Georgetown has been on my list of places to explore, but it suffers from one significant impediment. You can’t get there from here. There is no metro stop near Georgetown, which makes it inconvenient. During the recent visit from my BFF, we decided to embrace the walking and to go explore. My National Parks passport habit was originally inspired by my sister, Heather, but my BFF and I have done the most stamp collecting together. Thus the acquisition of more passport stamps figured prominently in the day.
Georgetown, which lies upon the Potomac River, was originally an independent town, but it was gobbled up by the inexorable expansion of the Capital. Its main drag has preserved its history of commerce; the modern manifestation is a string of charming boutiques and restaurants. When my niece was here over spring break, she did a pilgrimage to Georgetown Cupcake, which is apparently famous to cupcake aficionados. Considering that the line was up the street before the store even opened, I was happy that my niece had done the job of procuring me a sample and I didn’t feel obliged to join the queue.
As the United States expanded to the west, there was great interest in water routes into the interior. The Potomac River was a tantalizing option, but falls not too far upriver from Washington created a significant navigation problem. The answer to this challenge was to create the Chesapeake and Ohio canal that bypassed the falls and allowed for travel 185 miles up the river. More commonly known as the C&O Canal, or familiarly as the “Grand Old Ditch,” it operated from 1831 until 1924, and was made possible by a series of 74 locks with assorted culverts for crossing small streams and aqueducts for crossing larger streams. The canal is now part of the National Park Service lands, and I’ve been told that it is a splendid bike trip to do any part of the route along the canal and tow path. We had hoped to take a canal boat ride, but unfortunately down at the Georgetown end of the canal, their canal boat has fallen into disrepair and there are no funds to fix it. We still had a lovely chat with the Ranger in the tiny visitor’s center, and I’d love to explore upstream when I have a car handy. We took a short stroll on the canal’s towpath, which is quite scenic, but it is also rather narrow and well-used, so it wasn’t conducive to walking side-by-side.
Our second stop was at the Old Stone House, where my BFF struck up a conversation as I was stamping my passport in the gift shop. Two women in the shop were intrigued by the passports, and BFF explained all about the program and how it worked. I chimed in, displayed my passport, and agreed that they are a fantastic idea. The Park Ranger watched this exchange in awe, especially since one of the women went ahead and purchased a passport for a young relative. Having endeared ourselves to the Ranger for boosting his sales for the day, we started to ask questions, and we found him to be a very entertaining source of information.
To try to learn a bit about the building and the history, I asked what was special about it. I was told that the special part was that it wasn’t special. The house was really quite average, but for whatever reason, it had never been torn down, so it is the sole remaining pre-Revolutionary house in the area. There are rumors that George Washington stayed there at least briefly, which may explain its reprieve.
There were several passport stamps in the gift shop, one of which was for the “Frances Scott Key Memorial.” I asked about that, and I was rewarded with a fascinating story. Apparently Key had a house up the road a ways that years later became the property of the National Park Service. Unfortunately, the house fell into disrepair, so there was a vague notion of dismantling it and fixing it up. Some of the wooden doors and such were put away and preserved, but no one paid attention to the site for a while. When someone returned, all of the bricks from the original house were gone, obviously repurposed by locals for other projects. As one wit put it, “It’s bad enough to lose your house key, but to lose your Key House really isn’t acceptable.” Our Ranger suggested that some of the bricks might have been used to redo the kitchen floor at the Old Stone House itself, but he had no confirmation of that concept. I just liked the story.
As we were having a look around the gift shop, I heard the Ranger giving advice to someone who was looking for things to do that day. The Ranger suggested the Old Pierce Mill that is part of Rock Creek Park and said, “Joanne is up there today, and she’s just dog friendly.” I laughed and the Ranger tried to backpedal, “Not that you are a dog or anything or that you aren’t friendly yourself…”
So Georgetown is definitely worth the walk. People are just dog friendly there!