places have not peaked yet.  However, from one psychopath to another, it is impossible to predict peak foliage within a neurotically-acceptable margin of error.  Yes, you can find a foliage map here, but as I have intimated above, it comes with caveats that are frankly unacceptable those that spend all their vacations agonizing over whether everyone is actually having fun or just faking it.  Thankfully, I have discovered a solution:  WEBCAMS.  Many awesome places have webcams that update in real-time or daily, so you can see if the foliage actually looks good. You can also see whether you have missed it, since peak season is very regional.  Here are some good ones:

So that’s that.  I hope the death of flora is sufficiently bloody for you people.

Hey DC, this is a really dumb intersection.

Dear DC,

Please explain in what plane of existence one needs to inhabit in order for this intersection to make sense?

19th and T NW

This intersection is on IronCitySpy’s daily commute home. It’s also the home of IronCitySpy’s daily-vehicular-near-death/near-homicide. While it looks like a perfectly normal 4 way stop , look closer — only two parties are required to stop. The other two can zip on through. While a 2 way stop isn’t asinine on it’s own (well it kind of is), consider the following:

  • Parked cars are allowed to flank both stop signs. While seemingly benign, this actually creates a sinister Catch 22. In order to see if there is on-coming traffic (that is not required to stop), I must move my car into said intersection in order to see past the cars (and likely getting hit by said oncoming traffic in the process). Or, I can just assume there are no cars coming and try to bulldoze my through (again likely getting hit by oncoming traffic, which again is not required to stop).
  • This intersection is also the mecca of pedestrians/bicyclists. And not just any pedestrian/bicyclists, but some sort of weird Bermuda Triangle of douchery where 30 somethings that assume it’s appropriate to travel by longboard are genetically drawn towards. The rare moment when you see there is no oncoming traffic, you can bet a carnival of “Paperboy” characters will descend all around you — seemingly with the sole objective of being run-over by your vehicle.


DC, your transportation network is an easy target and is ripped on quite a lot. But this is an easy win and a quick fix. Make 19th and T NW a 4 way stop. If you do, you’ll gain a fan for life. But do it quickly, because at this rate I’ll be incarcerated for running over a dude juggling fire*


*Paperboy, anyone?

Fall is back, DC citizens squeal with excitment

Fall is back in DC (also presumably everywhere else) and if my Facebook and Twitter feeds are any indication, the regional population couldn’t be happier. So I suppose you have come here to read what just about every other blog is writing about: favorite fall activities, favorite fall drinks, favorite fall fashion, etc… If this is the case, I’d suggest heading to one of those. As my general feelings on fall can be summed thusly:

IronCityspy's present mood. Credit to OMGkitty.com for the perfect image.

As is well known to our longtime reader(s), DCSpy and I love the Summer. We love the sunlight, long hours, warm weather and trips that are synonymous with those glorious 3 months. So when I read twitter statuses that say “So excited to wear scarves again!!!” Part(most) of me dies inside. Don’t you people realize you have like 8 months of scarf weather!


DCSpy tends to be of the opinion that as long as Fall is here, we may as well embrace it. This position is anathema to me. Summer, in many ways, is like my best friend. I look forward to it before it arrives, can’t get enough of it when it is finally here and I am terribly sad when it leaves. Fall is Summer’s murderer/rapist. But unlike typical murder-rapists, I am then forced to hang out with the thing that forcibly sodomized and stabbed my best friend. Then I have to hear about what a great guy he is by literally everyone I am associated with!  Look, he may have some good jokes and can turn the occasional phrase, but at the end of the day he still left my beloved Summer in a dumpster behind the KFC.

It is because of this that I will be curmudgeonly during any and all fall activities I am forced to participate in. Yes apple picking and Halloween may be fun, but they can’t replace my best friend.


P.S. Not to clog my inbox about the Fall vs. Summer argument again, but I have one question for the Summer haters. When you go on vacation, do you go somewhere that is 60 degrees and overcast? No, you go somewhere that looks like this:

Year-round Summer!


Cheetah Cubs and the Cuteness Hierarchy

So a month ago, I was convinced that lion cubs were the cutest of cubs. Before that, I was sold on snow leopard cubs being the cutest of cubs. AND now, the Smithsonian Research Institute in Virginia has convinced me that cheetah cubs are the cutest of cubs. OBSERVE:

Come ON. He fits in that little bowl! Such a fierce little guy. You know what is not the cutest of animal young? Human babies. Sad, but true. Looking at that guy in his bowl got me thinking of his cuteness hierarchy and honestly, I don’t think human kids would make my top 50. Not sure if they would make my top 100. The competition:

I mean, those hedgehogs thought that brush was their mother. The only thing that humans beat hand’s down are bird babies (except for precocial birds, like ducks). And, well, the bar is pretty low.

Having read about 4 individual posts on the little guys, it seems that sadly, they will not be moved to the national zoo any time soon. So you must be content with the rapidly aging (but still amazing) Clouded Leopard cubs for the time being.

Shootin’ & Drinkin’: a Refined DC Afternoon

So today “Living Social” is promoting a “Shootin’ & Drinkin’ Event” — right here in the District. I know what you are thinking; “oh good, alcohol and firearms are an excellent combination”.

Typical enthusiast

Fair enough, but it’s actually not as absurd as you may initially think. Take a look at their explanation:

…learn the fundamentals of skeet shooting from a team of expert marksmen before unloading .12, .20 or .16 gauge shotguns at flying disks. After filling up on a Potbelly’s lunch, you’ll venture to Againn Tavern in Rockville for an assorted Scotch tasting.

