Here Today, Gone Tomorrow

There are many massive old trees along the Mount Vernon Trail in Belle Haven Park south of Alexandria.  A few years ago a true behemoth started falling apart and was taken down. Over the weekend storms claimed another tree, much smaller but still a welcome producer of shade along the trail. This is what the tree looked like this morning.

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Ten hours later this is what remained.

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Sad face.

There were several other much smaller trees and limbs that had fallen across the trail. These were cleared before this morning’s rush hour.

The credit here goes to the National Park Service that maintains the trail and the nearby George Washington Memorial Parkway.

No good deed goes unpunished around here, however. If the Park Service can provide such excellent storm debris clean up, it can do other things that trail users have wanted for years. Here are a few:

  • Plowing and treating the trail after winter storms
  • Grinding down the bumps from tree roots
  • Repositioning stop signs so that they force cars to stop not trail users.
  • Finding an alternative bridge material to the wood that is currently used. Wood bridges become skating rinks and cause many bike crashes. I don’t know if she fell on a bridge but I saw a young cyclist tending to a very bloody wound below her elbow this morning.

Tonight on my ride home I was flagged down by Adam Schildge. He and his wife Amy are new homeowners down my way in the Fort Hunt neighborhood. They were signing people up for a new bike advocacy Facebook group called MVT South. If you are a user of the southern part of the Mount Vernon Trail (south of Old Town Alexandria) check it out.

Sunday Eagle Bike Safari

It feels like February again but that didn’t stop me from a meander on my Cross Check. I rode into Old Town along the Mount Vernon Trail craning my neck at the bald eagle nests and trying not to ride off the trail into the river or into a tree. I managed to survive. None of the nests had any eagles visible nearby. When I turned south, I rode past Fort Hunt Park and I got lucky.

For those who know the trail, there are three nests between the stone bridge at Alexandria Avenue – where you cross over the GW Parkway and Old Town. Nest #1 is the Belle Haven nest. It is about 200 yards south of the Porto Vecchio condo building on the opposite side of the parkway from the trail and the river. It is the easiest nest to spot. It is also not occupied. Eagles frequently hang out in the tree. This happens most often at sunrise.

Nest #2 is the Tulane Nest. This one is located about 1/2 mile south of the Dyke Marsh boardwalk/bridge. It is after you pass the Tulane Drive exit. This nest is on the left after you cross two short bridges in quick succession. You’ll see a dirt patch on the ride side of the trail. Pull off and start looking into the trees on the river side of the trail. It’s massive.

Nest #3 is the Fishing Hole Nest. Heading south from the Tulane nest, the trail goes through a series of slight curves. At one point there are park benches along the river. This is what I call the fishing hole because I often see people fishing here. There are a couple of small islands a stone’s throw from the riverbank. You’ll see a nest in one of them. I think this is an osprey nest.

Nest #4 is the Morningside Nest. This one is located near the Morningside Lane exit of the parkway. As you head south from the fishing hole, you cross two bridges then start a slow climb. At the top of the climb and before the nest wooden bridge you will see a dirt patch off the right side of the trail. Pull off and look into the trees between the trail and the river. This nest is bigger that the fishing hole nest but smaller than the Tulane nest.

Nest #5 is the Fort Hunt Nest. This one is another massive one. Ride about 2 miles south of the Morningside Nest. The trail crosses the parkway at the stone bridge and cuts back under the parkway at Fort Hunt. You’ll climb a small hill and then cross a wooden bridge. Look in the trees above the trail. Twice I’ve seen bald eagles hanging out here. Today I saw this one.

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Another hundred yards south of the bridge you will notice that the right hand side of the trial becomes steep. Stop and look into the trees across the parkway. If you are lucky you’ll see a massive nest. That’s probably the home of our little friend.

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You can cheat and spot the nests and birds the way I do: look for the people with the gigantic lenses on their cameras. That’s how I found today’s eagle and nearly every nest.

Bonus nest: If you feel like getting way from the trail, ride Collingwood Road west for 1 1/2 miles. Collingwood turns hard to the right and becomes Parkers Lane. Continue about 1/4 mile down Parkers until you see the softball fields at the middle school. One of the light stanchions has a massive osprey nest in it. Also, you will have just ridden by a horse farm where an injured bald eagle was captured for rehabilitation last week.

If you wait a few months the trees will have leaves and the nests will be much harder to find. So get riding. If you are really lucky, you might even spot the elusive Rootchopper known to fly ever so slowly with his rubber side down.