Virginia

Virginia

One of the best things about living in Washington, D.C. is that you may walk straight into another state and not even realize it! In Florida, where I'm from, you're just close to... more Florida. During the last 5 or 6 years, I have been in many different cities in Florida; Miami, Gainesville, Orlando, Ft. Myers... but it was always just Florida. During the three and a half months that I've been here, not only have I explored D.C., but I've crossed state lines into different parts of Virginia and Maryland as well (most of the time, unwittingly). These are some parts of Virginia that I've been to (on purpose).

 

Great Falls

Great Falls, VA is one of the most breathtaking places I've ever seen. It's where the Potomac River falls over the Mather Gorge and creates a beautiful natural spectacle. The Alumni in Residence (kind of like older, wiser versions of resident assistants at our housing facility) planned a day trip to Great Falls one Saturday for the interns. My friends and I jumped at the opportunity to see these falls, and we waited in line, paid the $20, and got our tickets in advance.

 

The day of the trip could not have been more perfect if we could've customized it. It was the first truly sunny day in a while; the kind where the sky is so blue I felt like I was back home at the beach in Miami. It was sunny, but not hot. It was breezy, but not cold. It was absolutely perfect. Fifty of us interns got on the bus to the falls; it takes about 40 minutes to drive there. When we arrived, this was the first sight we saw.

 

 

It was like nothing I had ever seen before. There was so much to look at, so much to hear and feel and smell. It was such a peaceful sight, but also a vivid reminder of the power of nature and the majesty of the wild. My friends and I stood in awe of the beauty of the falls for about 30 seconds... and then we decided that all of our followers on Instagram deserved to have the same experience.

We had received a map from the Visitors Center, and decided to follow what was creatively called the River Trail. And for all of you who have the same question as I did, no, it is not really an actual trail, and yes, we did have to hike and climb rocks... A LOT. We followed the tall, wooden signs that assured us we were going the right way and would not end up lost in the woods forever. We strayed off the course a couple of times to climb a lot of unnecessary rocks and experience some unplanned falling on our butts. This picture is an example of one of the times we got off the trail, and for those of you with bad depth perception... the ground is really far away.

 


"But Fabiana, how did you climb down all those rocks?" you may ask. "Very carefully," is the answer I would give you. Being able to climb up and down the rocks and pretty much follow whatever trail we wanted really added to the experience and made us feel like we were getting in touch with the parts of nature that we were most interested in. For example, I don't exactly know why, but I had a really strong desire to touch the water from the river. So my friends and I climbed down the rocks to be able to touch the water. We were following our own curiosities, and discovered that we were really grateful to be able to appreciate this part of nature in all its glory, which is something I had never really done before, and something I probably won't be able to do again for a while. While we were down there, we climbed a couple of rocks after touching the SUPERFREAKINGCOLD water that happened to rush up and get my sneakers and socks completely soaked (it's not an adventure without a few mishaps, I suppose.) On top of those few rocks, we took some more really cool pictures, like this one.

 

 

Everything was great for about 15 minutes while we were sitting on the rocks and taking pictures and chatting about this fish that went by in the water, or that bird in the air, or how cold my wet feet were from the tiny wave that soaked me. After that, the conversation started dying down, and we were slowly realizing that we had climbed down more than 20 feet and had no other means of getting back up besides... that's right! ....more climbing. Here's a picture illustrating the enormous pile of unsteady rocks we had to climb to get back on the River Trail (it's also a pretty good shot of my friend's butt...you're welcome).

 

 

We climbed and stopped and took more pictures, and kept hiking, and ate lunch, and took more pictures, and got some snide looks from some legitimate rock-climbers, and took pictures of that as well. After hiking all morning, we finally made it back to solid ground, and it was time to leave the beautiful park with only memories of the perfect day we had just had together. I was so happy to be on the real ground again that I embarrassingly jumped for joy and my friend Annemarie happened to catch it on camera. Try to focus on the beautiful background and green grass, and not my absurdness.

 

Arlington

Another awesome part of Virginia that we visited on a different day was the Arlington National Cemetery in....you guessed it: Arlington. This day was equally amazing, but in a whole different way. My friends and I got a real appreciation for all the soldiers and families that have spent their lives protecting and serving this nation and fighting for their country. The sheer number of gravesites is extraordinary. Small, white, identical headstones as far as the eye could see. The sight was eerie, but strangely beautiful and calming.

 

 

 

While we were there, I bought a copy of the newspaper that announced JFK's death in 1963; it was originally 10 cents and I bought it for almost $5. We saw Robert E. Lee's house on top of a hill, and also John F. Kennedy's and his family's graves. It truly put a lot of things into perspective, especially all those 11th grade American history lessons that I never thought I could actually apply to anything. I felt a strange twinge of patriotism and gratitude for these people that I had never met, but had influenced my generation by living and dying as they did.

 

We walked through all of JFK's most influential quotes from his various speeches, and visited RFK's grave as well. We stood for the Changing of the Guard ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which is a tomb for all of the soldiers that have been buried without their remains being identified.

 

 

These are all exciting and new things that I have been able to experience in Virginia during my time here in D.C. Without this experience, I might never have learned that I love to climb rocks and hike, even though I may not be very good at it yet, or have realized how much I remember from American history. These kinds of experiences have definitely shaped the way I see my future, and how I want to have the ability to travel across states more easily than I can in Florida.

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