I’m very excited that my piece “Hiking with Stonewall” has been published in the Sonderers Magazine. Check it out here: https://sonderers.com/spring-nature/hiking-with-stonewall
This weekend, we went back to Washington DC for another wedding. Unsurprisingly, we had a blast. This time we were situated in Alexandria, VA. What a charming town! Of course, we were located in the center of the tourist district, just a few blocks from the Potomac. Since the town didn’t sustain a lot of damage due to the Civil War, a lot of the old buildings are still standing.
We were staying at the Hotel Monaco, which was a lovely hotel. I had never stayed at a Kimpton Hotel before. It’s got nice touches like a happy hour from 5-6 with free wine and snacks. And the hotel is dog friendly. We’re talking about all kinds of dogs. We saw a German Shepherd and a Rottweiler. We later learned that the hotel was the site of the first shooting death of the civil war. Elmer Ellsworth was a Unions soldier who was killed when he tried to remove the Confederate Flag from the hotel (3rd level) by innkeeper James Jackson. Colonel Ellsworth’s men in turn killed him. These were the first two intentional violent deaths of the Civil War. Curiously, there is a plaque outside of the hotel that only mentions James Jackson.
The first thing we did after checking in was get seafood. I love the Midwest but seafood is not a strength. I relish any opportunity to have some good lobster when I’m at one of the coasts. We ended up at the Fish Market, which was supposed to be a little less upscale. The food was magnificent. I had a lobster and it was superb. I think I’ve said this before but you can figure the quality of the lobster by the need for extra butter. The less you need, the better the lobster. This dish was the best I’d had in years. And they gave me more of it than normal, all the legs. I even found some innards that the waiter didn’t recognize (not very tasty but interesting nonetheless). My fiancé delighted on crabs’ legs.
Next was ice cream. The streets were lined with ice cream shops! I got Pralines & Cream and Brownie with Cookie Dough. It was okay. We are a bit spoiled by Black Dog Gelato. But it was lovely to eat our ice cream staring across the Potomac. We even saw a heron grazing nearby.
Then we went on a ghost tour. We love these tours. We always do them if we can especially in smaller towns. I’m not sure how I feel about ghosts but I do love the stories and the tidbits of history. I also have a bit of a morbid sense of humor. Our guide was named Alastair, a Brit, wearing colonial outfit holding a flaming lantern. He was amazing. He led us through Alexandria and told us a series of wonderful ghost stories.
My favorite was about the Female Stranger. In 1816, a lady and man were let off a ship and they went directly to the best inn. The lady was ill with typhoid. Her husband called for the best medical help. When they came, he made them swear to secrecy never to reveal anything about his wife if she were to say something in her delirium. Apparently, they kept that promise to their graves. She sadly passed away at the Gadsby’s Tavern (going back to George Washington’s time). He had her buried in the town under a grave “the Female Stranger.” Then he ended up skipping out on the bills. No one knows who she is to this day. She apparently haunts the room at the Gadsby’s Tavern, looking for her husband.
The tour ended in a graveyard where we learned some new things. First, the table top graves that you sometimes seen were used for meals. People would have Sunday brunches on the tombs as a way of connecting with their deceased love ones. Second, gravestones were sometimes used to shore up artillery. However, when they were no longer needed, the stones would return to a cemetery. Often times, they’d be thrown over a wall. But it may not be the correct one…So in that cemetery, there may be 20-30 gravestones and none may actually belong there. Allegedly, many ghosts wander to see if they can find their tombstones. Also, some of the soldiers decided to carve in extra 1s on the tombstones. Some people lived to be 153… Terrible mischief. Other stones were used for target practice. Yikes!
Tomorrow will be the Smithsonians. That’s all for now!
Our next trip was Washington DC. We were there for a wedding but we spent all of our free time visiting museums and hiking. Overall, it was a good trip but the first day of the trip was a bit more exciting than we had originally anticipated.
It started a bit rough when our checked bag on Frontier was returned to us covered in sticky green goo. We think someone’s mouthwash leaked from their bag into ours. Many of our clothes were stained bright green. We tried talk to Frontier but after an hour of arguing, they did nothing. They claimed that the stains were normal wear and tear. Having flown 100s of times, I can assure you that this was the first time this had ever happened to us. If it were something in our bag that leaked, that would be our fault. This was not the case. We also learned that we had four hours to make a complaint but the staff of Frontier at the airport refused to file the complaint and were unsympathetic and frankly rude. I tried calling their Customer service line, which was a joke. I first connected to “Complaints and Complements”, but when I told the representative what happened, he informed me that he was just reservations and could do nothing. He transferred me to the correct department and was told my the automated system that there was a hold time of an hour. So I stayed on hold for over 1 hour and 18 minutes until my phone battery gave out. We will never fly Frontier again. Ever.
