"If your dog is fat," the old saying goes, "you aren't getting enough exercise." But walking the dog need not be just about a little exercise. Here are 10 cool things you can see in New Jersey while out walking the dog.
In Fountainhead Regional Park the Davis family cemetery, anchored by a majestic white oak, pops up in the woods just a few steps into the canine hike on both the white and blue trails. The graveyard was established in the 1860s. At Leesylvania State Park is the original hilltop resting place of prominent Lee family members and at Ball's Bluff Regional Park is one of the smallest national cemeteries in America with only the remains of 54 Union soldiers from the Civil War.
HIGH WATER MARKS
In Great Falls Park is a High Water Mark Pole that records the depths to which the Potomac far below can flood. The most recent marking is from January 21, 1996 when the river rose 85 feet in 48 hours. That mark is about eye-high to a beagle - it was only the fifth largest flood of the past 100 years. For the highest mark you'll have to look overhead to see where the waters ot the Great Potomac Flood of 1936 reached.
OUR NATIONAL BIRD
Mason Neck has been named one of the Top Ten sites in America for viewing bald eagles. The eagles arrive in October and spend the next two months courting and breeding where they are visible feeding in the marsh. By February they have re-built their nests and are ready to lay eggs. The eaglets hatch in April and spend the next several months gaining strength before the cycle begins anew. Eagles can be viewed on trails in Mason Neck State Park and Mason Neck National Wildlife Refuge.
EARLY INDUSTRIAL SOUVENIRS
In the center of the Occoquan Regional Park is the last of nine beehive brick kilns that were used by prisoners to churn out many of the red bricks used in Northern Virginia buildings. Along the Potomac Heritage Trail are the rusty hulks of 19th-century boilers used to quarry Potomac bluestone. This 500-million year old schist was a popular building stone for many buildings around Northwest Washington, including the Old Stone House in Georgetown, built in 1765. Several of the animal houses in the National Zoo use Potomac bluestone, the Panda House and the Elephant House are just two.
Nestled in the center of Theodore Roosevelt Island is a 17-foot bronze statue by Paul Manship. The memorial overlooks a diorama of fountains and four 21-foot granite tablets, inscribed with the tenets of the 26th President's thoughts on Nature, Youth, Manhood and the State.
A CARPET OF BLUE
The Bluebell Walk begins on the Nature Trail near the Visitor Center of Bull Run Regional Park and makes its way to the confluence of Cub Run and Bull Run. This is a meandering 1.5-mile canine hike through the largest stand of bluebells on the East Coast. In springtime the display on the forest floor is unforgettable.
The last known undeveloped section of the historic Vestal's Gap Road runs across Claude Moore Park. This trail, first used by American Indians, was used as early as 1692 by the Rangers of the Potomac under David Strahan. It became the major route for travel between Alexandria and Winchester. George Washington used the road frequently in his travels between Mount Vernon and the western frontier. Major General Edward Braddock's troops, including Daniel Boone, traveled Vestal's Gap Road during the French and Indian War and today your dog can hike a short ways on the ancient thoroughfare.
The bridge across the Accotink Creek linking the trail system in Accotink Bay Wildlife Refuge was built by D Company of the 11th Engineer Battalion. The unit was activated during World War I to maintain railroads in northern France and in August 1917 was the first American unit to enter the European theater. Until World War II the regiment conducted numerous missions over the rugged terrain and dense jungles of the Panama Canal Zone and adopted the nickname "Jungle Cats." This bridge is a suspension bridge in the manner of the famous Brooklyn Bridge.
In Prince William Forest Park, if you head off on the North Valley Trail and continue about one mile down the Pyrite Mine Trail along the North Branch of the Quantico Creek you will reach the remains of the Cabin Branch Pyrite Mine. The mine opened in 1889, pulling nugget-like rocks known as "fool's gold" for their appearance to the precious metal. In fact pyrite is loaded with sulfur (needed to make gunpowder) that kept the operation profitable into the 1920s, including an important stretch during World War I when as many as 300 men worked the mine. Many acres of historic underground workings, pilings and foundations have been reclaimed by the Park Service and are remembered today.
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