I had a hankering to go along the Anacostia River somewhere. The Anacostia runs through some of the poorest parts of DC, a once-beautiful river and network of wetlands long left for dead.
Though it's still terribly polluted, many of its wetlands filled and developed, I love the hikes we've taken along the Anacostia.
There are a ton of trails, including the ones we usually go to along the wooded northwest branch, where you'd never know the river is polluted and the trail is right near a dense urban area.
But somehow I love even more the trails that take off right from the most urban neighborhoods.
It brings me hope that the city has invested in trails and public open spaces in these areas, and that people and their dogs use them and enjoy them.
And for some odd reason, Florian and I enjoy spooky industrial areas. Some of our happiest dates have been driving around in neighborhoods full of scrap metal yards and car washes.
This time, Hurricane Sandy was already threatening and the sky was glowering and tense, which added to the spooky fun of an industrial Anacostia hike.
We drove through the city and got a bit lost near H street in downtown DC, but then followed Florian's intuition along Benning road until we saw signs to the Anacostia and saw a wide, green grassy area. We did not take long to discover a trail through the riparian forest along the Anacostia and a connected trail through Kingman Island and Heritage Island parks.
The islands were created in 1916 by the Army Corps of Engineers from sludge dredged from the Anacostia. Rapid development and deforestation around the river had led to massive soil erosion, and the river became clogged with silt. Mudflats became breeding grounds for malarial mosquitos, and local residents demanded that something be done.
The islands were created, but nothing was done with them until recently. The original plans, for a parkland that would serve the recreational needs of the local community, were not acted upon, but fortunately neither were competing ideas for an airport, a housing development, or a landfill.
The National Park Service no longer owns the islands as of 1995, but it appears they are safe from development even in the hands of the DC government, which has pledged to preserve them in their natural state and build the Kingman Island Environmental Education Center. More on this fascinating history is here.
There is now a Heritage Island loop trail, and a really cool wooden bridge connecting the Anacostia with the islands.
You can look out over the mudflats and see nesting herons,
and you can appreciate the stunning fall foliage surrounding the old wooden walkway.
or you can enjoy the view of a spooky old factory rising up out of the riparian forest.
Especially fitting for a pre-Halloween, pre-hurricane thrill.
Having lived Halloween to the fullest prior to the event, now the pressure's off and my sister and I are going to just go out and have a nice dinner and drink to avoid the trick-or-treaters!
Do YOU have a favorite alternative Halloween activity?