Moreover, all the transportation is included — so assuming you haven’t already Dick Cheney’d one of your friends, you won’t have to worry about driving over someone in a scotch/manliness fueled rage.  A few of my friends are suggesting we go, which I’ll agree to only under the following conditions:

  • We all wear tweed
  • We speak derisively about the “natives”
  • We note how terrible the “Rhodesia” situation is
  • Someone says “Aces!” after a good shot

IronCityspy and his chaps

Any other requirements I am missing dear readers? Please let me know in the comments. Oh, and if you are interested in purchasing this Lord Fauntleroy afternoon, you can find it here.


Roosevelt Island and the District’s only swamp

Morning reader(s). So we district residents are always inundated with the phrase “Yeah, well DC was built on a swamp.” It’s the catch-all explanation for the humidity, the mosquitoes, the sunken Nationals stadium, the big insects, the lack of snow, and the city’s general discomfort. Whether the causality is TRUE is irrelevant. We are loyal to our swamp-roots. That being said, have you actually SEEN a swamp in DC? Like a real one?

I didn’t think so. Because despite being built on a swamp, DC has virtually no swamps. In fact, I can only think of one: Roosevelt Island. It looks like this:

swamp pics via afagen and worldisround

Now, I’ve been going to Roosevelt Island for years. I ran the trails in college, broke up with a boyfriend there (in my mind it was perfect because it had multiple “escape routes,” however I failed to factor in that these “routes” were actually just trails that led to a ONE exit bridge because it’s a goddamn ISLAND so we ended up awkwardly walking out together. FAIL), and read under the monument in the summer. However, until last year I had never seen this swamp.

One of the best monuments in DC

And it is a quite a swamp. A series of planked trails lead you through the marsh, accompanied by numerous lizards that sun themselves on the wood, until you are finally lead to an outlook that showcases the swamp. It is expansive, serene and beautiful. You feel like you are far from DC. A feeling that was further enhanced for SPY, when we saw an effing STAG. Yes, like from Bambi.

artist's rendition of the stag

A stag with a full rack of antlers, strode out from the swamp, calmly looked around, munched on some reeds then retreated into the inner sanctum of the island, out of sight. AMAZING. So If you haven’t visited Roosevelt Island, you should. According to the Audubon Society, the island has three distinct habitats: hardwood forest, tidal marsh and wooded swamp. It also has arguably one of the BEST monuments in all of DC. And if that’s not enough, you can see up to 6 different species of woodpeckers in the winter!

angry that you aren't visiting

I know I’m sold! So visit. See the lone swamp our city was built on. Directions here.

4th of July events for the DC Local! (READ: No National Mall) UPDATED

Almost a WWII Flying Ace!

 What?? I know. Yes, these events exist and they are plentiful. AND, in what is probably a first for this blog, I am giving them to you with enough advanced notice that you can actually attend them. Yes, this blog is being useful. Do not adjust your expectations accordingly. But, without further ado, here are things you can do beyond the Mall:  

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You can enjoy nature and still be home in time for bocce!

Good morning friends. With DCspy out spreading Western decadence in Red China, you are once again left with a far inferior post. Hopefully her cultural revolution will wrap up shortly, and she’ll be back to the emerald city soon enough.

I, like most of you, can’t imagine not living in a city at this point in my life. Having gone to college in the suburbs, I’ve had enough Fudruckers, TGI Fridays, and Ruby Tuesdays to last a lifetime (Okay, I lied. Ruby Tuesdays is AMAZING). But every once in a while, I get an overwhelming urge to enjoy the great outdoors. Unfortunately, DCspy often makes the Giant Panda seem active, so I need to find something close to home and in close proximity to snacks.

Fortunately, there is a fantastic place called Fletchers Cove!

How is this in the District?!?!

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Since cars seem to be constantly crashing this week, how about a bike?

Next logical conclusion for this week

So for god knows what reason, vehicles keep failing this week. A public bus burst into flames, a UPS truck crashed into the Hirshhorn Museum, and a car crashed through the window of Rhodeside Grill in Arlington (hopefully sparing some of their delicious chicken wings and clipping some UT fans). No, not killing the fans, people. I am not terrible. I just hope one or two may have been startled as they were doing that stupid longhorn thing with their hand, that’s all.

So, in a wonderful coincidence for cyclists everywhere, these failures are coinciding with the month of May, which is Bike Month in the district. May 21st is bike to work day, and May 23rd (Saturday) is Bike DC when tons of streets around the city are closed to cars. There are also talks about the Giro d’Italia race coming to DC, a tip my dear (now ex) friend decided to give DCist instead of DCspy, because he is useless. Anyways, the whole month is supposed to make the idea of biking to work more accessible to people, dispelling myths traffic navigation, bike lanes etc.

newsies riding bikes

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God hiking equipment is awesome, why not use it (Part II)

Afternoon reader(s). What a day! Look outside! Doesn’t it make you want to go CAMPING??? … Maybe? … please … for Earth Day?

Okay. For those of you that thought “yes!! what an idea! Wait. I have no tent, no idea where to go, god, SO tired, do I really want to spend time organizing this?? I mean I could just go sit in an outdoor patio with a beer then read in a park, a park is nature-y right? RIGHT???” then I sympathize. Because although I love hiking, camping just stresses me out. Like the planning and the renting and the driving and the possibility (especially around the District) that although I imagine this:

I could easily end up with this:

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