Trish and I are big time nature lovers, and DC was offering up the opportunity to catch the blossoming of the elegant, picturesque cherry blossoms fringing the tidal basin. The blooming of the cherry blossoms is well-hyped every year, and with good reason. They’re beautiful. In fact, they’re so popular, the city puts on a festival every year to celebrate the flowers, and the ties between the United States and Japan, who have given us thousands of cherry trees. It’s quite a spectacle, and we wanted very much to see it.
Now, looking at pretty flowers seems like a simple enough mission. One, go to flowers. Two, look at flowers. Three, toast to your successful viewing of flowers. Piece of cake.
But this year, Mother Nature decided to forget how to weather, and did its level best to put us off from seeing them. Winter storm Stella decided to roll through right in the midst of what was at one point supposed to be Peak Bloom, which just so happened to be the time we were planning to visit. We sorta kinda managed to complete our Flower Mission, but only after considerable anguish and freezing conditions.
About two weeks out, the people who tell you when flowers bloom were predicting Peak Bloom (defined as 70% of blossoms open at the same time) to occur from March 14-17. We then planned to visit from the 12th-15th. Not quite peak bloom the whole time we would be there, but should still be nice.
Then nature threw us the aforementioned winter storm curveball. The weatherpeople were predicting a bizarre cold blast to hit the mid-Atlantic seaboard right before Peak Bloom. Right when we were going to be there. As a side effect, the dropping temperatures were also expected to push Peak Bloom to March 19-22. And we would get snowed on.
And snowed on we did get. It began to flurry in Raleigh the morning we left.
It was clear by the time we reached DC, though. We stayed the night in a great Airbnb place in Falls Church and planned to make it over to the tidal basin early the next day. I have a friend in DC that told me it starts to get “zoo-ey” around the basin around 10-11.
We got there right after 10, and there was no one. And it was not difficult to see why: it was literally freezing. The temperature was right at freezing, and the wind was whipping like a madman. For whatever reason, we still decided to push through it and see what there was to see. We bundled up the kids with layers upon layers of clothes and blankets. Judah was absolutely miserable, since he was already sick anyway. Being a toddlersicle didn’t help.
We meandered down past the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, trying our best to ignore the icy, windy conditions, though that task proved nearly impossible. Even so, it was quite beautiful. The trees were only maybe 30% blooming, but even the un-bloomed buds gave off some color. The entire tidal basin was ringed by fluffy, pale pink trees. Various national icons were scattered about, adding grandeur to the scene. I could only imagine how gorgeous it all must be in full bloom. The flowers that were out ran the spectrum from white to pale pink to darker pink. We both had really wished it had been fuller bloom, but what we did get to see was still nice.
We just had to fight off the bitter cold to see it all. After we had walked maybe halfway down one side of the basin, we concluded that it really wasn’t worth it to suffer these conditions any longer, and we turned back. And that was more or less the extent of our time viewing the cherry blossoms we had driven four hours to see. After we left, we went to a mall for a while, and then back to the basin in the afternoon to see if conditions were any better. They weren’t, so we just went back to our place.
That night, a snow and ice storm hit. In the morning, in the middle of March in Washington, DC, there were probably three inches of snow and ice on the ground. It was certainly not a common sight, and not a particularly welcome one for us on vacation.
There wasn’t much to do in the morning, so we just stayed at our place until lunch, when we headed back into the city to check out some museums. I wanted to check out the International Spy Museum, which was interesting but not terribly family friendly for children in strollers (or under the age of maybe eight), and then we took Shiloh to the Natural History Museum for some animal obsessing.
The next morning we were going to go to the Museum of African American History, but when we got to the Mall, the temperature was well below freezing, with high winds, and we weren’t about to try to face those conditions, even for the time it would take to cross the street. The kids would hate us.
I guess the lesson is that you can’t always win when traveling when it comes to weather. You’re bound to have some rough days. It was a nice little trip, though. Just wish spring had sprung on time.