Mrs. Rootchopper insisted that it was “nice and warm” outside so I decided to break out my holey wool sweater and take The Mule for a ride. I was overdressed for the first 15 miles riding north with a tailwind toward Alexandria, Shirlington, and Pentagon City. When I turned for home, comfort turned to chill. Dang.

Along the way I spotted a rather large red fox along the Four Mile Run trail. It was only a few feet away and seemed rather unimpressed with my passing. I think his size was an illusion caused by his fur being fluffed up against the cold.

On the way home, I took the Mount Vernon Trail for the second time since our big winter storm two weeks ago. It was my first time south of Tulane Drive (about a mile south of Alexandria). As I passed the site of a bald eagle nest I heard a piercing screech. I pulled over and looked up. Two adult bald eagles were perched side by side on separate branches way up at the top of a tree right next to the trail. Based on my viewings of the bald eagle cam at the National Arboretum in Northeast DC, I suspect that these two eagles are mating. Also, they were both smoking cigarettes.

I could see that a fairly impressive amount of storm debris had been cleared from the trail itself but much of the debris was left along the trail. (Farther south, I saw a lone volunteer piling storm debris next to a street parallel to the trail. He had a pick up truck, a small chain saw, and a hedge trimmer. Bravo.)

About a week ago I rode some of the trail and found the bridges covered in ice and snow. Today, they were clear. As I rode south, I was curious to see how much ice there would be in the shadows as the trail rose toward Northdown Road. Fortunately, there was no ice to speak of.

Along this stretch, two giant trees fell downhill, away from the trail in November 2020. Their root balls tore up a lane of the trail for about ten yards. On paper. the National Park Service owns the trail and is responsible for its maintenance. In reality, the Park Service quit doing maintenance years ago. Other than lawn mowing, the trail gets most of its maintenance from volunteers these days. Clearing these huge trees and repairing the trail damage are well beyond anything that volunteers can deal with. That said, a volunteer did put up some traffic cones and painted warning markings on the trail to alert riders about the hazard. To this day, as far as I can see, the Park Service has done nothing.

Aftermath of November 2020 Tree Fall

As you can see, there is one huge fallen tree to the right. What you can’t see is the second fallen tree behind the root ball and the tree that remained standing.

Apparently, the January 2022 storm took care of the surviving tree. Unlike the other two, this one fell uphill, across the trail.

I have no idea who cut the gap in the tree but I’m grateful. Clearly what remains is an unsafe situation.

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