After this fruitless battle with the machinations of Frontier, we proceeded with our plans to go to Virginia to visit Civil War battlefields. We first stopped by a BBQ place that looked promising. I love BBQ; I really can’t get enough of it. The sign had a pig in a chef’s hat holding a knife. I ended up ordering some Carolina BBQ, which was delicious. I had some corn bread on the side and hush puppies. Very tasty. We then decided to head to Chancellorsville to check out the battlefield there. That was where Stonewall Jackson was accidentally shot and later died from those wounds.
When we got out of the car, it was delightfully warm. Steam was actually coming off the pavement and the roof of the Welcome Center. We wandered around the little museum there. We learned about “War Trees” that were trees that had gotten hit by a cannon ball (and maybe bullet) that just stayed in the tree. I hope there is a metal song somewhere called “War Trees.”
We took a short hike around the Visitor Center to see the memorials built to Stonewall Jackson. There was a newer one that looked fairly standard. And then there was an old one that had aged badly.
Then we began the longer hike through the battlefield. We had been told it was 3.5 miles which sounded perfect. We were surrounded by tall trees with a green undergrowth that made it look a little prehistoric. We kept finding frogs hanging out on or near the path. We then saw a deer running through the woods. Wonderfully pastoral. We also found battlements built by the soldiers for the war.
As we were about 1/3 of the way through the hike, we heard lightning. I inquired if this was something we should be concerned about but we thought that we’d be fine. But then we encountered a clearing when the rains came. It was light rain at first but then it became an all out downpour. The rains were unrelenting and there was no place to hide. Upon reflection, we should have immediately turned back when the rains came. But we didn’t.
As we wandered along the paths, the water began rising. And then the lightning sounded a little too close for comfort. At one point, we smelled burning that suggested lightning had struck a tree not too far away from us. We could hear the cracks of lightning and the thunder. I was rather concerned about the rising water; would it be conductive? But we couldn’t stay put, there was no place to take cover, especially under trees struck by lightning. There was even a turtle swimming in the hiking path, which would have been cool if I hadn’t been freaked out. I also tried to hope that nothing else was in the water, namely snakes. At one point, I actually saw lightning strike a tree about 20 feet in front of me. That was absolutely terrifying. My instincts kicked in and told me to get the hell out of the forest. So I started walking faster through this never-ending hiking path to find our car. I don’t know how long we were in the storm but it was the longest and most miserable hike I’d ever been on. I’m really glad this was not my first experience hiking since it would have made me swear off it forever. But fear not, I’ll definitely go back.
When we finally got back to the safety of the car, I was relieved we had survived. I never want to hike with a thunderstorm nearby again. It wasn’t thrilling. It was nice to be inside out of the rain. We were drenched to the bone; nothing was dry on our bodies. And that’s when we assessed our electronics. I had inexplicably decided to take my cell phone and two cameras with me on the hike. I asked my friend to hang on to my good camera under his thick jacket with his own fancy camera. Thankfully, they seemed okay. Kudos to him! My other camera didn’t look good and my cell phone was in bad shape. All of us were in the same boat with the phones.
We stopped at the first Target to purchase towels, clothing (since we had green stained clothes), and snacks. After our harrowing experience, I decided to buy Cotton Candy Oreos. That was a good decision. If you ate only one side with the filling, it tasted like Cotton Candy should. We demolished them within two days.
I was super excited to check into our room in Maryland. We discarded all the wet clothing. My fiancé discovered that the green goo did come out so at least our clothing wasn’t ruined. Our suitcase wasn’t in good shape and a purse of mine had stains on the back. But given that the fiancé had packed a white suit for the wedding, we were damn lucky.
After hanging out all the clothing to dry, we decided to check out Silver Springs. We were in the downtown, which seemed full of chain stores. We found a Nando Chicken, which is a South African chain that is about to open in Chicago. We opted for it since it was different from the usual chains nearby. It was rather tasty. I ordered chicken with a mango lime sauce. They have a bunch of sauces on the side that you can try in addition to what you ordered. I was fond of the lemon one. And the Peach Sangria was what the doctor ordered. What a day.
So that’s all for now!