The Fourth of July in our Nation’s Capitol!

Where better to spend Independence day than in our nation’s capitol! I was ridiculously excited when planning the trip that we would be in D.C. on the fourth of July. It is definitely an unforgettable experience, one I am glad I had, but one that I do not necessarily care to repeat. It turns out that around the Fourth, D.C. gets flooded with people…tourists from absolutely everywhere. As someone who had been overwhelmed by the big city the Fourth of July was a bit weighty. I spent it with my newfound friend, Rainey, from the hostel and Meleah. We explored and wondered. Certain museums were packed while others seemed unaffected by the masses of people moving along the streets. A line had formed at the space and science museum, winding down the wall of the building. People stood in the heat…waiting. Still, I definitely found certain things exciting. The streets were alive with the parade—a mass of decorated people and glinting metal—lying in a great mass upon the streets waiting to be woken. Groups of all nationalities dressed in garbs, that I assume are derived of wherever they or their ancestors originated from. Colorful decorous floats could be seen waiting further down the street. Bands practiced, dancers stretched. Painted faces, giant feathers, flags! And the sidewalks filled with strangers to a foreign city; walking, staring, and jostling in an inadvertent parade of their own.

            The fireworks were beautifully picturesque. It was about 14 minutes of what seemed to belong on a magazine or a postcard. The lawn in front of the Washington was one great swath of sitting people. It was kind of magical that we actually found a spot. One should never watch the Fourth of July fireworks in this popular area in D.C. (if they plan to ride the metro) if they are either claustrophobic or have any degree of mysophobia. When the fireworks ended, people headed straight for the metro. The line for the metro was not a line; it was a giant crowd that sort of acted like a line. We were herded slowly to the metro entrance like so many unruly, bawling cattle. Meleah, Rainey and I stood in the very middle. Body heat from the surrounding crowd coupled with hot July air created a sweat soaked oven. One gets really up close and personal with those around him or her. I was touched by an untold number of people. A curious Asian baby tried to steal the trash I held in my hand. I’m pretty sure I stepped on someone’s foot and I almost got kicked in the face by a kid whose parent had decided to place it on their shoulders. It was a slow horrendous shuffle toward those blessed steps. Leaving the crowd felt like freedom. Wooo Independence Day! 

Muddy Paws and Burnt Marshmallows

When it comes to camping I feel that one can have either a secluded experience or one that is more social. This likely depends on one’s own preferences for their trip as well as the camping location. In Shenandoah our experience leaned more-so on the social side than the secluded. Incidentally, those I met tended to find me as opposed to I them. The first group I met was a family of Germans. I had spent part of the previous day attempting to place their accent, but when I actually met them their origins were apparent. I was digging around in the car for one thing or another, when the father of their group came over, inquiring as to whether or not I had a wine opener. I did! I gave him my pocket knife, its little swirly magig to be used for the first time. He thanked me proclaiming that I had saved their dinner, and invited me to roast marshmallows with his family after they’d had dinner.

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Our own fire never really managed to actually…become a fire. The German family had a better, albeit smaller one than is shown here. I blame the wood.

Later on, both Meleah and I went over, roasted marshmallows (the children were all shocked when I stuck mine straight into the fire; I received a few “failed” marshmallows after that) and discussed. Overall, they were fascinating to talk to. The conversation contained a variety of subjects such as obesity, global warming and Meleah’s dysfunctional camp stove. The two adults were environmental journalists. They were from Berlin, visiting the man’s brother in Washington D.C. We talked about how Germany has a female president. Meleah and I expressed that we would favor having a female president elected in the U.S. This sparked a discussion wherein the German man basically said that he did not feel that she was doing any better or worse than male presidents before her. The summary of our reply was that we hoped for just that. It was not that we felt a woman would do better; we wanted a female president instated to show that a woman is equally capable of both the successes and mistakes of male presidents.

We also befriended a hiker off the Appalachian Trail called Muddy Paws. She was a total badass. She’d double majored in English and History with a minor in physics. She was fluent in French and Arabic. At some point she’d lived in Idaho where she got a job working for a pregnant Native American woman. Working with Native Americans is the sam
I found Muddy Paws descriptions of hiking the AT particularly interesting. On the trail everyone has nicknames. For example, I met another AT hiker called Little Bird who was staying with Muddy Paws for the night. They told me about another hiker they’d met who snored really loudly—his nickname was Gilgamesh. She also told us about how all along the trail there are small huts where campers can sleep. Muddy Paws she did not sleep in these too terribly often, since they were usually had a lot of very smelly, snoring men. Still, she described camaraderie among hikers on the AT. She’d met a lot of people, made friends and it was common to run into people she’d met earlier on the trail. Little Bird was one of these. They had met earlier and when we met Muddy Paws she was waiting for Little Bird to arrive. Hiking the Appalachian Trail has since been placed on my To Do list.e as working with a foreign country. This later aided her in getting her current job with the Department of Energy in D.C. This woman was hiking around 20 miles a day with her dog. The dog got tired before she did, and she carried it the rest of the way to Shenandoah! She ended up hitch hiking out of Shenandoah, because the dog couldn’t take much more. Moral of the story: I want to be Muddy Paws when I grow up. Whenever that happens…