Halftime Leisure

Free in DC: Part III, Roosevelt Island

October 30, 2014

If you’ve ever been to the Georgetown Waterfront and looked out on the Potomac, you may have been struck with what looks like a forest floating in the middle of the river. I sure was, until a couple of friends explained to me that it was Roosevelt Island, a 90 acre National Park, accessible by foot, rollerblade, or bike, right off of the Key Bridge. I explored the island once last year, and circumnavigated it by kayak last May during Senior Week. I figured that the changing leaves and crisp fall air signaled that it was time for me to go back.

I emerged from the depths of Car Barn at 12:20, the sky much more ominous than how I had left it not long before. I decided, however, that the excursion was more important than keeping my hair dry, and that my backpack, laden with a laptop and two textbooks, wasn’t too heavy to take with me. Once on the Key Bridge, gusts of chilly, stormy winds whipped through my hair and my thin jacket, but looking west up the Potomac at the fiery trees kept my mind occupied. As per tradition, I looked back at Georgetown as it fell away, Healy Hall watching over me as it always does.

On the other side, after crossing an intersection I came across a sign denoting “Roosevelt Park 0.25 miles,” I took a sharp left right at the stop light before crossing into Rosslyn. A biker shouted a friendly “On your left!” from behind, then wished me a pleasant walk. I walked over the overpass, past a guy with a fancy camera taking photos of the bone-white birch trees across the water on the Island. Through a parking lot, I finally found the simple walking bridge connecting the island to the mainland. I left the soul-sucking high rises behind me as I immersed myself into the rusted green-yellow trees of the park.

At the entrance to the park, one is greeted by a friendly map. I decided to push my luck with the weather a little further and take the 1.3 mile loop around the entire island. I took a right and found a strange paradox: a woods with inescapably ambient city noise. I was somewhat disappointed by this, and consequentially began to think.

I come from a small, suburban town in New York. It’s a beautiful place to grow up right on the Hudson River, where you’re surrounded by tons of rich, extensive forests for hiking, walking, and camping. I’ve been living in cities almost constantly since leaving home, and haven’t realized how much I’ve missed nature. As I turned a corner on my walk, a walkway crossed over a marsh. The water calmed around me, as did my musings. I looked at the trees, the water, and thought of the many times I’d been in forests, how many times I’d stared at the leaves and the water and thought about life. I looked at the leaves on the ground and remembered playing in leaf piles, going apple picking, walking in Rockefeller State park with my mom…I slowed my steps as my thoughts (and my backpack) got heavier. The park reminded me of who I am outside of this school, outside of this city, back to the world I left by the Hudson.

Something moved out of the corner of my eye, and on a second glance I noticed it was a hawk. I stopped my walking and looked at it for a while. A woman jogging behind me stopped too, but as soon as she did the little guy flew away. We exchanged a word or two, and she ran off.

The sky looked no better and my back was beginning to hurt, so I picked up my steps a bit. I decided that I would impulsively take a left at the first turn…I knew somewhere on the Island I would find the Theodore Roosevelt memorial and had a feeling this path would take me there. Sure enough, after a couple of minutes I reached a clearing in the trees, and instead of the meager statue I expected, I found a grand marble memorial to Teddy. Covered by decaying leaves and surrounded by large trees, four engraved slabs of rock stated what I assumed were Teddy’s major values: Nature, Manhood, Youth and The State. It took me aback, and I decided immediately that it was my favorite monument in DC, besides the Jefferson at midnight.

As I emerged from the park rain began to spit on my face…needless to say the walk back to Rosslyn was less pleasant than I would have hoped. But a day that was adequate gained some beauty rather simply from a quick trip to Roosevelt Island. And it cost me nothing but time.

Photo: Katherine Landau/The Georgetown Voice

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